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Shamefully easy slow cooker recipes?

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Hi hounds,

I need help. Grad school is consuming all of my free time and energy (I always thought people were exaggerating about that, but I know better now!), and my lovely boyfriend manages to ruin cooking dry pasta. The result? We're eating out for at least 50% of our meals. It's expensive, and soon to be more expensive when we need to buy new, bigger pants.

We've just moved to a neighborhood with a pretty basic, albeit large, supermarket, and some decent hispanic markets, but grocery shopping is a once-a-week affair at the moment. In my single days, when I was still cooking regularly, I was used to being able to stop at the whole foods or trader joes in walking distance a few times a week, so having to plan ahead so much is new to me. We've got a CSA membership, but that's winding down for the season.

So, I need some very, very simply, healthy slow cooker recipes or weeknight meals that don't require much prep or many fancy ingredients. We're talking chop and dump. Browning seems ambitious right now! Six kinds of fresh herbs probably isn't happening either-- I'm still trying to convince my boyfriend not to boil carrots (really). The more simply I can make these things, the better. I'm hoping to be able to print some things out and stick them in a binder in the kitchen so whoever has the time can get a meal started.

Am I doomed to lots and lots of things that begin with opening cans of cream of mushroom soup? Or eating pasta and canned sauce the entire winter (again, leading to a need for new pants...)? Looking online at recipes, and even at cookbooks, there don't seem to be many good options. What did you all eat when you were young, first living together, and just starting out?

thank you thank you thank you!

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  1. Turkey thighs with a little tomatillo salsa - all day on low. Gets to be like shredded pork, great for burritos or tacos.

    1. our favorite slow cooker "dump and go" recipe is
      4-6 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
      a can of chilis
      a can of black beans, drained.
      a generous dose of taco seasoning
      3/4 jar of your favorite salsa

      Sometimes I add a can of corn.

      cook on low for 6 or so hours. shred. we use this chicken on tortillas, or over rice. using frozen chicken keeps the meat from drying out while it cooks. if you don't need such a long cooking time, you can use thawed meat.

      11 Replies
      1. re: jujuthomas

        I do this with flank steak and a bag of frozen corn, without the taco seasoning.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          TDQ, Really? I never have luck with flank steak. ALways comes out tough when I grill it. How do you prepare it exactly? Just steak and corn?

          1. re: lilmomma

            Steak on the bottom then corn and beans. Dump the salsa over the whole works. Cook for 8-9 hours on low until you can shred it. You'll still need to chop it, but it works well for burritos or tacos or something along those lines.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              sorry for being ignorant about this but what is the corn for? mixed with beans and salsa does it make into a hot bean relish of sorts? or is it in there for flavor or moisture?

              1. re: iL Divo

                It's there as a vegetable--one pot dish kind of thing. And, yeah, I guess it's sort of a hot bean relish.

                ~TDQ

            2. re: lilmomma

              the trick when grilling it is not to overcook it and most importantly cut it thin as you can against the grain, as with fajitas.

          2. re: jujuthomas

            We make this all of the time, and actually made it this weekend. We add a package of cream cheese in the last 30 minutes or so, and it makes it nice and creamy. I admit it looks slightly (or more) vomitous, but it is really tasty, especially served over rice....mmmm. I am looking forward to my dinner tonight!

            1. re: justme123

              sounds terrific and just about as tasty looking as my scrambled eggs with salsa mixed in, LOL!

            2. re: jujuthomas

              I do this without the chilis and with the corn.

              1. re: jujuthomas

                I make a version of this but with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I find it is a lot more flavorful and moist. We call it taco chicken in my house and it makes great burritos, too. Side dishes are refried beans and the Spanish rice from Fresh and Easy. That rice is super easy to make and has a really great flavor.

                1. re: jujuthomas

                  This, plus the corn and a block of cream cheese or a wheel of Laughing Cow Queso Fresco. Great on chips or as burritos. We call it chicken nachos.

                2. another super easy recipe that's on my list for this week (tonight, perhaps?) is to saute some sliced onion and garlic in some butter. let it start to caramelize then add a small cut up ham steak. Throw some frozen pierogi on top - we like Mrs. T's potato and onion. I usually add a splash of chicken broth or water just to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot, since I don't use a lot of fat in the pan. I usually do 12 pierogi with 1 small ham steak, it makes 3 servings. throw some cheese or sour cream on top, make a salad, and you've got dinner.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: jujuthomas

                    This is in the crockpot? For approximately how long?

                    1. re: tcamp

                      oh, no. not in the crock pot. in a deep sautee pan on the stove. it takes about 15 minutes. OP asked for easy crock pot or weeknight meals. :)

                      1. re: jujuthomas

                        Bummer. That would be a nice trick.

                  2. One of the easiest things I made last night was pulled pork. Took an onion, sliced it up and put that in the bottom of the crockpot. Added just a little bit of vinegar, topped the onion with a pork loin. Cook on low for 7 hours. Take pork out of crock pot and shred, place back into crockpot, add your favorite bbq sauce and cook for another hour or so. You really don't need to brown the meat first.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ludmilasdaughter

                      You use a pork loin, and it shreds? Good to know - I always have pork loin in my freezer.

                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                        Seems like pork loin would be dry, no?

                        1. re: lilmomma

                          Nah, I do it all the time as well but add a dash of oil, water, and a bay leaf to mine.

                          1. re: lilmomma

                            Not at all. I know some people that use tenderloin, but I wouldn't go that far. The pork loin came out super tender and very easy to shred using two forks.

                      2. I like this pork and sauerkraut one, except that I use sweet potatoes.

                        http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-coo...

                        Here's a breakfast one (except that I use a can of low-fat evaporated milk in place of some of the water and abour 1/4 cup of brown sugar in place of the sugar substitute. Also, I add a pinch of salt.) http://allrecipes.com/recipe/slow-coo...

                        Here's one (pepperoncini beef) I recently tried that was recommended by another hound. Super easy! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8643...

                        Here's a dump and go ropa vieja recipe that is highly rated on food network that I've been meaning to try. I posted a link to it in another thread and the hound whou tried it (sorry, I can't remember who it was or which thread it was!) thought it was good. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/fo...

                        ~TDQ

                        1. I was looking for a recipe I used to make regularly with chicken and wild rice -- not only did I find it, but I found it on a page from an old cookbook with *lots* of recipes that sound good -

                          http://www.napsinfo.com/images/Succes...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: sunshine842

                            I am agoing to print that out and make everyone of those recipes!

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              They've been placed on my "to cook" list.

                            2. As easy as it gets.

                              1 beef chuck/shoulder roast
                              1 packet dry onion soup mix
                              1/2 cup water

                              Set it on low in the morning and come back to delicious, fork tender meat at night.

                              You can add some root veg if you'd like, or just nuke/bake a potato at dinner time and pour some of the juice over the top. Or, you could take the remnants (again, don't discard the lovely juice in the crock pot) and add potatoes, carrots, etc for a wonderful beef stew the next day.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: BigE

                                I heard this one just a little different -- 1 beef chuck roast, 1 packet dry onion soup mix, omit water. Add 1 can (undiluted) Campbells mushroom soup. I've always liked this!

                                1. re: blue room

                                  For anyone who thinks this sounds like something they'd like to try, I'd suggest using Campbells Golden Mushroom over the "usual" condensed cream of mushroom.

                                  1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                    I made this chuck roast recipe with the mushroom souplast night and we ate it over egg noodles but I have to say that it wasnt great. I thought it was a bit greasy for my taste. Is there a leaner cut or meat that I could use?

                                    1. re: lilmomma

                                      Personally, I like the resulting tenderniess and "shredability" of chuck when slow cooking. I have been known to somtimes partially trim off any large amounts of fat on the exterior prior to cooking but usually don't. What I prefer to do is to cook it far enough in advance so that I can first allow it to cool to the point where I can handle the meat and remove any remaining gristle and then refrigerate "the gravy" for several hours or overnight and allow the fat to rise to the top and solidify for "easy" removal before reheating.

                                      1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                        I try to do that too. But sometimes we need to eat it the day I make it and there is no time to get the fat out.

                                        1. re: lilmomma

                                          I understand your dilemma. I've experienced the "no time" problem often. It's one of the reasons I make sure to buy a six pack of dark beer for this meal. - Half a bottle goes in the pot, and after drinking the rest I'm less inclined to get upset over any not so great meal. (Having some rolls or bread to soak up the grease doesn't hurt either.)
                                          Anyway, to the best of my (limited) knowledge, the only other meat option for this type of prep is the rump roast. Since I've never triedit, I'll leave it to others to compare the two.

                                          1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                            I will def buy a rump roast and try that instead. Thanks.

                              2. I would recommend you sear your meat first and sweat your mirepoix before placing into the slow cooker vessel .....but Chuck Roast or Pork Shoulder is about as easy as it gets. Add your meat and appropriate liquid and you're off. You can use stock, water or a can of tomatoes or condensed soup to make the gravy.....or you can use a seasoned packet or soup mix.

                                When Bottom round goes on sale, I like to make a retro dish know as Swiss Steak. 3/4 to 1 inch slices off a bottom round roast.....

                                * .dusted in seasoned flour
                                * pounded
                                * dusted again and excess shaken off.
                                * brown both sides in oil in a fry pan
                                * transfer to the slow cooker
                                * sweat the mirepoix
                                * transfer to the slow cooker
                                * add a 28 ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes.

                                In a few hours.....you have Swiss Steak and Gravy.

                                Not a fan of Chicken or Turkey in the slow cooker unless it's ground meat or soup

                                1. These are PERFECT! Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply! Please keep them coming!!

                                  1. Pot Roast
                                    1 can beer
                                    1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce

                                    Cook on low six hours or so until done.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                      This is so easy, it might work. I can't believe I never thought of this since I make pork similar to this a lot.

                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                        Here's a similar one...
                                        8 chicken drumsticks
                                        1 jar of favorite bbq sauce
                                        Put in crock pot for 6-8 hours

                                        1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                          This will get tried, I'll post results!

                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                            This is a classic "base" formula one with endless variety. I have done this with a can of soda pop too. I used a "natural" ginger ale, pork roast, and some teriyaki sauce once and it was really good!

                                          2. My easiest crock-pot recipe is spicy black bean soup. I use half a pound of dried black beans, rinsed with hot water and put in the pot. Then dump in a can of Rotel diced tomatoes with lime and cilantro. I'm still working on getting the right amount of water, I think it's about an inch of water above the beans level. Salt the water. Cook on low setting when I head out the door, usually around 9 hours before I'm back to turn it to warm until I'm ready to eat. I usually serve with flour tortillas, but it's good with cornbread, too.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: hippiechickinsing

                                              oh wow, that sounds great. I love black bean soup... wonder if DH would eat it. do you do this in a big crock pot or a smaller one? I'm thinking it would be perfect in my 3 qt.

                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                I have a 4 qt. crock-pot, but there's plenty of room, so I'm sure your 3 qt. will be fine.

                                              2. re: hippiechickinsing

                                                Beans are great in the crockpot and freeze well. I hesitate to offer a recipe, since the amount of water is crucial - you don't want the whole pot to dry out as they absorb the water - but you can certainly find workable ratios on line. Anyway, I regularly cook 1 or 1.5 pounds of dried beans in the slow cooker, either seasoned (usually Mexican) or plain, then freeze about 2 cup servings in freezer bags. They're great to accompany other crockpot meals, add to soups, make into hummus, etc.

                                                1. re: janeh

                                                  I've made beans in the crock pot using this recipe of Paula Deen's. It's pretty good, but it does require some advance planning (soaking overnight, etc.) which the OP may not be in the frame of mind for...

                                                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pa...

                                                  Also, to the OP, you might consider buying a rice cooker for rice and grains and possibly even steaming.

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                    These are great without the ham as well :)

                                                    1. re: enbell

                                                      I've done it without ham, too!

                                                      ~TDQ

                                              3. this recipe for shrimp and orzo with cherry tomatoes is super quick and easy and just as good as a cold salad the next day:
                                                http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/shrim...

                                                1. We'll make Lucky Chili -- which you can find online in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. The beef stew recipes (skip browning if busy) have been consistently good, too.

                                                  Although not very healthy, we'll do ribs in the slow cooker. Dump ribs. Pour BBQ sauce. Texture isn't great, but it's so easy.

                                                  1. My absolutely easiest crockpot meal has got to be the "baked" potatoes. Wrap up several large baking potatoes in foil and stick them in the pot, no liquid or anything else added. Cook all day long - 10 hours is fine, even a bit more won't kill 'em. Top with chili (even a can is fine), cheese, veggies, whatever you like.

                                                    Other very easiy meals that are great if people will be eating at different times and need a drop in dish are spagetti sauce (serve over pasta or rice you've cooked earlier and microwave to warm up) and "roasted" chicken - whole chicken dropped in the crock with garlic, herbs, lemon juice, S&P. Either wrap that in tortillas or serve alongside mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, etc. Forget about crisp skin - it won't happen - but the chicken will be moist and flavorful.

                                                    1. Slice an onion and spread on bottom of crockpot. Add a pork roast - whatever is cheapest is usually what I grab. Pour on a can (355 ml, not sure what that is in US). Cook on low 7-9 hours. Dicard liquid, shred meat an mix with favourite BBQ sauce. Great sandwich.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                        a can of....???? (355ml is roughly 12 oz)

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          Oops!! Can of ginger ale.

                                                          1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                            oooops. I didn't see this. I just posted upthread about a similar kind of "base recipe".

                                                            Basically meat+ can of carbonated beverage+ 1/2 cup of complimentary sauce = amazingly easy dinner :)

                                                      2. Isn't anything made in a slow cooker shamefully easy?
                                                        Throw in meat, whole onions, garlic (no need to peel, just don't eat the skin - adds colour and flavour) dry soup mix (no pasta), wine - your choice of colour but not too much, add other vegetables 2-3 hours before eating. lid on, turn on, turn off eat.

                                                        1. Corned beef is my suggestion to this already stealler line-up everyone else has suggested.

                                                          I tend to grab a few around St Patrick's day and freeze them for the rest of the year. Leftovers are great for hash.

                                                          2-3 # corned beef brisket with spice packet
                                                          2-3 carrots & celery ribs, washed and chopped into large pieces (each stalk cut ~ thirds)
                                                          1-2 onions roughly chopped
                                                          two bay leafs

                                                          Place in crock and add water until the meat is just covered. Place on low for 6-8 hours.

                                                          Toss in 5-6 small red or waxy potatoes for the last hour.

                                                          Either add 1/2 cabbage chunked in the last hour to crock as well and push under liquid, or sautee it up with a little oil, stock from pot, and spash of vinegar.

                                                          I tend to add small red potatoes to the pot the last hour and sautee the cabbage seperate because I like a little more vinegar bite to my cabbage.

                                                          Slice beef and plate with onions, cabbage, and potatoes. I also serve it with a small dab of good mustard.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: Crockett67

                                                            With the corned beef deal, I make a gravy.

                                                            Take 1 cup liquid from the pot, and 1 cup buttermilk. Thicken and add 1 or 2 T horse radish. This is good on the cabbage, spuds, and everything else. It's even good on the next day's hash.

                                                            1. re: Sharuf

                                                              Will have to try this. :)

                                                          2. I have not made these but in a parenting forum I'm active in this is an extremely popular and loved crockpot dish. They call it crackpot chicken tacos

                                                            Chicken Tacos

                                                            -Take 1 chicken taco/fajita seasoning packet and cover bottom of crockpot

                                                            -Put 3 frozen breasts on top of the seasoning.

                                                            -Take one container of fresh pico de gallo and cover the chicken. (can use 1-2 cans of rotel, container of fresh or homemade best, but really can use up any salsa, etc)

                                                            -Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/4 cup water over the top of everything. Do not stir. - APPARENTLY there is a debate on adding water, some say it's too liquidy and they skip it.

                                                            Simmer in crockpot for 4 to 6 hours on low. If you're home, flip it halfway through, but not necessary. Remove chicken and shred with a fork. Stir back in, mixing everything up, and let cook/simmer for at least 30 more minutes. Serve in soft corn tortillas with a little bit of cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole. Whatever is easiest. Often, we just do cheese for a quick meal.

                                                            8 Replies
                                                            1. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                              I'm VERY intrigued by these, except that the chicken breasts are frozen . Do you know what happens if you use thawed chicken breasts?

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                I don't. I'm thinking it's just what makes it so darn easy is that no one seems to thaw the chicken breasts! I'm sure it would be more than fine.

                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  It would be done in less time.

                                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                                    HA! True. I wonder in how much less time? Sadly, I'm not much of an experimenter when it comes to uncooked poultry cooked at low temps...

                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Since it is going to be sitting in some liquid, I wouldn't worry too much about drying out. If I were using thawed breasts, I'd check in about 2.5 hours and see if the meat is shredable. If not, cook longer. You won't be able to shred uncooked meat (obviously) so I'd say it is a pretty low-risk venture.

                                                                      I think this might also be a good candidate for making ahead of time, then reheating and serving as 4-6 hours doesn't cover a work day for me.

                                                                    2. re: tcamp

                                                                      well yes, flavor/texture wise - it would be the same, right? I'm not much of a crock pot user. Though, I keep seeing recipes that very well may change that.

                                                                  2. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                                    I love this recipe. I use thawed chicken breasts and cook for 4 hours. I skip the extra thirty minutes to shred as I find its unnecessary and will sometimes dry out.

                                                                    1. re: foodie06

                                                                      Terrific, thank you for the info on cooking time for thawed chicken breasts.

                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                  3. 2 pounds of ground beef, 1 chopped onion. better if browned before they go in the slow cooker but not necessary. 1 or 2 packets of dry chili seasoning mix depending on how spicy you like it. One half small can of chipotles in adobo (7 oz can, freeze the other half for next time.) 1/2 of a large (60-70 oz) bottle of salsa. Let simmer 6-8 hours on low, 4 hours on high. Add beans if desired (black, pinto, great northern, kidney)

                                                                    If you haven't checked out "A year of Slow Cooking" <crockpot365blogspot.com> you should. Recipes range from very simple to really complex, but if someone is going to cook every single meal for a year in a crockpot you have to mx it up some.

                                                                    1. FYI- Fast slow cooker meals tend to raise your blood pressure rather than your expand your waistband so really think about the salt that goes into the meal if you are adding a lot of processed ingredients.

                                                                      24 Replies
                                                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                                                        I think the OP specifically wanted to avoid "things that begin with opening cans of cream of mushroom soup" so should be in decent shape. All the recipes I linked except for one that calls for a packed of Knorr soup to are made of "real" food. It's true that there is an overabundance of slow cooker recipes that call for canned glop, but it's possible to avoid them.

                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                          when you're very busy, very tired, and running on limited funds, cream soups are a means to an end.

                                                                          They aren't poison, and they haven't single-handedly killed anyone yet...so if you watch adding salt from other sources, it's a completely acceptable way to get dinner on the table when you are busy, tired, and watching your budget.

                                                                          it's part of that thing I posted on your "busy parents" thread -- sometimes you just need to accept that you're going to have to lower your standards a bit for the greater good...and if everything else in the crockpot is real food (frozen, fresh, or canned) -- then a can of mushroom soup isn't going to alert the food police, ever.

                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                            There are definitely concessions I'm willing to make, but I haven't had to resort to using canned condensed soup in my crock pot recipes. Yet. (check with me in a few years, I guess, maybe I'll be singing a different tune.)

                                                                            First of all, I have about a half dozen "dump and go" crock pot recipes that my family enjoys that don't call for canned soup, several of which I posted above. (I didn't post all of them above because some of them require a little more effort than I think the OP was looking for OR called for "fancy" ingredients, which the OP wants to avoid, but I have several others I rely on.) [By the way, the Knorr soup in the pepperoncini beef recipe I linked to is pretty high in sodium, so that's a definite exception...]

                                                                            Assuming I do one pizza night a week and a crock pot recipe every other day (and have leftovers every other day), then I could go two full weeks with my half dozen dump and go recipes and not need to resort to using canned condensed soup. In reality, I usually only do 1 or 2 crock pot meals per week, so I can go even longer than that.

                                                                            Second, as I said in my 'Cooking strategies for working parents of young children" thread, the reason I was seeking input is because I personally was getting bored with the very simple meals I'd been able to churn out. "I don't want to become a meat and potatoes and mac and cheese family because I think I'd die of boredom." I don't really think that cooking with canned condensed soup in a crock pot is going to alleviate my boredom. Also, I think they are sodium bombs and it's not what I want to feed my family at this point in my childs' development. I'm sure there will be plenty of time for that later. Of course, not everyone worries about sodium intake, but I do (as much as for vanity as for health...).

                                                                            Third, if I'm just desperate to get a meal on the table, I can re-arrange my commute to swing by one of three grocery stores and get a rotisserie chicken or other prepared meal from their takeout deli.

                                                                            It's certainly okay with me if the rest of you find canned soups delicious and easy, but I personally would rather have something from the grocery store deli because it's going to be more heathful (especially if if I swing by the co-op) and more delicious. I realize that not everyone has the means to do grocery-store-deli take-out, but in that case, there might be other ways to get a meal out fast affordably. One would be to use meat more sparingly. You can still cook it in your crock pot, then use it in pasta and soups and other dishes to make it stretch farther... Eggs and tofu (not necessarily together) are also quick and affordable.

                                                                            Finally, the OP specifically mentioned at the beginning of her last paragraph that she didn't want to be opening cans of condensed cream soup.

                                                                            Here is the NI for Campbell's Mushroom soup (my favorite as a kid, by the way). Double it (because the NI is "per serving" and there are 2 servings in a can) and divide it by the number of servings in whatever recipe you're using it in if you want to assess whether the soup has too much fat or salt for you. http://calorielab.com/brands/campbell...

                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                              but we're talking about recommendations for a couple of young grad students; not young kids.

                                                                              They're not my first choice either...but when it makes the difference between getting food on the table that didn't come through a window or in a cardboard box...it works just fine.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Of course everyone has to choose what suits them, but cooking with canned soups and canned pasta sauce is expressly what the OP is trying to avoid, per her last paragraph:

                                                                                "Am I doomed to lots and lots of things that begin with opening cans of cream of mushroom soup? Or eating pasta and canned sauce the entire winter (again, leading to a need for new pants...)?"

                                                                                (P.S. I agree that what I want to feed a young child is mostly irrelevant to this thread, but you brought up a point you made in my "Strategies for Working Parents of Young Children" thread so I went ahead and addressed that as well.)

                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                              OK, I just looked up the amount of sodium in sauerkraut (which is at least a cruciferous vegetable), pepperoncini (wow!) and even in low sodium soy sauce. HIgher than I thought. I'm feeling slightly less virtuous than I was an hour ago, though I still view all of these items as "real food" and with at least some nutritional value (except the soy sauce...)

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                Same for me. I am not one to use many canned products either. Actually, very few canned products *at all*...my can opener is rusty.

                                                                                But, I also think we need to remember to look at recipes "per serving" for the recipe. A can of creamed soup in a pot roast recipe that serves 4 or 6 or 8 is not a heck of alot of creamed soup (or sodium, or objectionable whatever). It is not like you are eating the serving amount listed on the product, especially when it is a sauce.

                                                                                I am not saying that so much for you, but I have been reminding myself to look at the "bigger picture" in regard to foods these days. It allows me to occasionally incorporate some items that (for years) I just left on the supermarket shelf after reading the nutrition label. I still eat extremely healthy 80 to 90 percent of the time, but it has been nice to allow some other items in my pantry that just taste good or that are quick for those nights I need it!

                                                                                I also make my own BBQ and salsas that can be used in place of canned products for crockpot recipes. I make things like that on a weekend and keep in the fridge or frozen. I have never found a recipe for canned soup that I like or that keeps like that.

                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                  Yes, definitely you have to consider the impact per serving. I actually suggested in one of my posts above to look at the NI info for Campbells Soup and divide it by the number of servings in your recipe if you wanted to know what you're consuming.

                                                                                  I also avoid consuming (or feeding to my child) canned products due to the the BPA that's present in the lining of the cans. When I used canned beans, I buy only the BPA-free brands (Eden Organic is the brand that is most readiliy available at my local markets). (Really I'd just like to use only dried beans, but I would by lying if I said I always cooked beans completely from scratch. Same with stock.)

                                                                                  No canned tomatoes or stock, just the tetrapak ones (or fresh or frozen foods. I'm also okay with foods in glass jars.)

                                                                                  I think the jury is still out on the effects of BPA, but, in the meantime, I avoid it in anything I give to my child, and I guess I'd avoid it if I were of child-bearing age as a college or grad student might be. I really think the jury's still out on BPA and whether it's safe.

                                                                                  Now, I understand everyone has to make their own choices about where to draw the line on how to cut budgetary corners and speed up getting dinner on the table, but I draw the line at using canned products in my crock pot dishes. I've found plenty of crock pot recipes that don't rely on canned soups.

                                                                                  In other news I just picked up copies of The French Slow Cooker and THe Mexican Slow Cooker cookbooks. Hopefully some more good ideas in there!

                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    Yup. I hear you on the BPA. I use nothing on a regular basis from a can.

                                                                                    You might do this already but I use my crockpot for beans alot. I soak overnight, then cook up up a big batch in plain water.Then I package them (without water) in mason jars and note the amount per cup, then freeze. They hold up well, thaw out fast.

                                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                                      My problem is that I often forget to soak beans in advance...but you 're right, I should really cook a batch to freeze.

                                                                                      But, now that I'm doing more recipe planning, I should be able to plan ahead for soaking the beans. Also, someone in this thread posted a no-soak dried beans crock pot recipe that I'm going to try!

                                                                                      ~TDQ

                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        I didn't see that, I will look for it.

                                                                                        Yeah, I bought a bunch of different sized mason jars (got away from all plastics) and I make sure to just put 1 cup in some of them. That way I can make up a "white bean hummus" or a bean side dish and not have waste. The crockpot is what got me away from relying on canned beans completely.

                                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                                          Well, maybe not exactly. It's this one for pork and beans. I wonder if you just left out the pork? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8763... Of course, tomatoes would have to be okay...

                                                                                          ~TDQ

                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            Now that I am participating in this thread, I realize that I probably use my crockpot to "prep' foods to make life easier, as much -or more- than I actually cook the meal in it.
                                                                                            I use it for pre-cooked beans,lentils and pulses, stock, sauces to freeze, for cooked meats to freeze (taco meats), as a warming "oven". I tend to do alot of prepping on the weekends. I really use it more for cooking meals in during the winter.

                                                                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          I use the crock pot to cook beans all the time - both in soup and to freeze in batches. I might be a bad person, but I never soak them. Just add the dried beans, water, and cook all day on low. Freeze in 'can-sized' portions. Way cheaper than buying canned beans and less sodium.

                                                                                          1. re: jw615

                                                                                            for dinner, yes, I frequently start with unsoaked -- because the longer cooking time if I'm gone all day means that they're just about perfect when I get home.

                                                                                            If I start with soaked, they're a little overdone by evening.

                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        BPA is classified as a toxic substance in Canada. However, it's unfortunately banned only in baby products here. ,

                                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                    Well said, Sunshine.

                                                                                    "when you're very busy, very tired, and running on limited funds, cream soups are a means to an end.

                                                                                    They aren't poison, and they haven't single-handedly killed anyone yet...so if you watch adding salt from other sources, it's a completely acceptable way to get dinner on the table when you are busy, tired, and watching your budget.

                                                                                    it's part of that thing I posted on your "busy parents" thread -- sometimes you just need to accept that you're going to have to lower your standards a bit for the greater good...and if everything else in the crockpot is real food (frozen, fresh, or canned) -- then a can of mushroom soup isn't going to alert the food police, ever."

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      absolutely; as you can tell from our current diet, we're realizing that sanity + sleep > crazy standards. But, you've got that big IF: "if you watch adding salt from other sources": since I know we are going to continue to have nights of frozen pizza, or whatever I can grab in five minutes at the hospital cafeteria because I was there at 5 am after 4 hours of sleep and packing a lunch is low on my list of priorities, or because I want to eat mac-and-cheese after a rough day, or other shortcuts, I want to make sure that we have plenty of healthier choices in our arsenal. If I know that 5 days a week we've got lower-sodium/fat/processed carb meals (or the resulting leftovers) on the table , then we CAN have those "screw it" nights. What I make at home is the thing I have the most control over.

                                                                                      For me, when I start cutting corners it's a slippery slope. I skip the gym (which I force myself to do because it helps me sleep), for example, because it's been a crazy few days, only to discover the ten days are just as crazy. Or. we'll skip going to the grocery store because we are too tired to deal with the lines, but then it's Saturday and the lines are even worse, so we go to the little market and get cereal bars for breakfast instead of the high-protein greek yogurt we know it better to eat.

                                                                                      If it didn't affect me so much mentally and emotionally, I wouldn't care, but I need every bit of help I can get right now, and the better I eat overall, the better I feel.

                                                                                      so, yes, I totally agree that the perfect is the enemy of the good, but since I already live my life that way I need to be good where I can!

                                                                                  3. re: JudiAU

                                                                                    Yes-- that's so frustrating about so many of the recipes out there. A lot of these no-prep/5 ingredient/super simple meals aren't a better alternative than nuking frozen meals.

                                                                                    I'm so grateful to everyone has shared ideas because this is *exactly* what I was looking for and couldn't find. It's actually given me a surprising amount of relief that we really can get a better system in place and it's not going to be that hard.

                                                                                    I've printed them out and as soon as we get through the next round of exams (and thanksgiving, a blissful day of non-utilitarian cooking and eating!) we're trying them out.

                                                                                    (and a little knorr mix isnt any more sodium that what the alternative would be! sadly, it's not a question right now of what kind of meals to make-- if it's not fast or simple it will be more pad thai or snacking. it's "what can we eat out of the fridge right now, as it's already 10 pm and we're stressed and starving?")

                                                                                    1. re: TrussedUp

                                                                                      one of my favorite sites right now is skinnytaste.com. I didn't mention it earlier because most of her slow cooker recipes involve at least some prep work... but I haven't found a bad recipe on the site, and you won't find a can of cream-o-anything soup listed in her ingredients. When you have some time to browse, check it out. :)

                                                                                      1. re: TrussedUp

                                                                                        You know, there is a fantastic free recipe tracking and meal planning resource out there called pepperplate.com if you want to start accumulating recipes. You can put your recipes in there and then add the recipe to a calendar or a shopping list. I've only been using it about a month but I love it.

                                                                                        Also, I notice that you mentioned that you want to grocery shop only once per week. If that's the case, you'll need some "pantry" recipes (ie., ones that don't rely on highly perishable ingredients) for late in the week. Here's an old thread that's worth perusing "hot pantry meals that aren't pasta" http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/680476 Note, these are NOT crock pot recipes...

                                                                                        Shrimp is a great pantry ingredient because you can keep a bag in the freezer and then pop it in the fridge to defrost the night before, or, defrost about an hour before dinner in cold, salted water.

                                                                                        Since broccoli is hardy, this roasted shrimp and broccoli recipe would be a good pantry meal: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/din...

                                                                                        I know you want to eschew pasta, but here's a link to a listing of pantry pastas that might be good to have in your back pocket: http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images...

                                                                                        I assume someone has mentioned frittatas? It's another great pantry meal because eggs will keep. And they are super flexible in terms of what you can put in it. This one calls for frozen spinach: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spinach-...

                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                          I'll second your notion of having enough staples on hand to throw together a quick meal any time. In my house, that is burritos and tacos. We always have tortillas, corn and flour. Even though I pressure cook beans at least once a week, there are always canned black beans. Also, cheese, jalapenos, lettuce, eggs, and frozen chicken/other meat. If I am completely clueless regarding dinner, I can put the meat in the crock before leaving for work, then shred it up, maybe make some rice, and burritos it is.

                                                                                          Define what staples you'll actually use, procure, and make yourself spend 10 minutes using them rather than spending the same 10 minutes ordering/picking up take out.

                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            Thank you! We have a full panty....of things that we can't make a full meal of. Some very basic old stand-by panty recipes, but not much more than that. I don't know the next time I'll be able to look at tortilla espanol or warm lentil salad :)

                                                                                            I hadn't given it much thought, but picking recipes and working backwards when stocking seem like an obvious way to handle this (well, you'd think that would have been obvious...). So, these are great! 10 (new) recipes would be plenty Still learning what I can and can't do with frozen veggies and dried herbs. I'm realizing my previous reflexive snobbishness was pretty dumb.

                                                                                            I would recommend anyone coming up on a stressful period plan-- new baby, school, anything-- ahead for changing cooking patterns better than I did! I'm so glad to be learning how do this before starting a family, at least. I have enormous respect for all of you working parents who get healthful meals on the table ANY night, let alone most!

                                                                                            1. re: TrussedUp

                                                                                              On the topic of your "previous reflexive snobbishness," without putting words into anyone's mouths, I think that's what folks like sunshine are trying to say to me and to you, that you may have to tweak your standards a little and/or give yourself a break when it comes to getting meals out right now. Sometimes you may have to cut a few corners, use pre-prepared ingredients (if they don't break your budget), rely on frozen veggies, and open some cans (though I would still caution you to look carefully at the type of canned goods you are using).

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                      2. I finished grad school a year ago and know exacty what you're dealing with!

                                                                                        I made an even easier pulled pork: Slice a few onions, throw a pork shoulder or roast or whatever's on sale on top. Cook it slow all day. When you get home, drain off the fat and add a bottle or two of barbeque sauce. Shred it while in the crockpot Serve as sandwiches, in tacos or whatever is good.

                                                                                        Potroast, onions (sliced or frozen pearl), chunked red potatoes, and baby carrots. It's great if you can sear the roast in yellow mustard first. If not, squirt a ton of cheap yellow mustard on the meat, throw it all together in the crockpot, maybe add a few squirts of tomato paste, beef stock, or red wine, and let it cook all day.

                                                                                        Un-roasted chicken: take a chicken. Stuff it with whatever you like (I'm a fan of lemon, garlic, and the leftover stems from parsley). Stick it on top of a pile of crumbled aluminum foil. It won't get you the wonderfully crisp skin but you get flavorful, tender chicken meat that can be used in most dishes for the week. I also learned that even the most kitchen-inept partner can help separate the good v. junk.

                                                                                        Good luck!

                                                                                        1. How did I not add my own recipe to this - one of the only slow cooker recipes I like. I think it's about this, I don't really have a recipe and it changes a bit every time

                                                                                          1 1/2 - 2 cups or dry great northern beans (not soaked, etc)
                                                                                          3-4 cups of broth
                                                                                          1 can of diced tomatoes - italian seasoning (or 2 if you want more tomatoe-y, reduce broth)
                                                                                          several pieces of cheaper, somewhat fatty pieces of pork
                                                                                          garlic, basil, red peppers all optional and to taste.

                                                                                          Mix all together and cook 5-6 hours on low. So cheap and pretty darn good to boot ;)

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                                                            tiffeecanoe, is this a soup? Sounds delicious and easy.

                                                                                            ~TDQ

                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              Nope! It's not! I mean, I suppose it COULD be, but it's basically just pork and beans...but not pork and beans, pork and beans, of course ;)

                                                                                              1. re: tiffeecanoe

                                                                                                Awesome, okay, I just wanted to know what to expect. Thank you!

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                          2. I like to put an entire bag of frozen, boneless chicken (thighs, breasts or tenders) with nothing but maybe a little salt and pepper in the slow cooker. Then, all week long make meals adding spices or other ingredients as necessasy for: chicken salad, tacos, soup, etc.

                                                                                            You could do this with pork as well.

                                                                                            1. Check out A Year of Slow Cooking blog. The thing to note about her recipes is that she frequently adds frozen meat to the pot. Most of her recipes have very little prep. I too avoid canned soups so here's a link to the Chicken recipes but check out Chicken Makhani (Indian Butter Chicken) and Vietnamese Roasted Chicken. Neither call for canned soup. I tried the last recipe with 2 bone-in split chicken breasts in a 6-qt crockpot. Not enough liquid for that size pot, but it was tasty and browned. It was a good thing I was home to check the pot though because there wasn't enough liquid for that size pot.

                                                                                              http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2005/...

                                                                                              Upon second look, I see she has several recipes without canned soup. Soy sauce, coconut milk and other canned stuff, but fast and easy none the less.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: LanaD

                                                                                                I make the Chicken Makhani all the time, it's so good. I often add peas (also frozen), and last time I added some chunks of butternut squash an hour or so before finish time and it was yummy! I've got a 2 month old so this thread is really useful!

                                                                                                1. re: kazhound

                                                                                                  Even without kids it's a useful blog! I like that she adds the frozen meat to the pot. That eliminates some guess work about the cook time. I also figure that if her kids eat it, my husband will too. I could even get my husband to follow those recipes because they're so easy and quick.

                                                                                              2. Yummy easy healthy buffalo chicken lettuce wraps are a family favorite

                                                                                                24 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
                                                                                                1 celery stalk
                                                                                                1/2 onion, diced
                                                                                                1 clove garlic
                                                                                                16 oz fat free low sodium chicken broth
                                                                                                1/2 cup hot cayenne pepper sauce (I used Frank's)
                                                                                                6 large lettuce leaves, Bibb or Iceberg
                                                                                                1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
                                                                                                2 large celery stalks, cut into 2 inch matchsticks
                                                                                                Combine chicken, celery, onion, garlic, and broth in crockpot. Cook On high for 4 hours, or low 6-8 hours. Remove chicken and 1/2 cup broth fom crockpot, discard the rest. Shred chicken with forks, add chicken, 1/2 cup broth, and hot sauce back into crockpot. Cook another 1/2 hour or so. Serve wrapped in lettuce with celery and carrot sticks. Or in a bun, or a wrap. You can use more or less hot sauce depending on how spicy you like it

                                                                                                1. Lazy Slow Cooker Clam Chowder

                                                                                                  INGREDIENTS:

                                                                                                  1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's condensed cream of celery soup
                                                                                                  1 (10.75 ounce) can Campbell's condensed cream of potato soup
                                                                                                  1 (15 ounce) can Snow's New England clam chowder
                                                                                                  2 (6.5 ounce) cans Snow's minced clams, 1 drained, 1 not drained
                                                                                                  1 quart half-and-half cream
                                                                                                  1 pint heavy whipping cream
                                                                                                  bacon bits for garnish

                                                                                                  DIRECTIONS:

                                                                                                  1. Mix cream of celery soup, cream of potato soup, clam chowder,
                                                                                                  1 can undrained clams, 1 can drained clams, half-and-half cream,
                                                                                                  and whipping cream into a slow cooker.

                                                                                                  2. Cover, and cook on low for 2 to 4 hours, until heated through.
                                                                                                  Garnish each bowl of clam chowder with bacon bits.

                                                                                                  Makes 10 cups

                                                                                                  1. These are some of my easy favorites.

                                                                                                    Saucy Barbecue Ribs

                                                                                                    4 pounds country-style pork ribs, trimmed
                                                                                                    2 teaspoons salt, divided
                                                                                                    1 medium onion, chopped
                                                                                                    1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
                                                                                                    1 cup apple butter
                                                                                                    1 cup ketchup
                                                                                                    1/2 cup lemon juice
                                                                                                    1/2 cup orange juice
                                                                                                    1 tablespoons steak sauce
                                                                                                    1 teaspoon course ground pepper
                                                                                                    1 teaspoon minced garlic
                                                                                                    1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

                                                                                                    Cut ribs apart; sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt evenly over ribs and set aside.

                                                                                                    Stir together remaining 1 teaspoon salt, chopped onion, and remaining 9 ingredients until blended. Pour half of mixture into 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Place ribs in slow cooker; pour remaining mixture over ribs.

                                                                                                    Cover and cook on Hight 6 to 7 hours. Makes 6-8 servings.

                                                                                                    Cajun Red Beans with Andouille Sausage

                                                                                                    1 package (13 oz) Cajun style andouille sausage, diced

                                                                                                    2 cans (15 oz each) kidney beans, drained (I used organic)

                                                                                                    1 can 14.5 oz diced tomatoes with onions and green peppers

                                                                                                    ¼ cup frozen chopped green peppers (I omitted, but would probably use fresh bell pepper)

                                                                                                    ¾ cup converted rice (I used minute rice)

                                                                                                    2 cups vegetable stock

                                                                                                    1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (I used a salt-free blend)

                                                                                                    Salt and pepper

                                                                                                    In a 4 quart slow cooker, combine sausage, beans, tomatoes and green peppers. In a medium bowl, stir together rice, vegetable stock, and Cajun seasoning. Pour into slow cooker and stir thoroughly. Cover and cook on high setting 3-4 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

                                                                                                    Chicken-Tortilla Soup

                                                                                                    Source: Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook

                                                                                                    2 skinned and boneless chicken breasts, cubed

                                                                                                    1 10 oz package frozen whole kernel corn, thawed

                                                                                                    1 large onion, chopped

                                                                                                    2 garlic cloves, pressed

                                                                                                    2 14 oz cans chicken broth

                                                                                                    1 10 ½ oz can tomato puree

                                                                                                    1 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles

                                                                                                    ¾ tsp salt

                                                                                                    2 tsp ground cumin

                                                                                                    1 tsp chili powder

                                                                                                    1/8 tsp ground black pepper

                                                                                                    1 bay leaf

                                                                                                    Combine first 12 ingredients in 4 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on High 6 hours. Remove and discard bay leaf.

                                                                                                    Sandra Lee's California Black Bean Chili

                                                                                                    1 1/4 lbs ground turkey
                                                                                                    salt and pepper
                                                                                                    2 cans black beans, drained
                                                                                                    1 can diced green chiles
                                                                                                    1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
                                                                                                    1 can tomato sauce
                                                                                                    3 cups diced zucchini
                                                                                                    1 cup frozen chopped onions
                                                                                                    1 packet chili seasoning mix
                                                                                                    1 tablespoon chili powder
                                                                                                    1 teaspoon crushed garlic

                                                                                                    Brown ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and transfer to slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly. Cover and cook on High setting for 4-6 hours. Serve with avocado.

                                                                                                    1. My son's favorite college recipe that fed a crowd was pulled pork. Big pork roast, a jar or two of salsa, & a jar of those sliced not-all-that-hot peppers. He'd cook it for hours, shred the pork, then put it hack in the pot to keep warm. Just get buns & serve. Great party/drunk food. Feeds a crowd. Another version subs a big jar of BBQ sauce for the salsa & peppers.

                                                                                                      I saw some mention of pork loin being dry. Not at all, especially after you shred it & put in back in the "juice".

                                                                                                      Go look at this website. Most recipes are very easy, and are honestly critiqued for flavor: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

                                                                                                      1. I posted this on another slow cooker thread:
                                                                                                        so easy! This makes a lot but you can easily cut in half. It also freezes really well.

                                                                                                        5 lb bag carrots-roughly chopped. (I use organic and just wash them, not peeled)
                                                                                                        1 large onion, 2 medium or a few small, sliced or roughly chopped
                                                                                                        10-12 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger (more or less to taste)
                                                                                                        2 cartons chicken broth (or veggie)
                                                                                                        3-5 garlic cloves depending on size, smashed
                                                                                                        S/P to taste
                                                                                                        1 TBS olive oil or butter
                                                                                                        crystalized ginger (optional)

                                                                                                        Place carrots in crock pot and cover with chicken broth.
                                                                                                        Sauté onions in olive oil until soft. Add ginger and sauté another minute or so until fragrant.
                                                                                                        Add onions/ginger to crock pot
                                                                                                        Add garlic to pot as well and stir well
                                                                                                        Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10, You want the carrots to be really soft.
                                                                                                        Once carrots are soft use an immersion to blender to puree to desired texture-I like mine really smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender let cool slightly and then process in batches in a blender or food processor.

                                                                                                        garnish with chopped crystalized ginger.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                          making a lot is AWESOME! That's a big reason I'm looking for slow-cooker recipes; you can often make a few meal's worth at once and freeze.

                                                                                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                            Mmmmm, you're making me hungry.

                                                                                                          2. No one posted the easiest and probably one of the healthiest slow cooker recipes?

                                                                                                            a whole chicken, put it in the cooker, set it on low for 6 hours, put on the lid, done.

                                                                                                            No water, no cans, you can salt and pepper it or add your favorite herbs. I use it as the basis for a myriad of other recipes that call for cooked chicken. My husband does this but puts carrots and small potatoes on the bottom with the chicken on top to have a full meal when he is on his own and wants something easy and ready when he gets home from work.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: rasputina

                                                                                                              Cooking a chicken in a slow cooker is really easy but my only caution to the OP is that when I was working crazy hours and was away from home like you for 9+ hours I found this method not great for a typical chicken dinner. Sitting in the slow cooker for 9+ hours, even at low and with a timer that switched to warm after 6 hours, the chicken ended up basically falling completely apart. The skin was a rubbery mess, the carcass had fallen apart meaning I had to pick thru the fat and bones to get the good meat. The meat ends up basically "fall apart "tender and very wet. It tasted fine and was completely edible but really only lended itself to chicken salad, pulled BBQ chicken, casseroles like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, etc.

                                                                                                              If I want whole chicken but can't be home to roast one the slow cooker method is fine but I make sure I will be home in 4-6 hours. The skin is still rubbery and not to my liking but the chicken is tender and moist, slices beautifully and tastes great. I sprinkle the whole thing, inside and out with S/P, squeeze a lemon over the top, add the squeezed lemons to cavity with a few garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Comfort food at its best.

                                                                                                              1. re: foodieX2

                                                                                                                Yep it does do that, it's fall apart goodness.

                                                                                                            2. Italian beef. Place a chuck roast in the crock pot. Mix one half to one jar peperoncini peppers, 1 envelope Good Seasons Italian dressing, and one can of beer or beef broth. Simmer all day, or start the night before on low. When done shred meat with 2 forks and place back in crock pot. Serve on good quality buns.

                                                                                                              1. layer of sliced onions and garlic cloves. short ribs salted and peppered on top. The jarred spaghetti sauce in next. Let cook for hours. If you don't want fat, put in fridge until fat comes to top and solidifies and scoop off. Delicious, rich, if spaghetti sauce properly seasoned, dark and nuanced (believe it or not.)

                                                                                                                Wanna gussy it up? Toss in carrots--those baby kind if you don't want to wash and chop.Add cut kalamata olives--some pitted and sliced come jarred.

                                                                                                                Short ribs expensive this week? Any other cut will do and get tender in the crockpot, though you might have to add fat of your choice to make rich & succulent. Also chicken/lamb/pork. (chicken skinned & boned, add a little olive oil. Saves time pulling out flabby skin) Short on time? Also any frozen fish. Don't want to use an extra pot for starch? throw in rice toward the end. or even quicker, orzo pasta.

                                                                                                                Try same thing with bbq sauce--especially good with pork and chicken. Or ground beef. Not as good as if you slow smoked the meat for sure, but still mighty tasty. Put a pickle slice on top and serve in buns or toasted English muffins.

                                                                                                                Try same with salsa or pico de gallo. Make sure the kind you buy has plenty of pepper bits and cilantro if you don't want to add your own.

                                                                                                                Put same onions and garlic as all of the above and then put in chicken--even frozen--and LOTS of paprika, add pepper, salt. Come home to chicken stew, paprikash style. Cooking all day makes it fall off the bone tender and no need to defrost. Add rice, little potatoes, orzo, just remember potatoes may take longer than you think.

                                                                                                                put chopped onion/garlic/red peppers in, Put in frozen tough fish like ohno with olive oil and lime juice and cilantro--don't need to chop. Salt. Canned drained roasted chilis or pico de gallo. This will take a lot shorter time than frozen meat or chicken. Can use fresh fish but that cooks so quickly.

                                                                                                                ETC.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                  HOw do you gauge how much rice or orzo to put in? It goes in uncooked?

                                                                                                                  1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                                                    Goes in uncooked. Depends on how much liquid there is and how many servings I want to squeeze out of it. I usually use about 1/3 package of orzo (1 lb) or about 2/3 cup rice--this is an estimate as I dump it in. I only add these near the end when I'm home to watch and can always add more water/broth/boullon/tomato stuff. Of course, if you want to wash two pots, make the rice/orzo on the side. Cooks slower in the crockpot but with more flavor. They both help give some body to the juice. I'd say play around with this, erring on the side of caution at first and then you'll eyeball it too.

                                                                                                                    I no longer use my old crockpot (from the '70s! Still works fine!) but a Dutch oven on a simmer plate--I especially like that I can heat this up quickly. I liked the flatter, larger surface on the bottom. I plan to make the chicken stew from chicken I defrosted, erroneously believing my husband wanted oven baked chicken. Will add baby carrots, chicken boullon for salt/flavor, celery chopped and barley. Will cook much more quickly than frozen, obviously. Maybe 90 minutes.

                                                                                                                    Sorry I don't have exact measurements.

                                                                                                                    BTW personally I put in lots of herbs--usually dill to make it like my grandmother's chicken soup but today self-mixed herbs de Provence. It's just that the op didn't seem as if a bunch of herbs was in the mix for her. I use a lot of dried herbs and they come out great. Could also use ginger and sesame oil and fish sauce, a touch of rice wine vinegar or lime juice, siracha, etc.

                                                                                                                2. Ok, not trying to point fingers, but i see quite a few suggestions for jarred/bottled salsa, broth, peppers, etc (inc. my own.) Surely condensed cream soups are not the only source of sodium or other bad things. What makes some if these ingredients ok but not others?

                                                                                                                  19 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                    Well, it depends on who you're addressing. Some people are saying they have no problem at all with the canned soups. Others (including me) have some problems. The OP specifically mentioned trying to avoid canned soups: I'm not sure of her reasoning why, but I figure it's certainly her perogative.

                                                                                                                    But, if you're asking me why canned Campbell cream of X soup is a no go whereas a jar (or a bag) of sauerkraut (or pepperoncini) is okay , one answer is BPA that's present in the lining of most cans. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8763... In addition, I also think a jar of pepperoncini or a jar of sauerkraut (a cruciferous vegetable) or a jar of salsa has some genuine nutritional value, in addition to fat or sodium (if any). Finally, I've found enough slow cooker recipes that my family enjoys that don't call for canned soups that I don't feel I need to resort to using them...

                                                                                                                    I will say, though, that until some this thread, I'd never looked up the amount of sodium in a jar or package of sauerkraut. I'm pretty stunned!

                                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                      Iit was a bit of a shorthand :). The calories and sodium in some slow cooker recipes are something I'd *generally* like to avoid in week-to-week meals. Nothing wrong with them every once and a while, but I didn't want a whole binder of recipes that started with opening 3 different cans and a thing of pre-shredded cheese.

                                                                                                                      Plus, we live in a city without a car, and carrying a week's worth of cans is REALLY a pain! Seems like a small thing, but it's much easier to carry spinach itself than a couple of cans of it. We've also got a teeny apartment (gotta love grad school, right?) so our shelf space for a bunch of solo-use cans is limited.

                                                                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                        The OP seemed to want to avoid too much prep. Browning was out of the question right now as was the use of multiple herbs. We're trying to suggest variety without multiplying prep work. Salsa non-fresca takes preparing ahead for example.

                                                                                                                        1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                          That's the kicker -- you can have no-prep, or you can have no pre-prepared. There aren't many items in between.

                                                                                                                          Just for the record, I haven't opened a can of any kind of soup in over four years, because canned soup simply doesn't exist where I live...so I *have* to prep.

                                                                                                                          But I earned a master's degree while mothering a toddler and working full-time at director level in a job that require frequent international travel....so I would be the choir that you're all trying to sing to, and I have walked enough miles in those shoes to have worn them out a few times over.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            There are lots of things in between. We're simply answering a request by the OP here.

                                                                                                                            I earned an MD while being pregnant and mothered a baby to young child while raising a stepchild and working as an intern and resident--at times the schedule was 100 hours/week including shifts of 36 hours straight. I cooked things in that damn crockpot on any day off I had and froze them. Doesn't make me a wholesome saint.

                                                                                                                            I make spaghetti sauce from canned tomatoes and canned anchovies with onions and garlic and fresh or dried herbs and leftover wine (or wine vinegar if I don't have leftover wine) etc. We all do what we can without trying to make others feel they aren't doing a good job.

                                                                                                                            My advice: Life is short and there are more important things than spending all your scarce free time worrying about every little taste and health item. Do the best you can and experience will make you better.

                                                                                                                            And have boxes of canned soup shipped in wherever you live: I use canned or boxed chicken broth and Knorr chicken boullion when I'm not up to making stock.

                                                                                                                            1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                              That: DO THE BEST YOU CAN.

                                                                                                                              (I can buy bouillon in paste or powder, and I can buy bechamel...which works, but actually tastes better than canned cream soups. )

                                                                                                                              Once in a while, one of the supermarkets will import cream of mushroom soup - it's $4.50 a can (which equates to not available in my book!)

                                                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                              I think there ARE some things in between doing everything 100% from scratch and cooking with cans of cream of mushroom soup. You and a few others actually convinced me that in another thread, for which I am very grateful!

                                                                                                                              For instance, you can buy a supermarket rotisserie chicken. Or you can buy the pre-cut fruit and vegetables from the produce section of your grocery store. You can use frozen produce. You can use "canned" food in BPA-free tetrapacking rather than conventional cans. Or you can pre-prep a bunch of stuff yourself and can it and freeze it. And so on. There is a whole range available to many of us (though, apparently and ironically, not to you where you live). You just have to decide how you want to spend your precious time and money.

                                                                                                                              Hopefully I don't have to trot out my professional, educational, travel and parenting creditionals in order to have my comments be viewed as legitimate.

                                                                                                                              I do echo "do the best you can", (or an expression I often use which is, "Good enough sometimes is.") which is why I posted some recipes in this threadf that I am personally comfortable with in terms of healthfulness, that I find adequately delicious, and that can pretty much be dumped in a crock pot and leftalone for a good chunk of the day. And there have been many fabulous other recipes posted in this thread, too.

                                                                                                                              Everyone can decide what works best for them.

                                                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                Bags of "baby" carrots have pretty much saved my life. And fingers.

                                                                                                                                Hope you didn't mind my reply--the discussion seemed a direct response to the OP's claim of grad school making things tight time-wise and I didn't think that was quite the point. We all do what we feel we can..

                                                                                                                                That and, in any Olympics of Sufferin' Motherhood, I like to win!

                                                                                                                                1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                                  I need to use those more. Thank you for the reminder!

                                                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                  I agree and I think the stress that many working moms put on themselves to be superwoman is far more harmful than a little cream of mushroom soup now and then. We're all just trying to do the best we can. I do try to stay away from excessive amounts of overprocessed stuff but OTOH my boys are typical teens and will wolf down poptarts, donuts, all manner of junk when give the opportunity (not at home, usually). Seriously doubt my cooking, even with shortcuts, is the worst thing they eat in the course of a week.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                    I lived on Blueberry Pop Tarts and Coffee Instant Breakfast for a year when I was 16. Seriously, 3x/day. Would that it had stunted by growth, girth-wise. (And I was skinny back then. Even now, my mouth waters. Occasionally I STILL have vanilla IB with a heaping tsp of instant coffee thrown in and shaken. Espresso powder is all wrong.)

                                                                                                                                    Mom was into "suit yourself."

                                                                                                                                    (As I said in another thread, my drink then was sloe gin. That SHOULD have done a lot of brain damage and maybe it did. I'd probably be totally insufferable if I'd stuck to Coke.)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: rccola

                                                                                                                                      rccola, what is IB?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: lilmomma

                                                                                                                                        Instant Breakfast

                                                                                                                                      2. re: rccola

                                                                                                                                        I didn't know that you could buy coffee Instant Breakfast by itself. IIRC as a kid the coffee flavor and the eggnog were only available in the variety pack. I would drink it and the eggnog and maybe one of the chocolate flavors. The eggnog flavor was really my favorite. My mom quit buying it for me because i only drank some of the packets.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                                                                          Alas, they no longer supply boxes of coffee-flavored. I put the vanilla in a shaker with milk and instant coffee (has the proper "American" non-gourmet coffee flavor). This is delicious--wish I could drink after noon but I'd be up all night..

                                                                                                                                          You could probably make eggnog flavor by using eggnog mixed with vanilla. Or just drink a glass of non-alcoholic eggnog for breakfast.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                        Yes. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                                                          "Seriously doubt my cooking, even with shortcuts, is the worst thing they eat in the course of a week."

                                                                                                                                          So right you are, tcamp. When my son was in high school he remarked about a kid we knew that all he ate for lunch was fuyuns and coke.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                                                                                                            oops,
                                                                                                                                            i meant funyuns

                                                                                                                                  2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                                    I can my own stocks, and use those. The only other canned goods I use in my crock pot might be tomatoes, but the only dish I regularly make in the crock pot I use fresh tomato in anyway. I don't do any of those cream soup cans or the other dump recipes. I use the crockpot as a substitute dutch oven that I don't want to stir. So I do normal recipes just change the cooking method.

                                                                                                                                  3. Make hoppin' john, also. Black-eyed peas, ham bone (or ham steak cut into little pieces--not as good but easier to find and comes so sealed that you can keep for a few weeks if you don't get to cooking it quickly)--celery, onions, chicken broth, parsley, bay leaf, pepper, thyme. Or split pea soup made same way.

                                                                                                                                    1. For years I have used this generic recipe for anything stewlike and I have never browned the meat. 1) In dry crock pot put about 1/2 cup of flour whatever dry ingredients you are using--- salt, paprika, curry powder, garlic powder, dry onion soup mix etc. 2) Stir in an 8-oz can of tomato sauce so that the flour doesn't clump. 3) Add whatever liquid you are using---water, wine, stock, beer, tomato juice etc. 4) Add solids: beef, chicken, lamb, onion, potatoes, carrots, etc. 5) Cook for a long time until it's done. Possible combinations: For curry use chicken, beef, or lamb with onions, curry powder, maybe a potato or two, a bag of frozen peas, and chicken or beef stock. For beef stew use beef, potatoes, onions, and carrots and stock or water. For beef Burgundy use beef, dried onion soup mix wine, and lots of mushrooms. For CarbonadesFlamande use beef, Portobello mushrooms, onions, and beer. For goulash soup use beef, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, paprika, and a sweet red pepper, and more liquid. It's good no matter what you do.

                                                                                                                                      1. When I was working I used to put a frozen turkey breast in the crock pot at night before I went to bed---it, frozen, nothing else. Next morning i would ignore it and go to work. When I got home around 4 PM it would be done and slightly brown.

                                                                                                                                        1. To OP: Not crock pot but also great work savers: 1) The lasagna noodles that you don't have to cook. Just layer them with ricotta, sausage, and tons of sauce and liquid then cover the pan really tight with foil and bake long enough that the pasta takes up liquid and gets done. The advantage here is that you will have about 12 portions of lasagna with some for future reference. 2) Corn chowder: a can of creamed corn, a can of milk, and anything else you have on hand that sounds like a good idea (bits of ham or sausage, canned French Fried Onions, a leftover potato etc). If it is too thick, add more milk. If it is too thin, add a little instant mashed potato. 3) Don't knock the cans of mushroom soup school of cooking. If you pour one over plain raw chicken and bake it for an hour, juice will come out of the chicken and mix with the soup and you will have a decent gravy, and if you put two potatoes in the oven at the same time, that's dinner. If you are taking 6-9 hours, living in the library or lab, writing papers, teaching a couple of sections if you are a TA, presenting in seminar, and agonizing, this is no time to go gourmet. Save that for later. There's time. All you need to do now is produce something edible.

                                                                                                                                          1. I make chicken tacos with 1 lb of chicken breasts, a pkg of taco seasoning, and the water it calls for on the back. I do it for about 6 hours on low, but my cooker cooks hot. It is fantastic. We eat it with corn tortillas, jack cheese, sour cream, avocado, and hot sauce. I often make a double batch and use the leftovers in tortilla soup the next day.

                                                                                                                                            Another favorite is a can of 28 oz can of tomato puree, a standard container of pesto, salt and pepper and 2 lbs of store bought raw fresh meatballs. I actually bake the meat balls for 20 minutes on 350, then add them, but you can just cook the meal balls in the sauce for 4-6 hours. I add cream at the end. We eat them with mashed potatoes, then use the leftover sauce on pasta with Parmesan and red pepper flakes the next day. So good.

                                                                                                                                            I have had success with stuffed peppers in the crockpot too. You can use the same meatballs from the meat case to stuff the peppers. You could add cooked rice to the mix if you like that. You could top it with seasoned tomato sauce, maybe like you would a meat loaf (I like a bit of cream in my tomato sauce.)

                                                                                                                                            I also do a veggie curry (but it is good with chicken too. I put a can of garbanzos, 1 med head of chopped cauliflower, one chopped red bell, on chopped onion, and 2 cups of chopped new potatoes, 1 can of coconut milk, 1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes, and 2-3 tbsp curry powder. I cook it for 4-6 hours on low and serve it over rice. It takes about 10 minutes to put together and the rice is cooked in the rice cooker.

                                                                                                                                            If you don't mind processed, my mom does 1 lb. chicken breast with 8 oz. sliced mushrooms, then pours a mixture of 2 cans cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 can heavy cream, 1/2 can white wine, salt, pepper, garlic, and herbes de Provence. Cook it for 6-8 hours. It's pretty tasty for a cream of soup recipe.

                                                                                                                                            My cousin does pork loin with a bottle of chipotle raspberry bbq sauce. He also does ribs. He chops an apple and onion and puts those in the bottom, puts the ribs on top and pours a jar of bbq sauce on them. After 6-8 hours, they fall off the bone. You take the sauce with the onion and apple and puree it in the blender. It's awfully good. I made this recipe once and ended up chopping the rib meat, mixing it with a huge can of well-drained pork and beans, mixing in some of the pureed sauce with lots of salt and pepper and making baked beans that way. So good!!

                                                                                                                                            I've also done a black bean soup with chorizo. I just soak the beans (1 lb) before bed. I add 6 cups of water, mexican spices, 4 sliced raw bacon, chopped onion, green chiles or chipotle in adobo, 14 oz can of tomatoes, liquid smoke and 1 lb cut up chorizo links. Cook it until the beans are tender. Remove the bacon. Sometimes I will even stick the immersion blender in and puree it just a bit to thicken it up. I always re-season a bit at the end as well. It's nice topped with crumbled queso fresco and a dollop of sour cream. Sometimes we even add a scoop of rice to the bowl.

                                                                                                                                            Another hit has been veggie beef soup. I put a 1 lb chunk of pot roast, top it with a couple of diced tomatoes, add 6-8 cups beef broth, and some chopped veggies like onion, carrots, celery, maybe red bell, add garlic, salt, pepper, and Tabasco. I cook it all day. I come home and pull the roast out, shred it, and add it back to the soup. If I have time, I cook a small pot of pasta, put it in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the soup over it.

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                              sister! Those sound amazing!

                                                                                                                                              1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                The easy veg curry sounds good and is going into my crock momentarily.