The best part of the warmer weather is definitely playing outside. I’m a mom who works outside the home, so there are only so many precious hours that I get with my kids to play. It is always such a bummer when I have to go inside and leave everyone outside playing while I make food (can I just order in every night?!). So what I try to do is either prep ahead of time or make something that requires little to no effort so that I can keep playing outside!
Note that these recipes do not really have measured ingredients—I do most of my best cooking just throwing stuff in here are there! If you are not that brave, do not worry! These are still really simple!
I love the slow cooker even in the spring and summer.
I use my slow cooker all year round! As with almost everyone, I love it because I can set it and forget it. But in the summer months, I like it even more because it does not heat up my house as the stove or oven does. On those summer evenings, less time around a hot oven or stove is better for me. Some of my favorite spring and summer slow cooker meals are:
- Pot roast—I know this seems like such a cozy fall and winter meal, but my family still likes it in the spring. I probably would not make a pot roast on a 100-degree day, but in the early to mid-spring, this meal is still good. Add in some extra veggies to lighten in a bit too.
- French Dip Sandwiches—Almost like the pot roast. Here’s the Pioneer Woman’s recipe that I love. Note that I rarely have rosemary or whatever pepperoncinis are, so they have not made it into my slow cooker, and I still think it’s tasty!
- Rotel and Chicken—this one is a doozy. I dump some chicken breasts and a can of Rotel (with all the juices) in a slow cooker on low and go to work! When I come home, I shred the chicken. You can make enchiladas, quesadillas, chicken tacos, whatever your heart desires. My favorite thing is to make cookie sheet nachos. I take a cookie sheet with sides (you do not want chips flying around), layer on chips, Rotel chicken, cheese, and beans. Put it in the oven until everything is melted. Then top with everyone’s favorite nacho topics, and set on the table to eat! No plates!
Make-ahead meals—chop and set aside for later
- Power Bowls—this is also a great meal to use up leftover veggies or half-cut veggies from the other day. This is simple. You make some sort of grain (rice, quinoa, barley) to put in a bowl, then you top with chicken and the veggies of your choice. I like to take a cookie sheet with the edges and make rows of broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, onions, zucchini, and diced chicken breasts marinated in Italian dressing. I’ll even do this ahead of time and just set it aside until it is ready to cook, then I do not have to spend so much time chopping when I would rather be playing. Roast for 20 min at 400 degrees. Scoop onto the grain and enjoy! It’s super hearty and nutritious. It is also like eating a rainbow! Note that if you do chop then set aside, I’d keep the chicken separate until you are ready to actually cook it. You can cook everything on the same sheet without any issues.
- Enchilada casserole—Pioneer woman is my favorite. I love her show and her food and here is another super easy recipe. I often make this the night before (or on a meal prep day if you do that) and just put it in the oven after work. While it’s cooking, I can be outside playing.
- Runza casserole—Use 1lb ground beef (could easily sub turkey or chicken) and half of a cabbage head. I had purple, so that’s what’s in mine (use shredded from a store for an even easier recipe). I layer dough on the bottom of the casserole dish and put this combo on top, add some cheese, cover with more dough, and throw in the oven following dough heating instructions. I have a Runza dough I like, but my sister-in-law makes it with 2 packages of Pillsbury crescent rolls.
Fairly Simple dinners
- Pasta Carbonara—decadent yet so so simple! Check out the recipe here.
- Chicken Legs on the Grill—put some chicken legs in your favorite marinade (mine is simple Italian dressing). Then grill with a side of grilled corn, zucchini, broccoli, or whatever your favorite veggie is. The prep can be done quickly the night before or morning of, then thrown on the grill. The best part is when you grill outside, you can still be part of the fun!
- Ice Cream—about once a year we eat ice cream for dinner in the summer. Ok, sometimes it’s more than once a year. It’s so fun!
Brinner (Breakfast +Dinner)
- Eggs—easy, nutritious, cheap. Win, win, win!
- Pancakes or waffles—I love brinner!
When all else fails
- Butter—toddlers! Am I right?!
What are some of your simple go-to meals to keep everyone playing outside? Share with us in the comments below.