Even after two years, I'm new enough to slow cooker cooking that I haven't quite mastered pasta. When to add it, whether to add it cooked or uncooked, I'm never quite sure. So I love recipes like this slow cooker sausage, tortellini and mushroom soup from 365 Days of Slow Cooking, that help to demystify pasta for me. Good quality (all natural) tortellini is one of those convenience foods I always have in the freezer, for quick weeknight dinners, pasta salads, or a hearty addition to soups. Use regular or spinach tortellini in this recipe, and your favorite sausage.
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A really, really good soup can stand a bit of fiddling with the recipe. Gina's Crock Pot minestrone soup, from Skinnytaste, overflows with goodness. Substitute freely with vegetables, pasta and beans that you have on hand; purée the beans to thicken the soup, or don't. Add some turkey meatballs, if you're not making this for Meatless Monday. It's all up to you. This recipe works on the stove top, of course, but Gina has adapted it for the slow cooker, for days when you'd rather be out raking leaves or playing football than tending the stove.
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Any recipe that packs four different heat-producing ingredients into one bowl, like this golden acorn squash chili, goes right to the top of my list. Rachel of Coconut & Lime balances the natural sweetness of acorn squash with fresh, smoked, and dried ground peppers. Best of all, everything goes into a slow cooker at once, and hangs out for up to eight hours. Use other winter squash (blue hubbard would be wonderful), or combine several types. Vegan and gluten-free, the stew is hearty and zesty enough to serve to your football-watching friends at halftime.
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