As I sit here writing this post, it is gloomy and rainy outside, perfect weather for hot meals. A slow cooker (also called crock pot) is a great investment for the busy vegetarian/vegan. The following book gets dusted off every fall and used regularly until spring comes.
Besides soups, stews and chills, you can make quick breads, oatmeal and desserts in a slow cooker. Simply throw all the ingredients in, turn slow cooker on and let it do its thing all day while you are out at work or school. When you come home, a hot meal will be waiting for you.
Some prep may be required beforehand (ie sautéing onions, garlic and spices to bring out flavour, cooking beans as some slow cookers may not have high enough of a heat setting to cook them fully). However, the advantage of vegan ingredients is that you can usually add them all at once. Dairy products are often added at the end of the cooking process.
Good slow cookers will have various settings: high (usually a 3 hour cooking time), low (usually around 6 hours of cooking time) and warm (safe temperature to keep food warm). Most slow cookers will switch to warm before turning off automatically. Alternatively you can set yours at night to wake up to quick breads or oatmeal first thing in the morning.
While full size slow cookers are great for batch cooking, they also come in smaller more portable sizes. These are ideal for use in an office/lunch room. Plug in at least half an hour before you are ready to eat. No microwave required!