An easy chicken dinner that's fresh, healthy, and made in a slow cooker—what's not to love?

Cara Greenstein

Anyone else in a cozy autumn supper mood?

I admittedly just started using my slow cooker, which my husband Alex and I received as a wedding gift last winter. I nostalgically associate slow cookers with Southern gatherings around football and outdoor potlucks, immediately invoking a sense of sharing and community. Throughout my childhood, I witnessed lots of Crock-Pot cooking in action and came to see it as a source of ease for a host with her hands full, an insured portion size for whomever joins the party, and a steady temperature setting for potential longwinded SEC rivalries.

WATCH: Here's the Best Place to Set Up Your Slow Cooker

In my own kitchen today, I'm drawn to colorful and fresh ingredients and presentations. When I am hosting a party, I usually throw myself into the challenge of last-minute prepping, dicing, and plating. Recently, I've learned that the slow cooker is more than a community chili bowl or seven-layer dip delivery system; it’s a dynamic and reliable method for making all kinds of exceptional dishes.

This beautiful chicken grain bowl recipe marks the entrance to a new season. Slow cooking infuses chicken breasts, lentils, and barley with chicken broth and garlic, and makes the ingredients extra tender, rich, and risotto-like. Fresh baby kale and pops of frozen English peas—stirred in just before serving—add color, and a swirl of fresh pesto immediately adds brightness. The balance of greens and grains is simply divine. And, of course, don’t forget the shaved Parmesan to garnish each bowl.

(Slowly) cook away, my friends!

Click here for Cara Greenstein's Slow Cooker Pesto Chicken with Barley and Lentils

Cara Greenstein is author of the award-winning, Memphis-based food and lifestyle brand Caramelized. A bonafide foodie and entertaining expert, Cara shares a wealth of inspiration for the kitchen and home, as well as guides for outings in Memphis and across the South. Her latest venture, the Caramelized Supper Club, offers a "dinner party in a box" subscription service for convenient and creative at-home entertaining.