Welcome to Food to Power’s recipe column. Based in Hillside, Food to Power was formerly Colorado Springs Food Rescue. Since 2015, we’ve been moving food from where it’s plentiful to where it’s needed. Over the past few years, our mission has come to encompass much more than food redistribution, and you can discover the many facets of what we do on our website. We’ll be using this space to share recipes, tips and more.
This month is dark and cold. For anyone growing their own food, this is often the time when much of the stored harvest from the fall has been eaten, but it’s still too cold to plant. My body keeps telling me it’s time to hibernate. When I get home I want to go to sleep, but I have chores to do and I have to cook dinner. Unless my dinner has been cooking all day and all I have to do is add salt, pour it into a bowl and heat it up. It sounds a lot better, so for February, we’re going to do everything in a slow cooker.
I’m not talking about that fancy new Instant Pot your neighbor got on Black Friday. I’m talking about a good old fashioned slow cooker. While there are tons of recipes out there that will help you spend as much time preparing food for a slow cooker as it would take you to cook a normal meal, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here for hibernation food. Soups and stews that require minimal tossing in the pot in the morning, so a hot meal awaits you as the sun goes down. If you made broth after the holidays, here’s a great opportunity to thaw it.
I read a lot of slow cooker recipes that called themselves “easy” before trying out a few that really seemed to save time for the deepest winter:
Super Quick Vegetarian: Recipe
I tried this very low maintenance split pea soup at my lowest point in January. Mainly following the recipe, I scrolled right down to the instructions and skipped all the descriptions. I replaced the curry powder with mustard powder but I bet the curry is excellent too. And I omitted the celery because I didn’t have any. To maximize time, I heated the oil while I chopped the onions and garlic, then chopped the carrots while the onions sautéed. As soon as I was done chopping, I threw everything in the slow cooker, for a total of 10-15 minutes of work. The slow cooker did the rest. If you eat meat you can add a ham hock, but I was impressed with the flavor of the vegetarian version. It was a hit with my husband, who had never tried split pea soup before.
Simplest Chili: Recipe
This recipe literally lists one step. Although this is a little misleading as you have to chop your vegetables (onion, garlic and sweet potatoes) and chicken before throwing everything in the pot. However, it is difficult to make it simpler with a meat-based soup. Most of the ingredients come from a tin can and you don’t even have to drain the tomatoes. If you are a vegetarian, use vegetable broth and replace the chicken with any pre-made veggie burger or extra beans. If you prefer beef or pork, you’ll need one more step: browning and breaking up your ground meat before adding it. Sweet potatoes and corn balance the saltiness with a bit of sweetness. I also like the flexibility of the salsa as you can choose the heat level you prefer. I added cayenne pepper because my family loves hot peppers.
Pizza soup: Recipe
South in a pot: Recipe
I can’t say the same about these two because I couldn’t test them myself. However, they both met my criteria of not having a million ingredients and leaving most of the work to the slow cooker. The pizza soup is meant to mimic the sausage, pepper, and onion pizza. The recipe calls for removing the casing from the sausage and pre-cooking it, which sounds delicious. I can also imagine cutting the sausage into pieces and throwing them away if you’re lazy like me or prefer that texture. The southern one-pot recipe again calls for chopping up a few veggies before tossing everything into the slow cooker. Remember to keep the vegetables out until the last few minutes of cooking so they don’t get all soft. If you try any of these recipes, I’d love to know how they turned out!
Don’t have a slow cooker? Let us know! In addition to our grocery program, which runs Tuesday afternoons and two Saturdays a month from our office at 917 E. Moreno Ave, we have given away kitchen appliances and have a few to spare. We also support grocery programs across the city, ensuring that fresh foods like eggs, milk, produce and meat get to the people who will eat them. Find a program near you on our foodtopower.org website.
Erin Taylor is Director of Education at Food to Power.