Easy and Inexpensive Crock-Pot Meals
My husband is a frustrating man. Aren't they all, you might say. Mine is not much of a communicator, but I have learned over the last ten years, that he likes dinner ready when he gets home. I have not learned what he really likes. And he has not learned to let me know when he will be home early.
At the time of our last escalation over dinner (last night!), I happened to be reading Xavier Amador's I'm Right, You're Wrong, Now What? The basic point seems to be (so far) to figure out what both parties need and partner together to provide it without fighting. I haven't really tried to use Amador's techiniques to solve this problem with my husband, but I did try to think about it in terms of what we both need at the end of the day.
What he needs is dinner when he gets home (as far as I can tell). What I need is peace when he gets home rather than "What's that? When is it going to be ready? Is it ready yet?" I have a teenager for that sort of thing when I need it.
I decided the crock pot is the answer. It also works much better with my schedule. I'm usually rushing to try to create my own version of Rachel Ray's 30 minute meals after I log off at 5 pm and before he is home at 5:30. But Rachel puts onions and bell peppers in EVERYTHING, so while I love her show, her recipes haven't helped me much.
With the crockpot, I can get dinner going during my lunch break. And I can take my lunch break whenever it is convenient, as opposed to having a hard time finishing up work precisely at 5 pm, exactly when all hell is prone to break loose. And he can come home and fix himself a plate, anywhere between 5 and 6, without my help. (Wishful thinking? Maybe, but it's worth a try.)
Here are a few inexpensive and easy crockpot recipes that have helped improve my dinner hour.
Recipe 1 (and maybe 2, 3 and 4)
Here is today's easy meal. I threw a small, cheap boston butt into the crock pot, sprinkled it with Rosemary, salt and pepper, and let it cook all afternoon. At about 4:45, while I was on the phone with a co-worker solving a customer's problem, I popped some frozen green beans into the microwave for 2 minutes, then added them to the crockpot. If I had any potatoes in the house, I probably would have added them when I started the roast, or if I had a can of those Hanover green beans and potatoes with ham flavoring, I could have dumped those in for the last half hour. I admit I'm keeping it very light tonight...My daughter is not home, I'm going to meet some girl friends, my husband will probably be meeting some of his friends, and neither of us will have much time to eat. And let's face it, I'm still a little ticked off about his reaction to last night's more prep-intensive meal, so for tonight, he is lucky to have pork roast and green beans.
This roast (pork or beef), potatoes, and other veggie combo is easy and lends itself to many variations. The pork (or even some venison) is especially good with Charlie Mills BBQ Sauce. The crock pot is actually my favorite method for cooking a roast. A roast chicken works pretty well, too. So today's entry counts for several different recipes!
I accomplished today's prep, including a run to the grocery store, all in my lunch hour. And my ingredients were under $10. Yum!
First, I started browning a pound of ground sausage. I like the HOT variety, but your favorite flavor is fine. While the meat was cooking, I chopped a medium head of cabbage, a few red potatoes and one apple.
A word about red potatoes. I love 'em. My favorite part about them is no peeling! Just scrub and chop. Saves lots of time. They taste good, too.
I loaded all of the veggies into the crock pot, then finished browning the sausage and piled that on top. I didn't add any liquid either. The steam will cook everything just fine by dinner time.
Beans! Recipes 6, 7, 8
Beans are so easy in the crock pot! I never "rinse overnight" as the instructions on the bag advise. Throw them in the crockpot and cover them with water. Now I'm usually home during the day to add extra water if needed, but if you will be out, err on the side of too much instead of too little, and be sure to set the crock pot on low.
With Navy Beans, I like sausage. Yum. Brown it, crumbled like you would hamburger for tacos, and throw it in with the beans.
Split pea soup is a breeze with some leftover ham. Add extra water to this one.
And black eyed peas are good with ham or sausage - a few strips of bacon will do in a pinch as well.
Breakfast for Dinner: Recipe 9
I admit, this is not my husband's favorite. He thinks breakfast is for breakfast. But I rebel every now and then because I like breakfast for dinner.
If you don't want to aggitate the anti-breakfast-for-dinner crowd, be sure to try this for breakfast! It's pretty cool to start the crock pot before you go to bed and have this yummy caserole for breakfast!
You need a pound of ground sausage (again, "Hot" adds more flavor), a package of frozen hash browns, a package of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 6-8 eggs, and about 1/2 cup of milk. Mix the potatoes & browned sausage and throw into the crock pot. Beat the egss and milk and about 3/4 of the cheese and then throw that in the crock pot. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Yum, yum, yum.
Stew: Recipe 10
The classic is beef stew - better if you brown your cubed beef in some flour first, but if you are as busy as I am, no one will really know if you just throw it in the bottom of the crock pot. Add some salt and pepper, other seasonings if you like, then a layer of potatoes, and carrots on top. If you prefer such meals with onions and bell peppers, help yourself, but as previously noted, I don't lke 'em. Sometimes I'll add some mushrooms for good measure, but simple is good.
Of course you can stew about anything, and I like a crock pot version of my grandmother's "garbage" soup. Save your leftovers in the freezer - that last serving of corn no one wanted, the extra pork chop you made just in case, bits and pieces of your other successful crock pot meals. When you've accumulated enough, throw them all in the crock pot together. It will be a different "stewp," as Rachel calls it, every time.
This hub is not guaranteed to save your marriage, just your dinner time stress. Whether you work outside the home or not, we know those pesky husbands like their dinner. The crock pot makes it pretty easy to provide.
February 2009 Addition
I might keep revising this thing 'til Kingdom Come (a southern expression, I guess...look it up - might make a good hub!) but I decided to drop the numbering system - we all know I've been cheating anyway, and what does 'Recipe 11' really add to the concept? Nothin'!
My latest cop out...I mean easy dinner is ribs. They've been on sale a lot lately, so I grab that big $5 package and a bottle of Kraft original barbque sauce and dump 'em in the crockpot. And you know what? They taste good! If you want to get fancy and add some secret ingredients or make your own sauce, go for it! I found the Kraft on sale 10 for $10 last week. And eveyone ate without complaining!
Copyright Dineane Whitaker 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url: http://hubpages.com/_ndwcopyright/hub/Easy-and-Inexpensive-Crock-Pot-Meals
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