School has started, we’re back to the routine a schedule provides with afterschool activities and homework. Somewhere I have to find the time for my meal planning and preparation. I am always searching for ways to increase the efficiency of my kitchen. One thing I’ve come to rely on more and more is my slow cooker. I used to think that the only thing my slow cooker was good for was a chuck roast or a boston butt. And don’t get me wrong – I threw a lamb shoulder in there the other day and my family was in heaven! But, I don’t like to serve meat at every meal. Meal planning and having a well-stocked fridge and pantry is my key to making sure that I can make great meatless meals throughout the week. My slow cooker is my full time chef here – I use it almost every day. Here are the top 5 things I cook in my slow cooker ahead of time for the week ahead.
Just soak overnight and drain. Put into crockpot and cover with vegetable broth by about 2 inches. Cook on low 5 – 6 hours. Beans freeze great! I usually put half in my fridge for the week ahead and freeze the other half. To freeze, divide cooled beans into 2 cup portions. Cover with liquid and freeze up to 3 months.
I find potatoes to be oh so versatile. My kids love crispy baked potatoes, potato skins and potato soup. I love to put some diced potato with chickpeas, apples and balsamic vinegar for a quick salad. Having baked potatoes on hand is a must in our house. Wash potatoes and prick with fork. Place into slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. This will work with 2 potatoes or more. I usually cook about 6-8 medium sized russet potatoes at a time.
3. Sweet Potatoes
This is my favorite thing to cook in my slow cooker. Slowly cooking sweet potatoes turn them in to this creamy sweet sinful vegetable that needs nothing else to be delicious. Wash potatoes and put directly into slow cooker still wet. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. I generally cook 4 sweet potatoes at a time.
4. Caramelized Onions
There is something about caramelized onions that my family loves. They are sweet, savory and work great in so many applications – tacos, quesadillas, quiche, topping on vegetable panini, salads, etc. They also freeze really well so I can do one big batch a month and have caramelized onions always on hand. Take 3 – 4 pounds yellow onions, thinly slice and place in crock. Drizzle with olive oil and salt, mix well. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. To freeze, portion cooled onions in ½ cup – 1 cup portions and freeze up to 3 months.
I happen to be a fan of beets, but they are generally take a bit of time to prepare. So I have to think ahead if I plan to use them during the week. To roast beets in the slow cooker, all you need to do is wash and trim the beets. Rub with olive oil and place individually into foil and wrap tightly. Place in slow cooker and cook on low 6-8 hours or until tender. Cool and remove skin.
6. Wheat Berries and other grains
I love to keep cooked grains like wheat berries and quinoa in the fridge. I can use them for a quick porridge breakfast, a salad at lunch or a quick stir-fry for dinner. Quinoa is easy – it only takes 20 minutes to cook so I can do that one evening while I am cooking dinner. But wheat berries take a bit longer, so I use my slow cooker for these. To cook, take 1 cup wheat berries and 2 cups water or broth. Cook on low for 8 – 10 hours.