Let's face it - as newlyweds, we just don't have that much time to cook. Young couples are often both working, while trying to find time to balance caring for the home, managing their fitness, keeping up with hobbies, nurturing their brand new marriage, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. (Phew!) To top it all off, we might not have a lot of experience cooking much more than a microwavable meal. But without substituting home-cooked meals for fast food and frequent dinners out, we know our banking accounts will shrink while our waistbands expand.
One excellent remedy for this predicament is the slow cooker. With a slow cooker and a few simple ingredients, you can create simple, hearty meals that work with any schedule, budget, or level of cooking talent. These five easy slow cooker recipes can be prepared in the morning (or in some cases even the night before) and will be waiting for you when you get home from work in the evening.
1. Hot chicken salad sandwiches. My favorite hot chicken salad recipe was passed to me from my good friend Sally, and it couldn't be easier. All you need is a 50-oz can of boned chicken, two 10-oz cans of cream of chicken soup, about ten pieces of toast (or whatever amount you need to get the consistency you prefer), and salt and pepper to taste. Mix it all together and warm it up in the slow cooker. If you prepare this in the morning and warm it while you're at work, you'll have the makings of a tasty sandwich ready and waiting when you get home - and with this amount, you will have lunches and dinners for the next week!
2. Kielbasa soup. This recipe comes from my mother-in-law and has remained one of my husband's favorites. It makes an easy, delicious meal for us when we know we're going to have limited time to cook over the course of a week. Combine a sliced kielbasa sausage, about 2 pounds of red or Russet potatoes (diced), and two cans of green beans (don't drain) in your slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker with water until it just covers the top of the ingredients, and add chicken bouillon cubes to taste. Heat the soup on high until the potatoes are soft enough for your liking (usually 6 hours or so should do the trick), and enjoy!
3. Baked ziti. Did you know this oven-baked favorite could easily be concocted in your slow cooker? Simply brown and drain 1 pound of beef (seasoned to your liking). Boil and drain 1 pound of ziti. Layer in the slow cooker with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Cover with two jars of tomato sauce, sprinkle mozzarella on top, and let it warm in the slow cooker. For a full Food.com recipe that gives you the option of leaving the noodles uncooked, click here.
4. Chili. As long as you agree with each other's chili preferences, this is an excellent standby during cooler months (or anytime, really!). You'll need the standard ingredients: beans, ground meat, tomatoes, chili powder, and whatever other ingredients and spices you might like to include. Once you add your favorite toppings (corn chips and shredded cheddar cheese for us!) to the finished product, you'll warm your hearts and bellies! For some chili recipe ideas, see this top 20 list from allrecipes.com.
5. Chicken cordon bleu. This is a little-known gem of a meal. My mom passed me this recipe from a friend, and I have yet to find a tastier, easier dinner recipe. It's so delicious and lasts us for three meals each. You'll need three boneless skinless chicken breasts (halved), a 10-oz can of cream of chicken soup, a quarter-pound each of deli ham and Swiss or Baby Swiss cheese, a cup of milk, a quarter-cup of butter, and an 8-oz package of Stove Top stuffing (or its off-brand equivalent). For the full recipe from allrecipes.com, click here.
Cooking with a slow cooker allows newlyweds to have a more flexible cooking schedule while spending less on food, and it generally results in big meals that work great as leftovers for the rest of the week. Spend your time with each other instead of over a stove, and keep your hearts, your bellies, and your wallets happy as your start your new life together!
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