Skill It: The whole food slow cooker

[ 0 ] April 2, 2015 |

Thrilled to have Leah back with Kidoinfo. Now as a new mom, she has even more wisdom to share on how to make meal time simple yet meaningful and delicious while juggling family logistics. – Anisa

LeahKentPortrait_KidoinfoNever have I been more appreciative of every free moment I can find in any given day since becoming a mama. I happen to have been blessed with a very alert and active 4-month old boy who is far more interested in being awake than boring old naps!

The new schedule of caring for my little one has inspired me to find every possible way to be efficient with my time and energy. One place where I have earned back a little time is by using my slow cooker. Preparing a healthy dinner for me and my husband has always been an important daily ritual. I really wanted to continue cooking at home rather than eating take-out as new parents but I needed to find things that were simple, quick, and still healthy.

I already used the slow cooker occasionally, but now I rely on it for several meals every week. If you’re thinking of the green and gold slow cookers of the past, I’m happy to report that there have been major upgrades to the equipment in recent years! The slow cooker has made a big comeback so there are plenty of choices available at a wide range of prices.


I prefer the programmable slow cookers that will turn themselves off or onto a “warm” setting after a certain number of hours. This means I can make dinner during my baby’s morning nap and not worry about turning it off at a certain time later in the day.

The other thing I’ve searched for are lots of healthy, whole-food recipes that can be prepared in the slow cooker. One of my favorites is this Chicken Quinoa Sweet Potato Stew. It’s incredibly easy to put together and the results are hearty and delicious! It’s also dairy and gluten free, common allergens that many of us nursing moms try to avoid.


Recipe: Chicken Quinoa Sweet Potato Stew
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 5 hours
Serves: 6-8

2 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ cup quinoa
3 large sweet potatoes, cubed (about 1 pound)
1 cup dried black beans
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic?(or garlic powder)
3 TB chili powder
1 TB cumin
1 tsp each salt & black pepper
6-8 cups chicken broth (depending on what fits in slow cooker)


  1. Arrange chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour in quinoa next followed by the cubed sweet potatoes and dried beans. Add the can of diced tomatoes, along with their juice. Mix the garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper to the chicken broth and stir together before pouring into the crock.
  2. Cover and cook on the High setting for 5 hours or on Low for 8 hours. Check to make sure black beans are tender, adjusting time as necessary. Before serving, use two forks to shred the chicken and mix the stew together lightly.
  3. For added flavor and texture, garnish with any of the following – freshly chopped cilantro, shredded cheese, scallions, tortilla chips, or hot sauce.

You could easily modify this dish for vegetarian or vegan diets by omitting the chicken and increasing the quantity of black beans and sweet potatoes. In the fall and winter, I usually serve this with a side of sautéed greens, like kale or collards. In the spring and summer, it’s typically paired at the dinner table with a fresh green salad.

Knowing that I’ve got a healthy dinner waiting for me at the end of the day makes me feel relaxed and stress-free. And on days when the slow cooker is making dinner for our family, I usually find that I have extra time to work on a sewing project, read a book, or just get outside to enjoy some fresh air!

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use your slow cooker, I’m leading an online class, Deliciously Slow, starting April 13th to share all my best slow cooker recipes and techniques with you. This is a pay-what-you-can class because I want anyone who is interested to be able to join us! If you’d like to find out more about the class or to register, click here to visit the Skill It website.


If you try the quinoa stew or have another great recipe to share with us, I hope you’ll leave a comment for us below!


Category: food + recipes, parents, Tips for New Parents

Leah Kent

about the author ()

Leah Cherry teaches children and their families how to cook, sew, make and grow traditional talents that remain essential for living well today. Her business, Skill It, is founded on the belief that working with your hands nourishes your spirit and connects you to family and community. In addition to after-school and community events in Rhode Island, Skill It offers an online class, Season's Eatings, to create joy, fun, and connection around food and family dinnertime. You can read the Skill It blog ( and sign-up for the newsletter to receive class updates.

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