Good day dear readers; this week we are going to face the ugly truth glaring at us down the barrel of time. In a very short number of weeks, even perhaps days for those in the south, we are looking at the return of the school day, the end of summer and all that that entails. For many this means the resurgence of late afternoon practices – be they choir at school, band practice or one’s favorite sport. For some it means getting up at the crack of dawn to pack school lunches and catching busses or meeting the carpool. For others it means getting back into the practice of having school started by a decent hour each morning along with co-op meetings and so on. In a nut shell, the lazy, hazy days of summer are drawing to a close. Even for those not with school age children – it typically involves a change of pace.
Many of us have been enjoying being able to throw together those quick summer meals intended to keep the kitchen cool and the family fed with as little fuss and muss as possible. As the weather cools down (for most of us) we will begin to hanker once more for hot meals instead of salads with burgers thrown on the grill (barbecue for those in the north!) – I can hear the collective groans at the thought of the hours spent in the kitchen creating those yummy, hot; stews, roasts and chowders while also contemplating how busy life speeds up come fall. But all is not lost.
My hope is to help us all settle back into our fall routines with a host of easy but delicious and warm meals at your finger tips. I polled a number of readers and some of our very own ink slingers as to what was their answer to quick last minute meals (You know for when you have forgotten to take the meat out of the freezer or you woke up only to remember TODAY is the day ALL the kids are getting their teeth cleaned and there is no way you can possibly make what you had planned.) And I also asked them for some of their favorite crock pot days for when they are actually on top of their game but know there will be no time/energy to cook after their busy day.
Here are their favorite
sanity time savers and some great crock pot ideas:
Quick take 1) This first quick and easy idea is similar to one of our favorite crock pot recipes only we use our own special blend of chimichurri spices. Here is what one busy reader offered as a quick and easy crock pot idea: ‘Put a pork shoulder roast in crock pot, dump 1/2 jar of (your favorite) BBQ sauce over it and cook on low all day. Shred & pull apart about 20 minutes before you want to eat, dump rest of BBQ sauce over it. Serve on buns (Or not.)’ Throw together you favorite salad and stand back to receive the accolades this is sure to bring. (We often serve our chimichurri variation of this with rice made in our handy dandy rice cooker!)
Quick take 2) Breakfast for dinner! What kid doesn’t love upside down day and what mum doesn’t love an easy meal. This reader’s favorite breakfast for dinner choice is “scrambled eggs, omelet with whatever filling we happen to have, waffles, pancakes, sausage if there’s any in the freezer…” This reader also shared that she tries to buy some precooked sausages when they are on sale for those really hectic – don’t. have. a. minute. to. spare. – before CCD/practice/meeting days!)
Quick take 3) One of our family favorites (okay, not really the family’s but mine) is to whip up a few cans of tomato soup with grilled cheese on the side. Now I do have to say that my kids really enjoy grilled cheese when we have homemade bread to make them with. This idea is almost identical with one reader who shared that one of her go quick meals is; Tuna melts (which usually means grilled cheese for the kids since my kids are not fans of tuna!), canned soup (I usually stock up with good sales/coupons) and I typically add some fruit or raw veggies (with salad dressing for “dip”) when we have this for dinner.‘
Quick take 4) One busy mum shared that in her home quesadillas are a good ‘ready in 5 minutes’ dinner. She says: ‘I use whatever we have: shredded cheese, chopped tomatoes, meat if we have some (leftover ground beef or chicken or Perdue short cuts chicken in tiny pieces), peppers, etc.’ She serves hers with salsa.
Another one of this reader’s favorites that she shared with us was a burger version of this or Burritos, as she called them. She fries some ground beef and suggests adding your favorite seasoning to the burger as it cooks. She then heats up a can of refried beans, and sets the meat and beans on the table along with cheese, lettuce, tortillas, salsa, and sour cream. “Takes 10 minutes at my house.” she told me.
I don’t know about you but I’ll take a ten minute meal from start to table any day! (Hint: throw a few pkgs of soft taco wraps in the freezer as a back up for busy days.)
Quick take 5) Here is another burger menu pleaser: Prepare 2 pounds hamburger meat with your favorite seasonings. (This reader uses salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, paprika, or a bit of smoked paprika) Then shape into patties, put in a pan and sear. While these are cooking, prepare brown gravy to pour over patties and simmer for about 20 min until patties are cooked through. She serve hers over rice or egg noodles. For those not familiar with Kitchen Bouquet which is an ingredient listed in the brown gravy recipe you can check it out here.
When I asked this reader why she used patties she replied ‘Patties cook faster than huge meatballs…. mine are a cross between a meatball and a pattie…. but I don’t use egg or breadcrumbs… if your meat is too dry, and patties won’t stay formed… use an egg… if they are too wet, throw some breadcrumbs or crackers in the mix… ‘ You can throw a veggie on to cook while this is being prepared and voila you have a quick, easy and a tasty meal for those busy ‘back to fall routine’ evenings.
Quick take 6) This menu idea is a neat version of baked potatoes in the oven. This reader offered this idea: Poke and wrap in aluminum foil baking potatoes. Place in crockpot and cook on low. Serve with all sorts of toppings, like canned chili (don’t judge-desperate times come desperate measures LOL), cheese, bacon crumbles, broccoli, whatever you have on hand. And again – if you have salad ingredients you can easily round this out to a complete and easy meal.
Quick take 7) Korean Beef, a few readers shared their personal version of this recipe so check it out and spice it up (or down) to your own liking. I would think you could substitute shredded chicken breast for this recipe and enjoy that too!
If you are partial to shredded chicken and the Korean flavor doesn’t appeal to you then you can try one of our new favorites. I put a bag of chicken tenderloins (or breasts) in my crock pot, turn it to high if it’s mid day – low if I remember first thing in the morning. I pour a jar of (mild in my house) salsa over the chicken and sprinkle a touch of cumin over the salsa to give it a slightly Indian flavor. Before serving with rice (made in my handy dandy rice cooker) I shred the chicken in the pot and then sprinkle shredded cheese over it. I usually have sour cream on the side for people to add to their own plates. My favorite vegetables to steam with this is broccoli or green beans. Depending on the amount of meat left over we might serve it in taco shells for lunch the next day.
Well – there you go – some pretty easy and delicious sounding last minute meals as well as some great crock pot inspirations. But I never seem content with stopping at seven (just read some of my past 7QT and you will notice I typically mange to sneak a few extra items in) so why should this month be any different.
While begging recipes from these wonderful ladies – one of them pointed me in the direction of Pinterest where apparently our very own Catholic Sistas has a CROCK POT BOARD. And here it is! So, if none of these ideas piqued your interest – hop on over to our crock pot board and start drooling, errr, I mean, planning some great meals for this fall.
Of course – don’t forget to head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum and see what everyone else has had to share this wonderful first Friday in August.
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Christi Gareis is a homeschooling mother of thirteen, with four children still at home. Her youngest child can boast that she was an aunt before she was born. Christi has been blogging since 2005 and has three blogs. In addition to blogging, Christi has been published on Catholicmom.com as well as in CCL’s magazine Family Foundations. She also wrote the section on How to ‘Prepare Your Child for First Reconciliation’ in the book '101 Stories of Reconciliation' by Sister Patricia Proctor.