Fall is for Slow Cookers

Fall is such a hectic time for all of us. If you’re a Stay at Home Mom like me, you’re adjusting from summer schedules to school schedules. All the Fall sport activities, book fairs, PTA meetings, and the house, leave no room for cooking huge meals. If you’re a working Mom its worse. You’re adjusting to the kids going back to school, and still working! That is a lot to juggle, and I have been there. That’s where your slow cooker comes in to play.
I didn’t utilize it half as much as I could have when I worked. This kitchen appliance is a life saver. Usually you can just throw everything in the slow cooker, and 8 hours later, dinner! Pinterest wasn’t around (or just starting) when I was working. Most of what I knew of slow cooker recipes was using condensed soup mixes. Ugh. With Pinterest now, I find loads of recipes to try. So, I figured today I would share with you the ones that really work for us.

The Skinnytaste recipe was super easy and delicious. The only thing I did differently was use white rice vinegar with it. The recipe calls for balsamic. The reason this happened. I couldn’t open my balsamic. Don’t judge. The chicken comes out perfectly moist, and has a fantastic tang to it.

This one takes minimal work before you put it in your slow cooker. The kids got involved for this one with the first couple steps. The meat gets dredged in a ziploc bag with flour, steak seasoning, and cornstarch. The boys loved shaking the bag, and being able to help with dinner. After that, the meat just gets browned, the other ingredients are gradually added. Finally, its all dumped into the slow cooker. 8 hours later, a delicious Beef Burgundy! The more sophisticated taste of the stew would never usually pass Alex’s lips; but since he helped he was more eager to eat!

Now I’m sure a lot of you have seen this recipe on Pinterest. I’m happy to report, it works! We did use the cottage cheese, but I would probably use ricotta in the future. Make sure you use regular lasagna noodles. It won’t come out having your traditional tight lasagna shape, but it was super tasty. Since the boys helped assemble, this was another one they were eager to eat.

Another quick assemble, and go. Turkey breast is super affordable, and this recipe can serve a family with leftovers. The turkey comes out moist, and pulls straight off the bone. I recently made this for my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law and it was definitely a winner.

This one is a quick mix, and go. This one isn’t our favorite. I need to tweak the recipe a bit before our family is happy with it. It came out a little too sweet. With taking out a bit of the honey, I’m sure it will be on point.

This cooler weather is definitely time for stew. This one uses chicken thighs which are always affordable at the grocery store. The addition of Guinness gives a perfect richness to the stew. The recipe does have you brown the meat, and get the ingredients going on the stove first. Once this is done, dump it all in that slow cooker. Trust me, when you’re greeted with the smell of this stew in the house, you will be happy you did a little work.
For a great tip, the recipes that need work before they go in can be pre-prepped. The beef burgundy can be completely prepped, and put in a container. In the morning just throw it in the slow cooker. The Chicken Stew can be chopped up, and kept separate. I’m sure this can also be prepped all the way through and stored overnight as well, but I have not tried it.

This is one of those, as easy as it gets recipes. You just plop the meat in the slow cooker, and pour all the other ingredients in there. 8 hours later you have the perfect beef for french dip sandwiches. These are my husbands personal favorite! When I did work, and had a late night, I knew if I made this he would be thrilled!

I know everyone has seen these pins. Cooking a whole chicken in your slow cooker. It is possible. I’m super pleased to tell you that. Make sure you heavily season the meat, and it will go through all the meat. The only issue with these recipes is the skin does not come out crispy, at all. I don’t know about you, but soggy chicken skin grosses me out. So there are two solutions:
1. Take all the skin off before you cook it.
2. The other solution that we have done is when the chicken is done, very carefully put it on a baking pan, and broil it. The chicken will NOT dry out. If the chicken is falling apart, you can get fancy and make chicken skin chips in the oven. What? Does no one watch Top Chef?

I pinned this for all of you. I have this memorized. My Mom used to make this in the oven growing up, and we always called it dressy chicken. This chicken has such a perfect tang from the apricot preserves. This is a super picky eater pleaser. We have also used thighs and drumsticks with this. If you have a long day though, and you’re working, use the breasts.

Finally, I pinned this just for you all as well. So, my Husband is Puerto Rican. Pernil (slow roasted pork) is a staple for Holidays, get togethers, or anything special. Usually its done in the oven, and takes a good long 6 hours or longer. This recipe makes it possible in the slow cooker. The flavor is unreal. I’m super happy to report even my Mother-in-Law loves it and asked for my recipe. Just make sure you aren’t shy with the seasoning. This dish is all about the pork tasting like garlic. Serve it over rice, with tostones (fried plantains), as sandwiches, on its own, nom….nom.

I hope these are helpful to some of you out there! Juggling home life, work, and making sure our families are getting balanced meals is hectic. With all the quick grab frozen meals out there, you now have options of making something fresh! Please let me know if they worked for you!

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Being in the now

There is something to be said for being able to catch the little moments as a parent. We don’t document them, and tend to hope they always stay in our minds. Whether its that smile your child gives you, their laugh, a board game, or when a lesson is being learned; we take these moments for granted. Its the biggest challenge in life of enjoying these moments, and not join the rush in everyday. As a parent, especially a Mom we are ALWAYS on the run. It certainly felt like this when I was working, but there is still chaos as soon as the boys come home from school. From the need of getting dinner on the table, household chores, getting the kids to play outside while its still nice, Colin needing to do his homework, and there is so much more. How do we possibly slow down?

Yesterday, I read an insightful post about how one parent doesn’t let their children use electronics. It gave my heart a little push. How many times in the last year have I been so stressed out, or felt down that I have told the kids they can just go play their games, or watch tv? How many times have I let being afraid of the boys acting out in a restaurant that I gave them my phone? Now that later part of the previous sentence has improved drastically. When we go out now (as its rare) there are NO games, or phones at the table. We are all together and I want to hear everything they have to say. How else do we know the details of our children’s lives?

Yesterday while Colin was doing homework, Alex and I had a marathon of playing Disney CandyLand. I realized we hadn’t played in awhile, and Alex was definitely being a poor sport about losing a round. I just kept flipping the cards, and sure enough he ended up beating me. A lesson was quickly taught on not giving up before its over. We went on to play at least 4 more times. By the time we had finished playing, he didn’t mind he had lost a couple of times. I sat and thought, how have I missed being able to teach Alex this? Its so important for children to learn they don’t always get what they want, they don’t always win, and to be a good sport.
After cleaning up from dinner, Eli and I were hanging out in the living room, while the boys cleaned up for bed. Alex came running downstairs to give us each a big hug and kiss before he went to bed. He gave off this little laugh, and Eli kept having him repeat it. Alex has always had an infectious laugh, but he has this new silent laugh he starts off with that turns into a giggle. Eli pointed out, “his little laugh is changing.” There, we a caught a moment, right there.

I catch myself staring at the boys wondering how are their appearances are changing, or when did they grow a little more? When I got Colin up this morning, I couldn’t help but catch how he stretches as he wakes. I still see him as a toddler. He stretches his arms out over his head, has his eyes closed, pouts his lips, arches his back, and lets out this whine. It has always been this way for as long as I can remember. It makes me smile, and gets me teary eyed thinking of it. Even though he comes up to my shoulders now, he is still my baby in that way. I keep thinking of when Alex will finally get too big for me to carry him downstairs in the morning. When he will finally be too heavy, and I won’t have his arms wrapped around me. These are the small things we take for granted. One day it will just stop, and we will someday wonder when it did.

Usually I sit and just stare out the window for a little while each day, or on the front porch. I’ve done this at home, when I worked, or driving. Its remarkable to see the seasons and scenery changing, and to convince myself that I will enjoy the now. I used to sit at our dining room table, in our old house and watch one tree changing colors. We don’t take into consideration how our lives will be different the following year when that tree changes again. How can we? We don’t predict the future. After finishing a fall clean up at the old house yesterday, I went inside and caught a glance of that tree. It has just starting to change colors. A year ago, I was home with Alex who was sick with a bug. I can’t remember being home with him, but I’m sure it consisted of snuggles, TV, talking to my Mom at some point, and looking at that tree. Our scenery adds to our memorable moments. Now I sit in our new home office and take in our scenery here. I wonder what will be different in the following year?

Our life is like going down a river, we go with the flow, sometimes fight the current, hit a rock, find something new, and take on new passengers. Its so important to pull to the side sometimes though, and look at where you were/are. I vow to be more present in the now, and to make my kids more present as well. They should remember these moments. I want them to grow and think about life, not just follow the current.

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