I had a playdate with a teacher friend of mine recently. I asked her what she looks for in a dinner recipe and here's what she had to say: "I don't want it to take more than five minutes. I don't want a lot of chopping. I love a Crock-Pot recipe if, again, I can throw it all in in under five minutes before I go to work."
I see you nodding your head in agreement there, so I've come up with a school week's worth of slow-cooker (Crock-Pot) recipes that with only about five minutes of night and/or morning prep and five minutes of assembly, you can have dinner on the table every night of the week. Minimal chopping. Minimal time. Optimal taste.
Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup
Night before: Soak beans (some reviewers just rinsed them in the morning and had good results).
Morning of: Put all ingredients in slow cooker, cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
Dinnertime: Serve topped with sliced avocado.
- Warm French bread for dipping.
- Roasted butternut squash. (Peel and cut into small squares, toss in olive oil and salt, bake at 400 until brown on the outside and soft in the center.)
- Jicama peeled and chopped into small sticks and sprinkled with lime and just a touch of cayenne.
Crock-Pot Chicken Tacos
Night before: Put the seasonings in the slow cooker. (You can thaw frozen chicken in refrigerator, but it is optional.)
Morning of: Stir in broth, add chicken.
Dinnertime: Shred chicken, warm tortillas, assemble tacos and top with cheese (and any other desired toppings).
- Takeout beans and rice (or leftover black-bean soup).
- Chips and salsa.
- Chopped romaine lettuce with shredded cheese, tomatoes, crushed tortilla chips and Catalina dressing.
- Diced cantaloupe with lime juice, honey and Tajin seasoning.
"Wake Up the Flavors" Sweet & Savory Wednesday
Applesauce Barbecued Chicken
Night before: Mix applesauce and barbecue sauce and seasoning. Optional: thaw chicken if frozen.
Morning of: Put all ingredients in slow cooker.
Three-Ingredient Thursday Easiest Pork Chops Morning of:
- Fluffy white or brown rice (takeout from Chinese or make the night before).
- Asparagus, quickly sautéed on the stove in olive oil with salt and pepper.
- Fresh peach slices.
Brown pork chops (optional), put in slow cooker with onion soup mix and chicken broth. Dinnertime:
Serve on bread or with a suggested side.
French Dip Friday
French Dip Sandwiches
Night before: Trim fat from rump roast.
Morning of: Put the four ingredients in slow cooker.
Dinnertime: Bake rolls, slice or shred meat, and serve.
- Potato salad
- French fries or baked potato rounds
Don't forget, when looking at recipes, look at how many they serve. You may want to consider doubling a recipe so you have leftovers for lunches or dinner the next day. Although I listed a week's worth of menu ideas, unless you have a large family, this list could easily carry you through two weeks if you plan accordingly to have enough to feed you and your family for two nights.
We'd love to hear from you, teachers!
What is your recipe criteria for a weeknight meal?
What are your biggest cooking or meal-planning struggles?
Do you have a super-easy slow-cooker meal that your family loves?
Rachel Randolph is a mom to a busy toddler boy and a wife to an even busier high school football and baseball coach. She is co-author of "We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook," a food memoir written with her mom, and their upcoming book "Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness, and a Full Night's Sleep" (Zondervan, January 2015). She also blogs at www.TheNourishedMama.com and www.laughcrycook.com.