So I was very inspired by last week’s #MumsNight – Slow Cook / No Cook lazy cooking ideas. Everyone shared so many fantastic recipes and ideas! While I only intended to spend about half the time on slow cooking – it became the conversation focus. Having not been a big slow cooker previously – I realized I must be truly missing out. But that’s not what sealed the deal for me. You see – with my husband and I working all day, someone else picks up our kids and serves them tea before we get home. Quite frequently my husband arrives in time to feed them too, (if he wanted to). It was at the end of a very long week last night that I learned my boys 4 & 6 had had Ramen noodles for tea, EVERY night.
When I expressed my displeasure to Hubs he said “But they love Ramen noodles!” My response? “They love chocolate and crisps too, but they aren’t for tea – these boys need some whole meals, protein and veg!” It was definitely time to change my meal planning and take action!
Previously my meal planning mostly consisted of me sketching out what we’d eat for dinner each night (making more for lunch leftovers) and putting in the order for grocery delivery, then also doing a few quick shops during the week for bread or butter or milk, minor staples that may have run low. But clearly just having a full fridge and a plan aren’t cutting it.
So, my new plan is to involve the boys in the menu planning – and then to prep the dinner the night before and to slow cook it during the day so it’s ready for their tea and our dinner.
For the meal planning I decided to change it up a bit. They are very hands on and visual so the written sketched out list wouldn’t cut it for them. Luckily I came across this great idea on Pinterest, to photograph family meals and make each meal into a magnet. Children can then help choose the weekly meal by placing the food magnet into that week’s calendar squares. (via heartofwisdom.com )
I explained it to the boys and they are very excited about it. We’ve already photographed three meals from this weekend, Lumache Carbonara (told the boys it was Mac & Cheese), Slow Cooker French Onion Soup and also Roast Chicken and Vegetables (our Sunday standard).
Of these – I was most surprised and delighted by the Slow Cooker French Onion Soup. The flavor was spot on and it was sooooooo easy! I think I’m a convert to slow cooking, it only took once!
So for the Lumache Carbonara, we served this with a side of salad and garlic bread. The entire meal for 5 people was less than 5 pounds (and made leftovers!)
Of the three dishes this was the quickest and easiest. I bought the Lumache pasta (any other shell type pasta will work too), and the sauce (Sainsbury’s fresh Carbonara sauce) along with a fresh garlic baguette and bag of salad on my way home from work. The pasta took about 11 minutes to cook, the garlic baguette about the same – and I mixed the salad while it cooked. The sauce I microwaved for about a minute – and mixed after draining the pasta. Meal accomplished in under 15 minutes and for less than 5 pounds.
Next up was the Slow Cooker French Onion Soup – I took a look over a few recipes online but wasn’t completely happy with them so modified them a bit for a richer tastier version.
Ingredients you’ll need:
- 1 slow cooker (duh)
- 3 large onions sliced thinly
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 3 tablespoons of flour
- 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (or more if you like)
- 1/4 teaspoon of seasoning salt (or half salt/ half garlic salt)
- 4 beef bouillon cubes
- 8 measuring cups of water
For the toast:
- 1 baguette
- Gruyere cheese
Thinly slice the onions and put the onions and butter into the slow cooker on medium heat for about 20-30 mins to sauté until a bit brown around the edges. Add the flour, Worcestershire sauce, seasoning salt, bouillon cubes and water and cook on medium to low for about 5 hours. (You can actually eat it about after 2 hrs once the onions are soft – but the longer you leave it the better the taste) Check the taste throughout – you may need to add more water if it’s a little salty for you or a little more Worcestershire sauce if it’s not flavorful enough for you.
For the toast on top, once you’re ready to serve the Slow Cooker French Onion Soup, slice the baguette, grate the cheese and put the cheese on top of the bread slices in a pan. Put under the grill for about 4 minutes until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from the one, serve the soup and put the cheesy bread on top.
Serve with a fresh green salad.
For 5 people this meal again came in well under $5
So next up is our weekly Sunday night staple, Roast Chicken and Vegetables. The vegetables vary by season, but the general ones include potatoes, celery, carrots and onions.
- 1 large roasting chicken
- 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 2 garlic cloves or about 1 teaspoon of garlic puree
- 1/4 teaspoon of seasoning salt
- 4 large carrots
- 2 jacket potatos
- (2 celery stalks and 1 onion optional)
You can serve this with a side salad or even Yorkshire Pudding
So those are some of the main meals we had over the weekend and I plan to put the slow cooker to good use this week with a selection of slow cooker meals to provide the boys with a more nutritious tea and have dinner ready and waiting once we return home from work. Here’s the plan for this week, which we’ll photograph and add to our visual menu plan. What’s not listed below is that each night we also have some type of green salad, either romaine or spinach based. What do you think? Any suggestions?