Cook Up a Delicious Dish for a Back-to-College Dinner
Rather than cooking a complicated meal that takes hours, cook an easy meal that takes hours – but only requires you to be hands-on with it for a matter of minutes! Slow cooker meals let you prepare a meal without hovering over a stove or oven for a long time.
Slow cooker recipes are usually quite easy and require few special kitchen utensils, making them a great option for college apartments or dorms, and for busy parents whose students are home for the semester or breaks. Try a few of these comforting, affordable recipes for mealtime on busy days, and share a meal with your loved ones.
Easy Spaghetti and Meatballs
This tasty recipe makes six servings and takes only 15 minutes of prep time. It does require you to add noodles later in the day, mid-cooking, but you can essentially set it and forget it for the majority of the cook time.
For the meatballs, you’ll need:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- ¼ cup bread crumbs (make your own by toasting bread and crushing it up)
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley or ⅓ of this amount in dried parsley
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, or garlic powder to taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the sauce, you’ll need:
- 2 cans of crushed tomatoes (28 oz each)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 clove of garlic, minced, or garlic powder to taste
- Salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 ½ cups chicken broth
- ¾ lb. spaghetti (or pasta noodle of your choice, such as penne or rotini)
- Grated parmesan cheese for topping
To make meatballs, mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes in a bowl until it’s thoroughly blended. Form it into 16 or so meatballs and set them in the bottom of your slow cooker.
In a second bowl, mix your crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, oregano, and garlic. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Pour this over the meatballs in the slow cooker.
Cover with a lid and cook on high for three hours or low for five hours. Then, add your spaghetti and broth to the slow cooker and stir to ensure the pasta is coated. Cook for another 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes as needed. You can add more broth if necessary.
Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.
This lentil-based chili is full of beans and seasonings that make it hearty. Together, the flavors are those of a gourmet meal – and yet this is quite an inexpensive recipe, especially if you already have a spice rack. In lieu of the lengthy list of spices, you can use a chili seasoning packet from your local grocery store instead.
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 15 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes (do not drain!)
- 6 oz. can of tomato paste
- 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
- 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained
- 1 cup lentils, uncooked
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
Put all the ingredients into your slow cooker and stir together. Cover with the lid and cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours. The lentils should be tender when it’s time to eat. Taste before serving to add any additional seasonings that you prefer, such as additional salt or pepper.
Comforting Tater Soup
Potatoes are an affordable food. They’re filling and comforting! Get this soup going in your slow cooker in the morning. When you arrive home in the evening from work or school, complete the last steps, change into your comfiest pajamas or sweats, and enjoy your soup!
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated or finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic, or garlic powder to taste
- 3 pounds of potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
- 6 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth (use bouillon cubes to save money)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups milk
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Add the celery, onion, carrots, and potatoes to your slow cooker, and pour the broth over the top. Season with pepper and cover with the lid. Let it cook on high for about eight hours.
Check that the potatoes, onions, and celery are very soft.
Whisk together your milk and flour, and then add it to your soup, stirring it together. Cook on high for an additional 30 minutes.
(This is the part where you change into your comfiest clothes, take a quick shower, or a couple quick chores.)
Using a potato masher, immersion blender, or a hand mixer, mash any remaining chunks of potatoes until smooth. Of course, you might prefer chunkier soup and can skip this step. Add salt and pepper as needed.
When You Can’t Cook For Them, Send Your Love with a College Care Package
You’ve heard the phrase “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” but we posit it’s possible to take that a lot further. The way to anyone’s heart – and to show your love – is to cook a delicious and thoughtful meal for someone. But when you can’t do that, because your loved one is away from home at college or prep school, sign up your college or prep school student for one of the best gifts available: a monthly subscription to My College Crate.
Each month, your loved one will receive a care package full of items to help them stay happy, healthy, and safe, and you never have to remember to log in and prompt us to send them. We’ll take care of all the details for you, and all you have to do is sit back and watch the “thank you!” text messages roll in. Order monthly care packages now.
Join our Group of Parents Just Like You!
If you’re a parent of a college student or high school senior, you’re invited to join our special Facebook group, called Parents of College Students Advice & Tips. Our community is here to offer you helpful advice as your child transitions to adulthood – and ask you to share your own ideas and information with other parents. Join today.
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