Cooking Small, Cooking Light, Cooking Slow
Crock-Pot recipes have many virtues, but the adjectives "small" and "light" can't be applied to many of them. If you want to harness the convenience of slow cookery to make small batches of lighter meals for your lunch, you'll usually need to find a recipe online that appeals to you and then scale it down for use in a cooker of 3 quarts or less. Soups are an obvious choice, but they're far from your only option. These three Crock-Pot lunch recipe ideas will get you started.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You can save time by making multiple small-batch recipes in one cooking session, then cooking them all at once in a full-sized slow cooker. Prepare the ingredients for each recipe separately, and use them to fill slow cooker liner bags. Gather up the top of each bag and close it with a twist-tie. Then nestle up to four bags alongside each other in the slow cooker. As long as their cooking times are reasonably similar and all the bags make contact with the bottom and side of the slow cooker, they'll all cook normally.
Chicken Teriyaki Bowls
Chicken teriyaki bowls are a tasty option at the average food court, but they're even better when you make your own ahead of time. Before bed, put a liner into your slow cooker and add two or three boneless skinless chicken breasts, depending on their size. Cover them with a mixture of chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar and minced garlic, and let them simmer overnight on your slow cooker's low setting.
In the morning, shred the chicken in the sauce with a pair of forks, and add your choice of leftover cooked vegetables or microwaved frozen vegetables. Load up your lunch containers with cooked rice or quinoa, spoon the chicken and vegetables over top, and you're good to go. Pop it into the fridge when you get to work, and reheat it in the microwave.
Crustless quiche is a recipe to make on a morning when you're in and out or to prepare after dinner for tomorrow's lunch. Crust doesn't work well in a Crock-Pot, but eggs do, and who needs those extra carbs and calories anyway, right? The two key ingredients are a couple of eggs and some half-and-half, which give the quiche its soft, creamy texture. Whisk them together with a dash of salt and pepper, and then incorporate your choice of add-ins.
Fresh or frozen spinach, diced ham, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli florets and fresh herbs are all excellent add-ins, along with your choice of shredded cheese. Cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours on high, or until set, then cool and refrigerate until morning. Quiche is best when reheated until just warm.
Slow Cooker Steak Salad
A salad is probably the last thing you'd expect to make in your slow cooker, but it's actually just the steak you slow cook. Any tough, slow cooker-friendly cut will work for this, but your best bets are plank-like, such as flank or skirt steak.
Simmer the steak all day while you're at work, or overnight as you sleep, with your favorite seasonings. You'll need only 1 pound for 2 to 4 lunch portions. After the steak is cooked, let it cool and then slice it across the grain or shred it. Pack a crisp green salad and vinaigrette separately, and then combine them and top them with the steak at lunchtime.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.