“What’s for dinner?”
Seems like a fairly simple question, right? In our family, though, this hasn’t always been the case.
Over the years, my husband and have I struggled to come up with meals that are truly easy to prepare. Between our 3 jobs, 5 kids, and now my grad school work, we don’t have time for all of the prep and mess that goes along with cooking dinner.
Our Google search histories are full of phrases like “easy dinner ideas” and “10-minute dinners.” Our hope kindled, we read ingredient lists and step-by-step directions only to discover we’ve been LIED TO. Often, these so-called “easy” recipes involve chopping, sautéing, and a never-ending quest through grocery store aisles searching for obscure spices, sauces, or vegetables we’ve never heard of.
We’ve tried meal subscription plans that promise to simplify dinner prep, only to find ourselves repeating the same pattern described above. When I was young and naive I bought all of Rachel Ray’s cookbooks and discovered her so-called “30-Minute Meals” should actually be called “75-Minute Messes.”
Fortunately, these years of frustration have led to a few discoveries and saved our family from eating frozen pizza most nights of the week:
1. The crock pot is our best friend. We use our crock pot at least 2 or 3 times a week.*
2. The pre-cut veggies from Hy-Vee are our second best friend. We frequently open these containers and set them on the table for an easy, healthy side dish.
3. When in doubt, go with chicken. All of us like chicken in some form or another and it makes for a relatively healthy main course.
4. *Stockpile “Open and Dump” recipes. Not a very attractive name, I admit, but this is the real key to our crock pot success. We’ve tried crock pot recipes that seem easy, but require just as much prep and clean-up as a stove top meal. We need to be able to open containers, dump ingredients into the crock pot, walk away for five hours, and come back to a fully cooked meal.
Here are two of our family’s favorite easy (for real) crock pot recipies. Both take less than 10 minutes to prepare and require very little clean-up.
Lime Chicken Tacos
My mother-in-law made this when we were visiting this Thanksgiving, and it was a big hit with everyone in our family.
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
3 Tbs. lime juice
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup chunky salsa
Blend ingredients in the crock pot, cook on low for 5 1/2 hours. Serve with flour tortillas; garnish with sour cream, shredded cheese and lettuce if desired.
Another fun twist on this recipe is to serve it nacho-style over tortilla chips.
Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
This recipe is courtesy of Spark People.com, one of my favorite resources for fitness and healthy eating tips.
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3 tablespoons Buffalo wing sauce
1/2 (1 ounce) package dry ranch salad dressing mix
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Blend ingredients in crock pot, cook on low for 5-6 hours. Shred chicken with a fork prior to serving.
Tip: If you have little ones, you might want to lower the amount of buffalo sauce and ranch dressing mix. I also made sure to use mild sauce, since the original recipe was a bit too spicy/salty for my toddler.