Adventures in Crockpotting!

I used to cook meals at home. I even did the thing where you plan your menus for the week and make your grocery list based on your menu plan. During the week I’d look at my menu options posted on the refrigerator door and proceed accordingly. I was very good about incorporating “planned overs” into my menu plan and “shopping my pantry” to use up stuff and keep my grocery bill down. I did this consistently during the pre-kid years of my marriage. Of course, I didn’t know at the time that I had ADHD, but menu planning is a great method for a distractible ADHD cook to manage a pantry, plan ahead for meals, and reduce impulsive grocery shopping and eating out. Visitors to my kitchen who noticed my menu on display were either amused by such random silliness or impressed by such organization. I got pretty much the same reactions I got when I told them my books were alphabetized by author, but whatever.

Waffle House Menu
This wasn’t my menu, but I wish it was. I love Waffle House!

When my kids were babies and toddlers, I picked them up from daycare and then we went home and I picked something from my menu plan to fix for dinner. We ate together as a family and then we generally spent the evening at home. The biggest event of a typical evening was bath-time. (Sigh, oh how this college mom misses those days…)

What changed, over the years, was that the kids got older and became more and more involved in activities. It started with a little ballet class at the local community center for my daughter when she was three. Then, as she got older, we added Girl Scouts and piano lessons. As the younger daughter got older, she got dance class and Girl Scouts and piano lessons also. Then they were in summer T-ball and moved up through the community summer softball program. As they both got older, their interest in dance deepened and they took more dance classes and began to perform in ballets. Then the older daughter got into marching band and the younger daughter got involved in theater. The older they were, the more they were doing and the more I was running. And running. And running. And cooking less. And less. And less. We ate a lot of fast food during those years… a LOT of fast food. Most of it bought through the drive-thru window. I’m not proud of it, it’s just the way our life was at the time.

McDonald's Happy Meal
My kids ate so many McDonald’s Happy Meals, their rooms would be overrun with all those little toys – I could write a whole blog post on those alone!

What changes, changes again. Last school year, once the older daughter was driving, I had a lot less running to do. She even helped with driving her little sister around. This school year, with the older daughter off to college, I’ve been back to driving the younger daughter around. But, just before Christmas, my baby got her own driver’s license and is now legally capable of getting herself places with her own wheels. What do I do with all this extra time now?

Well, extra time means I can cook again! We can eat meals at home again! Granted, sometimes it’s just my husband and me eating dinner, just like it was 18 years ago before kiddos, but that counts too. During 2016, I started using my crockpot a lot more. It’s so nice to come home from work to dinner already done.

I fell out of the crockpot habit a little bit over the holidays (and by “the holidays” I really mean “since around Halloween”) but I’m back on track for 2017 to be the Year of the Crockpot!

Here is my 2017 Crockpot Roll Call so far:

RICE – first, last, and always.
We love rice, but I have never been able to cook it successfully. I mostly just used Minute Rice until a few months ago when I found Grandma Cheap Cheap’s method to cook rice in a crockpot. My younger daughter will sometimes put it in the crockpot when she gets home from school so that it is done in time for dinner, but it works just as well to cook it in the crockpot the night before and then just reheat it at dinner time. I love Grandma Cheap Cheap – check out all her videos!

Grandma Cheap Cheap’s crockpot rice recipe: Spray the well of the crockpot with cooking spray; add one cup of rice, one and a half cups of water, salt; cook on high temperature for one and a half hours. I like to add a pat of butter as well. The result is perfect rice every time.

Grandma Cheap Cheap's Crockpot Rice Video
Yummy fluffy rice from Grandma Cheap Cheap’s Crockpot Rice Video

Chili – a crockpot standard for everybody.
My husband made this for us (it’s a blessing to have a husband who cooks!) Instead of ground beef, he used some leftover roast pork I had put in the freezer to use in burritos later (I am all about those “planned overs” folks!) We’d never tried chili made with pork roast but it worked out great! The first night, we ate it as chili, like you do. The girls sprinkled shredded cheese in theirs. I like to have my with corn chips, but tortilla chips will do as well. My husband makes his chili thicker than I do (I like my chili a little more soupy) so by the second night it was pretty thick. Rather than add tomato juice or something to thin it down, we had the chili over some fluffy rice, made (you guessed it!) Grandma Cheap Cheap style! Who knew chili over rice could be so yummy? It was so good, we all had seconds.

Ranch chicken breasts with potatoes and carrots – creamy delicious comfort food.
One of my 2017 goals is to use up the random stuff that’s been sitting in my pantry. I had a packet of dry ranch salad dressing mix that had been kicking around one of my cabinet shelves for a while. Why did I ever buy it in the first place? I will never in 100 years make salad dressing from a packet. (Actually, I do know why I bought it. My youngest daughter loves the ranch dressing our former daycare provider makes… from a packet. So, because I will do anything to please my girls, I bought a dry ranch salad dressing mix packet intending to make it for my youngest. I should have known better, but I didn’t realize I would have to buy buttermilk, an event that was never going to happen.) ANYWAY, I Googled around and found a suggestion to mix the dry ranch dressing mix with a can of cream of chicken soup to make a tasty crockpot simmer sauce for chicken. The bonus was how good the carrots were cooked in it. I guess I will have to buy the ranch dressing mix again after all.

Curry chicken with peas, onions, and tomatoes – savory goodness!
We love Indian food, but since there are not very many Indian restaurants in our community, I am trying to figure out how to make some of our favorites on our own. I used a curry seasoning mix that is intended to be used in skillet meals. Used in the crockpot, the result was milder and more brothy than authentic Indian curry, but the flavors blended well with the chicken thighs, frozen peas, and fresh onions I used. The chicken thighs were so tender they fell off the bone. We ate it with our favorite rice, of course. Thank you, Grandma Cheap Cheap!

Indian Essentials Chicken Curry Seasoning Mix
Indian Essentials Chicken Curry Seasoning Mix – this is great stuff, but in the future, I will probably just make my own…

There was plenty of curry chicken leftover for a meal the second night. I decided the second night that I wanted to punch it up, so I Googled up an easy recipe for a curry sauce. I added some garam masala that I had on hand. Delicious! This crockpot dish is definitely going into the rotation with the Simple Curry Sauce instead of the seasoning mix. I could eat it every week!

It’s such a good feeling to have real meals at home, especially when it is this easy!

Read how a crockpot saved my life!

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