As a working Mom who is morally obligated to feed her family, I confess that I have a love/hate relationship with said obligation.
On one hand, I like to eat. Some would say I’m guilty of enjoying it a bit too much. (For example, during both pregnancies where I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted, and every winter, when my body naturally adds an extra 5 pounds of protective insulation.)
On the other hand, my enjoyment of food stresses me out — both in terms of the physical consequences (see above), and around the idea of having to cook a meal every night. My biggest hurdles: trying to come up with a meal that everyone will eat, making sure the ingredients are on hand, and then taking the time to prepare a meal at the precise point in the day when I’m the most mentally depleted.
That said, the benefits of the family dinner have been well documented. One study shows that teens who don’t eat with their families for dinners on a regular basis are much more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco compared to those who do eat meals with their parents.
Studies aside, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that eating together, sharing the day’s ups and downs with the people you love, and basically communing as a cohesive group is better than the alternative.
And that is why I love my slow cooker, the ultimate tool for “fix it and forget it” meal preparation. You can find a suitable recipe on any number of web sites or cookbooks. Just load it with ingredients in the morning, turn the dial to low and let the meal cook all day. Come home a few hours later, and voila! You’re greeted with an enticing aroma of a home cooked meal. Bonus: you get to feel smug in the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done something good for your family that really required very little effort.
Here’s one of my favorite slow cooker recipes, courtesy of one of the teachers at my kids’ school. It makes a lot and freezes well. It also tastes even better the next day as leftovers:
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese
1 pkg. Italian seasoning (in salad dressing aisle)
Lay chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Mix soup, cheese and seasoning. Pour over chicken. Cook 8-10 hours on low. Use spatula to break chicken apart. Serve on hard rolls or buns.
What about you? Are you as enamored with the slow cooker as I am? Let me know what you think. Better yet, share a recipe or two. I’ll post the best ones in the near future and continue to spread the good word about the little appliance with huge potential to make you wildly happy.