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Our Top 10 Crockpot Meals for Busy Families

A group of freezer ready meals I made before our second baby arrived. 

A group of freezer ready meals I made before our second baby arrived. 

We are HUGE crockpot fans! It's one of the most used appliances in our kitchen and in this busy/fun season of life (managing a family of four, running a household and work), the crockpot saves us SO much time. We've been asked by a few close friends to share the 'knowledge' so here are our Top 10 Crockpot Meals (that are healthy and hearty) for Busy Families

Side Note: I prep all crockpot meals the night before (after the kids go to bed) and place in the pot and store in the fridge. In the morning, I just have to drop the pot into the crockpot heater, turn on and walk away. Another trick of the crockpot trade: use crockpot liners (found in the paper plate/plastic baggie section) to save yourself time washing dishes after dinner. Magic! I'm also a fan of making a group of these all at once on a Sunday afternoon, freezing and storing for later use for those times I just didn't have time to make it to the grocery store. Pictured above is the lot I made before the arrival of our second baby. We used the frozen meals to supplement days when friends and family weren't treating us to meals. 

All recipes below make 4 servings. For us, it's enough for both Jeff and I for dinner, a bit for Natalie and then either 1-2 leftover servings that I take for lunch the next day. 

1. BEEF STEW

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb lean beef stew meat (cut into pieces)
  • 1 bag of frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, beans, broccoli, etc.)
  • 1/2 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 (1 oz) package of onion soup mix
  • 1 can fat free cream of celery soup
  • 1/4 C Sirracha Sauce (or hot sauce of your choice; if you don't like hot food, sub w/ ketchup)
  • 1/4 C ketchup 
  • 1/4 t paprika 

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

2. TACO CHICKEN

Ingredients: 

  • 2 chicken breasts (we toss in frozen ones)
  • 1 C black beans
  • 1 C corn 
  • 1 packet Mrs. Dash taco seasoning 
  • 1 jar of hot salsa 
  • For tacos: shells, tortillas, lettuce, cheese, etc. 
  • For taco salads: lettuce and all the fixings
  • For rice bowls: rice and all the fixings 

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

3. TURKEY CHILI

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey, pre cooked (we do this the night before)
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained 
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can tomatoes 
  • 1 packet Mrs. Dash chili seasoning 
  • 2 C water OR chicken/beef broth
  • For the toppings: greek yogurt/sour cream, cheese, chives, tortilla chips, etc. 

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

4. SWEET & SPICY SLOPPY JOES

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey, pre cooked
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced 
  • 1 T minced garlic 
  • 1 T chili powder 
  • 1 t cumin 
  • 1/2 t onion powder 
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper 
  • 1 (14 oz) tomato sauce 
  • 2 T ketchup
  • 1/2 t mustard
  • 1 t soy sauce 
  • For sandwiches: buns, cheese, etc. 
  • For baked potatoes: potatoes of your choice (we use sweet)
  • For something different: corn bread waffles! We also eat over top lettuce for salads

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

5. CREOLE CHICKEN, SAUSAGE & SHRIMP

Ingredients: 

  • 2 chicken breasts (we use frozen)
  • 2 C shrimp (frozen)
  • 2 large sausage links, cut into chunks 
  • 1 C corn (frozen) 
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped 
  • 1 t minced garlic 
  • 1/2 C chicken broth (or water) 
  • 1 can tomato sauce 
  • 1/4 t cayenne 
  • 1 t creole seasoning 
  • For serving: cooked brown rice

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

6. HAM & VEGGIE SOUP

Ingredients:

  • Cubed ham (as much or as little as you'd prefer) 
  • 2 C frozen corn 
  • 2 C celery, chopped 
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped 
  • 2 C carrots, chopped 
  • 1 can fat free cream of chicken soup 
  • 1 C chicken broth
  • 1/4 C flour (if gluten free, use ground oat/almond flour) 
  • 1 C almond milk 
  • salt & pepper to taste 

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

7. CREAMY CHICKEN & RICE

Ingredients: 

  • 3 frozen chicken breasts 
  • 1 packet Italian seasoning mix 
  • 8 oz. greek yogurt 
  • 1 can fat free cream of chicken soup 
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 3/4 C rice or quinoa (uncooked) 
  • salt & pepper to taste 

Cook on low for 4 hours. 

8. CHICKEN POT PIE

Ingredients: 

  • 2 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 potato, chopped (sub sweet potato per preference) 
  • 2 C frozen mixed veggies (corn, peas, carrots, etc.) 
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped 
  • 3/4 C flour (sub ground oats/almond flour for gluten free) 
  • 1 can fat free cream of chicken soup
  • 1/4 t parsley 
  • 1 t onion powder 
  • 2 chicken bullion cubes 
  • salt & pepper to taste 
  • For serving: baked biscuits

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

9. CHICKEN (or beef) STROGANOFF

Ingredients: 

  • 3 frozen chicken breasts (sub beef if preferred) 
  • 1 can fat free cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 oz. greek yogurt 
  • 1 package onion soup mix 
  • For serving: cooked egg noodles

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

10. CHICKEN FAJITAS

Ingredients: 

  • 3 frozen chicken breasts
  • 1 sweet onion, cut into strips 
  • 2 red/orange/yellow peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 can Rotel (tomatoes & green chilies) 
  • 1 packet taco seasoning 
  • For serving: tortillas, Ortega Taco Sauce (our fav), cheese, etc.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. 

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Kladder Update: Memorial Day Weekend, 30th Birthday Festivities & Boat Rides

Me and my girl on Memorial Day Weekend on Lake Bella Vista in Rockford, Michigan. 

Me and my girl on Memorial Day Weekend on Lake Bella Vista in Rockford, Michigan. 

Hello Summer!!! We officially kicked off the beginning of summer at the lake a few weeks ago celebrating Memorial Day Weekend with family. The weather was incredible allowing for both Jeff and me to get the typical Michigander sunburns. The weekend was filled with boat rides, snacks, cocktails and playing on the beach. 

Last weekend we joined friends downtown at The Festival of the Arts for our once a year meat-on-a-stick (Souvlaki) donation towards Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. It's marinated pork that comes with warm naan bread and cucumber sauce. So so good! Festival makes for a solid Saturday morning stroll with the family and if you haven't been before, be sure to tackle the event next year. 

Later that afternoon we met up with friends at Thousand Oaks C.C. for a double Birthday tournament/celebration. We were paired with teammates Brent and Meleah Gibson for the day and I ended up winning closest to the midline taking home a bottle of Tito's Vodka = Best prize ever. It was the first time I've golfed at Thousand Oaks and holy moly is it beautiful. It's very well maintained with super long fairways and is surrounded by the most beautiful woods. 

Something we haven't written about in a while is our progress on our 2017 New Year Resolutions: 1. less TV/more reading 2. getting rid of stuff we don't use and 3. implementing more faith practices into our lives. Happy to share I think we've got a passing grade... we are watching far less TV (but likely because the weather's been wonderful) but struggling on book reading (of which I blame Thomas for). We've done a stellar job on dropping stuff off for donation which continues to feel cleansing and Jeff is totally kicking my butt on implementing faith practices with a once a week Men's neighborhood prayer group. I've reaped some of the benefits getting in on their social events which have included spouses. We've also kept up with 'Breaking Bread' around our dinner table by hosting friends for food and conversation which has been a lot of fun. And one we haven't done much of yet is getting closer to nature which is something I look forward to practicing on our annual trip to the U.P. in August. All in all, not bad progress report I'd say. 

This is my last week of maternity leave and I'm feeling both excited to return to work and yet sad about how quickly the time went. I'm sure that sounds like every other mom who's heading back to work post baby, but gosh it's a true statement. A newborn baby is a (very cute) physical reminder of how quickly time passes and how important it is to enjoy each and every single moment. Leave has been a blast and I'm only half joking when I say this, that everyone should go on leave every couple of years to recharge. I'm feeling so refreshed and therefore looking forward to jumping back into the normal swing of things. 

Thomas Christopher at 11 weeks old. 

Thomas Christopher at 11 weeks old. 

Thomas is doing great weighing in at the doctors office at just under 16 lbs which is in the 95th percentile for growth. If he keeps cruising at this rate he's going to play in the NFL as a linebacker. He's sleeping a consistent 6-6.5 hours a night so we can't complain about that and when he's awake he prefers to be held and paid attention to. He's smiling now and cooing which is always more fun than the blank baby gaze and he eats like a champion - obviously. He loves baths and long stroller rides and he's starting to capture Natalie's interest more and more everyday. 

Natalie Elyse at Watermark C.C. 

Natalie Elyse at Watermark C.C. 

Natalie is 2 and developing quite the personality. She's a girl who knows what she likes: mostly fruit snacks, Tinker Bell, hot dogs with ketchup and she's still holding fast onto that pacifier. We are waiting for Thomas to catch onto her sleep routine which continues to be 11 hours at night (God bless her) and we're getting a kick out of her continued attempts at riding her tricycle. She's goofy and happy with the occasional sassy pants... so mostly, she's a 2-year-old :) 

Happy 30th Birthday to me at Terra GR with girlfriends celebrating Friday night. Cake from Nantucket Baking Co. 

Happy 30th Birthday to me at Terra GR with girlfriends celebrating Friday night. Cake from Nantucket Baking Co. 

Last weekend I turned 30! Whew. 30 somehow feels appropriate in every way for where we're at in life right now. It's like I'm exactly where I should be at my age and it feels good. Jeff planned the best day for us to celebrate the milestone and I plan to share more on that in a later post. But for now, enjoy the rest of this week... I know I will! It's back to work on Monday! 

POSTSCRIPT (Things we're into lately) 

  • 7 Monks Taproom - Located off Michigan and recently opened... like the atmosphere and LOVE the Korean Nachos. 
  • Anna's House - New location in Kalamazoo is just as wonderful as their other spots. I'm obsessed with their Hippie Hash! 
  • The NEW Madcap Coffee - Their new location off East Fulton is WONDERFUL! And completely stroller friendly. 
  • Swell Water Bottle - A great gift from a girlfriend for my birthday that keeps drinks cold forever! 

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Kladder Update: Wine Tasting, Motown, Tulips & Mother's Day

Lately the weather's been playing games with us... one minute it's that iced coffee kinda weather and the next it's screaming hot cocoa. On those warmer days, the laptop has remained mostly closed and we've been outside enjoying the tree pollen and windy forecasts. For those of you who have allergies and also have to wear contacts, holy moly... may the force be with you as Spring graces us with her presence. 

One thing that I LOVE about spring/summer is that our social calendar is delightfully snug. We're social humans here at casa de Kladder so a full calendar is a happy one and this past month has been no exception. 

Golf league is in full 'swing' for both Jeff and I, filling up our Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Last weekend we golfed in our first couples event with friends which made for a fantastic Sunday Funday. The more I golf, the more I like it. I'm having a great time getting to know the ladies at Watermark and slowly working on my golf game. But what gets me most excited about being more involved at the golf course this year is that this is something Jeff and I can do together for years to come. 

The couple that golfs together stays together! At our couple event last weekend at Watermark. 

The couple that golfs together stays together! At our couple event last weekend at Watermark. 

For Mother's Day we celebrated at Reds at Thousand Oaks with their annual brunch buffet. If you've never been to a Watermark buffet event, let me just say that you MUST come hungry. Complete with omelettes made to order, prime rib, ham, all the usual breakfast suspects, a salad bar with shrimp cocktail and so much more... it's hard to walk out of there and not feel stuffed. My sweet tooth gets me in big trouble at the dessert table where I (kid you not) had 5 cake pops in addition to a giant piece of chocolate cake. Needless to say, I had a very happy Mother's Day myself. 

Me and my two babies at Mother's Day Brunch at Reds at Thousand Oaks. 

Me and my two babies at Mother's Day Brunch at Reds at Thousand Oaks. 

The weekend before that we enjoyed date night at Reserve as well as tickets to Motown the Musical that showed at DeVos Performance Hall. The show was wonderful - my cheeks hurt from smiling. We are suckers for broadway and usually jump at any chance we get to see a show. Motown most certainly gets our stamp of approval for the sheer entertainment factor. 

Motown The Musical showing at DeVos Performance Hall. 

Motown The Musical showing at DeVos Performance Hall. 

Two weeks ago we visited Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan for our entire family's very first time out at the event. Surprising, I know. How can we call ourselves Dutch?! Natalie had a blast on the kiddie rides at the fair grounds with her buddy Maxi and both girls would have stayed in the tulip gardens until dark if we allowed them to. A good time was had by all especially during the ladder portion of the evening which included dinner and drinks at New Holland Brewery. 

Also this month, St. Cecilia had their annual wine tasting event put on by Martha's Vineyard. Jeff and I attended with his parents and family friends The Matsons who showed us the wine tasting ropes. There were nearly 40 tables of wine serving samples of 5-10 bottles each ranging in price from $12 to $200. The best advice we received? Try the most expensive bottle and move on from there - I didn't ask questions. We had a great time and would most certainly consider attending again next year. 

Proudly showing our purple teeth at the wine tasting event. 

Proudly showing our purple teeth at the wine tasting event. 

We've got some new GR Family content available highlighting Captured in Clay, a local company who creates unique baby hand and foot print clay tiles for keepsakes. That post is available on our GR Family page. I'm also in the process of writing our top 10 crockpot meals for busy families (you all know how I love my crockpot) which I'll post soon. 

Thomas' Captured in Clay tile that will join the rest of his cousins and sister's tiles that hang in his grandparents house on the lake. 

Thomas' Captured in Clay tile that will join the rest of his cousins and sister's tiles that hang in his grandparents house on the lake. 

With 4 more weeks left of maternity leave, I'm starting to prep myself, the house and the kids for my return to the office next month. These last 8 weeks have been so much fun. Sure, there have been some sleepless nights and of course my days fueled by caffeine and cartoons (and donuts), but despite all that... I'm happy and grateful. Thomas is getting plump, Natalie is getting adventurous and Jeff and I are loving life. 

POSTSCRIPT (stuff we're into lately) 

  • Happy Hour @ Mangiamo! - We've raved about happy hour at Mangiamo before and we'll say it again... half off all drinks until 6pm! Kid friendly if you sit on their patio. Check out our top 10 places to happy hour with kids HERE
  • Halo Top Ice Cream - So so good. Hint: if you live in/near East GR, D&W in Gaslight has ALL of the flavors. 
  • West Wing the TV Show - I finally finished it. And I'm happy and sad all at once. Gosh it was an entertaining yet wholesome show. I've moved onto Madam Secretary and look forward to House of Cards returning on the 30th... apparently I have a thing for political shows. 
  • Vans Pastry Shoppe - Donuts good for the soul, not for the waistline. 
Our view from the Magiamo patio during happy hour. 

Our view from the Magiamo patio during happy hour. 

Vans Pastries.

Vans Pastries.

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