For me, part of minimalist parenting means getting rid of stuff and operating with less. However, I do enjoy cooking and baking and recently started experimenting with a slow cooker (specifically, the Ninja 3-in-1, which I received as a gift), which I have deemed totally worthy of countertop real estate. I've admittedly grown a little obsessed with slow cooking (and subsequently have poked fun at myself by starting the hashtag #crockpotsaresexy on Twitter), so as part of Asha and my Minimalist Holidays series (be sure to click over and check out the other great posts!), today I wanted to share 8 reasons why crockpots can simplify your mealtime prep, Perfect for the busy holiday season!
1. Anyone can do it. I'm not kidding. If you fear or hate cooking, try it! (If you don't want to invest in a slow cooker off the bat, borrow a friend's unit to give it a try.) Just dump in your ingredients and go. Depending on how much chopping you need to do (or not do), prep can take as little as 5-10 minutes.
2. It's perfect for those who don't like to follow instructions. Crockpots are perfect for those who don't like to follow instructions or generally prefer to wing it. I love that people could tweet me recipes (i.e., describe it in 140 characters or less)! For example: @BusyDadBlog recommends tossing in "pork butt, salt, liquid smoke, and about an inch and a half of water." @ameliasprout recommends: "Boneless lean pork roast, fat side up, on a bed of sliced onions, rubbed with ancho chili powder & cumin = carnitas that melt." And a favorite of @mrlady's: "Pot roast is beef stock, ginger, brown mustard, Lee & Perrins, bay leaves, crushed red peppers, onion & garlic all day on low."
3. You'll be inspired to menu plan. The ridiculous ease of using the slow cooker has inspired me to be better about menu planning. I make sure I pick up basics for at least one crockpot meal each week (that + a leftover day = two days of menu planning down!).
4. You reduce end of day crazy. One of the things I tend to dislike about dinnertime prep is that it, well, happens at the end of the day, when we're all hungry and I tend to be fatigued from a busy day of work. Using a slow cooker has been incredibly helpful in this domain.
5. It's one less thing to prep. In general, I definitely prefer to operate by the "everyone eats the same thing" mantra, but the reality is that Violet requires a gluten-free diet and Laurel is a vegetarian. So, sometimes we need to prep multiple meals. The crockpot has been fantastic in eliminating prep for one major dinnertime item in the evening.
6. You can make it part of a ritual. This was a little bit of an unexpected bonus, but Jon and I discovered this week (while I was prepping my friend Christy's creamy crock pot chicken tacos...YUM!) that crockpot prep time is actually a nice window of time to chat about the day's plans or the week in review.
7. Not burning things = good. One of my favorite things about slow cookers is that you turn them on and then don't need to think about them. Not burning things = good, plus it's extremely handy if you need to run around and pick up kids near the dinnertime hour.
8. It's easy to find inspiration and resources. When I have queried about crockpots on Twitter or Facebook, people come out of the woodwork. I mean, people are really into it! I'm looking forward to checking out Slow Cooker Revolution (recommended by @alisonborrelli, who swears by the chicken and dumplings recipe in this book) and/or Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (recommended by @mybelovedrebel). Also, I decided to try my Korean mixed grill marinade in the slow cooker. Worked brilliantly. You're hungry just looking at this marinade, right?
As for the Ninja I've been trying out, I dig it (and not just because it's called Ninja). You can steam, sear, or slow cook in it and the nonstick interior is super, super easy to clean. It's also easy to use; I didn't even read the instructions!
Do you have favorite slow cooking recipes or resources? Feel free to share them in the comments below!
This post is part of Minimalist Holidays, a series inspired by the idea that you can enjoy the holidays more when you do less. Between now and the end of the year, coauthor Asha Dornfest and I will share ideas for simplifying the holidays so you can focus on what's important: enjoying the season with your family. Visit the Minimalist Holidays page for links to the entire series. And sign up for our mailing list!