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I find cooking to be a soulful, meaningful practice, but that doesn’t mean I always want to spend hours in the kitchen just to enjoy a wholesome meal. Using a slow cooker is one of the best ways to enjoy more delicious, healthy foods with minimal effort. I love to pop ingredients into my slow cooker and then go run an errand or spend an hour on my yoga mat, knowing that I’ll return to an amazing, nutrient-dense meal.
One of the first dishes that I made in a slow cooker with my Granny when I was a kid was stuffed cabbage. We had plans to go shopping and couldn’t stay home to watch a pot bubbling on the stove. I still love this family recipe, as well as slow-cooker classics like chili or stew, but I’ve since expanded my repertoire to include creative meal ideas with unexpected ingredients like fruit or green tea. For my new book, I wanted to give people a fresh, inspired way to think about their slow cookers.
These meals are not only flavorful and antioxidant rich, but they are also adaptogenic, meaning they use ingredients from a special class of plants that are considered immune-modulating. Adaptogens also encourage homeostasis, or internal balance, in your body. The more I learn about adaptogens found in mushrooms, goji berries, and a whole suite of other foods, the more I want to cook with them in creative, tasty ways.
Use the recipes on these pages to preserve the nutrients in whole foods (a slow-cooker specialty), load up on medicinal ingredients, and help bring your body back into balance. For best results, put the ingredients into your slow cooker and then spend some time on your meditation cushion or yoga
mat before you eat.
Green tea–shiitake miso soup
Studies show that the catechins in green tea make it a great detox partner because it helps boost the breakdown of fat (toxins linger longest in fat cells). The slow cooker uses gentle, moist heat, which is the ideal way to extract the tea’s healing compounds and infuse its flavor into the dish. Another critical component of the broth is Chinese black vinegar, which is easy to find in Asian grocery stores and has a deep flavor that’s reminiscent of balsamic.
- 2 quarts chicken broth, bone broth, or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp white miso paste
- 4 green tea bags, tags and strings removed
- 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 2 cups kale, chopped
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp Asian sesame oil
- 6 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Put broth, vinegar, and miso paste in a slow cooker and whisk to combine. Tuck tea bags into broth mixture. Add mushrooms, kale, scallions, and garlic, and toss with tongs until vegetables are coated in broth. Cover slow cooker and cook on low until mushrooms and kale are tender, 2–2½ hours. Discard tea bags.
Spoon soup into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with
1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp cilantro. Serve immediately.
Chef’s note: To turn this soup into a more filling meal, add 1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp or 1 lb cubed chicken to the slow cooker along with the vegetables.
Nutritional info 20 calories per serving, 2 g protein, 14 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 20 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 527 mg sodium
Branzino with olive, goji berry, and mint salad
It may seem unusual to cook seafood in a slow cooker, but the gentle heat is ideal for delicate fish fillets like branzino (a sustainable fish in the sea bass family), which people tend to overcook on the stovetop. Dried goji berries pair well with this fish and are rich in disease-fighting antioxidants; they function as a potential digestive aid, according to research.
- 8 skin-on branzino fillets, 4 oz each
- 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tbsp pitted black olives
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 10 oz watercress or baby kale
- 1 cup packed, fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup dried goji berries or ¼ cup dried cherries
Place 4 branzino fillets in the bottom of the slow cooker. Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil and sprinkle with 2 tbsp olives and oregano. Top with remaining fillets and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil and the remaining 2 tbsp olives. Cover slow cooker and cook on low until fish flakes when pressed with a fork, 1–1½ hours.
While the branzino cooks, prepare the salad. In a bowl, whisk together remaining 4 tbsp olive oil, vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Add watercress, mint, and goji berries, and toss until greens are evenly coated. Divide salad between four plates and top each with 2 branzino fillets. Serve immediately.
Nutritional info 49 calories per serving, 25 g protein, 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 5 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 245 mg sodium
See also 4 Light, Latin-Inspired Recipes
Hibiscus-raspberry poached pears
Bright red, slightly sweet hibiscus tea comes from the tuba-shaped flowers of the hibiscus plant, which get their red color from a compound called anthocyanin—a heart protector that may have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Pairing hibiscus tea with juicy, fiber-rich pears can help steady blood sugar.
- 4 pears, halved and cored, stems intact
- 2 cups raspberries or cranberries, frozen or fresh
- 2 hibiscus tea bags, tags and strings removed
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp ground cardamom (or 6 green cardamom pods)
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp stevia
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
Place pears skin down in the slow cooker. Add raspberries, tea bags, 2 cups water, vanilla, cardamom, cinnamon, and stevia. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high until pears are tender and berries form a sauce, 3 hours. Discard tea bags.
Using a large spoon, place each pear-half on a plate with a few tbsp berry sauce and ¼ cup yogurt. Serve immediately
Nutritional info 50 calories per serving, 5 g protein, 6 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 21 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 33 mg sodium
See also 5 Make-Ahead Holiday Meals
From The Healing Slow Cooker: Lower Stress, Improve Gut Health, Decrease Inflammation by Jennifer Iserloh