NDSU Extension - Ramsey County


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"Soups On!"

“Soups On!”


By, Sara Laite, RD, LRD
Extension Agent

This wintery weather has me craving a nice, warm, home cooked meal.  However, if you’re short on time like my family, spending hours in the kitchen probably isn’t high on your list.  What if you could come home after a long day, open up the door, and be greeted by the inviting aroma of a nice, comforting meal?  With just a little preparation and the use of your slow cooker, this can most certainly be an easy reality!     


There are numerous benefits of using a slow cooker.  A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.  As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat to save you money.  Slow cookers usually allow one-step preparation.  Placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker saves time and cuts down on cleanup.  A variety of foods can be cooked in a slow cooker, including soups, stews, casseroles, and desserts. 


Most slow cookers have two or three settings.  When using the low setting, food will cook in 6-10 hours.  Using the high setting allows food to cook in 4-6 hours. If possible, set your slow cooker on high for the first hour, then turn to low to finish cooking.  Try to resist the urge to open the lid.  Removing the lid slows cooking time! 


Most recipes can be converted to cooking in your slow cooker.  Because liquids do not boil away in a slow cooker, you can typically reduce liquids by one-third to one-half.  Pasta tends to get mushy, so it is recommended to either add it at the end of the cooking process or cook separately and add just before serving.  Check out NDSU Extension’s publication, Now Serving: Slow Cooker Meals! (FN 1511) for a time chart for adapting recipes.


For easy cleanup and care of your slow cooker, spray the inside with nonstick cooking spray before use.  Or, you can use my favorite tools - slow cooker liners!


The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends following these safety rules to ensure a safe meal for your family.  Begin with a clean cooker, clean utensils and a clean work area.  Wash hands before and during food preparation.  To ensure complete cooking of whole meats, always thaw meat and poultry before cooking in the slow cooker.  Large cuts of meat may be cooked safely in your slow cooker; however, because there are many different sizes and kinds of cookers, check your instruction booklet for suggested sizes of meat for your specific cooker.    


This easy soup can be put together in a matter of minutes, cooked on low throughout the day in your slow cooker, and will be ready for you when you get home after the long day.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

1 lb. lean or extra-lean ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 (16-oz.) can chili beans, with liquid

1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, with liquid

1 (15-oz.) can whole-kernel corn, with liquid

1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce (low-sodium)

2 c. water

2 (14.5-oz.) cans peeled and diced tomatoes (low-sodium)

1 (4-oz.) can diced green chili peppers

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (low-sodium)

In a medium skillet, cook the ground beef until browned over medium heat. Drain. Place the ground beef, onion, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, green chili peppers and taco seasoning mix in a slow cooker. Mix to blend and cook on low setting for eight hours. Makes 10 servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 3 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, and 500 mg sodium.


For more information on this and other nutrition related items, contact the Ramsey County Extension Office at 701-662-7027.  Website: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/ramseycountyextension.  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NDSUExtRamsey/.


(Sara Laite is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Education Agent for the NDSU Extension in Ramsey County.)


Sources: NDSU Extension, Now Serving: Slow Cooker Meals!, 2013 and Food Safety and Inspection Service, Slow Cookers and Food Safety, 2013. 

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