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Hearty slow-cooker dinner recipes for runners

In the winter, my favorite kitchen appliance is the slow-cooker. It wins hands down. Even though the total number of hours in the day are the same in the winter as summer, the fewer hours of daylight make it feel like it’s harder to cross off everything on my “to do” list – including cook dinner.

That’s where the slow-cooker comes in. I love warm, filling meals in the wintertime. There’s definitely a time and place for more nutritious slow-cooker fare, but when it’s cold outside, I love walking into a house that smells like a mouth-watering meal. Plus, it’s pretty convenient to have dinner cook itself.

Here are some of our favorite hearty slow-cooker dinners:

Simple Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplings. Chicken and dumplings is the ultimate comfort food in my book – it literally warms you up from the inside out. This recipe is easy enough. If you don’t have time to make homemade soup, canned will do. The same thing goes for the dumplings. If you can’t make them from scratch, buy a can of refrigerated biscuit dough, tear the uncooked biscuits up, and toss them into the slow-cooker when you would add the homemade dumplings.

Clean Out the Pantry Crockpot Chili. Few things are simpler than slow-cooker chili. You literally dump all of the ingredients into the slow-cooker and come back hours later to a delicious meal. The best thing about chili is that it’s completely customizable to your preferences. Sub out different types of beans, add ground meat, or try different spices – it’s sure to be a hit. Pair with cornbread – which you can also make in the slow cooker – and a salad, and a complete dinner is served.

Super Easy Skinny Veggie Crockpot Lasagna. Yes, you can “cook” this classic Italian staple in your slow-cooker. This recipe allows for a lot of customizing – toss in whatever vegetables you like and play with the cheese to sauce ratio. This variation makes a huge batch and reheats well, so you’ll have a meal to enjoy tomorrow, too.

Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup. This recipe requires a little bit of work up front, but it’s worth it. After you sauté the veggies and chicken, you throw the ingredients into the pot until dinner. This slow-cooker meal is also freezer friendly, so you can easily save and reheat leftovers.

Three Cheese Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? This is guaranteed to be a dish that the whole family will enjoy. This recipe doesn’t take as long to cook as traditional slow-cooker favorites. You’ll have to add more ingredients halfway through cooking, so this is a good choice to make when you’re snowed in one afternoon.

Slow Cooker Beer Pulled Pork. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork may be the simplest slow-cooker “recipe” out there. This recipe is made using beer, so make sure you choose your favorite brew to enhance the flavor.

Squash, Chickpea, and Red Lentil Stew. This healthy stew is sure to fill you up. It requires some chopping and peeling of the vegetables beforehand. But as soon as the stew is cooked, scoop it out from the slow-cooker, add toppings, and serve on a bed of spinach or rice – and you’ve got dinner!

Written by Jen Matz.

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