Winter and slow cookers just go together. What’s better than coming in from the cold to a warm, hearty meal that (almost) cooked itself?

Our partner Stacie at One Hungry Mama uses her slow cooker to great advantage with this healthy, satisfying Slow Cooker Italian Meatball Soup that’s packed with veggies, greens and beans for extra protein and substance. The flavor secret here is searing the meatballs on the stove before you add them to your slow cooker; though you’re not cooking them all the way, the browned meat adds delicious depth to the finished soup. (It also helps the little meatballs hold together during their long, slow simmer.)

Soup is a great way to introduce kids to dark leafy greens; the greens mellow and wilt down just a bit, adding dimension to the soup without being too strong. Using baby greens like our Asian Greens (or other Deep Greens) means no cleaning, trimming or chopping, so you can toss them into the soup a minute or two before serving. Just add a loaf of crusty bread, and you’ve got a complete meal that welcomes everyone home from frosty holiday errands.

Watch how Stacie puts it together, then try it yourself!

Slow Cooker Italian Meatball Soup

Original recipe by Stacie Billis at One Hungry Mama
Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 5 mins + 4 hrs in slow cooker | Serves 4

1 pound ground beef, pork or a combination
2 cloves Earthbound Farm Organic Garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 heaping tablespoons bread crumbs
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil or neutral oil such as grapeseed, for cooking

3 Earthbound Farm Organic Carrots, washed, trimmed and chopped
1 small Earthbound Farm Organic Onion, chopped
2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
5 ounces Earthbound Farm Organic Asian Greens or other Deep Greens blend (1 package)
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

To make the meatballs, add the ground meat, garlic, Parmesan, bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper to a medium bowl. Using your hands or a silicone spatula, mix to combine well. Roll the mixture into balls about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.

In the meantime, heat about 2 tablespoons (we call it “a healthy glug”) of oil in a large frying pan. Brown the meatballs on one side for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn and brown them on another side for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; it’s okay that the meatballs aren’t cooked through at this point. You’re just browning them to add flavor and so that they’ll hold together in the slow cooker.

Stacie's Slow Cooker Italian Meatball Soup

Layer the carrots, onion, beans, red pepper flakes (if using) and browned meatballs into a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker, then pour the broth over the mixture. Cover and set to cook on high for 4 hours.

When the soup is done, before serving, uncover and stir in the greens. Cover and cook until they wilt, which should take only about 1 minute. Serve hot, topped with grated cheese if you like.

Stacie Billis is a cookbook author, recipe developer and busy mom — at the holidays and all year long — who creates healthy food that the whole family can love at One Hungry Mama. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter, too.

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