I’ll be the first to admit to you, I don’t have any kids so I can only imagine the rush, the stress, and the crazy mad dash to get your little and “little bigs” ready for another successful year of learning and growing at the esteemed halls of academia.
However, I do have a “big student” who will be starting back to his college semester and although there isn’t comparison, we’re feeling the impending rush descending soon. While I was sitting with a colleague who was already in the throes of practices, school lists, orientations, and other pre-semester excitement we were talking about how sometimes it seems easiest to dash out and grab another on the go meal OR just have to cobble something out of the pantry. I shared with her some freezer and crockpot meals which routinely save my day and are super delicious. Now, not all of us have time to even go to Pinterest and wade through some of the 6,000 Paleo Perfect Slow Cooker recipes or time to bag a Month of Magnificent Freezer meals. Well, these sites say we do, but when it comes down to sitting down OR standing at the counter bagging cold chicken, I admittedly will tell you I’d rather be sitting.
So to help out a friend, I offered to share 4 easy, short ingredient list meals she could either PREP ahead, COOK in the slow cooker, OR FREEZE and serve – especially in the first week when there has to be 1 more trip to Target for the right highlighters, or to the store for the right light navy blue gym shorts for practice, or the folders with one pocket, brads on the top, and in ruby red NOT orange red color for homeroom. Happy School Daze!!
Day 1: Crock Pot Chicken Tacos with Mexican Rice
This one has received rave reviews with out of town guests, girls weekend, and the weeknight doldrums at our house. Why do I love it? Because you throw in ingredients and WALK AWAY! when you return, you have dinner ready to go and serve. It is also a little celebratory so might be just the ticket for a “first day of school” night dinner around the table. AND no fuss!
2lbs of chicken breasts
Taco seasoning packet (i use low sodium OR half the packet for our house)
16oz jar favorite salsa
Taco Shells, Tortilla chips, soft tortillas – this is a family preference (you decide on one or a combo)
Taco toppings: shredded lettuce, diced tomato, sour cream, olives, onion extra salsa, cheese (I suggest shortcuts – ie: Rotel can of diced tomato, bag of shredded lettuce, pre-shredded cheese, etc. Plus, some can be added to the mexican rice recipe too!)
Veggie or chicken broth
Diced onion (optional)
Day 2: Foil Wrapped Fish & Vegetables (Make Ahead)
I am not a classicly trained chef. I do not use fancy techniques. I like to be lazy when I cook. All that said, this is easy for even the most experienced of cooks. I love to take whatever fish I have on hand, and assemble this quickly – wrap up in the foil and SERVE. You don’t have to be precise in ingredients or spices- do what works for you. The oven does all the work here (note: do NOT make this on the hottest day of the year!) There is a crockpot substitute here but it takes two hours – maybe make on a day when you have a late practice and late dinner. I usually will assemble these the night before OR the morning of and pop in the refrigerator and then whoever is home first can preheat oven and slide in for a home run!
Olive oil or Broth
Sliced veggies – I recommend zucchini, squash, diced tomatoes, onion, etc.
Day 3: White Chicken Enchiladas (Make Ahead)
You can make this ahead and keep it in the fridge up to 24 hours. Tag team your recipes if your crew likes mexican AND end up with two awesome meals with similar crossover ingredients – gasp! meal planning at its finest!!
Shredded chicken* (double your chicken taco recipe and use the leftover shredded chicken to assemble the enchiladas for later in the week!)
Day 4: French Dip Sandwiches in the Slow Cooker
This is a “FALL”-back recipe – your house will SMELL AMAZING after this cooks all day. AND after the first days of being famished, this is a great recipe to place on the table and serve up good conversation and delicious food. I suggest getting some good crusty rolls for the sandwiches but Texas Toast or other crusty bread will work in a pinch.
Boneless Beef Roast (my butcher recommends using pot roast but you can use your preferred cut – it is delish and lots of leftovers for later in the week!)
BONUS – Day 5: Chicken and Dumplings in the Slow Cooker
We went on vacation and I made this at a very streamlined, slimmed down kitchen – read NOT many utensils or gadgets. However, the hubs claims this was ONE OF HIS BEST MEALS EVER. Go figure. It’s a winner in our house – and you might win a few prize ribbons of compliments too!
Cream of Celery soup
Cream of Chicken soup
Onion, Celery, Carrot, etc. (OR just get a bag of your favorite frozen mixed veggies and dump it in if you need a shortcut!)
10oz can of pillsbury biscuits – or make your own dough!
There are a TON of sources for freezer meals and slow cooker meals – so hopefully you can find time to see them out on pinterest or google searches “in your spare time” – I’ll try to post some more and keep the tips coming. Good luck with your first week back to school!!