You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a weak attempt at a food blog when looking at my Instagram. But needs must and apparently people need feeding and it doesn’t always suit us to prepare food. So in my house, I do my best not to cook midweek. There’s just no time. But seeing as a salmon salad or porridge doesn’t cut it with everyone else I had to put the thinking cap on.
We have our reliables, spag bol, chicken pasta and breaded fish. But there’s only so much breaded fish you can have in a lifetime and I think we’re maxed out for the next 10 years. At the weekends, I sometimes cook up extra spag bol or chicken pasta for freezer portions to reheat during the week. If you don’t consume reheated food, you‘ll starve in our house. A colleague of mine announced they’d never eat anything reheated…notions and clearly too much time on their hands!
But don’t you just get so sick of the same dinners?! In truth, it wasn’t week in week out, it was more like a three-day rotation. The Dad didn’t even ask what was for dinner as he’d guess. Now before any Moany Michaels jump up and down and say “Sure why doesn’t he cook the dinners” the truth is I get home before him so waiting for him makes no sense. When you‘ve two children shouting at you for more food since the minute you collected them, another 30-minute delay on food could result in them devouring me. Yes, they eat three meals and two snacks every day at creche, but they allegedly are ALWAYS hungry. Credit to be given where credit’s due, The Dad does so much else around the house and for us all. We don’t really weigh up who has done what. Well not anymore, we’re just too tired :–)
As the 300 cookbooks I bought didn’t do anything to stimulate me to try new dinners, in fact, they intimidated me more than inspired me, I needed something else. Something shiny, new and gadgety. We are, after all, a gadget-driven house. Even Missy asks Alexa (Amazon’s voice-driven access to all things smart in the house, including Missy) to add honey to the shopping list. With everyone raving on about slow cookers, I said for €50 we’d give it ago. I‘m delighted I did.
Now it’s not the solution to everything, for instance you still have to flippin’ peel and chop the veg yourself!
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
KISS – One of my life mottos and can be applied to everything we do in life, EVERYTHING!
My criteria when choosing a new dish to consider is simple:
- I must be able to pronounce all ingredients.
- I must have 90% of the ingredients already or at a minimum know what aisle in the supermarket I‘ve to drag myself to.
- MOST IMPORTANT one pot only, okay two at the most. None of this fry this up and leave to the side, then simmer this and fry that and finally haul your 10 separately browned random unpronounceable look like wilting “things” into the slow cooker for 5 hours.
So I’m sharing with you my top 5 favorite finds for slow cooker recipes and my tweaks or changes, just coz that’s what was in the press.
1. Lamb Stew
The original recipe I found on All Recipes, Slow cooker luscious lamb and tomato stew. I ended up googling “slow cooker tomato lamb” about once a week till l learned the recipe off. Most things I cook come from All Recipes or BBC Good Food.
- 2 onions, sliced, salt, pepper, and olive oil
- Loads of carrots
- 2 packets of diced lamb from Lidl
- Good few shakes of garlic
- 2 tins of Arrabbiata tomatoes from Lidl
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- Good shakes of oregano & paprika
- 2 oxo cubes or similar. I don’t add any excess water if using a different stock and just make it into a paste. The slow cooker retains steam and so I find adding 250ml of stock makes the dinner too watery.
Peel and chop the carrots, if you like on the softer side rather than crunchy give them a few minutes in the microwaves or parboil them.
Fling everything into the slow cooker and set to low heat for 6 – 7 hours. If you happen to be at home for the last, 1/2 hour take the lid off the slow cooker and cook on high, helps reduce it down.
I serve with the mashed potatoes from Lidl, or I just use the microwave steamer for some small potatoes in attempts to keep our dinners dairy free for Junior.
Another find from simply googling “slow cooker meatballs”. We like our saucy dinners so I went with the one whose photo looked the sauciest!!! Again, another great find from BBC GoodFood.
I use meatballs from Lidl as a time saver along with
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery sticks, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 500g carton tomato passata
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 24 meatballs – also bulk cook for freezing portions
You guessed it, steam the carrots and fling everything into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 5 hours. Again I leave the lid off for the last 30mins and cook on high. I serve this up with spaghetti or pasta and sometimes a glass of red wine 😉
3. Honey and Garlic Pork
Oh, this has turned out to be a delicious addition to our dinners. Granted, I need to find a low sugar option; I hear you can use apples instead. But for now, it’s a little sugar-loaded. From All Recipes again
- 6 boneless pork chops
- 4 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar
- They add 1 teaspoon ground ginger, but I HATE ginger
- 125ml soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
Place the pork into the slow cooker. Mix all the ingredients and pour over the pork. Cook on low for 6 hours.
4. Chicken Curry
This, I’m pretty sure shouldn’t be eaten every week, but we can’t help it. We double up the quantities for freezing mid-week dinners. This recipe comes from The Lemon Bowl and is just mouth-wateringly delicious.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced
- 1 tin chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup coconut milk light
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tin tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder optional
- 1 cup green peas frozen – I keep forgetting this one!
I steam up the sweet potatoes for about 4 minutes in the microwave. Then add everything but the chicken into the slow cooker. Give it all a good stir. Then add the chickens, whole. I find adding them whole allows for them to cook for longer.
5. Chilli Con Carne
I use the same as I used to use when frying. Again, I leave the lid off for the last 30 mins and cook on high.
- 500g mince meat
- 2 oxo cubes
- 1 tin of kidney beans
- 2 tins of Chopped Tomatoes Arrabbiata from Lidl
- 1 onion chopped
- 1, 2 or 3 bell peppers, chopped
- Any other veg you like
- Good shakes of garlic, paprika, and cumin
- Salt and pepper
You guessed it, fling everything into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 5 – 6 hours. Again I leave the lid off for the last 30mins and cook on high. I serve this up with mashed potatoes or rice.