My workplace hosts children’s birthday parties on the weekends, and because of this, I’ve gotten into the not-terribly-healthy habit of eating leftover cupcakes for lunch for as long as they last. Due to a lack of time for grocery shopping, I’ve been supplementing this diet with Easter candy for dinner. Easter was more than two weeks ago, though, so at some point within the next few days, I’m going to have to suck it up and buy real food.
The thing that no one realizes when their parents are cooking all of their meals is that it’s really exhausting and time consuming to come up with separate dishes to cook every day. I always start out the week with a lot of grand intentions to eat actual meals, but eventually I come home exhausted and end up eating a bowl of salsa for dinner because it’s just too much work to prepare a full meal for just myself. Ideally, we’re supposed to be eating things from different food groups so that we don’t catch scurvy and our bones don’t fall apart, but that generally involves side dishes, and cooking more than one thing at once can be a lot to ask when you’re eating dinner at a time when other people are going to bed.
This is why slow cookers, or crock pots, are one of the greatest inventions ever. You can put everything for your entire meal in at once, forget about it for a few hours while you do other things, and come back to something delicious. Slow cookers are also wonderful because it is virtually impossible to ruin anything in them. The longer you abandon your meal, the more tender it will get and the more the flavors will blend together. This means that you can start with incredibly cheap ingredients and not end up with a cheap-tasting meal. Canned and frozen vegetables work really well in slow cookers, and cuts of meat that would normally be tough to eat become juicy and amazing.
Slow cookers range in price from about $10 to well over $100. A lot of the less expensive ones are very small (1-1.5 quarts), so if you decide to go that route you may have to pare down any recipes you want to make. Realistically, you should be looking for one that holds 3-5 quarts, and a reasonable one should set you back between $25 and $40. This size will allow you to cook enough to feed 5-6 people or have leftovers for lunch for the entire week.
I’ve never had an opportunity to eat the leftovers from this recipe because I have a friend who comes over and eats all of it in one sitting every time I make it.
Nacho Cheese Chowder
1-1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ½ inch pieces
2 14.5-ounce cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 10.5-ounce can condensed cheese soup
1 15-ounce can black beans
1 4-ounce can diced mild green chiles
12-16 ounces frozen corn
16 ounces shredded Mexican blend cheese
1. Stir together chicken, tomatoes, soup, black beans, chiles, and corn. Don’t drain the tomatoes, beans, or chiles.
2.Cover and cook on low heat for 4-5 hours or high heat for 2-3 hours.
3. Sprinkle each serving with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips. Or you can use the tortilla chips as edible spoons, and that’s pretty awesome, too.
4. Eat. Seriously, this is the easiest recipe in the world.
A few notes on slow cooker recipes: I know I said that it’s virtually impossible to ruin things in a slow cooker, but there are still some things to be careful about, especially if you’re cooking meat. Don’t use frozen meat or poultry without thawing it first, or use single pieces of meat that are larger than 2.5 pounds. It will take too long for the middle of the meat to start to cook, bacteria will grow and you will get sick. You should also avoid taking the lid off frequently while your meal is still cooking, because heat will escape and it will take longer to cook. Finally, be sparing with salt. Slow cooking intensifies the effects of any seasoning you use, and you don’t want to feel like you’re eating a salt lick.