Hearty Fall Meals with Zen of Slow Cooking

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The temperature is dropping, the leaves are changing color, and slow cooker season is officially here! I can think of few things better than a healthy, warming, one-pot meal on a chilly fall day. That’s why I was excited to try out Zen of Slow Cooking’s pre-measured spice blends for easy, flavorful meals that you can make in a slow cooker or pressure cooker.

Even though I love the idea of sitting down at the table to enjoy a home-cooked meal, ever since the pandemic started, our dining room table has become the designated work-from-home space. Between the laptops, notebooks, and papers, there’s usually not much room left for eating. Instead, my boyfriend and I have resorted to eating dinner on the couch, in front of the TV most nights. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it’s probably not the healthiest everyday habit, and it definitely doesn’t have that eco-minimalist vibe that I’m always striving for.

Since Zen of Slow Cooking is all about bringing people together over wholesome meals, I decided to invite my boyfriend to slow down with me, take back our table, and enjoy a few meals made with ZOSC’s spice blends. We cleared away our work materials, sat down at the table, and had an actual conversation over dinner for the first time in quite a while.

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Zen of Slow Cooking kindly sent me six different spice blends to try: Tuscan, Indian Dal, Coq Au Vin, Provençale, Southwest Fiesta, and Smokey BBQ. Each spice blend includes a recipe on the back of the packet, as well as a list of additional recipes, which can be found at ZOSCrecipes.com. If you have a little more experience in the kitchen, you can also invent your own recipes using whatever ingredients you like. Since I only recently stopped referring to heating up a frozen pizza as “cooking,” I mostly stuck to the recipes provided, but I did make a few substitutions based on my personal taste and the ingredients I had available. Read on to see what I made using each spice blend, and what I thought of each dish.

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The Tuscan spice blend is a mixture of aromatic Italian herbs. I used it to make Balsamic Sausages and Peppers. I chose to make this dish with veggie sausages, served on a slice of gluten-free bread as a makeshift bun (I have yet to find gluten-free sausage rolls anywhere). This dish was hearty, balanced, and full of flavor. My boyfriend and I both absolutely loved this meal, and I would without a doubt make it again!

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Indian Dal

With the Indian Dal spice blend, I made Red Lentil Coconut Curry served over basmati rice. This recipe was vegan and gluten-free, without the need for any substitutions, and it was one of the simplest recipes to make out of the ones I tried. The dish was creamy and savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk. It smelled incredible as it bubbled away in the slow cooker throughout the day, and it tasted just as amazing when dinnertime finally came!

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Coq Au Vin

I knew I had to make coq au vin using the spice blend of the same name. ZOSC’s version of this classic French dish features chicken, mushrooms, bacon, onions, and of course a hefty dose of red wine. I paired it with mashed potatoes, using locally grown potatoes and garlic from the farmer’s market. This was the first time I’ve ever had Coq au Vin, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To be honest, this is probably the only recipe that I wouldn’t make again. I still cleaned my plate; it just wasn’t my favorite.

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I used this blend of French herbs to make Dijon Portobello Mushrooms, which I served over gluten-free pasta. This dish was earthy, creamy, and absolutely delicious! It was also a cinch to make!

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Southwest Fiesta

I used the Southwest Fiesta blend to make Chicken Tortilla Soup, which included black beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Instead of using canned beans and tomatoes, I substituted dried black beans, which I buy from bulk bins, cook in batches, and store in the freezer; as well as fresh tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I also omitted the chipotle chili in adobo, simply because I didn’t have it on hand. Without the chili, the soup turned out a little bland, so I decided to add some pickled jalapenos and a splash of their pickling juice. This simple addition made the soup taste absolutely incredible! I love spicy food and Mexican food, so I couldn’t get enough. Luckily the recipe made a big enough batch that I had leftovers for the next day!

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Smoky BBQ

Last but not definitely not least, I used the Smoky BBQ blend to make the Carolina Pulled Pork, which I turned into a savory, craveable sandwich. This was definitely my boyfriend’s favorite dish of the bunch! I’m not usually a big red meat-eater myself, but even I couldn’t deny how tasty this was!

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After trying out all these different recipes, I can’t recommend Zen of Slow Cooking highly enough! They make it super easy to enjoy hearty, slow-cooked meals. It was so refreshing to sit down at the table and enjoy a nice conversation over a meal that didn’t come in a bunch of wasteful takeout packaging, or take an hour to prepare.

I love that these blends feature clean ingredients without any preservatives. Plus, the recipes are easily customizable. One spice blend can be used to make a wide variety of different recipes that can be adapted to any diet, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. As a gluten-free flexitarian, I appreciated how easy it was to adapt these blends to my diet. It was also easy to keep the meals sustainable by incorporating organic and zero-waste ingredients from my local farmer’s market.

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I also love that Zen of Slow Cooking is a business that shares my values. They are a women-owned, Certified B Corporation, meaning they balance purpose and profit by using their business as a force for good. ZOSC provides employment for adults with developmental disabilities in order to create a more inclusive economy.

If you want to shake up your dinner routine and support a small business doing good in the community, I highly recommend checking out Zen of Slow Cooking. You can find their spice blends at Amazon, Uncommon Goods, World Market, and thezenofslowcooking.com.

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, but it features gifted products from Zen of Slow Cooking. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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