Easy Slam-Dunk Meals for Any Evening
Coming home hungry and tired to a ready-made meal and a house full of glorious food aromas is the Holy Grail of weeknight Mom-dom. A slow cooker makes this surprisingly easy to achieve, no matter how hectic your schedule. In fact, your biggest problem might be choosing from the thousands of easy, appetizing Crock-Pot meal ideas. These six are all great choices, with plenty of appeal as leftovers for another day.
1. Classic Pot Roast
A nice chuck roast is the traditional choice for this iconic comfort-food meal, but brisket and round are also good. Load up your cooker in the morning, surrounding the roast with potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms, a cup or two of water, and your choice of seasonings. After 8 hours on low, all you'll have left to do is make the gravy.
2. Crock-Pot Lasagna
This one takes a bit more prep, so make it up the night before, and keep it in the fridge until morning. Brown up your beef and seasonings, then prepare your cheese layer. Once they're ready, layer the meat, cheese and noodles into the Crock-Pot with your favorite prepared tomato sauce. Before you head off to work, pop the insert into your slow cooker, and let it cook for 6 hours on low until you get home.
3. Smothered Pork Chops
Nothing could be easier, or tastier. Brown the chops first in a skillet, and then transfer them to your Crock-Pot. Cover them with extra mushrooms and mushroom soup—or a scratch mushroom gravy—and add large-cut carrots or other sturdy vegetables to the slow cooker. Simmer for 6 to 7 hours on low, and then serve over rice, quinoa or broad noodles.
4. "Roasted" Chicken and Vegetables
This one converts a fussy, full-bore Sunday dinner into an easy, trouble-free anytime meal. Just cover the bottom of your Crock-Pot with large-cut potatoes, carrots and other sturdy vegetables, then plunk a well-seasoned 3- or 4-pound chicken on top. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, and then remove the bird and the vegetables. Make gravy from the drippings. There, you're done.
5. Loaded Tater-Tot Casserole
When you have picky eaters and need a sure-fire, won't-fuss meal, tater tots will usually fit the bill. Brown up some ground beef with your favorite flavorings, then load the Crock-Pot with layers of beef, tater tots, your favorite cream soup and plenty of cheese. If you're a sneaky mom, you can hide some shredded or pureed vegetables in there, as well. Give it 6 hours on low or 3 on high, and you're good to go.
6. Slow Cooker Meatloaf
Free up your oven and your hours by making your favorite meatloaf recipe in your Crock-Pot. A meatloaf using 3 to 4 pounds of ground beef is about right for a 6-quart slow cooker, so tweak your recipe accordingly. It'll need about 6 hours on the low setting or 3 on high, which gives you plenty of time to make up some mashed potatoes to go alongside.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.