Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.
I am a firm believer that there should be a slow cooker or crockpot in every household. You gather food, perhaps chop it up or mix it together, and throw it in the pot for a few hours—forgetting it's even there until it is time to eat.
Now that is my kind of cooking!
History of Slow Cooking
Slow cooking has been around since the discovery of fire, but it became trendy in the early 1970s during a time when more and more women were headed out to the workforce and needed the convenience of make-ahead home-cooked meals.
Early units were developed from an appliance that cooked beans on the countertop, but as they became more and more popular, the crockpots, as they are also known, became more ever more sophisticated and versatile.
Benefits of Slow Cookers
- Make delicious meals with little effort
- Take up very little counter space
- Use less electricity than other appliances
- Can be programmed ahead of time
- Some come with carrying cases for traveling
- Great at producing moist food. Liquids are retained and evaporation doesn't occur because of the lid. Slow cooker soups and stews are great because the liquid and moisture are kept inside while cooking.
My First Crockpot
When I received my first crockpot, which was made by Rival (the original company to produce them), I didn't know what to do with it. Once I learned more, however, I was amazed at how easy it was to use! You really do gather and prep the ingredients, throw them in the pot for a few hours, et voila! Your meal is ready.
Rate These Easy Crock Pot Recipes!
How to Use a Slow Cooker
Healthy Meals Kids Will Love
Two of my favorite kid-friendly crockpot meals are chicken chili and meatloaf. They are delicious and take very, very little time to prepare. There are always enough leftovers for other meals or snacks for the next few days.
- Chicken chili: This recipe actually happened by mistake. Knowing how easy it was to throw things together in the slow cooker, I gathered what ingredients I could find for that day that I thought would work well together as a potential pasta-like meal: chicken breast, tomato soup, and salsa. My thought was to cook all of this up and serve it over pasta. The result, however, was more of a delicious chicken chili, with shredded chicken and a savory yet spicy sauce. Yum!
- Meatloaf: This recipe is an adaptation of a crockpot meatloaf recipe I had. I didn't want to have just plain meatloaf; changing the sauce a bit really made a difference! The meat was so moist compared to the sometimes dry texture you would get from an oven-baked meatloaf.
Below are my two easy recipes that are kid-friendly. They can be adapted as needed to meet your family's dietary requirements or tastes.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
4 hours 30 min
4 hours 35 min
4 servings plus leftovers
Recipe 1: Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
This recipe is kid-friendly because the spiciness level is very mild and because it's great at hiding vegetables so picky kids don't notice.
Oh, but it actually contains a lot of vegetables, There are the onions, which can be left off of a child's plate, but the salsa has several kinds of peppers, tomatoes, and onions. Shh! Don't tell them!
For the chili:
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 2 to 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 can condensed tomato soup
- 1 small jar mild salsa or 2 cups homemade salsa
- Red kidney beans (optional)
- Hot sauce (optional)
- Garlic, chopped (optional)
Read More From Delishably
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheese
- Peel and slice the onion. Place the slices on the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Place the chicken breasts on top of the onions. (I use frozen chicken breasts.)
- Top the chicken with the condensed tomato soup and salsa. Add optional red kidney beans, hot sauce, and/or garlic. Cover and set the heat on high.
- Forget about it for 4 hours and 30 minutes (or 8 hours on low heat). Come back, pull apart the chicken gently with a fork, top with some optional sour cream and shredded cheese, and enjoy!
What to Do With Leftover Chili
- Serve with tortilla chips.
- Serve on a roll with a bit of BBQ sauce for a sloppy sandwich.
- Make nachos! Layer tortilla chips, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, and chili.
- Try these delicious stuffed peppers with chili.
Recipe 2: Slow Cooker Meatloaf
Meatloaf always gets such a bad rap, I think because of how dry or sometimes tasteless it can be when it is made in the oven. Fortunately, I never experienced that since my mother is an excellent cook, and I want my kids to have the same positive associations with this comfort food.
This meatloaf is simple and tasty. The BBQ sauce, Jack Daniels in my case, gives it an extra kick that is fabulous for the taste buds. Because it is made in the crockpot, it is so moist, making it oh-so-extra good. Your kids will keep coming back for more!
Time: 10 minutes prep, 8 hours in slow cooker on low
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Onion powder, to taste
- 1 pound ground beef
- Ketchup, enough to cover the meat
- BBQ sauce, enough to cover the meat
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the breadcrumbs and mix. Add just enough milk to make the mixture moist.
- Add salt, pepper, and onion powder.
- Mix in meat by hand.
- Transfer the mixture to the crockpot and shape it into a loaf, as best as possible.
- Cover the loaf with a mixture of ketchup and BBQ sauce. Cook on low heat for 8 hours.
Side Dish Ideas for Meatloaf
- Mashed potatoes
- Baked potatoes
- Green beans or green bean casserole
- Corn on the cob
- Anything you'd pair with beef
- Broccoli and corn in buttered noodles (see below)
Broccoli and Corn in Buttered Noodles
- 1/2 box noodles
- 1 stick butter, divided
- Garlic powder, to taste
- Onion powder, to taste
- Parsley, chopped, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 head fresh broccoli
- 1 can corn
- Cook the noodles according to package instructions and then drain.
- Add 1/2 stick butter. Then add garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Sauté the broccoli in the remaining butter until tender. Add corn and cook until the corn is heated through.
- Mix the broccoli and corn into the noodles.
Too Much Butter? Try This!
One whole stick of butter may seem like a lot. If you'd rather (I do this often), substitute olive oil for the butter. Yum!
More Easy Slow Cooker Meals
- Slow Cooker Enchiladas: Recipe and Alternate Filling Ideas
Use your slow cooker to create an enchilada fiesta for your family. This quick and easy layered method is guaranteed to be a winner.
- 6 Recipes for Slow Cooker or Crockpot Chicken
This article contains six tried-and-true recipes for chicken prepared in the slow cooker or crockpot. One recipe is a video demonstration.
© 2012 Marissa