Healthy Crockpot Meals to Make Ahead

Healthy Black Beans

Healthy Black Beans

Here are two recipes adapted from Eating Well magazine that let you “set it and forget it” and have healthy meals on the table on a busy weeknight (with leftovers, too)

1. Risotto with Fennel

This recipe can be made gluten free using rice, or it can be made with barley.

If you love the intense licorice flavor of fennel, this is a perfect dish for you. (If not, you may want to omit the fennel seeds.) This easy side features fiber-rich barley and requires none of the babysitting of traditional risotto.

To make ahead, prepare fennel, carrot, shallot, and garlic. Combine broth, ½ cup water, and wine. Refrigerate in separate covered containers for up to 1 day. This pairs beautifully with a simple piece of grilled or roasted white fish and sautéed kale.

Makes 6 servings (generous 1 cup each)

Active Time: 30 minutes / Total Time: 6-8 hours


2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds

1 cup pearl barley, OR short-grain brown rice for gluten free

1 small carrot, finely chopped

1 large shallot, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or vegetable broth (or use gluten free)

1 cup water, divided

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 cups frozen French-cut green beans

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  1. Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Combine fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot, and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 6-8 hours on high or low.
  2. Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest, and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds.

Nutritional facts, per serving: 242 calories; 6 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat, 1 gram monounsaturated); 9 milligrams cholesterol; 36 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams added sugars; 10 grams protein; 8 grams fiber; 474 milligrams sodium; 330 milligrams potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (35% daily value), Selenium (20% daily value), Vitamin C (15% daily value).


2.  Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili

Filling and robust, this dish satisfies when it’s cold outside! Soak the dried beans the night before and they’ll be ready to put into your 5-6 quart slow cooker in the morning. If you forget to soak the beans, you can substitute 4 cans of black beans in this recipe. Leftovers keep for 2 days and you can also freeze remaining portions for up to 3 months. Chock full of fiber and protein, this is one recipe you’ll want to work into your repertoire.

Makes: 10 servings (1 generous cup each)

Active Time: 25 minutes / Total Time: 6½-9 hours


1 pound dried black beans, (2½ cups), rinsed well

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup ground mustard seeds

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

8 ounces tomatillos, (see Note), husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped

1/4 cup water

5½ cups mushroom broth, or vegetable broth

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 limes, cut into wedges

NOTE: You can find tomatillos (which are tart, plum-size green fruits that look like small, husk-covered green tomatoes) in the produce section near the tomatoes. Remove the outer husk and rinse them well before using.


  1. Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water. (Alternatively, place beans and 2 quarts water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain the beans, discarding soaking liquid.
  2. Combine oil, mustard seeds, chili powder, cumin and cardamom in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Place over high heat and stir until the spices sizzle, about 30 seconds. Add onions, mushrooms, tomatillos and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are juicy, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and stir often until the juices evaporate and the vegetables are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth, tomato paste and chipotles; mix well.
  3. Place the beans in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the hot vegetable mixture over the beans. Turn heat to high. Put the lid on and cook until the beans are creamy, 5 to 8 hours.
  4. Garnish each serving with cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutritional facts, per serving: 306 calories; 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated, 2 grams monounsaturated); 20 milligrams cholesterol; 40 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 13 grams fiber; 415 milligrams sodium; 735 milligrams potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Fiber (52% daily value), Folate (47% daily value), Iron (22% daily value), Potassium (21% daily value).


Informational Resources:

The Healthy Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson

The Essential EatingWell Cookbook: Good Carbs, Good Fats, Great Flavors by Patsy Jamieson

Author’s content used under license, © 2012 Sprouted Content, LLC