Friday, January 20, 2017

5 Crock Pot Recipes to Save You Time and Energy in the Kitchen

If you've been reading for any length of time, you know how much I love my crock pot.  I made it a goal last year to try out some new recipes, and crock pot recipes were some of those.  I ended up purchasing Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook after I checked it out quite a few times from the library.  I also browsed several websites and found recipes that we love.

I'm a fan of prepping ingredients the night before so that its easy to throw things in the crock pot in the morning.  Even though my husband is a SAHD, its tough for him during the day with two small boys to prep ingredients and get a meal put together.  So, the two of us come up with a meal plan for each week that includes at least one crock pot meal that will provide several leftovers worth of meals.  When the boys go to bed, one or both of us is busy in the kitchen chopping ingredients, making a quick sauce, or measuring out spices for the crock pot meal for the next day.  This makes it easy to dump ingredients in the slow cooker before I head off to work, or before they boys get busy with their days.

Here are some of the recipes we've come to love that we can just about make with our eyes closed.

Basic Black Beans  This one is so easy, it's almost not worth posting.  But I get asked so much about how we cook our beans (because so many people rave about them), that I thought I'd post it here.  The night before, I measure out three cups of rinsed, dried black beans (sorted and picked through) into the bottom of the slow cooker.  I cover them with six cups of water.  Then we add about a tablespoon of cumin, tablespoon of salt, 1/4 cup dried onion, 3-4 cloves of crushed garlic, and sometimes a teaspoon of chili powder or tumeric, depending on what we're using them for.  In the morning, we leave them in their stock, cook on high for about two hours, and then low for the rest of the day.

There are many nights when we fix these for a simple meal of beans, rice, and cornbread with fixins (cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.).  The next night we might use them for black bean tacos.  We usually just put the stoneware crock in the fridge, because we like to use the last of the beans and stock as the basis of our chili.

Black Bean Chili  As mentioned, we use the black beans and stock as the basis for this.  (You could certainly mix up the beans and do pintos, red beans, kidney beans, etc.)  We add about 1 1/2 cups of chopped bell pepper, one chopped onion, 1 cup corn kernels (canned or frozen), 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, and about 1/2 sliced jalapeno.  If we have it, we also like to add ground beef or ground sausage that is browned, but it doesn't always happen.  For spices, we add about 1 T chili powder, 1 T cumin, 2 tsp salt, and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  This cooks on low all day (7-8 hours).

To serve this, we like to have corn bread or tortilla chips.  We top each bowl of chili with shredded cheese, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, and maybe some hot sauce.  If I have cilantro or avocado, I like that as well.  The boys both really like this, especially if we have fresh corn bread.  To stretch this even further, you can serve it over rice.

Roasted Veggies  We love roasted veggies, but in the summer, we hate to heat up the house by cranking up the oven.  The crock pot is the easy solution to this.  We have several methods, but the basic one is to chop a variety of root veggies (potatoes, onion, carrot, beets) into 1-2 inch pieces.  Then we drizzle them with olive oil, shake on salt and pepper, add some dried rosemary, and cook them on low for about 4-6 hours until they are fork tender.  They don't get the pretty golden color that they do in the oven, but they taste great.  Its also a nice way to prep a side if your oven is busy with a main course.

You can also do corn on the cob or baked potatoes in the slow cooker.  Just wrap in foil and let them go (no liquid in the bottom) for about 4 hours on high, again, until fork tender.

Asian Chicken with Ginger  We love this method for cooking chicken, and the yummy sauce it creates.  We have made some tweaks to the original recipe and double the carrots it calls for, add a sliced onion, and chunks of pineapple.  I think it would also be fabulous with broccoli thrown in.  Cook up some brown rice and it's an easy one pot meal!

We also like to make my aunt's recipe for Asian coleslaw (similar to this) if we have time.  It's a great side dish with this meal.  One of the best things about this is that the boys love everything in the meal, so its a crowd pleaser, and it provides enough leftovers for several nights.

Lentil Sweet Potato Stew  This is a really simple vegetarian and vegan friendly recipe.  Again, we tweak it some from this original source and add more carrots and sweet potatoes than it calls for.  (We tend to like things more of a stew consistency than broth-y soup)  But if you're on a tight budget, then make it as the recipe calls for.  Toss it together in the morning, and its done in the evening for you with only one dirty pot to wash!

Served with some crusty french bread, this is a great meal all in its own.  The boys both like this one as well, and the lentils are a great source of protein and folic acid (great for pregnant and nursing mamas too).

I'll be back soon with another crock pot series!  I hope you enjoy these and find that they fit your budget and help you live a little greener!

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