When I became a stay-at-home mom, I quickly learned that, although I was less stressed out after leaving my job, trying to Do It All like I boasted I would was near impossible. Those things like play with the baby, clean, do the laundry, and have a nice dinner on the table by 5pm weren’t happening with a toddler demanding my attention or making a new mess after I cleaned one up.
I have one appliance that has helped immensely with the dinner part: my slow cooker.
I learned during maternity leave that the slow cooker is one of the greatest gadgets ever. It has been the biggest reason why we have homemade meals that don’t involve mac and cheese and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets most of the week.
I've started admitting that dinner is the hardest meal of the day for me to make. Witching hour is no joke. My children are hungry despite having just had a snack and tired despite just having had a nap. They want my attention and are a lot more clingy during this time of day. My husband walks through the door and immediately goes upstairs to clean up after work. We don’t see him until dinner is put on the table. I hate to admit that there is lots of yelling and frustration during this part of our day.
Slow cooker nights are great because I can dump all the ingredients into the pot in the morning, turn it on low, and have dinner ready around 5. Meals made with the slow cooker allow me to spend more time with my boys during that crazy 60-120 minutes between waking up from naptime and getting dinner on the table. I’ve found there’s less frustration and less yelling because I’m able to give my kids the attention they want without having to keep an eye on multiple dishes in the oven or on the stove.
Plus, there are less dishes, which also means more family time after dinner. (Or maybe a chance to sneak away for a few minutes of Me Time before bedtime chaos begins).
If we have leftovers (which we usually do) they get put in a freezer bag for another day. I’ll pull these out if we have a busy day on the calendar or on the weekend when I don’t feel like cooking. Not having to put too much effort into making dinner on those types of days is amazing.
Did you know that January is National Slow Cooking Month? I didn't. But now I do, so in honor of it I’m sharing my three favorite slow cooker recipes:
This recipe from Food.com calls for cola, but I’ve heard that Dr. Pepper also works well. I’ve never tried it with whole chickens; only boneless skinless chicken breasts. Soda Pop Chicken was the first thing I learned how to make using my slow cooker and we had it several times during my maternity leave. It might not be the healthiest thing because of the soda, but it’s good. Originally, I put the chicken over rice, but when I ate the leftovers for lunch I realized that this made a great sandwich when the chicken is shredded up. I love it on a toasted bun with some hot sauce, BBQ sauce, and pickles.
If you’ve been on Pinterest looking for recipes, you may have come across this one. Skinny Taste’s Chicken Taco Chili is a staple at our house now. I usually top it over rice in a bowl, but it’s also great on its own or over tortilla chips (or in a tortilla itself).