Think about it: three meals a day, 365 days a year. That comes to 1,095 meals a year. And that’s not including snacks. Is it any wonder creativity wanes and we’re stuck making the same things for breakfast, lunch and dinner over and over again? It’s hard to keep the inspiration going for thousands of meals!
Besides the sheer volume of food that must be prepared, kids are some of the harshest food critics. They could give any restaurant reviewer some competition. If you’ve ever spent an hour preparing a delicious meal only to have it picked at or thrown on the floor, you know what I mean. So when The Robin Takes 5 Cookbook for Busy Families by Robin Miller landed at my door, I was super pumped. Full of full of simple, five-ingredient meals, I just knew it was going to make meal planning easier. Simple is often better when it comes to kids, and if it can still taste good for the adults in the crowd, it’s a winner.
The book keeps it simple; it’s laid out from breakfast to dinner, with snacks, sides and even desserts included. It also included nutrition facts and personal anecdotes from the author about each recipe. The anecdotes often give suggestions about how to tweak the recipe or how to prepare it in advance, which I found helpful.
When I flipped open the book, I dove right into slow-cooker meals. It’s my most underutilized kitchen appliance, and the one that should be on my counter at all times. Having new recipes to try, though, has made me the biggest fan of the slow cooker. In fact, you can’t tear me away now. A few minutes of prep in the morning and a meal is ready when you want it in the early evening. I don’t know what I’ve been doing without it for so long.
I started with the Havana black bean chili (recipe tomorrow!). With just chicken, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and black beans, it’s a simple dish that packs a lot of flavor. It was super easy to throw together, and my son devoured his while my daughter kept asking for more beans. I spiced it up a little extra with some garlic salt and jalapenos for mine (I dig spicy!), but it was a hit. Served in a bread bowl, it was a perfect chili for a cool fall evening.
Not missing a beat, I saved the chili leftovers for lunch the next day and cleaned out my Crock-Pot for the next meal: Sweet-and-Sour Beef Brisket. Again, the prep was simple: sliced red onion in the bottom of the slow cooker, a salt and peppered brisket, and a cranberry/Dijon mustard/tomato sauce sauce on top. Within an hour it was smelling delicious. Even better was that at the end of the day it tasted delicious. I won’t include a photo because it doesn’t do the food justice, but we loved it, and I’ll definitely add it to the rotation. The sauce may not have looked appetizing when I stirred it together at first, but after the flavors blended, we couldn’t get enough of it combined with the onions. In fact, we had some sauce left over and now we have to figure out how to make use of it.
Going for a slow-cooker trifecta for the week, I made Mexican Pork the next day. Now, my husband isn’t a big pork fan unless it comes to bacon, so pork isn’t something I have a lot of practice with. But true to form, the prep was super quick and easy. A boneless pork loin roast, salsa, green chilies, black beans and cheese have you on your way to a delicious fiesta. Turned out, I forgot to add the black beans in the last five minutes before scooping up dinner, but I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe. I used it for soft tacos and then over nachos the next day, and it was so yummy. This may have been my favorite of the three, and I’ll be trying it with chicken for the pork-hater in the house.
Obviously my trials were heavy on the slow-cooker, but a quick browse of the rest of the book is promising. There are quick and easy picky eater palate pleasers abound, and I’ll definitely be testing out more of the recipes. There are also icons depicting recipes that are great for picky eaters, and where you can omit and substitute items that may not be crowd-pleasers. These recipes may be easy for the chef who craves complicated recipes, but for busy moms short on time, this book is a lifesaver. Complicated recipes can wait until the kids have more refined palates! With just five ingredients, you’ll find that you have most of the ingredients on hand, and the shorter grocery list eliminates the barrier that drives many a mom to grab the chicken nuggets for the kids.
Do you go for the simple meals, too? —Erin