Heavenly Slow Cooker Meals for Winter: Coconut Butternut Squash and Spinach

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My car has been in the shop for more than 3 weeks. It wouldn’t start, and although the temperature outside at the time was below zero, I was told that wouldn’t matter, even for a 10-year-old car prone to a mild degree of grumpiness.

Luckily, the car place gave me a loaner, and it happens to be a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta. This thing is SLICK.

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Therefore, it makes me feel pretty slick to be driving it. It might as well be a Maserati. I’m turning up the radio, leaning back, giving other drivers a little nod to acknowledge that I realize I am winning at driving.

The latest news is that my car still isn’t fixed, which I’ve already decided means I’m just going to keep the loaner car forever.

In the end, nothing really matters as long as I have a way to get to the grocery store. I like Thai food a lot and this dish tastes like Thai food. Plus it’s super easy and makes a ton.

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What You Need:

  • 1 lb Butternut Squash, peeled and seeded and diced into cubes (about 2 1/2 to 3 cups)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 small cloves garlic, quartered
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (seeded if desired to reduce spiciness)
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced into cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp oriental seasoning (if you don’t have this, just use a pinch of garlic powder, a pinch of onion powder, a pinch of ground ginger, and a pinch of black pepper.)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 4 cups spinach, raw

What You Do:

In the crock pot, add the squash through the oriental seasoning and mix well.

Cook on high for 5 hours.

Once it is ready to serve, add coconut milk and spinach and mix well, continuing to cook and stir until spinach is soft and reduced.

Add some red pepper flakes to the top of each dish if desired. Enjoy!

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Cauliflower Cous Cous and Vegetables

Lightly adapted from the Nutritionista

I love making one food out of another, healthier food. Like making pasta out of vegetables, a pie crust out of quinoa or cous cous out of cauliflower.

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I actually hardly ever cook using cous cous. I’d rather use quinoa since it’s gluten free and healthier, but there is definitely something about the texture of cous cous that makes it pretty ideal for meals. That’s why I was thrilled to discover a cous cous recipe that didn’t call for cous cous at all. You can easily use cauliflower instead for an all-vegetarian and gluten free dish that is just. so. good.

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What You Need:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 orange pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt

What You Do:

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Gently pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles a cous cous-like texture. If you don’t have a food processor, just finely chop the cauliflower with a sharp knife until it becomes very small pieces.

In a large bowl, mix the cauliflower with the remaining ingredients. Stir well and serve!

This makes a great side dish, and while it screams summer BBQ, it really works just fine any time of year with your favorite meat, as a filling for stuffed peppers (stay tuned for that recipe), or just mixed in with a salad. The lemon juice and oil make a nice dressing so you don’t have to add the extra calories. Put some avocado in with it and you’ve got yourself a fantastic meal!

Pro Tip: This is a great dish to play with as far as adding your favorite herbs. Add freshly chopped basil, oregano, mint or cilantro or even chopped walnuts or dates to give it some different flavor and texture!

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Coconut Vegetable Curry

We had a little bit of a water disaster at our house the other night. Two windowsills that need replacing decided they just couldn’t hold on anymore, and they made that decision during one of the longest and most torrential rainstorms the Seacoast has seen in a while.

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It turns out water had been dripping through the walls and into our basement all day, but Mike heroically made this discovery in the middle of my dinner prep/first glass of hard cider.

Needless to say, my goal of enjoying warm curry and rice in front of the fire while binging on nightime television was not realized. Instead, I held sheets of plastic through the open windows while Mike stood outside, bundled in rain gear, staple-gunning the plastic to our house with frozen fingers. Winter is fun.

So the photos for this dish aren’t great, and I let the whole pan burn at one point because I simply forgot I was cooking. But as long as you don’t discover a hole in your house during a rainstorm while you’re making this dish, you’ll be fine. And it still came out great for us, even if we wolfed it down at the table with zero regard to the actual taste. I’m looking forward to rediscovering it with the leftovers already.

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Also barring any major extraneous complications, this is a really easy dish to make. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s mostly just spices.

What You Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium sweet, yellow or red onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk (13.5oz)
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp freshly chopped sage
  • 2 tbsp curry powder

What You Do:

Cook the rice according to package directions and set aside, keeping warm.

While rice is cooking, heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

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When oil is hot, add sliced onions and stir, sauteing for about 2 minutes or until they become soft and translucent.

Add the garlic, carrots and white wine, and cover, simmering until wine is evaporated.

Add the peppers and green onions and vegetable broth, mixing until well combined and cover, simmering, until vegetable broth has evaporated.

Add the coconut milk. Stir well for about a minute.

Add all spices and stir until well combined.

Serve the vegetable curry over a bed of warm Basmati rice.

Pro Tip: Don’t walk away from the dish while it’s simmering in white wine and/or vegetable broth for more than a couple minutes. It’s not afraid to burn.

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Ready for Anything Homemade Vegetable Broth

Do you ever feel a little bad about all the vegetable scraps that pile up while you’re preparing a meal? Onion peels (are they called peels?), the tops/stems of peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, broccoli and squashes – it’s a crazy amount of food in the end that you aren’t using in the actual recipe!

I did eventually start a vermicycle compost bin, which is a HUGE help, but one thing I love to do with these veggie scraps is use them again for my own personal mealtime gain before feeding them to the compost worms.

This vegetable broth recipe is a super simple solution to that problem that basically produces an entirely new meal AND will help you feel less wasteful. A win-win!

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Store all of your vegetable scraps in the freezer in a gallon-size bag and simply continue adding to it each time you cook. Then, whenever you need vegetable broth for cooking, all you need to do is follow these easy steps and you’ll have at-the-ready homemade broth.

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What You Do:

  1. Boil a large pot of water
  2. Put a good amount of the frozen veggies directly into the boiling water
  3. Boil down until the veggies are soft and the water is visibly broth-like. Add salt or pepper if desired.
  4. Drain the water through a strainer directly into another large pot and it’s ready!

Pro Tip: Eliminate a step and make your dinner prep easier by making the broth ahead of time and freezing it. Then you can just defrost and use! (This photo is not great but this is a half-gallon container and I filled two with just one pot. Win!)

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