The school year has begun, along with the many extracurricular activities that accompany it, which means one thing: Busy mamas are even busier!
If you are like me, spending hours in the kitchen is not only undesirable, but it's just not even possible. But I still want to feed my family well and (relatively!) healthy. That, ladies, is the inspiration for the next installment of our Keeping Mealtimes Simple series:
What I love about these recipes (besides the fact that they are slow-cooker friendly), is that they:
Since this is Rachel writing a Keeping Mealtimes Simple post (you know, the frugal sister), I think the best thing about these recipes is that none of them will break the bank. In fact, a few of them are downright economical! It doesn't get any better than that.
So, here are my Top 8 Slow Cooker Meals for Busy Mamas.
1. Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is one of my favorite recipes when the weather turns cool. It's a hearty one-pot meal that can be made ahead of time and frozen, most of ingredients can be purchased at Aldi, and it can be easily adapted to dairy-free (it's naturally gluten free) by omitting the cheese and sour cream on top. I usually serve this with baked potatoes (to make sure the big kids get filled up) or a dessert and make a big enough batch that there are leftovers for our lunch the next day!
2. Beef Burgundy
This is probably the least economical meal in this list, because of the bacon and burgundy wine. However, it's still not too bad, because it only uses 6 slices of bacon; the rest of the package can be used for another dish. And because it only calls for 1/2 cup of burgundy wine, one bottle will easily make this dish several times. For my family, I usually double this recipe, especially if I want leftovers for hubby's lunch.
3. Maple Pork Roast
The next three recipes kind of go together. I purchase a large pork loin at Sam's Club when they go on sale (my best price was $1.69/lb), cut it into three equal portions, and divide it between these three pork recipes. I then freeze them and space them out throughout the month. The marinades are different enough that it doesn't feel like we're eating the same thing over and over, but I'm taking advantage of bulk buying and a sale price.
Saving money and less time in the kitchen? Oh, yeah!
4. Balsamic Glazed Pork Roast
This recipe is not 100% fix-it-and-forget it, but it is freezer-friendly. In the last hour of cooking, there is a glaze that needs boiled and then brushed on the roast. It's an added step, I know, but one that is well worth it. To make this step a little easier, I mix the glaze ahead of time, when I'm seasoning the roast, and place it in a sandwich bag. This little "glaze pouch" gets tossed into the freezer bag with the seasoned roast before freezing. When I'm ready to cook the roast, I remove the frozen glaze pouch and set it aside until the last step of the recipe.
5. Pork Carnitas
The last pork recipe is my family's favorite and the most versatile. We like to shred the cooked pork and layer it over Mexican rice with beans, cheese, sour cream, and fresh garden tomatoes. Or, sometimes, we put it over tostados. You also could use it as a sandwich filling or in taco shells. I have even used the leftover meat, rice, beans, and cheese as a burrito filling. These freeze really well (individually wrapped in foil) and make a hearty and cheap lunch.
BTW, this is totally off topic, but please allow this mama to brag! Most photo credit on our blog goes to my oldest daughter Grace, who is 15. About a year ago she saved her money and purchased a used DSLR camera and is teaching herself about photography. Along with my other daughter, who is a budding food artist, she made my pork carnitas look downright amazing! It is so awesome when you see your children growing up and developing these talents and interests in ways that God has uniquely gifted them.
Now, on to the recipe download! Thanks for humoring me ;-)
6. Broccoli & Beef Freezer Slow Cooker Meal
This recipe comes from Jamerrill Stewart's Large Family Table. We loved it!
I made two changes:
To get Jamerrill's recipe, click here.
7. Beef-n-Onion Stew
My daughter discovered this recipe while taking a culinary tour around the world through an ethnic cookbook series at our local library. This recipe from Greece was a big hit; some of the others she tried, not so much. (Ask me how I know Vietnamese fish sauce can make a child gag and vomit.)
Overall, the series was a great way for my daughter to get really interested in cooking and for our family to expand our horizons. We even found a few new family favorites that we regularly enjoy! I highly recommend the series if you have any children interested in learning to cook.
I adapted the recipe slightly by substituting stew meat for roast (to make it more economical) and will use either red wine or red wine vinegar, whichever I have on hand. (Yeah, I roll like that when I cook. Shhh! Don't tell Tara.) Also, I think the original recipe called for cloves, which I omitted.
8. Cincinnati Chili
This is a copycat recipe for Skyline Chili, known in my neck of the woods as Cincinnati chili.
If you aren't familiar with Cincinnati chili, then you need to approach this one with an open mind. It's kind of like Reubens: The competing flavors shouldn't go together, but somehow when mixed they create culinary magic!
This is usually served over noodles or baked potatoes, which makes it both filling and economical. Optional toppings include kidney beans, diced onion, and cheddar cheese.
One last thing: Recently I found something that is *life-changing* for any slow-cooker lover! One Good Thing has a printable Crockpot Conversion Chart to turn any oven-baked recipe into a slow cooker recipe. Awesome! I have often wanted to use my slow cooker instead of the oven, but didn't know how to ensure that the dish wasn't too dry or too watery. In addition to the printable chart, she has some great conversion tips.
So, those are my Top 8 Slow Cooker Meals for Busy Mamas. I hope you enjoy them! If you do, come back and let us know.
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