An Adventure in Slow Cooking {Recipes Included!}

I’ve written here about mental health, racism and being mom to a special needs child so I figured it was time to lighten up a little and share some recipes with you. Sometimes after working 2 jobs, picking up the kiddo from school, and squeezing in a workout the last thing I want to do is stand at the stove for 30+ minutes whipping up a tasty and nutritious meal. Unfortunately, it seems like my family needs to eat, so I do it. I lean on my slow cooker every now and then and honestly those days are my favorite. There is something so rewarding and comforting about coming home after a long day and remembering that dinner is already cooked and all you have to do is eat it. Plus, the house usually smells awesome. The problem is, I only have like 2 crock pot recipes I use- Mississippi Mud Roast (YUM!) and Chicken Tortilla Soup. Since we can’t eat those two meals over and over and over again without wanting to stab our eyes out, a couple of weeks ago I decided that I wanted to expand my slow cooker repertoire.

slow cooker

When I was looking for recipes to try I had a few rules for myself:

1. The recipe must allow for 8+ hours of cooking time since I am usually gone for 10+ hours each day and don’t want to come home to nasty burnt dried up stuff.

2. I would follow the recipe exactly.

3. Variety. We aren’t picky eaters and we like diversity in our diet so soup over and over again wasn’t going to cut it.

4. The recipe essentially has to be 1 pot meals- none of this cooking side dishes to complete the meal business.

Below I am sharing about the 5 recipes I tried and reporting on nutrition, taste, ease, cost, and things I would do differently next time. I’ve also included links to the recipes so you can try them out too should anything pique your interest. 

PS- all photos of food are totally unedited. What you see below is exactly how they looked; no attempts to fool you here.

  1. Crock-pot Cowboy Casserole 

cowboy

Full disclosure: I came into this recipe with a negative attitude because it required I cook some ground beef before putting it in the crock pot which I thought was totally lame. However, you can cook ground beef in advance and freeze it so that when you have a recipe like this all you have to do is grab a bag of already cooked beef from the freezer and just dump it in.

Nutrition: 432 calories per serving; 8 servings
Taste: 5/10- It was just bland. This is a basic meat and potatoes dish, which might be your jam, but we like loads of flavor in our meals. When I ate it I thought, my dad would really like this because he isn’t into bold flavors and likes simple dishes.
Ease: 6/10- In addition to cooking the beef, the recipe also requires that you chop the potatoes and onion.
Cost: About $1.74/serving
Things I would do differently next time: I would add more seasonings. This dish would taste great with some Tony’s in it. I would  definitely pre-cook the beef. I would also not add the cheese to the slow cooker, I would just put cheese on the individual servings. Once my husband and I got our servings out of the slow cooker we were left with cheese-less beef and potatoes for our left-overs. And let’s be honest, the cheese sort of redeemed this dish for me so I had to add more cheese.

2. Forgotten Once Jambalaya

jam2

We left out the shrimp in this recipe because I am allergic to shell-fish. I know- let’s have a moment of silence for all of the seafood I miss out on and all the crawfish boils that almost send me into anaphylactic shock.

Nutrition: 448 calories per serving; 6 servings
Taste: 7/10 (for home cooked jambalaya in the slow cooker) YUM. I mean, it’s not award winning jambalaya- we do live in south Louisiana and have access to some killer jambalaya, but this was tasty and I’d definitely make it again.
Ease: 7/10- there are some vegetables you have to chop and you have to remember to add the rice 30-minutes before it’s done cooking. Not a deal breaker, but not a dump and go recipe either.
Cost: About $2.14/serving
Things I would do differently next time: Absolutely nothing. I’d leave this recipe alone and cook it exactly the same way.

3. Easiest Slow cooker Chicken and Spaghetti

I forgot to take a picture guys, sorry. Imagine a bow with some noodles and shredded chicken and Parmesan cheese on top. I liked this recipe too because it included vegetables; which a lot of pasta recipes seem to lack.

Nutrition: 335 calories per serving, 8 servings
Taste: 8/10 Good! It tasted like chicken and spaghetti. It wasn’t a mind-blowing dish, but it was a tasty meal and we’d definitely cook it again.
Ease: 7/10- again, there are vegetables to chop and you have to remember to add the noodles with 30 minutes of cook time left.
Cost: About $1.35/serving
Things I would do differently next time: Nothing- this was also a solid recipe. If I made it again I would do exactly the same thing recipe.

4. Ridiculously Easy Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

salsa chicken

Nutrition: 186 calories per serving (before cheese and sour cream); 6 servings
Taste: 6/10- Meh- again this was a little bland for my tastes. In the recipe’s defense, I used a really cheap salsa and that’s where all the flavor comes from so a different salsa would have totally changed the taste of this dish.
Ease: 10/10. No chopping, no remembering things. SO EASY. Dump everything in and leave it alone.
Cost: About $1.56/serving (not including cheese and sour cream)
Things I would do differently next time: Use a higher quality salsa & add some additional seasonings- maybe some taco seasoning or some southwestern seasonings. I might would serve it on tortillas next time because this would make great filler for tacos- I was just being lazy so I just dumped it in a bowl.

5. Slow Cooker Tikka Masala 

tikka

We love Indian food. Love it. So I was super excited to try this recipe. It calls for masala which you probably won’t find at a typical grocery store. I grabbed my masala from Red Stick Spice Co.

Nutrition: 450 calories per serving; 8 servings
Taste: 6.5/10- this was a tough one to rate on taste because the only Indian food I’ve ever had has been at a restaurant. I don’t have a good comparison for home cooked Indian food. There seemed to be something missing from this dish, it just wasn’t as complex as the masala dishes I’ve had before. However, for a first attempt at cooking Indian food, I’d say it was a win.
Ease: 7/10- there was some chopping involved and I had to cook the basmati rice separately.
Cost: About $1.38/serving
Things I would do differently next time: I would dice the vegetables smaller. There were some chunks of vegetables around and when I think of masala I think of a really smooth dish. Also- I need to find that missing thing…whatever it is! Overall though, we will definitely try this one again and play around with it.

What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes? Share with us!

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2 Responses to An Adventure in Slow Cooking {Recipes Included!}

  1. Megan October 13, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    I want your Mississippi mud roast recipe!!! Thanks for sharing.

    • Mandy
      Mandy October 14, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

      Mississippi Mud Roast is always a crowd pleaser!! Here is the recipe I use (from food.com):

      4 lbs chuck roast
      1 (1 ounce) envelope ranch dressing mix
      1 (1 1/4 ounce) envelope au jus mix
      1⁄2 cup butter
      4 -5 pepperoncini peppers
      fresh ground pepper, to taste

      Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray.
      Place roast in the slow cooker and sprinkle with a little black pepper and a little seasoned salt.
      Sprinkle the top with the ranch dressing mix and the au jus mix.
      Place peppers on top of mixes.
      Add the stick of butter on top.
      Set your slow cooker to 8 hours and forget it.
      You do not add any additional water to this.
      Served with mashed potatoes, but you could serve with egg noodles.

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