Short on Time? Two Simple Recipes that can be Prepped in Advance!

My oldest is a joiner.  FREQUENTLY. She has dipped her toe into many organizations and sports over the last several years.  This year is no different. On any given day she can be found building pinewood derby cars (a glittery blue truck?) for cub scouts, learning about the Bible at her PSR class through our church, cartwheeling across the floor at gymnastics, throwing down at hip hop dance, or entertaining me with her Christmas music on the piano (and grating on my nerves a little…give me a break, it’s only February!).  And my youngest is beginning to follow in her footsteps, so takes many of those aspirations and multiple by two.  

If it’s a Tuesday night, you can be sure we won’t be arriving home before 7 p.m. For two little girls and a teacher-mom that eats lunch at 11 a.m., that’s too late to eat dinner, let alone START cooking.  On nights like these, I do one of two things: Whip out the crockpot and toss together a meal before heading off to work, or do a little meal prep on Sunday afternoon/evening to get us through our first few hectic days of the week.  While either option takes a little advance prep, it’s totally worth it to walk in the door at night and know dinner will be ready in minutes. What are my go-to options?    

As far as crockpot goes, no matter what you choose to make, I HIGHLY recommend using these liners, as they make cleanup afterwards a breeze.  Additionally, if you are new to crockpots, Hamilton Beach is a favorite brand of ours. This one is a slight step up from what we own, but seems even nicer, with a digitized screen and more bells and whistles!

Here are my two most-used recipes:

Crockpot Chicken Salsa

When it comes to simple, it doesn’t get any easier than this recipe, especially if you don’t have dietary restrictions and can just buy a packet of taco seasoning.  We are not that lucky. Since Justin struggles with Celiac (gluten allergy), I make most items from scratch to be safe. Here is the seasoning recipe I use often. I forgo the red pepper flakes because that’s a bit too spicy for our kids.  Save your leftovers in an airtight container and you’re already halfway done on your next go round with this dinner!

  1. Place liner in crockpot
  2. Dump chicken breasts into crockpot; They should be able to lay flat, otherwise they won’t cook as evenly.
  3. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the chicken until covered; The more you add, the spicier the flavor.
  4. Add in a jar of your favorite salsa
  5. Turn crockpot on and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for at least 3 hours
  6. Take a fork and pull chicken apart.  If it easily pulls apart, it’s done (obvs)
  7. We add this to taco shells along with sour cream, canned tomatoes (if time, chop fresh!), shredded cheese, cilantro, and a squeeze of fresh lime. Pair it with a side of brown or jasmine rice, cooked in THIS rice cooker and dinner is served! I love this rice cooker because you can set it up in the morning and once the rice is cooked, it keeps it warm for hours until you are ready to eat. We have literally had ours for 10 years and it is still running, even though we use it at least once or twice a week.

Some tips and considerations:

  • It depends on the size of your crockpot, but I use an 8 quart pot and can typically fit 4 fairly large chicken breasts in a row. 
  • Chunky salsa works best in this recipe, adds flavor and texture; 
  • Leftovers keep in a sealed container for up to three days after the initial cooking.

Vegetable (chicken optional) Soup

I make this using the veggies I like most, along with those that blend in and I should (but don’t) eat by themselves.  When putting this recipe together, it’s really up to you what you want to add in or take away. Additionally, all of the items can be purchased at a local Aldi (if you have this option close by). It will save you SO much money and the taste is no different! Here is what I like to include:

  • Three celery stalks-chopped (I chop them fairly small, just my preference)
  • Baby carrots chopped (I generally do half a bag)
  • 1 can cannellini beans 
  • 1 can green beans (drain before adding)
  • 1 can of yellow corn (drain before adding)
  • Add 1 box of vegetable stock *(if you are planning to add chicken breasts, those should be put in the crockpot first with the vegetables and then stock added after)
  • Add ½ tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper, 1 tsp of garlic powder, and 1 tsp of oregano or italian seasoning.  
  • About 30 minutes prior to serving, adding tomatoes and/or spinach is optional

I serve this recipe with these amazing parmesan garlic knots I found on the AlldayIdreamaboutfood website when I have extra time to bake (they keep refrigerated up to 4 days in a tupperware container) or just replace with some Stacy’s Pita Chips, which most grocery stores carry, to dip in the soup in a pinch. I will say, even though I don’t have to eat gluten free, the garlic knots are a treat and my husband downs them like they are tiny, calorie-free bites of heaven. We pretend they are!

Let me know if you try either of these recipes and if you add/adjust the ingredients. I am always interested in hearing about new variations or ways to improve our dinners! Want other go-to meals that I have tested and approved? Follow my pinterest board here.