Even when I was working 80-100 hour weeks in Financial Services, I never so keenly felt the sense of there not being enough hours in the day until I was a mom. Of course, work fed us, so with that basic need taken care of, it freed up a lot of time for everything else, namely work. As a mom, I feel like I spend 80% of my day in the kitchen – making breakfast, making snacks, making lunch, making dinner, cleaning up from all of the above, loading and unloading the dishwasher, putting groceries away, cleaning out the refrigerator… It is never-ending! One way I save myself from some of this kitchen servitude is my crockpot.
Ask any of my family, girlfriends or kids, and they will all tell you I swear by it. I prep everything while the kids eat lunch, get kids down for naps/quiet time, throw everything into the crockpot to cook, and then do one mass combined lunch, dinner prep clean-up. Then, instead of having to start cooking dinner at 4:30/5, when both kids always seem to be at their crankiest, clingiest, climbing up my leg-giest moment, I can actually pay attention to them instead of sticking them in front of the TV so I can cook. This avoids a lot of unnecessary yelling, squabbling, and my having to bust out the wine before dinner. It also leaves hubby with a hot meal even when he gets home after I eat with the kids.
My crock pot of choice…
I love it because it is small enough to just make a meal for our family of four, while still large enough to double recipes if I want to freeze half of it for reheating next month (hubby hates leftovers, but if I serve it up again in two weeks, he never knows the difference!).
A couple weeks ago, one of my girlfriends asked me for a few of my favorite crock pot recipes, so here they are, in no particular order. You can find them all on my Gotta Eat! – Crockpot Meals board on Pinterest, along with all of my other favorite recipes.
10 Favorite Crockpot Meals
Crockpot Ravioli Casserole
Delicious, sneaks in lots of veggies (onions, tomatoes, spinach, and you can throw in more – carrots, peppers, etc.) and makes great leftovers. Only downside is you have to brown the meat first, which is usually a detractor for me, but this one is delicious enough to make it worth it!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
This is an easy, go-to favorite. Literally 30 seconds of prep at naptime with two ingredients to make tacos the first night – double or triple the recipe and use the leftovers to make Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos the next day, or save the shredded chicken to top salads, make spicy chicken salad for lunches, or kids’ quesadillas. Or use it to make my personal favorite, King Ranch Chicken Casserole!
Slow Cooker Chili
Everyone has a go-to chili recipe. This is an easy one for the crockpot, with the added bonus option of browning the meat first or putting it in uncooked. The fewer the pots to clean, the better!
Crockpot Beef Tips
This is hubby’s fav… I serve it over whole grain egg noodles and add fresh, sliced baby bella mushrooms. I also never have the soda it calls for, but have often substituted Ginger Ale and it works just fine. For a thicker sauce, use 1/2 a can instead of a full can of soda. Kids love this one too.
Slow Cooker Chicken Philly Sandwiches
This makes a great football watching meal, or even a great tailgate grub. I buy the sandwich rolls, a crunchy baguette or loaf of french bread fresh from the bakery and top it with sliced provolone or white American cheese. I’ve never been able to find the “official” recipe on the site, so I just make it based on the picture: 1/2 a stick of butter, 1 onion sliced, 2 green bell peppers sliced, 2-3 chicken breasts sliced, and shake some seasoning (Adobo, or Rudy’s Poultry Rub), and let it cook for 4-6 hours on low.
Slow Cooker Roast Chicken
Did you know you can roast a WHOLE chicken in the slow cooker? And better still, it comes out moist and delicious! The first time, I followed the recipe’s spice rub mix precisely. Every time since, I kind of make it up with whatever I have in the pantry – I’ve thrown in rosemary, parsley, used the Rudy’s Poultry Rub. I also set the chicken on the onions and a few stalks of celery, or a bag of baby carrots. After I take the chicken out, I scoop out the carrots and make gravy with all the juices and veggies left in the pot – you can shake up a few tablespoons of flour with water in a small jar, pour it into the pot and stir. It will thicken up pretty readily. You can also use an emulsion blender to blend the onions and celery into the gravy. This is delicious served with roasted potatoes and carrots. A great cold weather meal.
Slow Cooker Beef Stew
I like this one because it has lots of veggies, makes a big batch, and freezes well for repeat performances a few weeks later! I don’t change a thing… occasionally, I skip the browning in a separate pan, and instead toss the beef in the flour before adding it to the slow cooker to thicken it from the start vs. at the end.
Crockpot Chicken Teryaki
Who doesn’t love Chicken Teryaki? I serve this over brown rice or quinoa, with steamed broccoli for a complete meal. Yum!
Crockpot Italian Turkey Meatballs
Italian food CAN be healthy… I make these all the time, and as long as I don’t tell him, hubby doesn’t even notice they aren’t beef. The munchkins love them too. They won’t touch meatloaf or ground beef with a ten foot pole, but roll it into a little ball, and they scarf them right up!
And last but not least… my personal favorite!
Chicken Pot Pie Stew
For the record, you can skip the 6 cubes of chicken bouillon to spare your heart the sodium, and just add one or a few shakes of salt and pepper instead. I do serve it over biscuits. Great meal for a cold, snowy day.
Bon appetit! And with those witching hours free now to play with your kids instead of cooking, you can do some great at-home activities! What’s your favorite crockpot meal?