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What I've Learned
Three days a week, my wife and I eat steel cut oats for breakfast and vegetable soup for lunch. These six meals take maybe 20 minutes to prepare, not counting the minute or so to heat before serving.
The oats require almost no time to prepare. First, I spray the crock pot with cooking spray. Next, I dump in two cups of steel cut oats, a half teaspoon of salt (can be omitted), and six cups of water. I turn the crock pot on low and leave it for two and a half hours. If you use old fashioned rolled oats, experiment with the water and cooking time.
When the oats are done, I use a canning funnel (a large-spout funnel that fits a regular mouth canning jar) and spoon the hot oats into half-pint jars – a half-pint is one serving – put the lids on, and screw on the rings. When the oats cool, the lids seal. It doesn't matter if the lids seal or not, for they are going in the fridge for a week or less.
To serve, remove the ring and lid, stick the cold jar into the microwave, and nuke for one minute. No microwave? The contents of the jar can also be slid out into a small pan and heated on the stove.
Flavor the oats to suit your taste. We add a little milk and brown sugar to ours, though sometimes I'll add butter and regular sugar, instead. There are plenty of people in the world who have theirs with nothing but a little salt.
If you add chopped apples, brown sugar, and vanilla when you cook the oats, that's also very nice.
Raisins become too soft if cooked with the oats, but can be added in the last few minutes for a pleasantly moist, but not mushy texture.
Two minutes of prep time plus five minutes to jar the stuff, and we have three breakfasts for two.
I don't like eating or drinking from or storing food in plastic, so we often use canning jars. Lids on canning jars can be used many times if care is taken when removing them. After taking off the ring, put the back edge of a knife into the top spiral of the jar's screw, then turn the jar, forcing the knife's back edge to ride the groove up toward the lid. Often this alone is enough to pop the top. If not, a slight prying motion of the knife's back edge will do it, leaving the lid unbent and ready to seal again.
Home made vegetable soup takes a little more prep time than oats, but not much. Chop up a bunch of vegetables – celery, carrots, an onion, and cabbage, plus whatever else is lurking in the vegetable bin, such as radishes, turnip, sweet potato, broccoli, and zucchini.
Don't chop the stuff too fine. Fill the crock of the slow cooker almost to the top with chopped veggies, then add water and cook on high for a few hours or on low for longer. When you test taste, if the carrots are done, everything else probably is, too.
Vegetables by themselves make a tasty soup, but don't be afraid to add spices that you like or such things as bouillon cubes or store-bought beef, chicken, or vegetable stock. My wife and I are omnivores, so sometimes add meat to the soup – sausage, scrambled hamburg, or whatever we've got that strikes our fancy.
Like the oats, I jar the soup while it is hot. When cooled, it's stored in the fridge. I don't nuke the soup to heat it, preferring to use a stove top sauce pan.
This soup is hearty and gives a spoonful of vegetables, not just broth, in every bite, filling you pleasantly up. Making this soup – or whatever soup you prefer – and jarring some in the fridge gives you food that is fast, wholesome, cheap, and delicious.
My wife and I learned a lesson from this process. For years, leftovers were wasted. With the best of intentions, we would store leftovers in the fridge, but eventually throw them away, either to make room for more leftovers or to remove them before they resemble science projects. If, however, we save leftovers as individual servings, some, if not all, get eaten.