Everyone loves a great Crock-Pot or slow cooker recipe, and if it’s cheap and easy, that’s even better! I’ve made these Crock-Pot sweet chili chicken drumsticks several times in the last few weeks, and they’ve been a hit with our family. This recipe is one of my “Costco hacks,” because the main ingredients are a bargain at Costco.
This summer has been absolutely crazy at our house, with one daughter moving to another state, another daughter getting married, and a major renovation (still not finished) for the kitchen. I’ve been pulling out all my easiest, quickest and tastiest recipes to try to keep everybody fed during the chaos. This crock-pot honey balsamic chicken with carrots is perfect for busy days. It’s a main dish and side dish all in one, with fabulous flavors the whole family loves.
The key to this recipe is one of my favorite flavor combinations: balsamic vinegar and honey. Add a touch of garlic and a little bit of red chili oil, and you have a subtly sweet sauce with a depth of flavor that perfectly complements chicken and carrots.
There’s something so satisfying about a plate of pasta with a hearty, flavorful marinara sauce. It’s a meal that can be put together in a hurry, when you’re low on groceries or have no idea what to make, and it’s inexpensive but still delicious.
When my husband and I were dating, he pretty much lived on pasta. At the time, we were both waiting tables at the Old Spaghetti Factory, and they gave us a free plate of pasta every shift. I’m pretty sure he would have eaten spaghetti and pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. His Italian mama made him spaghetti at home, too, always with her homemade sauce.
Over the years, I’ve developed my own marinara sauce recipe, and I usually make it using the pressure cooker or Crock-Pot. My recipe uses carrots and celery in addition to tomatoes, onions and garlic, with a touch of extra virgin of olive oil. I love having this sauce on hand, to top pasta, grilled chicken or zucchini noodles, or to use as a dip for breadsticks. You can also use it for baked pasta dishes like Allie’s Baked Caprese Tortellini.
Everybody likes a dish they can customize, and that might be one of the reasons Mexican posole is trending in California and other parts of the U.S. Posole is certainly not new, but it seems to be gaining in popularity. Like Vietnamese pho, posole is a flavorful soup that individual diners top with fresh vegetables at the table. There are green chile and red chile versions of posole, usually made with chicken or pork.
This easy green posole recipe is made with fresh chiles and tomatillos, so it’s not as quick as my red posole, which gets its chile flavor from canned enchilada sauce. I still call it easy, though, especially because you can cook it hands-free using an electric pressure cooker or crock-pot. This recipe makes a big batch of soup, so you can freeze some of it in small containers for individual meals, or freeze half to serve for dinner later on a night you don’t have time to cook.
I’ve been using a pressure cooker for years – the old-fashioned kind with a rattly weight that sits on the top and a 1950s-looking pressure gauge. I love it for its ability to make food taste like it’s been cooking for hours, even when it’s only been cooking for 30 minutes or so. This past Christmas, I got a fancy electric pressure cooker, and it’s my favorite new toy. So far, I’ve mostly used the electric pressure cooker to make soup, including this easy red posole.
Posole (or pozole) is a classic Mexican soup or stew of meat, vegetables, chiles and hominy. If you’re not familiar with hominy, it’s big kernels of corn that have the outer husk removed. Hominy doesn’t taste like sweet corn, but more like the maize used to make tortillas or tortilla chips.
There are red versions of posole, usually made with pork, and green versions, usually made with chicken. Diners add fresh toppings – often sliced radishes, cabbage, diced onion, avocado, fresh cilantro or lime wedges – to their bowls of hot soup.
Traditional posole recipes involve soaking dried hominy and dried chiles, and stewing bony cuts of pork. This quick and easy version uses canned hominy and boneless pork loin, and it gets much of its flavor from a can of enchilada sauce. Pressure cooking makes this soup taste like it’s been simmering for hours. If you prefer, you can get the same effect from a slow cooker.
Is there any comfort food quite like spaghetti and meatballs? It’s hearty, rich, and carb-o-licious, but unfortunately quite fattening and high in calories. That’s why I love this recipe. It transforms pasta and meatballs from a treat for special occasions to a weeknight dinner perfect for your regular recipe rotation.
This recipe is much lighter than your standard meatballs and marinara, but still packs a powerful flavor punch. Turkey is lower in calories and fat than sausage or beef, and these meatballs are packed with just the right amount of spinach: enough that you get a good serving, but not enough that that your kids will turn their noses up at their plates.
This recipe is also much less labor intensive than your typical meatball and marinara recipe, because it’s made using my favorite kitchen appliance – the Crock-Pot. Prep the meatballs and sauce in the morning, set your Crock-Pot for 8 hours and dinner is ready to go!
I’m always on the lookout for weeknight dinners under 500 calories and this one fits the bill. One serving of my favorite whole wheat pasta is 190 calories + 127 calories for 3 meatballs (only 43 calories per meatball!) + 93 calories for 1 cup of marinara+ about 30 calories for garnish comes to a grand total of just 440 calories.
Because this recipe serves 7, it makes enough to serve my small family 2 meals instead of just one. My husband usually takes leftovers to work for lunch the next day, and I use the leftover meatballs and sauce to make slimmed-down meatballs subs the next evening.
I generally serve these meatballs with one of my family’s favorite pastas (we’re partial to vegetable farfalle and whole wheat penne over here) and a light, green side salad or my mom’s famous Slimmed-Down Roasted Broccoli. If you’re watching carbs you can omit the bread crumbs (I’ve done it and it works well-also makes the recipe gluten free) and serve with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of traditional pasta.
- 1 ½ lb 93% lean ground turkey
- 2 cups frozen spinach leaf
- 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- shredded Parmesan, if desired
- fresh basil, if desired
- Combine diced tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt, pepper, garlic, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar a slow cooker. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
- Defrost spinach in microwave (mine takes 4-5 minutes on a very low setting, but times will vary) and squeeze dry of excess water.
- Combine turkey, spinach, bread crumbs, garlic, salt, pepper, egg, smoked paprika, and parsley in a large bowl, and mix with your hands until combined. Use a 1/8 measuring cup to measure out portions of the turkey mixture and roll into balls.
- Carefully place each of the meatballs in the sauce. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
- If possible, gently stir mixture every few hours. If not, stir the mixture after its finished cooking and serve immediately.
- Total Cost: $9.26 Cost Per Serving $1.33
It’s been cold here in Salt Lake City – really cold, like single digit lows at night and highs in the teens during the day. It’s a perfect time to cook up something warm and spicy, like this Ropa Vieja beef stew. “Ropa vieja” is Spanish for “old clothes,” and this dish is traditional in Cuba. The name is a play on the ragged shreds of beef that are cooked in a peppery tomato broth and served over rice.
This version of Ropa Vieja is adapted for the slow cooker, so it doesn’t use traditional browning and braising techniques. To be honest, I don’t know much about Cuban food, but I love this dish. Most Ropa Vieja recipes call for flank steak, which tastes amazing and shreds beautifully, but can cost $8 or more per pound. I’ve substituted rump roast, which was on sale for $2.99 a pound when I bought it for this recipe, putting it on a par with chicken breast. I like beef as much as the next girl, but if I’m going to spend $8 a pound on steak I’ll probably use it in a recipe that showcases the meat a little more. This recipe makes eight large or 12 medium servings, so unless you have a big family, you can put half of it in the freezer for a day when you don’t have time to cook.
There is a certain Mexican restaurant that’s very popular in our hometown, and maybe in yours. Its also very popular in my house, and maybe in yours. Sweet Pork Barbacoa Salads? Creamy Tomatillo Dressing? Chile Roasted Beef Burritos? Ring a bell? Maybe you know what I’m talking about…
This recipe started out as a Copy-Cat Café Rio Chicken recipe, but in my kitchen it’s become so much more. This Cilantro Lime Chicken is a staple in my house, and I use it in many different ways.
In its most basic form, this recipe is something you’ve probably seen before: chicken breasts, salad dressing, and salsa cooked in a Crock-Pot then shredded. It’s so simple you don’t even really need a recipe. What sets this one apart is using a homemade marinade instead of pre-mixed store bought salad dressing. It takes only a few extra minutes, and it makes such a difference! One thing you won’t find in this recipe that you will find in most Copy-Cat Café Rio Chicken recipes is ranch dressing mix. I personally don’t really care for ranch dressing, and the marinade is so flavorful I don’t think it’s really necessary.
One of the things I love most about this recipe is that it produces such a large amount of chicken. It’s way too much for my family to eat in one sitting, so I always reserve at least half in the freezer and we still usually have leftovers. Then when the clock strikes 5 on yet another night that I’ve forgotten to plan something for dinner, I can just grab a bag of chicken out of the freezer and I’m ready to make simple tacos, enchiladas, burritos, nachos, salads, and Mexican haystacks.
- About 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I usually use frozen)
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup salsa
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker.
- In a bowl combine water, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salsa, and Italian seasoning. Pour marinade over chicken. Sprinkle chicken breasts with chili powder and then with garlic.
- Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.
- When cooking in complete, gently move the chicken breasts from the slow cooker to a large bowl. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the liquid from the slow cooker and discard the rest. Pour the liquid over the chicken, then shred with two forks.
- Add the chopped cilantro and lime juice and continue to shred until combined.
- To freeze chicken, let it cool to room temperature then distribute meal sized portions of chicken into Ziploc bags and freeze for future use.
- Total Cost: $9.45 Cost Per Serving: $.94
There’s nothing I love more than a dinner that practically makes itself. Except perhaps a dinner that practically makes itself that’s also cheap, healthy, low-calorie, crowd-pleasing, and most importantly, delicious. This Crock-Pot Tomato Soup recipe is a staple in my kitchen during the colder months. The family gets to sit down together over a warm meal, even when I just walked in the door.
This soup is also great for entertaining family or friends who are vegetarian, vegan, or have food allergies. On it’s own its totally vegan and each guest can add toppings to their liking and sensitivity.
You’ll notice that this recipe calls for canned tomatoes instead of fresh, which makes it a perfect addition to your fall and winter dinner rotation. While I cherish the delicious, ripe tomatoes my back yard garden produces each year, canned tomatoes are a great option for when tomatoes are not in season and actually have some interesting health benefits.
I love that the prep time for this recipe is minimal. In the morning I quickly sauté the veggies, throw everything in the Crock-Pot and leave for the day. When I get home, I blend for a few minutes, and dinner’s ready. I like to serve this soup with a variety of soup toppings, a quick green salad and grilled cheese sandwiches on our Panini press. Each family member gets to choose their own soup and sandwich toppings, so it pleases kids and adults alike.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion – coarsely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper – coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil to medium-high. Cook and stir garlic, onions, and bell peppers until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Combine sauteed vegetables, tomatoes, vegetable broth, salt, and red pepper flakes in Crock-Pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Serve immediately with fresh basil as a garnish.
- Top with Parmesan cheese, croutons, yogurt, or grilled cheese croutons as desired.