Slow cooker meals that will be ready after kids’ practices

Swim team is starting this week for Rose and two days a week her practices hit when I would usually be getting dinner ready. (During her practice, I try to swim with the other kids in the smaller pool to get them exercise as well.) We also have church on Wednesday afternoons, which makes preparing dinner that day tough too. I am turning to my slow cooker on those busy days so dinner will greet us when we get home from our activities.

In the past, I haven’t had a lot of luck with slow cooker recipes. They seem to cook too fast and dry out. I think the slow cooker wasn’t full enough and so it was cooking faster than expected.

We had a super busy week about two weeks ago and out of desperation I tried the slow cooker twice that week. The dishes turned out well, and it was so nice to walk in and smell dinner ready and waiting.

So on Saturday, I went through cookbooks and websites searching for more slow cooker recipes. Some of you asked for me to share my menus when I had them together. So here is my plan for this week: (I posted these recipes and more on my Pinterest page. So check out there for more ideas.)

Sunday – Baked chicken – It may sound plain but there is nothing wrong with a well-baked chicken. The house smells good, the whole family eats without complaint, and I have leftovers to use during the week. (See Monday.)

Monday – Weight Watchers enchiladas with turkey sausage for me and Michael. I don’t think the kids will eat this so I am reserving some baked chicken that they can put on the corn tortillas and make their own soft tacos. (I couldn’t find a link to this recipe. I found it in the 2012 Weight Watchers cookbook.)

Tuesday – Beef Stroganoff in the slow cooker. This is a new one for us so we’ll see how it turns out. Rose like mushrooms so I hope they will eat it and like it.

Wednesday – Slow cooker sweet and sour pork ribs – I think they will like this. I am trying to decide on my sides.

Thursday –  Slow cooker chicken tacos I think I made these several years and decided I needed to leave out the adobo for the kids. Too spicy.

Friday – Probably cheese pizza

The ladies on Everyday Food on Martha Stewart radio used to talk about food to take to games a lot. They always recommended hand-held items like beef pies or chicken pies, which I think sound tasty but my kids won’t eat them. (Our former fill-in host Keith has a fantastic pasties recipe from her mom. I will ask her to share it with us.)

What is your approach to dinner on practices nights? Do you like hand-held stuff that you can take along in the car or eat at the park? Do you go for fast food those nights? Do you cook ahead and just reheat?

Do you use your slow cooker? If so, please link us to your favorite recipes and PLEASE give me any tips on using the slow cooker more effectively and with less drying. If it won’t let you post links on the blog (don’t post a bunch in one post, it thinks that is spam) then go to our Facebook page to post or you can link us to your Pinterest page where you could post a bunch you love.)

One more food story to share. This is a follow-up to the pink slime discussion from last week. J.M. Hirsch, the food editor for the Associated Press, did a taste test on ground beef with and without pink slime. See what he found.

25 comments Add your comment

DB

March 20th, 2012
1:28 am

Two favorite crock-pot recipes:

1. Get a Boston butt/picnic roast/pork shoulder/shoulder blade roast. Throw it in the crockpot. Pour a can (12 oz) of root beer (NOT diet) over it. If you want to add a bit of kick, throw in about 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce. Cook on slow for 8 hours. You absolutely cannot taste the root beer — I personally dislike root beer, but I LOVE the way the pork turns out — extremely moist and tender.

2. Personal favorite: line bottom of pot with a layer of dried beef (you can skip this if you want to), but it does add a nice twist. Wrap each thawed chicken breast with a slice of bacon, arrange in bottom of pot (you can layer them). In a bowl, combine a can of cream of mushroom (preferred) or cream of chicken soup, 8 oz. of sour cream ( you can use low/no fat), and a couple of tablespoons of flour. Stir, and then mix in a can of drained mushrooms. Pour over chicken breasts. Cook on low 8 hours. I like to serve this on egg noodles.

Anj

March 20th, 2012
5:54 am

America’s Test Kitchen “Slow Cooker Revolution” is great.

It breaks down the problems with typical slow cooker recipes: chicken shouldn’t be cooked long, things cook at different rates overcooking certain ingredients, the lack of flavor from no browning.

We did the Hearty Beef Stew and it worked very well. I got the cookbook from the library.

The best thing about my slow cooker? The keep warm feature which keeps food at a safe temperature (over 140F or under 40F – easy to remember the next time you lose power) once the cooking time is over.

Peachy

March 20th, 2012
8:33 am

This crock pot chicken and dumplings is so good and so easy:
http://www.bubblecrumb.com/2010/02/14/crock-pot-chicken-and-dumplings-recipe/
I like to add a bag of frozen carrots, celery and onion, but it is just fine the way the recipe is written.

And I love to do 3-4 bone in pork chops with about a cup of BBQ sauce on high for 2-3 hours. SO good! I think the bone in helps the moisture factor.

JATL

March 20th, 2012
9:18 am

Favorite and easiest slow cooker recipes:

We love Delia’s Chicken Sausage. I’m sure you can find some comparable brand out there -chicken or turkey link sausages that are far lower in fat and made with natural ingredients and no preservatives. We get them frozen, and I put them in the crock pot frozen with a large jar of sauerkraut. That’s it! Cook it on low for 8 hours, and it’s delicious! My boys like sauerkraut, so that works.

Put frozen chicken breasts in crock pot and dump either salsa.Rotel and a can of chicken broth over it or a jar of spaghetti sauce (depending on the flavor you want). Cook on low for 8-10 hours. In the last hour or so, put in either Tex-Mex cheese or parmesan.

Absolute fave: Guinness Braised Beef Brisket- I got this from Southern Living several years ago:

Buy a packaged brisket -brine pickled, and discard the flavor packet. Place in crock pot with a small can of tomato paste, a can of beef broth, a Guinness Stout (or any beer actually works), a tablespoon of dried dill and some salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours. It is SO flippin’ good!

Augusta

March 20th, 2012
9:20 am

I’m not a big fan of the crock pot…..usually in winter when we are doing chili, etc.

K's Mom

March 20th, 2012
9:35 am

I noticed on one of thenights you are making one thing for you and your husband and another for your kids…that is a time sucker and a precedent I would not set. Kids will not intentionally die of starvation. Cook one meal and if they do not like it, my mother use to say “perhaps there will be something at breakfast you will enjoy more.” We never starved or even went to bed hungry, we just ate what we were served.

Kar

March 20th, 2012
9:39 am

Never really comfortable with leaving a cooking appliance, even a crock pot, on when I’m not home. I find though that the pressure cooker does most of the same recipes in half an hour – hour so it’s not that much more time. I find it easier to clean/handle too.

Michelle

March 20th, 2012
9:57 am

I use the slow cooker a lot. One of my kids favorites is lasagna. There are a lot of receipes on the intranet. Cooks up cheesy and delicious and you have left overs. I also do chicken and dumplings using biscuits. I have done beef tips and then put it over rice. Spareribs with barbque sauce. There are a lot of options these days for your slow cooker. And I agree that coming home and having the biggest part of the meail ready is very nice.

JATL

March 20th, 2012
10:00 am

@K’s Mom -amen! I always try to make something that has at least a component I know the kids will like, but if they don’t -too bad. My youngest would like to exist solely on Cheerios and milk, cicken nuggets, mac and cheese, blueberry waffles, peanut butter and apple sauce with some yogurt thrown in here and there. I don’t like any of those things and I’m not “cooking” any of them for dinner, so sometimes he doesn’t eat dinner. He has yet to starve. Once in awhile, he’ll decide he’s so hungry, he’ll actually eat some of the meat and vegetables I’ve prepared!

JOD

March 20th, 2012
10:07 am

Nice timing – I asked Hubs for a new crock pot for my birthday. I usually make corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot, but this year made it on the stove. I’ve never done a chicken in the crock pot, but I may try it. I always use it for roasts, chili, and soups. My crock pot recipe book has oatmeal, cobbler, and casserole recipes – I think I need to branch out :o)

justmy2cent

March 20th, 2012
10:11 am

Interesting timing on this article as I am actually gathering crockpot freezer recipes to make this week for a friend who was injured. I am making “No Peeking Peking chicken”, BBQ chicken, Beef pepperoncini sandwiches, cream cheese chicken, and Mexican pork and sweet potato stew. All he will have to do is thaw overnight, then throw in the crockpot on low.

K's Mom

March 20th, 2012
10:24 am

@JATL, I just think if you are trying to save time making crock pot food, having to make 2 meals is going to sabotage the time savings. I am lucky because my 2 year old eats most everything, but if I do serve something he does not like, he gets whatever he will eat.

K's Mom

March 20th, 2012
10:27 am

PS friends of mine and I have been using a lot of recipes from skinnytaste.com and we really like them. I have not done any of their crockpot recipes, but they have easy and flavorful healthy recipes. They also have a freezer section. In addition to crockpot cooking, you can always spend an afternoon cooking stuff that will freeze well so you have healthier freezer food than what you can buy.

homeschooler

March 20th, 2012
10:41 am

comment lost

justmy2cent

March 20th, 2012
12:12 pm

another thing TWG re: bad results in the past- I had the same problem when making beef stew, and eventually told my husband I wanted a new crockpot. His was at least 8-10 years old. It has made alllll the difference in the world! The old one would be set to 10 hour cook and it would be burnt in 2 hours, but put it on 2-4 hour cook (reverse psychology lol) and it would STILL burn. I’ve done an Italian steak, beef & cabbage, and artichoke chicken in mine, and they all come out perfect. Also, crockpot liners are wonderful! No clean up.

Razz

March 20th, 2012
12:50 pm

Have not heard of crockpot liners…must look for those!

K's Mom

March 20th, 2012
12:55 pm

I agree that crockpot liners are the bomb. I think I have found them on the aile with aluminum foil.

Techmom

March 20th, 2012
1:49 pm

Love crockpot liners – makes cleanup a snap. I do need to explore more recipes though as I usually stick the same old things that I know “work” in the crockpot.

For quick meals we’ll often cook extra chicken when we grill chicken and just put it in the fridge or freezer for quick meals. One of the favorites in our house is quesadillas (and yes, the quesadilla maker was worth the $20). If the chicken is already cooked, they can me made in just a few minutes. We also do sandwiches quite a bit for dinner when we’re in a hurry. It’s easy and each person can decide what they want on their sandwich. For sides either grab some crackers, a cheese stick, fresh veggies, yogurt, apple or a granola bar and call it dinner. It’s like a picnic lunch and works great when you’re on the go :)

motherjanegoose

March 20th, 2012
2:30 pm

Love a crock pot! Our lid just broke on a recent one, when my daughter made jambalaya, and so hubby brought home a new one that looks really nice. I have not used it yet.

I love crock pot scalloped potatoes/ham but we are not eating starches now, so that is out! I usually throw in my own things but this is close to what I do:
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-cooker-scalloped-potatoes-with-ham/

I am a picky pants about turning everything off, when I leave, but the crock pot has not been a problem here. I always make corned beef in the crockpot and most times a roast. DB, I will have to try to root beer with pork thing…it sounds interesting.

I abhor eating family “meals” in the car as I feel time around the table is important.

clyde

March 20th, 2012
5:13 pm

I have an inverter that plugs into the cigarette lighter socket in the car.I take my crock pot with me.Crock pots are fairly low wattage so a 400 watt inverter is more than big enough.My wife and I eat dinner out many times during the summer and fall this way.

cobb mom

March 20th, 2012
5:41 pm

Put vegetables on the bottom of the crock pot to keep the meat above the heat, and put some type of sauce over the meat, the two combined will keep the meat more moist. A quick one that my family enjoys is chicken chili. Layer diced onion, bell pepper and celery in the bottom, put one can, undrained, pinto beans, layer boneless chicken thighs, another can of bean and a can of enchilada sauce over all. Put on low, when you come home and stir the chicken falls apart or you can take it out and shred with a fork.

College football is not a business?

March 20th, 2012
9:31 pm

Maybe if you spent less time with your boyfriend, you would have time to cook for your family. You cheat on your husband and take short cuts in the kitchen. You are not a good Christian woman.

Kat

March 21st, 2012
10:01 am

@Kar: I feel the same way! Leaving an appliance on while I’m gone sounds like asking for trouble. I feel the same way about the washing machine – what if it drowns the basement? Or…maybe I don’t like chores?

Are the recipes really “pasties?” Sounds like a stripper.

Denise

March 21st, 2012
12:04 pm

If you’re afraid of leaving an appliance on while you’re gone, you can cook it overnight. I make my roasts while I’m asleep and turn it off when I wake up. I put it in the fridge when I get ready to leave and have food cooked when I get home from work. Well, I do have to do the sides but with the new veggies you steam in the microwave for a few minutes it’s easy. You can do that while you get the plates and forks out.

Now I want a roast.

DB

March 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

Re: Appliances on while you are gone. It’s funny, but it never bothered me. We have TV’s hooked up, bedside clocks are running, the refrigerator is running, the water heater is running, the A/C and the heat go on and off — a little thing like a crockpot never bothered me.