5 Slow-Cooker Soups That Are Calling Your Name (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

There’s nothing quite like coming home exhausted after a loooong day of school or work (or both!) and finding that dinner is hot, ready and waiting for you.

Realistically, this probably doesn’t happen all that often if you’re the primary dinner manager in your household, but guess what? This dream is not too good to be true. All you need is a slow cooker!

The weather’s getting chillier and chillier these days, and hearty, warm, luscious soups are absolutely the business right now. The best part about them? They are so incredibly easy to make. If you do all your chopping and prepping beforehand, all you need to do is just plop everything into your Crock Pot and fire it up in the morning, and like magic you can come home to fresh, hot soup whenever you want.

1. Chicken Noodle

Who can count out this classic? With wholesome veggies, soothing chicken broth, chunks of chicken and comforting noodles, you’ll find yourself whipping this dish together all the time, whether you’re sick or not.

2. Cauliflower Cheddar

This comforting, blended soup is sort of like a lower-carb version of cheesy potato soup. And you may not notice that this one doesn’t use the root, especially since the milk and Greek yogurt ensure that it stays smooth and creamy without piling on the calories.

3. Sweet Coconut-Butternut Squash

If you buy pre-cut butternut squash, this sweet, smooth and gently spiced soup comes together in no time at all. Of course, if you want, you can even just use plain canned pumpkin, though you might find that you don’t need to cook it quite as long.

4. White Bean

This delicately flavored, thick vegan soup is a perfect change of pace from the standard lentil and veggie fare. If you’d like, you can top each serving with a bit of crumbled breakfast sausage or chorizo (vegan or otherwise) for a some extra oomph.

5. Brussels Sprout and Chicken Sausage

It’s no secret that Brussels sprouts can be super controversial vegetables, as they can get really nasty and tough when they aren’t cooked properly. Since the slow cooker will make sure your sprouts get perfectly soft, even Brussels sprouts opponents might enjoy a bowl of this stuff. If you still aren’t convinced, you can easily swap them out for cabbage or sturdy greens, like collard or mustard greens.

Featured Image: PX Here

Tags: easy weeknight dinner, November dinners, slow cooker recipe, slow cooker soup, Soup
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5 Surprisingly Awesome Ways To Microwave Your Dinner (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

There are so many reasons why you might not feel like cooking dinner. It’s hard, it takes a lot of time, it heats up your house in the summer … the list goes on.

Takeout might seem more appealing, but what if I told you that you can whip up some super easy meals in the microwave, and nobody will be able to tell that you nuked it?

Here are some outstanding ways to trick your family and friends into thinking you grilled, sauteed, broiled and baked when you really just put everything together into a bowl and hit a couple buttons. Plus, it’s also a great method for single portion dinners. Check it out:

1. Turkey and Spinach Manicotti

Wow, so easy and so delicious! Who knew you could make an elaborate-looking pasta dish in the microwave? I sure didn’t! P.S. Feel free to use cooked or instant shells and fill them with leftover cooked chopped or shredded meat of any sort, like rotisserie chicken. In this case, you can drastically reduce the cooking time and check on your dish every few minutes, until it’s heated all the way through.

2. Lemon-Horseradish Sole

Steaming the fish keeps it tender and moist, while the lemon, mustard and butter give it a bold, fresh taste. If it’s good enough for Martha, it’s good enough for me!

3. Sticky Pork Spare Ribs

The secret to these sweet, pull-apart delights? Plum sauce and orange marmalade for an easy but excellent, bold flavor! These would be great served with microwave “baked” potatoes.

4. Thai-Style Scallops

Scallops seem like really fancy food, but they’re so easy to cook! If you’d rather pan-fry them, you can cook them on medium-high heat in butter, lemon and white wine (or use the Thai style sauce in this recipe), for a couple minutes on each side until they get a nice sear going.

5. Microwave Egg and Vegetable Breakfast Sandwich

Want something different? This filling breakfast meal is good any time of day!

Featured Image: alanagkelly/Flickr

Tags: dinner for one, easy dinner, easy weeknight dinner, microwave dinners, single dinner
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7 Surprisingly Delicious Microwave Dinners (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

At the end of a long day, it can be darn near impossible to put forth any effort at all into making dinner. 

Sauteing something on the stove can seem daunting when picking up your phone to order delivery is just so convenient, and firing up your oven during hot summer evenings is just out of the question some nights.

But don’t worry, if you want to save money AND be healthier, there’s a gadget that you might not have thought of: the microwave.

Yes, seriously! You can make some awesome (EASY) dinners inside of that thing, and it’s so easy to adjust the portions as needed, whether you’re making a single serving mug dinner or a small feast for the whole family. Enjoy!

P.S. If you need an easy side for any of these dishes, consider nuking your rice. It’s beyond easy and tastes just as good as any other method. Here’s how to do it.

1. Microwave Salmon

It might sound weird, but if you do exactly as the directions say by patting the fish dry, seasoning it properly and checking for doneness so it doesn’t overcook, you’ll have a surprisingly moist, pleasant slab of fish that’s ready to eat in no time. Really!

2. Quick Quiche

This quiche is impossibly easy! You can even skip the crust entirely and make more of a frittata for an even faster approach. Feel free to add and subtract whatever ingredients you want: Just about any leftover or frozen (defrosted) veggies and/or meat are delicious, like diced ham, bacon, asparagus, spinach or roasted peppers.

3. Five-Minute Burrito Bowls

You can put just about anything you want in these bowls. They are great for leftover night and would be awesome with any of the following, especially if they are from last night’s dinner: meat, tofu, sweet potato, mushrooms or peppers. Sprinkle some pepitas or crushed tortilla chips on top at the end if you want some extra crunch.

4. Ropa Vieja

Seriously, you can make this top-notch classic stewed beef dish without turning on your oven or stove. LOOK AT HOW GOOD THAT IS. You could make this fancy dish for company, and they’d probably think you toiled over for hours. Hours!

5. Grilled Chicken Penne al Fresco

Usually when you’re in a pinch, you can use just about any type of noodle for these pasta recipes and come off ok, despite what purists might say. But I do recommend sticking to the penne or something similarly shaped, since the short, just thick enough noodles will do best in the microwave. Don’t have leftover chicken? You can microwave it like so.

6. Single Serve Microwave Macaroni and Cheese in a Mug

Of course, if you’re making this for a larger crowd, it’s easy enough to double, triple or quadruple the recipe, but it’s also kind of nice to have as your little secret when you need a midnight snack or quick cheat meal. Right?

7. Ten Minute Enchiladas (Gluten Free Option)

No joke, you can nuke a whole tray of enchiladas, and they come out great! If you’re in a rush, you can layer the tortillas and fillings like a casserole, with two layers of tortillas (depending on the size of your pan) sandwiching the filling.

Featured Photo Credit: Stacy Spensley/Flickr

Tags: easy weeknight dinner, fastest dinner recipe, five minute meals, microwave dinner, quick dinner
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6 Easy, Satisfying Dinners You Should Make In February (Recipes)

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By Cooking Panda

Yeah, we know. You are exhausted and pressed for time, and your favorite takeout menu is sitting 6 inches away from your hand.

It can be tempting to order out every night, and we certainly won’t judge you for it, but don’t forget that you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to have a delicious dinner!

If you’re looking to enjoy homemade food with minimal effort this week, here are some winning quick recipes that are perfect for February:

1. Quick Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna

You might automatically think lasagna is a royal pain that is just not going to happen on weeknights, but magic happens when you take shortcuts. Pro-tip: If you are looking for a quick meal but don’t want to buy everything pre-chopped, just prep everything a day or two before when you have spare time.

2. Foil Pack Creamy Salsa Verde Chicken, Rice, and Veggies

Baking your dinner in a foil pouch is practically the easiest thing in the world. Use heavy-duty foil, give it a good, thorough grease with cooking spray and spend a minute or two tossing together your ingredients. It basically cooks itself, but you can trick yourself into thinking you spent hours on it. Everybody wins here.

3. Cheesy Cornbread-Topped Chili

WOW. We love the southwestern flavors in this vegetarian version, but if you want an even easier, meaty version, feel free to make this 5-Minute Chili. Add corn, taco seasoning and maybe some black beans if you want similar flavors.

4. Sheet Pan Chili Lime Salmon

Douse some salmon and veggies in fajita spices and bake it all together for a super simple, healthy and delicious meal. Bonus: You only have to wash one dish. YESSSS.

5. Apple-Cheddar-Squash Soup

Honestly, does it get any better than this filling, thick, sweet, savory soup? Toss it in the slow cooker to make things EVEN EASIER for yourself. You’re welcome.

6. Buffalo Chicken Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuits

This ultimate comfort dish can absolutely go into the slow cooker, although you might prefer the crispy browning that happens in the oven. Either way, this creamy, spicy spin on pot pie is sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Featured Photo Credit: Betty Crocker

Tags: easy recipes, easy weeknight dinner, February dinner, one dish dinner, winter recipes
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