My Crockpot: I finally learned that dinners don’t have to be stressful

I love to cook. There are very few things in life that make me as happy as opening a new cookbook and looking at all those beautiful pictures. So many possibilities! And finding new ingredients. So exciting!!

Unfortunately with a hectic schedule and 2 kids under the age of 4 dinners had become the most stressful part of my day. Let me tell you, this is saying something. I used to manage bars and restaurants. I would check the kitchens before each shift to make sure everything was right. At one place I was trained at every cook station and expected to be able to step in and cook if the need ever arose, which it often did.  Stress in the kitchen is not new to me. Time tables and improvising are pretty standard. Still, cooking with 2 kids under the age of 4 in the house is a whole new ball game. Stress to a level that I didn’t know was possible. I don’t care how irate a room full of business men that are going to be late getting back to work after lunch because there was a fire in the kitchen are, it doesn’t hold a candle to a 3 year old screaming because he has the wrong color bowl and a 1 year old insisting to be held while you cook.

how many of these do you relate to?

  • home late and the kids are hungry.Scrambled eggs or sandwiches? Or even worse, take out on the way home.
  • Even these fabulous 15 minute meals that look so great won’t work. 15 minutes for a “normal person” person is at least 1 hour for me. My daughter periodically wants to be held, my son gets upset because my daughter has messed up his block castle and I have to intervene to prevent an all out war.
  • Both kids want to “help” st some point. This means 2 chairs pushed up to my already small space competing for the big spoon and who gets to stir.
  • A miracle happens and I can cook a meal. I won’t be able to clean up after. This means I spend the first hour after the kids are in bed cleaning the kitchen and getting annoyed that dinner has become so stressful.
  • Manage to get halfway through dinner and all hell breaks loose. You end up with the kids eating yogurt and a messy kitchen and tears.

This is why I embraced the slow cooker. At first I used it on days that we were going to be out in the afternoon but for the above reasons I soon started using it every day.

Yes. Every Day!!

I get interesting responses when I tell people this.

  • “I don’t really eat soup”   What? Is that all you think I cook?
  • “Sounds really boring” doesn’t have to be!!
  • “I used to use the crock pot a lot when I worked” And what do you think I’m doing all day?

I would like to clear up a few things and in the process, hopefully, inspire some people to embrace this amazing kitchen tool.

These are a few of the basic meals I make in the slow cooker. I love them because they are easy, delicious and vegetarian. As a family we are not vegetarian but I really want to eat a plant based diet as much as possible. I have never gotten a complaint with these meals!

 

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Basic vegetable soup. A staple in my house!
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Pumpkin Chili. This stuff is AMAZING!
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Black bean burritos. I make the stuffing in the slow cooker and then add some fresh veggies.

 

I started with this basic slow cooker. It’s still wonderful and I still use it regularly for apple sauce and broth. I also take this one with me when we take road trips.

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I was having trouble with overcooking chicken and some vegetables so recently I decided to upgrade to this model. I really love it. It has 3 setting, Low, high and warm. It has a timer that can be set and after that time is up the machine automatically switches to the “warm” setting.  I love this.  I make sure that the crock pot will be on the “warm”setting for at least an hour before dinner because the food is at the perfect temperature for my kids to eat. It is also huge! A friend of mine called it “the beast” and it stuck. I wanted to be able to do an entire chicken and veg at the same time.

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One complaint that I did get from my husband was that the entire meal tasted the same. It’s true that when you put potatoes, veg and honey mustard chicken in the slow cooker everything tastes like honey mustard chicken by the end of the day. This is why I have been experimenting lately with “pouch cooking” in my slow cooker. It helps if you think of the slow cooker as a little oven instead of a cooking pot.

This is one example.

Potatoes get washed and stuck with a fork and go into foil. I put green beans into a pouch of foil with a few teaspoons of water. Then a stacked them in one side. Then I put ribs coated in BBQ sauce in the other. When you are ready to eat all you have to do is mash the potatoes like normal.

Amazing, right?!?

This is another.

Meatloaf meatballs, green beans and mashed potatoes.

 

As you can tell we really like mashed potatoes and green beans. I probably need to branch out a little.

There are many occasions when I have both slow cookers going at the same time

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Duel slow cookers! One is filled with dinner and the other with apple sauce.

So I really love my slow cooker. I feel like it has enables me to enjoy my kids a little more, or at least scream a little less. I know this won’t last forever. Soon my son will be in school and my daughter will be able to play on her own a bit more. When this happens I will be able to spend a little more time in the kitchen. For now, the slow cooker ranks right up there in my “must have” list with the coffee machine and the dishwasher.

 

I will end this with my Slow Cooker Haiku, because I love my slow cooker so much I felt like it deserves a Haiku.

 

I love my crock pot

life with kids can be stressful

it helps me smile more

 

 

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