Cooking for a busy family

Feb 05 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

I often hear two-career family people complain about their dinner options and what to feed their kids. There's always the rush home and the routine of trying to get kids fed, washed and in bed at a reasonable time. We have that problem, particularly because the Wee One goes to bed early (~7:00) and we only have one car, which often doesn't leave work until after 5:00.

But my wife and I also really like to cook and are not fans of packaged foods, for us or the Wee One. We have found that the most important small appliance in the house for our weekday cooking needs is the crock pot. If you don't have one and you find yourself turning to boxes in the freezer during the week, go out and buy a crock pot right now. The words will still be here when you get back. I'm serious, go.

Why is the crock pot an incredible thing? Because you can toss a few ingredients in it after the kid(s) go to bed. At that point you can either turn it on low o/n, leave it off for the day and turn it back on when you get home or you can put the whole thing in the fridge o/n and turn it on when you go to work. We tend to prefer the latter, but while you're figuring out how much liquid to put in, it might be a good idea to be home while it's cooking.

There is a misconception that crock pots are for cocktail weenies, Swedish meatballs or that undefinable cheese disaster that Aunt Helen brings to every family gathering, but that's crap. Dishes we regularly make in our crock pot include hoisin chicken, several curries, beef stew, pulled pork and the best damn spaghetti sauce around. If you are at all a fan of slow cooked food, you have no excuse to lack a crock pot.

Normally I cook by The Force, so I'm going to have to estimate the following recipes, but you can't really screw this up.

Hoisin Chicken
1 whole chicken (placed upside-down in the pot)
enough chicken stock to cover 1/3 of the chicken
3 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
Basil to taste (teaspoonish unless you like basil a lot, which I do)
cilantro to taste (teaspoonish)
4 crushed garlic cloves
Cover the chicken with the sauce by rolling it a few times
Put it on low for the day and come home to something tasty. Add Rice and a vegetable and you have dinner in 20 minutes.

Beef Stew
About a pound of stew beef cut in chunks
two chopped potatoes
three chopped carrots
4 crushed garlic cloves
1 cup of red wine (for the stew, two for the chef)
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Rosemary to taste
Basil to taste
4 bay leaves
Pepper to taste
Salt to taste (don't overdo this one, more can be added later)
Stir and turn on low for the day. This is an all in one meal so it'll be ready when you walk in the door.

Both dishes take about 15 minutes to get into the pot, so I don't want to hear how you don't have time to make a meal. The crock pot does the rest for you, so let it do it's job while you do yours and make your life easier in the evenings.

16 responses so far

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the reminder. After a week of crappy dinners due to a deadline, I need to remember that the crock pot is ideal for times like these. My wee one especially likes the carrots after they have softened, which is good because their not my favorite.

  • Mad Hatter says:

    Been thinking about getting one for a while, but have never gotten around to it. Our solution is to make a week's worth of food (2-3 items each serving 3-4 usually does it) on the weekends and eat leftovers all week. Works great for us, but then we don't have kids.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    But then you have to eat the same thing for dinner all week. We use leftovers for lunches but try and keep dinner fresh.

  • Nat Blair says:

    Not a bad idea, not sure why we haven't yet procured the hot pot. Usually I'm stuck SUndays making multiple dinners for the week. A quick and easy one pot beef stew is on that list, but still not as easy as the crock pot version.Of course, there's no way in hell that my four year old would eat either of those. The 1 year old would eat some, but only the meat products. And she wonders why she's constipated.

  • Arlenna says:

    Yess! I love the crock pot! I've discovered how it can allow me to make dinner for us while the baby has a morning or lunchtime nap, so my husband doesn't have to try to make something when he gets home from work.

  • Toaster Sunshine says:

    I have an old (as in 2-pronged plug old) ceramic crockpot that has happy pictures of lobsters and onions dancing around it. I use it frequently. I've got the pulled pork and dal in it down well, but I'd be curious to see your curry recipes if you wouldn't mind posting them.On the other hand, though, cooking even without a crockpot doesn't need to be arduous. I can usually prepare enough food to feed myself for a couple days within 20min using nothing more than a large skillet and a pot for starches.

  • PhDamned says:

    Crock pots rock my socks!I like to use mine for curries as well. Beef stew is always delicious. I also heard you can make your own yogurt in them. I'm going to try this soon.Also, for quick dinners I make pizza dough in my bread machine and throw together a pizza based on the leftovers. (Taco pizza, chicken marsala pizza, barbecue chicken pizza, etc.)

  • Alyssa says:

    Love, love LOVE the crock pot! Those recipes sound delicious! Here's one you might like:Chicken Salsa Chili (this is for 2, so you can double it for 4)- 2 frozen chicken breasts- 1 can of beans (whatever kind you like - we use black beans)- 1/2 jar of salsa- 1/2 package of taco mixThrow them all in the crock pot, and cook on low for about 8 hours. When ready to eat, shred up the chicken using two forks. We typically just make some toast to eat with it, and top the chili with a bit of shredded cheese and sour cream.Or, you can get large tortillas, and make a burrito! Yum!

  • tideliar says:

    God i am fucking starving now...

  • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    WANT! I'm going to get one when my husband goes back to work. I'll miss the dinners he makes when he has lots of free time - last night was prawn and scallop skewers with a blue cheese / tomatoes / candied pecans salad presented all fancy-like in a lettuce leaf, followed by pear and raspberry sponge with custard and dark chocolate. But when we're both working we eat a lot of quick 'n' easy pastas and stir frys - a crock pot would give us way more options.

  • PUI prof says:

    I rely on the crock pot. Made a new recipe two weeks ago for my supper club (hamburger/potato/creamy stuff) and it was disgusting. It was all I had for my supper club, so I was stuck serving it. However, the crock pot "do real good" 96% of the time. Only disad: the fat that goes in there, stays in there, unlike baking, broiling or grilling.

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    My fiancee and I use ours for soups, chilis, braising beef, queso, etc. The world is your oyster when you have a crock pot.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Nat, we find that the Wee One is hit or miss on most dinners like that, but she does like slow cooked meats more than others. It's tender so she'll dig in. Toaster, I didn't include the curry recipes because estimating those would be really hard. Two shakes of this, a bit of that, etc. A quick search yielded this recipe, which is fairly close to what we do, even if I have no idea what fenugreek seeds are.Alyssa, we do something similar to that as well, just with more hot peppers and a few other goodies thrown in. Cath, I don't think a crock pot is going to make up for your current meal selection, but with two people working 40+ hours, it helps. PUI Prof, Oh noes! "creamy stuff"? No offense, but if I ever write a book entitled "Reasons people fear crock pots", I may want a picture of that concoction for the cover. I agree that if you're ever going to do an "all in one" meal, you need to use lean meat. When we do pulled pork, we slow cook the meat then take it out, shred it and dump out the pot. The shredded meat goes back in with a vinegar, tomato paste, honey mix. That way most (Well, okay. Some) of the fat gets dumped.

  • New Asst. Prof. says:

    This is a great post. I never considered owning a crock pot before, but with both of us working 40+ hours and me now dealing with two fun first-trimester side effects (extreme hunger and can't stay awake past 8pm), it sounds like a fabulous idea! Arlenna, you have a good point about how useful it is after the baby too.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    mmm, beef stew. mmmmmmmm........

  • Dr. O says:

    Viva la crock pot!!My husband and I have already made heavy use of this item, and we don't have kids in the picture (yet). I appreciate the new recipes to try out! I myself have a recipe for crock pot lasagna I've been meaning to try - I'll be sure to share if it's any good... 🙂

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