Warm up wintry days with slow-cooked soups

Chris Daly counts on her slow cooker every week to help get dinner on the table for her busy family of four.

“I'm a meal planner,” the Palatine mom says. “I look at the calendar and figure out our busiest days, and that's when I use the crockpot. It's usually twice a week.”

This time of year ingredients for chilis, stews and soups often find their way into the pot, simmering away while she works at a local school.

Pinterest, a social media idea-sharing site, is a favorite resource, she adds. “I love looking online for recipes and giving them my own twist; we tend to like things more spicy.”

A recent Pinterest search for “slow cooker soup recipes” turned up belly-warming fare like Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup and dozens of recipes for Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Today, Daly shares with us one of her favorites, Crock Pot Lemon Rice Soup. She adds chicken to the recipe, which she culled from the Web, and has been known to add a shake or two of hot sauce to the pot.

You can also turn to a handful of new cookbooks to add fresh recipes to your winter soup repertoire.

“Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution” by the editors at America's Test Kitchen dedicated a chapter to soups with favorites like Beef and Garden Vegetable Soup and Classic Corn Chowder and soon-to-be-favorites like Fire-Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup and Moroccan Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens.

“Lentil soup is one of the easiest soups to make in a slow cooker, but too often it turns into a hodgepodge of lentils, canned tomatoes and whatever assortment of vegetables happen to be on hand,” the editors write. Selecting French green lentils and combining them with aromatic Moroccan spices and then simmering the pottage for seven to nine hours creates layers of flavors in this marvelously updated soup.

The editors at Southern Living recognize the benefits of slow cookers as well. While not specifically a slow cooker cookbook, Southern Living's “Soups, Stews and Chilis: Comfort Food in a Bowl” (Oxmoor, 2014) includes several hands-off recipes, like one for Loaded Potato Soup that will warm you and fill you up.

Moroccan Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

Turkey Tortellini Soup

Slow Cooker Onion Soup

Crock Pot Lemon Rice Soup

Loaded Potato Soup

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