The Ultimate Comfort Food: Slow-Cooked Soups

Comfort food made easy. Try these three fabulous recipes and enjoy a no-fuss evening curled up with a warm bowl of soup.

Are you looking to include more home-cooked meals in your diet? For those squeezed between work, volunteer activities, and family obligations, it can be exhausting to try to prepare something wholesome at the end of the day.

But the slow cooker gives control back to the home cook, as meals can be prepared in the morning or even the night before and simmer all day. Try these three recipes to provide a delicious smell as you come into the house — and a no-fuss evening, curled up with a warm bowl of soup.

Apres-ski lentil-sausage soup
This hearty dish is perfect after a day spent on the slopes or cross-country skiing. To up the indulgence factor, pair with fresh black olive or rosemary foccacia bread.

6-8 Italian spiced sausages (hot or mild according to your preference)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
1 cup water
2/3 cup lentils
2 potatoes, washed and diced into small (1/4-1/2 inch) pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1 small bag mini-carrots or 4-5 regular carrots cut into 1/2 inch chunks*
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon sweet paprika

Layer potatoes and onion on bottom of crock pot, then place sausages, carrots, and lentils into the pot. Sprinkle with herbs and then pour diced tomatoes, broth, and water over the top. Cook on low 8 hours. Before serving, remove sausages and slice into 1/4 inch pieces; return to pot and stir. Serves 4-6, depending on how vigorous the skiing was.

* Variation: replace with 2 cups diced butternut squash, fresh or frozen

Ice storm pantry minestrone
This soup is designed for a snow-bound day, when going out to the store doesn’t appeal.

1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can chicken or beef broth
1 cup water
12-15 frozen meatballs, preferably Italian spiced*
1/2 to 2/3 cup macaroni or other pasta
1 onion, diced
3 cups frozen vegetables (almost any mix other than those designed for stir-fries; I prefer one which includes green beans and lima beans)
1 can romano or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon oregano and 1 tablespoon basil OR 2 tablespoons Italian seasonings mix
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or several flakes of red pepper (to taste)

Place everything in the crock pot; stir and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serves 4-6.

* May be omitted if you don’t have them available; if you wish to replace with 1/2 lb lean ground beef: brown ground beef in a skillet before adding to crock pot. Other substitutions include: an additional can of beans, 1 package diced firm tofu, or 2 cups diced leftover chicken or roast beef.

Variation: to add even more nutritional punch and texture, turn crock pot to high for last 20 minutes and add 2-3 (loosely filled) cups washed baby spinach.

Makin’ bacon split-pea soup
While you’re out earning a living this soup becomes a hearty Canadian meal. Pair with fresh multi-grain rolls.

1 pound split dried peas
3 slices bacon, diced
8 cups water (see below)
3 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place potatoes at bottom of crock pot, covered by other ingredients. If you want to just turn the crock pot on and walk away, and do not have a high-low (automatic) feature, cover with 8 cups boiling water and set on low for 10 hours. If you are at home for one hour after starting, or have a high-low (automatic) feature, cover with 8 cups cold water and either set on high-low and cook for 8-10 hours, or set at high for one hour and then turn to low for remaining 9-10 hours. Serves 8.

Vegetarian variation: Sauté onions and celery in olive oil over medium-low heat until onions are soft and brown to give a richer flavour; then proceed without bacon.