Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta

I’m a big believer in this: If my kids are capable of doing it, I ask them do it.

How else will they learn to clean, cook, think, be responsible, work hard, and take care of me in my old age?

That’s why I asked Malachi, our 12-year old, to put this meal together one morning. Knowing it was as easy as “dump these ingredients into the crock pot, stir it up, turn it on, then run do your math lesson” it seemed like the right thing to do. He’s learning that cooking is simple, I’m getting help around the house, and it’s amazing how cooking a meal by himself makes him stand a few inches taller while everyone eats it up with many, “Wow, this is so good” compliments.

Or maybe the kid is literally growing taller. Well yeah. But we already knew that.

crock pot pasta2

Here’s my little issue with crock pot meals that include pasta: If I have to cook the pasta ahead of time before adding it to the crock pot, what even is the point in using the crock pot? How does that save any time? It certainly dirties up more dishes. I am not okay with this.

Therefore I never make pasta dishes in the crock pot. (Nor do I have my children make them.)

But recently I did a little looking online to see how it might work to dump uncooked pasta into a crock pot. Might it cook along with the other ingredients? A little experimenting turned out this Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta recipe, which is as easy as can be.

Now, this is a meatless meal. You’re more than welcome to stir cooked hamburger or cooked chicken into your crock pot. But then, of course, you’d have to cook the meat first, which means dirtying up another dish, and I refuse to take responsibility for making you do that. Also, you should know that my family full of carnivores ate this and never once asked, “Hey. Where’s the meat?” I think the three cheeses in this recipe make this hearty enough to keep everyone happy.

Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta

Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (25-32 ounces each)
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella, cheddar, or Colby jack cheese
  • 1 pound UNCOOKED whole grain pasta, any shape
  • Sea salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Dump all ingredients into a crock pot and stir well.
  2. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 2-3 hours or until pasta is tender.

Simple 3-Cheese Crock Pot Pasta

Serve this easy crock pot dish with a quick salad and steamed veggie. It’s as simple as can be. I don’t think I need to tell you that it’s delicious. This is a given. And now we know that we can dump uncooked pasta into the crock pot and turn out a great meal in just a few of effortless hours.

Here are more Simple Recipes you’ll love!

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Simple Overnight Melt-in-your-Mouth Beef Roast

Remember the Simple Overnight Saucy Crock Pot Chicken recipe I shared? That’s becoming one of my new go-to recipes to help me feed my family on busy days. This, of course, led me to experiment more with the idea. What else, I wondered, could be cooked in the crock pot overnight to make my day simpler tomorrow? Well. One result this Simple Overnight Melt-in-Your-Mouth Beef Roast.

Simple Overnight Beef Roast

Just like the chicken, you can put your roast into your crock pot directly from the freezer. It thaws and cooks overnight. The next day, the meat will fall apart and melt in your mouth!

Why would we want to cook meat in our crock pots overnight? Let me count the ways:

  • When we wake up to cooked meat, we have something good to pack for lunches if that is a need.
  • We can turn the crock pot to the “keep warm” setting and have meat waiting for us later at lunch time at home.
  • We can turn off the crock pot and cool the meat to eat in big chef salads at lunch time.
  • We can put the meat in the fridge to pull out any time we need it during the next few days.

The concept is so simple, and it presents so many easy meal options!

Simple Overnight Melt-in-Your-Mouth Beef Roast

Simple Overnight Melt-in-your-Mouth Beef Roast
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 3-4 pound beef roast
  • 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons Onion Soup Mix (recipe below)
  • ½ cup water
Instructions
  1. Put roast in the bottom of a crock pot. (Roast can be frozen or thawed.)
  2. Pour Worcestershire sauce, Onion Soup Mix, and water over the roast.
  3. Cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Here’s my Onion Soup Mix recipe.

Simple Overnight Melt in your Mouth Beef Roast

This roast is delicious no matter if you serve it with mashed potatoes and veggies or if you serve it in a chef salad. The flavor is incredible!!

Have you tried cooking meat in a crock pot overnight? What has your experience been like?

Here are more Simple Recipes you’ll love!

It’s recipes like this that makes Simple Meals such a life saver for families. We’ll provide the plans. We’ll provide the recipes. We’ll provide the grocery list. All you have to do is take a deep breath and enjoy how simple your life in the kitchen has become! Join Simple Meals!

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Simple Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken

I don’t know one person who can do all things well, all the time. Do you? Here’s what I experience and have come to recognize as my normal:

Some days I can work on my website for many hours, edit several photos of food, write three blog posts, and answer 40 waiting emails. I end the day feeling incredibly productive after all I’ve accomplished. But you should (not) see my house at the end of the day. Nothing got cleaned. Our meals were what we would probably lovingly label as “miscellaneous.” And it’s very likely I never got out of my pajamas from the night before.

Then there are the days I get dressed right away, fix a big breakfast for my family, clean up right away afterward, and spend an hour making freezer foods. I’ll spend extra time on history lessons with my youngest, sweep the nasty floor in my kitchen, and help my 16-year old edit an English paper. Dinner will be a favorite. The dishes will be done right after. I’ll figure out what’s for breakfast tomorrow. Great right? Yes. These are great days. They are also the days I completely neglect my website work, answer zero emails, and fall quickly behind on all online duties that need to be done. In addition, those are the days I probably never made it back upstairs to even see the washing machine or remember that laundry needs to be done.

Actually, can we please not talk about laundry on any day ever? Okay.

My point? I can do a lot of things well, but I cannot do them all on the same day. I’ve realized that “getting everything done” is not a thing that ever happens. And I’ve almost come to terms with the fact that “getting everything done” doesn’t actually matter. Almost. (It’s just that the laundry piles and gross floors do get to me, you know?)

I’m assuming you can relate. If not, you can pray for pitiful people like me who find themselves coming, going, and forgetting to come back. The struggle is real.

hawaiian-chicken

It’s recipes like the one I’m sharing today that can make all of us feel accomplished on any day no matter what got done and what didn’t. Meals like this Simple Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken take no effort, but you’ll still sit down at the end of the day and be like, “Wow. I made an awesome dinner. Yay me.”

This chicken recipe has your back. It’s ridiculously easy, but tastes like you worked some sort of kitchen magic.

Simple Hawaiian Crock Pot ChickenYum

Simple Hawaiian Crock Pot Chicken
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2-3 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 8 ounces crushed or chunk pineapple, drained
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce*
Instructions
  1. Place chicken (frozen or thawed) in the bottom of a crock pot.
  2. Top with pineapple and barbecue sauce.
  3. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Shred chicken before serving.
  5. Serve over rice if you like.

*Here’s my  easy Homemade Barbecue Sauce recipe if you’d like to try it!

simple-crock-pot-hawaiian-chicken

Did you see in the recipe how it doesn’t matter if you start with frozen chicken or thawed chicken? I almost always start with frozen chicken, because thinking ahead to thaw chicken is just about more than I can handle. After all, I’m way too busy not getting everything done.

More Simple Recipes

How are your days? Do you often end a day feeling like you didn’t get everything done? Join the club! (And also remember to recognize all you DID get done!)

It’s here! Check out our amazing Simple Meals program!

You will love this!

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Simple Creamy Chicken Stew in the Crock Pot

If you want something that meets all the criteria for nourishing comfort food, this Simple Creamy Chicken Stew is what you’re looking for.

I love that the ingredients for this recipe can be quickly put in the crock pot in the morning. Of course, since we are home most of the day, the delicious smell of this cooking stew almost kill us. (Life is so hard.)

chicken-stew

Probably one of my favorite aspects of this stew is the creaminess. The ranch dressing mix gives it wonderful flavor, and of course, the potatoes and carrots make this meal filling and nourishing. I love this stew! Whenever there are leftovers (rare, but hey, it does happen sometimes), I am so happy. Warming this up on the day after I’ve made it makes for such a happy lunch.

Simple Creamy Chicken Stew in the Crock PotYum

5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Creamy Chicken Stew in the Crock Pot
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 4-5 small potatoes (I prefer red or gold)
  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 3 Tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix*
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cut chicken, potatoes, and carrots into bite-sized pieces and stir together in a crock pot.
  2. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a bowl combine cream, sour cream, chicken broth, and ranch dressing mix.
  4. Pour mixture over the chicken and veggies.
  5. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-7 hours.
*I highly recommend this Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix.
simple-creamy-chicken-stew-in-the-crock-pot

You’ve been trying all the new Simple Recipes, right?

Easy Salsa Chicken Salad Recipe (Less Than 5-Minutes of Work)

Hi! It’s me. The girl without an oven.

Actually, I have an oven. It’s sitting in my living room by my couch. See? There it is:

gas oven

Oh man. If you’re one of my Facebook followers, you might have witnessed my first ever Facebook Live video where I showed off my new stove and made a bad joke about having gas. “Going Live” with you was super fun, so I’ll definitely be doing that more often. Please check it out and join us!

While I type, my favorite guy is going up and down the stairs to complete the transition from electric hook-up to gas. As soon as my pretty new dream oven is hooked up, I will be making a Peach Cobbler to reward Matt for all his hard work getting this set up for me! (To catch you up on the latest, on a whim we checked to see if Craigslist had anything for us. We didn’t have our hopes up. But would you believe, we found exactly one double oven and it is exactly what we want/need – except better?! And we got it for an amazing price!! So thankful!)

During the days I’ve been without an oven I’ve been using my crock potmy electric skilletmy cast iron griddlemy blender, and my waffle iron quite a bit. As you can see, being oven-less has not been the end of my world.

This Easy Salsa Chicken Salad recipe is actually just a simple variation of my Crock Pot Chicken Tacos. I made this last Sunday when we needed to leave for church in ten minutes but I hadn’t figured out lunch for the day. I got out frozen chicken, ran it under some hot water, plopped it into my crock pot, dumped in some salsa, and left for church.

I said, “Wow, easiest meal ever.” and my boys said, “Mom you say that every day.”

It’s true. I only make food that’s easy. Multi-step recipes are not for me. And yet here we are still eating a healthy, real food diet. Don’t forget how to put the easiest, healthiest side dishes on the table too. Fruits and veggies are the best convenience foods there are!

organic spring mix

Speaking of healthy convenience foods – big containers of Organic Mixed Greens are my favorite fast food to get at the grocery store! Instead of making my Salsa Chicken into a taco last Sunday, I dumped a big hand-full of mixed greens into a bowl, added my tasty chicken along with some tomatoes, black beans, and corn – and I had the best salad! I didn’t even need salad dressing. (Though you can take a look at the yummy options I have listed here.)

Easy Salsa Chicken SaladYum

Easy Salsa Chicken Salad Recipe (Less Than 5-Minutes of Work)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 cups salsa
  • Your choice of greens
  • Your choice of salad fixins (I like tomatoes, corn, and black beans for this salad)
Instructions
  1. Place fresh or frozen chicken in a crock pot.
  2. Dump salsa over the chicken.
  3. Cook on low for about 4 hours.
  4. Shred the chicken and serve with your favorite salad fixins.

Easy Salsa Chicken Salad

A similar recipe to this Salsa Chicken idea is this Crock Pot Bbq Chicken Recipe. Dump it into the crock pot and go!

What are your favorite healthy convenience foods?

 

How to Cook Beans in the Crock Pot

Cooking beans is crazy easy. It’s remembering to soak them the night before that is the hard part.

My morning brain and my night brain are two completely different beasts. My morning brain is like, “Wooooo yeah! We gonna cook all day and do school work with the kids (let’s do art today!) and organize ourselves completely and make all the phone calls and make 20 quarts of applesauce and finish the laundry and write two blog posts! Let’s do this!”

As the days wears on, I knock out about three of my twenty lofty goals (because my time and energy always run out before my to-do list ends –  and also because I hate making phone calls). After a full day of thinking hard and working hard and loving hard, my night brain is like, “I’m not speaking to you right now.”

This is why it is hard to soak beans.

The irony is that I never forget to grind coffee beans at night to put into my coffee pot for easy coffee making the next morning. Obviously, I have my priorities. Perhaps my two bean worlds could collide and I could let my coffee beans trigger a reminder about my pintos? It only makes sense.

On the rare occasion I do remember to soak beans, I feel so accomplished when I get into bed at night. Forget all the other stuff I did for 15 hours all day long. I totally put my beans in a pot with water! I am so very amazing!

Once the beans have been soaked, we can put them into a crock pot to cook all day for our dinner that night.

How to Cook Beans in a Crock Pot

How to Cook Beans in a Crock PotYum

1. At night before bed, put about 4 cups of any variety of beans into a pot with 6-8 cups of water.

2. Splash in a little vinegar. It’s supposed to help with the toots. I offer no guarantees.

making beans1

3. Let the beans soak overnight.

4. Strain and rinse them in the morning. Put them into a crock pot and cover them with fresh water.

5. Add a couple of chopped onions to the post for flavor. This is optional but yummy and recommended.

6. Cover and cook the beans on low for 8-10 hours or until they are tender.

multitasking 5

At this point, you can enjoy your beans in any way you enjoy beans. Our favorites are:

What are your favorite ways to eat beans? Please tell me about your morning brain vs. your night brain. Which works better for you?

It’s Not a Race But…7 Slow Cooker Meals in 30 Minutes!!!!

If you don’t have the Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Editions, I humbly suggest that you get them now. I am not even kidding when I tell you that I just spent only 30 minutes recently prepping 7 slow cooker chicken meals for my freezer.

The geek in me discovered that this averaged out to be 4.285714 minutes of work per meal. I don’t know how anything could be easier – except for the fact that now 7 different times, I can pull out a bag and dump it into my crock pot, then walk away and have a meal for my family 6-8 hours later. So yeah. That’s easier. I am loving this.

slow cooker chicken 1

Above is a picture of Malachi eating strawberries and a piece of carrot cake at the table while staring peacefully out the window. Love him. It is also a picture of some of the ingredients I grabbed out of my pantry, plus the freezer baggies I labeled so that I could be super efficient as I worked my way through the Eat Right Away: Slow Cooker Chicken Edition directions.

Apparently I thought the whole shebang was going to take so long that I wouldn’t possibly want to walk three extra steps to get out the olive oil in the midst of all the work. This undoubtedly saved me four seconds, giving me the edge on prepping so many meals in so little time. Rock on, olive oil. Thank you for being there when I needed you.

Just look at these beauties, will you? Seven freezer bags of chicken crock pot meals – made in less time than it takes to make a list of all the things it takes 30 minutes to do. For real.

slow cooker chicken 2

Next I work my way through the Crock Pot Beef Edition. Details to come.

Check out all the Eat Right Away Packets here. Save so much time and money! Love, love love. Want the carrot cake recipe? Trust me, you do. You can get that here.

We Can Bake Quick Breads in a Slow Cooker!

It’s a new way to bake quick breads!

You Can Bake Bread in a Crock Pot!

I had no idea that this was an actual thing. Did you?? I came across this idea here and am ever so grateful.

I’ve been baking potatoes in a crock pot for several years, but I did not know a person could bake quick bread this way too. (And also yeast bread, but I’m trying to perfect that idea before posting about it. You can look forward to that…as will I if I can ever figure out how to do it right.)

This is going to change how we eat this summer. No more avoiding bread on hot days since I never want to turn on the oven. However, since I only have one crock pot, I can obviously only do one loaf of bread at a time. This is a little bit limiting for my family of huge eaters. But all I’ll have to do to remedy this is scramble up a bunch of eggs and make a blender (or two) full of smoothies to go with our loaf, and we’ve got a meal.

I’ve tried this idea with two different types of quick breads – Chocolate Chip Bread and Snickerdoodle (it was a recipe experiment). Both worked great! This leads me to believe that any quick bread recipe will work. (Actually, I’m not sure about gluten free breads. Anyone have experience with this?)

How to Bake Quick Bread in a Crock Pot

How to Bake Quick Breads in a Crock Pot

1. Turn your crock pot onto “hi” to preheat.

2. Mix your quick bread as usual and put it into a buttered loaf pan. (I used glass as I’m not sure about using a stone in my crock pot. Any have experience with this?)

3. Wad up two pieces of tin foil and place them at the bottom of your crock pot. This will offer some space under your bread pan which will help your bread bake better.

bread in crock pot 2
4. Set your loaf pan into your crock pot. (Mine is actually barely the right size, so it didn’t fit all the way in thus negating the need for wads of foil. As you can see in the pictures above, my pan sat on the edge of the top of the crock. It worked perfectly.)

5. Place the lid on your crock pot slightly off centered so as to allow a little bit of steam to escape during baking.

6. Leave the bread to bake in the crock pot for about 2 hours. You’ll be able to watch it baking from the outside into the middle, making it quite easy to see when it has finished baking.

bread in crock pot 3

How excited are you to learn this fun trick?! What quick bread are you going to try baking in your crock pot first? I’m asking because I know you are going to try this right away, this minute, today, as soon as you stand up.

P.S. Look through our quick bread/muffin recipes here.

Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Hopefully, you’ve knocked out cooking your whole chicken and making chicken broth, plus made a double batch of Black Bean Chicken Nachos for the freezer. If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great! You can get started here.

Today is going to be just as easy as yesterday when it comes to prepping a meal for tonight’s dinner along with putting a meal (or two) into the freezer for another time. All you need to do is throw chicken into the crock pot, cover with bbq sauce, and let the crock pot do your work for you. Once your chicken is done, use a portion as part of tonight’s dinner. Allow the rest to cool, then put into a jar or freezer bag. Place it in the freezer (clearly labeled) for a day you don’t have time to cook.

Here’s the recipe you’ll need for today:  Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts

bbq chicken dinner

As you can see, I chose to serve our Bbq Chicken on buns with cheese melted on top. We had a busy evening with soccer practices, so setting these out on the table with fresh pineapple, carrots, and cucumbers made a quick meal for us to grab on the fly. The rest of the chicken is now in the freezer, waiting for another day when I can pull it out to use.

I hope you’re beginning to see how easy freezer cooking can be! Coming up next:  Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook)

How are you doing with the challenge so far this week?

Breakfast Crock Pot Casserole

Every once in a while I think to myself, “Surely someday I will run out of recipes and ideas to share on my website.”  But after blogging for almost six years, I have decided that no – the ideas will never run out. Why? Because when food meets internet {splat} – recipes, tips, ideas, and suggestions are never ending. I learn something new, I share it with you. You learn something new, you share it with me. As we all ask questions, learn from others, see new ideas, remember timeless ideas, or come across an idea quite by accident – and we share it with each other via this awesome tool called the internet – our healthy eating journey together continues on a fun and delicious path.

Case in point:  On my own, I would never have thought to make a breakfast casserole in my crock pot. I freeze my Easy Breakfast Casserole and for an easy breakfast to bake in the morning. But this crock pot idea is even better, because we can roll right out of bed and eat a hot, hearty meal within minutes.

A big thanks goes to Karli who sent me this idea. We’re lovin’ it! (So much that I named this recipe after you, and included it in my free Healthy Breakfast Made Simple eBook.)

Karli’s Breakfast Crock Pot CasseroleYum

1 pound turkey sausage
6 cups hashbrowns
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
12 eggs

Brown turkey sausage. Butter the inside of a slow cooker, then stir in cooked sausage, hashbrowns, pepper, onions, and cheese. Whisk together milk and eggs, then pour mixture over the top of the contents in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low overnight – about 10 or 12 hours. Serves 8-10.

Crock_Pot_Casserole

I thought it was funny that the sausage didn’t show up on the plate.  It’s in there, I promise. :)

This recipe is very versatile – mix and match any veggies, meats, or cheeses that your family likes or that you have available.

How is the Getting Ahead for Breakfast Challenge coming for you?  I love that there are so many ways to get ahead for breakfast, and not all of them involve putting food in the freezer. This crock pot casserole is a great example. As is the Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packet recipe and the Dark Chocolate Almond Granola recipe.  And the Homemade Grape Nuts Cereal.  And the Freezing Muffin Batter idea. Oh wait. That one does involve the freezer. I guess I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bring it up again.

I also wanted to mention that I’ve had great feedback from people taking the Let’s Do This! Getting Ahead in Your Real Food Kitchen eCourse. Families are finding new ways to get ahead in the kitchen, saving time, saving money, and becoming healthier. I LOVE it!