Back-to-school time means a change in routines from summertime. Finding ways to save time, energy, and money are great sanity savers. One way to save time and money is by planning crock pot meals. The crock pot can be filled, set, and left. Some crockpots even have features where they will turn to warm after the set times. This guarantees a tasty, filling meal at the end of a busy day when people are more apt to go through fast food just to get something to eat. Check out these ten crockpot meals for back-to-school time.
- BBQ Chicken Quinoa Bowl: A surprising recipe from the CrockPot website, this recipe is a mix on barbeque without the time needed to marinate and grill. To the slow cooker, add 1 cup of uncooked quinoa, 1 cup frozen corn, 1 cup chopped bell pepper (color based on availability and choice), 2 TBL minced garlic, ½ TBL cumin, ½ TBL chili powder, ½ TBL smoked paprika, 1 cup of BBQ sauce, ½ tsp hickory liquid smoke and 1 cup of chicken broth over ½-1 pound of chicken breast. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, or low for 4-6 hours. Once the chicken is cooked through, pull out the chicken and shred it and return it back to the crock pot. Stir all the ingredients together.
- Vegetable Minestrone Soup: A hearty and nutritious soup loaded with various vegetables, beans, pasta, and Italian herbs, this is a great one for cool evenings or when a comfort dish is needed. Add together 6 cups of vegetable broth, 1-28 ounce can of diced or crushed tomatoes, 1-15 ounce can of kidney beans, 1 large onion chopped, 3 large carrots diced, 3-4 celery stalks of celery diced, 1 cup of green beans (or add in a cup of mixed veggies or whatever frozen veg you have), 2 cloves of garlic minced, 1 TBL minced fresh parsley, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, ¾ tsp dried thyme together and mix. Consider adding in any fresh veg you have on hand – zucchini, squash, spinach – whatever is on hand, in season, or perhaps you need to use. About twenty minutes before serving, boil water to make the elbow macaroni, and once cooked, add it to the soup base in the crockpot and cook for 15 more minutes. Serve in bowls with freshly grated parmesan as desired.
- Honey Garlic Meatballs: This one is a great way to use frozen meatballs as an extra time saver. This delicious sauce will add great flavor to the meal. The honey garlic sauce mixes ¾ cup ketchup, ½ cup honey, 3 TBL soy sauce or mirin, 1 TBL brown sugar, and 3-4 garlic cloves chopped together – mix these all together in a separate bowl. Add two pounds of meatballs to the slow cooker, pour over the honey garlic sauce, and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-5 hours. Garnish with green onions and serve over rice or noodles for a delightful meal.
- Beef and Broccoli: Tender beef and broccoli cooked in a flavorful Asian-inspired sauce is a favorite dish ordered for take-out. The ingredients include 4 pounds of sirloin steak or boneless beef chuck roast, sliced thin (4 pounds if you want leftovers), 2 cups beef broth, 1 cup low sodium soy sauce, ½ cup brown sugar, 2 TBL sesame oil, 8 cloves of garlic minced, 8 TBL cornstarch, 8 TBL water, 2-3 heads of broccoli cut into florets. If you don’t want leftovers, halve the recipe. Put everything together with the meat except the cornstarch and water and broccoli. Cook on low for 4 hours. Once the meat is cooked and tender, in a separate bowl create a slurry by mixing the cornstarch and water together. Add the slurry and chopped broccoli to the crockpot, mix and cook for 30 minutes to thicken the sauce. Serve over steamed rice for a satisfying dinner.
- Taco Soup: A spicy and comforting soup that can be made with and without meat, and with just about anyone’s favorite veggies or meat. Add in chicken breasts and shred them once cooked for a chicken taco soup. Or add beef cubes for a beefy taco soup. Or if you have time, brown some ground beef and add that to the base of the soup. Add in black beans, corn, canned chilies, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion and spices. You can add in a packet of taco seasoning or make your own taco seasoning and add that the crockpot. Top with shredded cheese, sour cream (or plain yogurt – trust me!), sliced green onions or even tortilla strips or chips.
- Lemon Garlic Chicken: This one does require an extra step, but yields great results. This can be done with chicken breasts, or chicken thighs – 2 pounds of meat in total. Mix together 1 tsp oregano, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper and rub on the chicken. Put a small tab of butter in a saucepan and brown each piece of chicken on each side once melted. Place the chicken breasts in the crockpot, and in the saucepan, add ¼ cup of water and 2 TBL lemon juice to deglaze the pan. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and one tsp chicken bouillon granules to the pan and heat until just boiling. Pour the mixture over the chicken in the crockpot and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3 hours. Just before serving, sprinkle on chopped parsley. For a delicious and healthy meal, serve with roasted vegetables or a fresh salad.
- Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup: Creamy tomato soup with cheese-filled tortellini and a hint of Italian herbs. Perfect for a quick and delicious dinner. To a crockpot, add in two-28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, 1 and ½ cups of chicken broth, ½ cup of minced white onion, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 1 TBL sugar, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours. Add in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream at the end of the cooking time, if at the low setting, change to the high setting before adding the cream. Add 1 package of premade tortellini to the sauce and cook for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with parmesan cheese, or basil pesto as desired.
- Beef and Vegetable Stew: A hearty filling stew with tender beef, root vegetables, and a rich tomato-based broth. Toss together beef stew meat, chopped carrots, chopped potatoes, chopped onions, and any other veggie your family enjoys with broth, crushed or diced tomatoes, and tomato paste and cook for 6-8 hours. Add spices per your liking. Ideas for seasoning include the onion or beefy onion packets or make your own.
- Lentil Curry: A comforting and protein-packed vegetarian curry made with lentils, coconut milk, and a blend of aromatic spices for a delicious, comforting meal. Mix 4 cups of lentils (red or brown – whatever you have on hand), 2 diced onions, 4 cloves of garlic minced, 1 TBL minced ginger, 5 TBL curry paste, 1 TBL garam masala, ½ tsp turmeric, and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper to a crockpot. Add 1 29-oz can of tomato to the lentils. Fill the can with water and add that to the crockpot – keep adding water to the crockpot this way until the lentils are covered with water. Stir and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Make sure to add water or tomato puree if the lentils absorb the liquid. Once the lentils are soft, stir in ½ cup of coconut cream or milk and serve. Serve over rice or with naan bread.
- Hawaiian Pineapple Chicken: Sweet and tangy chicken cooked with pineapple, bell peppers in a sweet and sour sauce. Add 2 cups of pineapple chunks and 1 yellow onion chopped and mix them together. Mix 2 TBL honey, 2 TBL soy sauce, ¼ cup dark brown sugar, 1 TBL grated ginger and 1-2 garlic cloves minced to the slow cooker and mix together. Add 4 chicken breasts, in 1 inch cubes, to the crockpot on top of this. Cook on low for 5 hours or on high for 3 hours. In a separate small bowl or custard cup, mix together equal parts cornstarch and water and add to the crock pot. Mix together. Add in 2 red bell peppers chopped and stir again. Cook for 30 minutes to ensure sauce thickening. Serve over rice.
These ten crockpot meals offer a diverse range of flavors and ingredients to keep your back-to-school meal planning exciting and convenient. With minimal preparation and hands-off cooking, you’ll have more time to focus on getting back in the school routine and to spend quality time with your family. Happy meal planning!