Monday, October 22, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 4


Finally onto week 4 in our series (here are part 1, part 2, and part 3), possibly the last installment!  I'm scratching my brain for "quick" breakfasts (intended week 5 post) that aren't cereal, instant oatmeal or fried eggs!  Most of the ideas I come up with are NOT quick!  Shoot me an email if you have any to share and I will collect all quick, from scratch, minimal clean up breakfast ideas into one post with a shout-back to all contributors next week!

This week we are talking about our slow cooker!  I put this marvelous kitchen aid on the docket because, even though it is "slow" it is so absolutely low-mess and stress-free and, essentially, quick when evening rolls around.  When my oldest played football and basketball, my slow cooker was our life-line to healthy, from-scratch meals the minute we walked in the door... even if a game went into overtime!

For expecting mamas, slow cookers are helpful for their low-mess qualities AND (unless you have a huge family) their tendency towards leftovers!  When your infant finishes their morning feeding you can either put them on your chest in a snugly or (if they rest well alone) sneak off for a quick 5-15 minutes and throw dinner in the Slow.  Then, relax, enjoy warm squishy cuddles and come back at dinner time feeling hugely accomplished when you feed your family a warm nutritious meal... even if the house and your hair are in shambles!!

I have combed my blog for previous posts of slow cooker recipes over the years and will share them below.  The list of possibilities, however, is endless.  I recommend the "Fix it and Forget It" cookbook series.  I own an older version and it shows the love I have for it!!  (consequently, I am giving one away in my next drawing, details at bottom of post).  I like the "Fix it" series because the recipes are simple and realistic, using ingredients the average person keeps in her pantry!  Some of the recipes below are adaptations from "Fix-it" and others are my own concoctions.

Prep time: on all is typically under 15 minutes

Clean up: on all is, at minimum, a spoon to stir.  At most; cutting board and knife, can opener, frying pan and spatula or tongs along with wipe-down of your prep area.  If you heat sides separately at dinner time, you may have a pan and spoon from that.  Otherwise, come dinnertime, you will only have the dishes you use to eat with!!!  If the crock is emptied then you may need to soak and wash that.  If it is still even half full, I put mine in the fridge and pull out the next day for re-heat.

(see why I like the slow cooker so much?!)

Caesar Chicken Sandwiches
Slow-cook the chicken in broth and Italian seasoning, drain, shred and add Caesar dressing into the pot, warm for an hour and serve on whole-grain burger buns with a side of potato chips, salad, slaw or veggie sticks.

Hobo Chicken Stew
 I use 2-3 cans Cream of Chicken soup, 1 cup chicken broth (I make mine with bullion), dash of garlic and onion powders, dash of salt, pepper, sage (if you have it) and celery salt or flakes (if you have it).  Drop in 5 FROZEN chicken breast and a bag of frozen mixed veggies.  Cook on low for 8 hours and viola!!!

White Chili

I use raw beans, soaked to package instructions but you could use canned beans if you prefer.  Measurements are approximations since I tend to just throw stuff in!!

1lb White beans pre-soaked according to package or 3-4 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 chicken breast halves diced (can use raw or cooked... can use left over chicken of any kind as well)
1 can diced or stewed tomatoes
1-2 cups salsa (or another can of diced or stewed tomatoes)
1-2 cups water
1 Tbsp chicken bullion
1+ tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, cumin
A few dashes of Parsley, salt and pepper.
When I have cilantro I will add a tsp

Throw all ingredients into crock pot, liquid should cover the chicken and beans.  If it doesn't, add a bit more water.
Cook on high 6 hours or on low 8-10.

Serve with cornbread or tortilla chips or cheese quesadillas (Cheddar cheese warmed in flour tortillas)  We also garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

So-Easy Southwest-style Chicken
The pictures say it all, you can see I go super cheap!  But here is the list:

Stewed tomatoes (you can use crushed if you prefer)
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Chili Powder
Red Pepper (if you like super spicy)
Salt and Pepper
Chicken of choice (I used boneless skinless breast)
     When feeding a crowd I will fillet my chicken to make it stretch

I mix the sauce straight in my cooking dish.  Salsa and tomatoes first.  For 5 pieces of chicken I use about 2-3 cups salsa.  It doesn't have to cover the chicken but I like a good 1 1/2 to 2" lining of sauce in the bottom of my cooker. I crush the tomatoes by hand like so:

Then I sprinkle all my herbs to taste.  Usually about 1-2 teaspoons each (except the red pepper which I just barely put a pinch in).  A dash of salt and pepper and then give a quick stir. 

Add the chicken and stir around just till coated.  Place the lid on and cook on low all day or on High for approximately 4 or 5 hours.  (For frozen chicken, cook on low)

I love serving it with a side of salad and black or pinto or refried beans, and even tortilla chips.  All with trimmings of sour cream, green onions and cheese of choice.  I have also served it over a bed of Spanish rice which I have a crazy simple recipe for:

White or brown rice
cook in chicken broth (I use bullion base in water)
once done cooking, add salsa to taste
.... viola!
If you are looking for quick, low-mess though, go simple on the sides and keep it easy!

BBQ Chicken  
Cooks marvelously in the slow cooker.  The best part?  You don't even have to thaw the chicken first!!!!  Use bone-in or bone-out, throw in a greased pot with one container of BBQ sauce and kick back till dinner!  You can serve with your favorite side (baked beans, slaw, salad, chips, etc..) which should be quick and easy to pull together at dinner time.  You can also shred the chicken and have BBQ Chicken Sandwiches.

Pork Loin or Beef Roast and Veggies  
Both cook the same:
Have quartered potatoes, pealed and halved carrots (or baby carrots) and onions in bottom of slow cooker.
Sear your roast on all sizes (if it has a fat side like my loin does, I do NOT sear that side).  For searing novices: high heat and a splash of oil.  Wear and apron and be prepared for a messy stove top!  I cover my empty burners with metal pie pans to keep them from getting grease splattered and smoking later.
- Plop your seared roast on top with fat side up.
- Pour water in just until it covers veggies
- sprinkle about 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce into water (I just shake the bottle in till it seems good)
- Pour one packet of Onion Soup Mix over top (I use about 2-3 Tbsp of a homemade onion soup mix recipe I found on Pinterest [I omit the onion flakes in this recipe simply because I rarely have them on hand])
- Cook on low all day 

 You can cut and leave in pot to serve.  I put mine in a baking dish for serving to contain any residual juices.

Beef Italiano  
Basically, any spaghetti, goulash, etc, can easily rest in a slow cooker all day with the edition of cooking noodles or serving as a fun finger-food dinner by putting the meat sauce in bowls, mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top and bread sticks for dipping... we can call it, "Inside-out Pizza"!  The kids will love it!

Leftovers Stew or Soup  
Left over meat can be incorporated with frozen or fresh veggies and coordinating broth to make a stew or soup.  Don't forget a bay leaf and the veggie-beef stews tend to like a can of stewed or diced tomatoes thrown in.  Use your family's favorite veggies and scour the Internet for additional inspiration.  Most soup and stew recipes out there can be made in the slow cooker, even if they are billed as a stove-top creation.  If you make it hearty enough, rice and noodles are not even necessary!

I pray all your cooking adventures will be fun and nutritious... and maybe you can also learn why a slow cooker is every busy woman's best friend!


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  1. These look delicious and my family would eat them. I am always remaking the menu! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love my crockpot. as a work at home and homeschooling mom, tt saves me on a regular basis! Thanks for the tips for easy and fast homemade recipes!!

    1. Absolutely! I can't imagine life without it! Thanks for visiting :-)