Slow cooker recipes give you more time

Book: "Better Homes and Gardens Skinny Slow Cooker: More than 150 Calorie Smart Recipes That Cook While You're Away" by Better Homes and Gardens. 300 pages, $19.99. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.

What you get: More than 150 low-calorie recipes for the slow cooker — breakfast; appetizers, snacks and drinks; beef; pork and lamb; poultry; meatless; summer slow cooker; sides and desserts. Almost all the rrecipes call for common ingredients that you can pick up at most any grocery store.

In their own words: "With low temperatures and an indirect heating source, slow cookers can safely cook meals for hours while you are off making use of your free time. Learn the basics of this cooking method and master the technique in no time." — Better Homes and Gardens

What we made:

Coconut-ginger Lentil Soup (Page 223)

3 14 1/2-ounce cans vegetable broth

2 cups dried red lentils (12 ounces), rinsed

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups chopped carrots

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons curry powder

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 14-ounce can unsweetened light coconut milk

Thinly sliced green onions (optional)

Fresh serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

Lime wedges (optional)

1. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker combine the broth, lentils, celery, carrots, onions, ginger, curry powder, garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon.

2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in the coconut milk, cover and cook 30 minutes more. If desired, serve with green onions, cilantro, serrano pepper and/or lime wedges. Makes 8 servings.

Our assessment: This soup is full of healthy vegetables and flavors, and it smells absolutely wonderful as it's cooking. I used the high-heat setting and recommend a full 3 hours if not a little longer to make sure the vegetables and lentils are tender. The green onions, cilantro, serrano and lime wedges are a pleasant addition and make the soup look even more appetizing.