Now that our family has two children with some severe food allergies my meals have become a little more simple. Unless I want to make two or three main dishes for one meal, I need our meals to at least be egg- free and nut-free. Egg- free and nut-free means one of my allergic kids can eat it. Then, if I want to make sure Caedmon can also eat the same thing I have to exclude not only the eggs and nuts, but wheat, dairy, tomatoes, peas, peppers and...well, that's leaves out a whole lot, doesn't it?
That pretty much leaves us making simple meat dishes with rice or potatoes and several choices of vegetables. Casseroles are out most of the time, but we do still have spaghetti and pizzas every other week or so. I just have to prepare a separate meal for Caedmon or he gets lots of munchies like sunflower seeds, olives, grapes, apples, cooked hamburger meat or chicken or a vegetable pilaf that we keep made up for these occasions.
To make things easier on myself I try to use the slowcooker often to make roasted meats and vegetables. It's so easy to throw everything into the slowcooker in the morning and open it up at meal time for a fully cooked meal. One of our favorites is a beef roast. I add several potatoes, carrots and onions, cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and lots of spices. I can't use store-bought seasoning packets as it can be hard to tell exactly what is in the package. However, just using spices that I have on hand really seasons the dish well. I can then add a side of green beans or a salad for an easy and delicious meal that will most likely serve as leftovers as well.
I have also cooked one or even two whole chickens at a time in the slowcooker. We then eat one of the chickens and freeze the other for another day. If I am making only one chicken I will add several vegetables to the pot as well. I generally add the same potatoes, carrots and onions, but will also include some cabbage occasionally.
The other day we had grilled boneless chicken for dinner. I rarely buy boneless chicken and generally only buy chicken breasts that are on sale or marked down. I had six chicken breasts that had been reduced in price. I cut off most of the meat from each breast for our grilled chicken dinner. Then I put all the bones in the slowcooker. There was a good bit of meat left on those bones! I added some onion, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and carrots to the pot and then filled with water. I left this to cook overnight on low. The next morning we removed the chicken (still need to debone it, but it will make about three cups of shredded chicken--enough for a casserole, salad or Mexican dish. And I poured off about 3 quarts of rich chicken stock to use in making our vegetable rice pilaf or in soups.
I recently started buying pork roasts. I have always bought pork loins, but the roasts are a good bit cheaper so I decided to try one out. To my surprise the family liked it better than the more expensive cut. I have been cooking one or two at a time in the slowcooker. One day after the meat was cooked, I simply took my kitchen shears and cut the meat up right in the pot. Then I sprinkled it with some salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar. I then poured a bottle of our favorite BBQ sauce of all and mixed it up. What an easy way to make BBQ sandwiches and of course, there were enough leftovers to freeze for another quick meal on another day.
A made another pork roast in the slowcooker this week, but added a can of pureed pineapple, red pepper flakes and about 1/2 cup of brown sugar. I served with a rice pilaf and green vegetable. The leftover meat was bagged for the freezer. With it's slightly sweet and sour flavor, I think I will use it to make an eggless fried rice dish soon.
Do you have any simple cooking strategies to help you through your busy days? I would love to hear your ideas! Please share in the comments and check out more simple living ideas at GNOWFGLINS.