Garbanzo Bean and Potato Soup with Pesto

Serves 8 / Prep tips: Leave potato peels intact for extra vitamin and mineral content, or peel if you prefer. Any quality pesto will do; traditional basil-garlic-pine nut pesto is fine, or try this with sun-dried tomato pesto for a unique flavor. Add chopped kale or chard to the cooker just before serving to boost this meal’s nutritional value. View recipe.

Tofu and Spinach in Peanut-Coconut Sauce

Serves 4 / This doesn’t look like much at the bottom of a big slow cooker, but it makes a rich and hearty meal served over brown basmati rice, and it’s easily doubled for a crowd. Prep tips: Be sure to use extra-firm tofu (traditional, not silken); softer tofu won’t stand up to slow cooking. If you want to give the tofu a crispy texture, lightly sear in a pan on medium-high heat with a generous amount of peanut or canola oil before adding it to the cooker. View recipe.

New Mexican Green Chile Casserole

Serves 8 / This layered dish, similar to a lasagna, is a family favorite. Ingredient tips: Canned beans work just fine, but be sure to buy the BPA-free type (such as Eden Foods). Frozen or bottled whole traditional hatch green chiles are delicious in this, but a good-quality green chile sauce works, too. Serving tip: Plain black or pinto beans make an excellent accompaniment. View recipe.

White Bean and Cabbage Soup

Serves 6 / Cabbage becomes tender and delicious in this French-inspired soup. Prep tips: Rosemary adds a lovely accent, but you can also substitute marjoram or oregano. Be sure to use a good-quality, flavorful stock. Serving tip: Serve with a crusty French or Italian bread. View recipe.