Friday, April 4, 2014

Mealtime Simplified

For the past several weekends, as well as a few afternoons during each week, we have loaded the family into our SUV to do more exploring of the area, as well as to look at houses, since we are renting temporarily, but plan to buy a new home in the next couple of months.



Many of the towns are at least an hour drive away, sometimes even more (that's just one way), so needless to say this usually means getting home around dinnertime or later. Since preparing a decent meal for a large family is rather time consuming, and much more difficult to do at 7 or 8pm, I have been trying to plan meals that can be ready when we walk in the door, or at least mostly ready, with only a few sides to fix in order to complete them...in comes the Slow Cooker, or 'Crock Pot'.

So far our slow cooker meals have included the following dishes (click on the name for a link to the recipe I used):












As well as a...




Future slow cooker meals will include:






and




I have also found that if I can do most of my prep work on my side dishes before we leave, it further simplifies getting the meal ready and plated up once we get home in the evening. For example, if we are having a salad with our dinner, I will chop the veggies and have them ready to toss together before plating up the main dish when we get home. Broccoli will be washed and chopped prior to leaving so that it can be steamed up quickly, and if I'm serving mashed potatoes, they can be prepared earlier in the day, and then simply warmed up while the biscuits, texas toast, or garlic bread are in the oven baking.

While this does take a little planning, as well as extra time out of my daytime schedule, it is completely worth it when we arrive home to the smell of a delicious meal cooking. It is also satisfying to know that we have avoided the extra expense of eating out, and/or going through the drive-thru to pick up not-so-healthy fast food.

What are your thoughts? Do you use a Crock Pot to prepare meals? Do you have any favorite slow cooker recipes? Please do share...I always love to try out new recipes, plus I love to hear from you, too! :)

Have a lovely day!

16 comments:

  1. I'm hoping to get recipes from you! I was given a slow cooker for Christmas and I have only used it once, for chili. I'm not sure how to adapt recipes I already have for slow cooking, and I definitely need new recipes. I would love to come home after work and have dinner (mostly) ready.

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    1. Hi Desert Flower! There are a lot of slow cooker recipes available on the internet, but of course some are better than others. I've put links to the recipes I used for the dishes under the photos, so take a look if you get the chance. :)

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    2. Desert Flower - here is a link to the slow cooker recipes on food.com that xoxo told us about. There are an incredibly large amount of them. :)

      Crock Pot and Slow Cooker Recipes

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    3. Hi Melissa! ;Skinnytaste.com has a ton of fabulous, healthy slow cooker recipes.
      Here are several that I have tried and loved.. http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/10/crockpot-turkey-white-bean-pumpkin.html

      http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/slow_cooker_lentil_soup.html
      http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/11/crock-pot-minestrone-soup.html (I usually add turkey meatballs to this)
      http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/01/skinny-slow-cooked-pernil-puerto-rican.html
      http://www.skinnytaste.com/2008/11/crock-pot-chicken-taco-chili-4-pts.html

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    4. Thank you so much, Julie! They all look so delicious, and I can't wait to try them out! I've bookmarked both sites, too. :)

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  2. I dont own a slow cooker,but considering getting one. My kids love meals with pork tenderloin or a roast,so it would be perfect for us.
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Ina! Oh, you should definitely get one and try it out. It really does make cooking so much easier, especially when you have a super busy day. I'm sure your kids would love the pork tenderloin and roast cooked in it, too. :)

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  3. I love the slow cooker and have worn out at least 2. The issue I have with the Rival Crock Pot brand is that the plastic handles crack and break off the lid. Then I resort to using a butter knife to open it a crack and remove the lid with a silicone pot holder. Not a deal breaker but I wish they were more durable.

    One of my favorite crockpot recipes is Lemon Chicken that you can see HERE. If you want to eat the chicken without the skin you can skip the browning step completely and just throw the bird right into the crock pot with all the ingredients, putting most of the spices inside the cavity. The last step calls for lemon juice to be added for the final hour of cooking but it can be shortened to 30 minutes, which could be the time while you get everything else ready.

    I also like this Split Pea Soup and these BBQ Ribs. Plenty more recipes on food.com and you can set up your own recipe box on the site for free.

    I'm going to try your stroganoff recipe, looks delish!

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    1. Just want to add that you don't need to skin the chicken first if you skip the browning step, the skin will slide right off easily after it is cooked.

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing your slow cooker recipes, xoxo! I am going to try out all three that you posted links to. They all sound incredibly delicious, and I know my family of guys will love them! Thanks also for the information about food.com. I am bookmarking it and will be visiting the site often. :)

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  4. Thanks Melissa and xoxo! I will confess right here that I am not a very good cook. I look for simple recipes that are foolproof.

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    1. It just takes practice Desert Flower, so I'm sure the more you cook the better you'll get at it. Most slow cooker recipes seem to be pretty foolproof anyways though. :)

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  5. I highly recommend purchasing a second crockpot! I use mine all the time. I have 6 kids (5 are boys) and the second crock pot is a life saver for busy days. You can prepare your main dish in one and a side dish in the other. Mashed potatoes do really well in the crockpot. You can take a very large bag make mashed potatoes, freeze them and then pull them out on the day you're ready to use them put them directly in the crock pot in the morning and by dinner time they are ready to go! The other thing you might think about getting is a rice cooker---amazing! You can set the timer and the rice is ready for when you walk in the door. Also a rice cooker can steam veggies for you using a top plastic insert! Loving your new location! Its my dream!

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    1. Hi Dorothy! It's so nice to hear from you again! I absolutely love your idea of getting a second crock pot! I am definitely going to do that soon, as I know that I will get a lot of use out of it. Thank you for sharing the tip about the mashed potatoes, too. I have never tried that, but will plan on doing so in the near future.

      I've never used a rice cooker, but I love that you can use it for more than just rice. I'll be checking into one of those, too.

      We are loving it here in Montana, and living here is one of our long-time dreams finally come true. :)

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  6. Hi there!
    I love my crockpot to no end!! Skinny taste is a fav site of mine, and I see someone else mentioned it above too. If you like meatballs, try this. I love these, so good and easy. And I can't even tell they are turkey!

    http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/11/crock-pot-italian-turkey-meatballs.html

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe Beth! My family absolutely loves meatballs, so I will definitely be giving this one a try, too! Enjoy your day! :)

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