Back to School Slow Cooker Menu (ravioli lasagna and pizza chicken)

I'm done with summer.
The school can have my kids back.

I'm ready to get on track with routines, schedules, meal-planning, and quiet.

mostly the quiet.

I've written about my love for meal planning in a bunch of spots. If you're looking for a how-to, you can read this post, or this one, or this one.

If you'd like inspiration, Laura, from I'm an Organizing Junkie hosts Menu Planning Monday each week (I have a webTV interview with Laura, here).

Here are two super simple weeknight meal recipes. I'll throw them in together instead of writing up separate posts since they are so easy.

oh! the verdicts on each were great. The kids ate every last drop, and Adam did the dishes. :-)

 Slow Cooker Pizza Chicken
4 chicken breast halves (or about 6 thighs)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 (14-ounce) jar pizza sauce
20 pepperoni pieces (read labels carefully for hidden gluten, I used Hormel)
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
I used a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the chicken into your cooker and top with the cut up veggies and pizza sauce. Put the pepperoni pieces evenly over the top, and add lots of cheese. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or about 4 on high.

Slow Cooker Ravioli Lasagna
I'd wanted to test out the ease of ravioli lasagna for a while, but couldn't find gluten free ravioli that fit the budget. The ones pictured are from Mariposa which has a kiosk in the Ferry Building in SF. I have also seen frozen gluten free ravioli at Costco. If you can't find some locally, check with your local GIG group for suggestions.
If you aren't gluten free, use whatever you've got in the house!

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 (28-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
25-30 frozen cheese or meat ravioli (I used gluten free; please mind labels!)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Italian blend-- mozzarella, parmesan, etc)
2 tablespoons warm water

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. After browning the meat in a skillet, drain well and add the pasta sauce (save the jar!) to the meat in your saute pan. Stir to combine. 

Scoop a large spoonful of meat sauce and spread into the bottom of an empty slow cooker. Add a layer of frozen ravioli. Then add another layer of meat sauce. Continue layering until you run out of ravioli and sauce. Sprinkle cheese evenly all over the top.

Put 2 tablespoons of water into the empty pasta sauce jar, and shake. Pour this water over the top of your "lasagna."

Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for about 4. Your lasagna is done when the pasta on the ravioli is tender and the filling is heated through.

School starts for us on September 6th. I love having the kids home with me, I really do. But we've done summer. We've had the pool parties, the sleep overs, the camping trips, the roadtrips, and the all-day-tv veg days.

What's on your back to school menu?

other stuff you might like:

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at August 25, 2011

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What they say about this article

  1. Anonymous8/25/2011

    This is a stupid/pointless comment, but I work for Safeway, and I'm always vaguely amused when I see Safeway products in your photos. (In part also because I'm in Canada and you're not, so I have this mental feeling like ours ought to look more different from yours. Besides having French on the labels.)

  2. Anonymous8/25/2011

    Mmm, those both look delicious! I need to get a smaller slow-cooker, since my 4-qt broke and I only have a 6-qt. My kids love both pizza and pasta, so I'm going to give these a try.

    BTW, it's the Ferry Building in SF.

  3. Those both look really good. I never have good luck with any type of pasta in the slow cooker, it always turns out gummy or mushy. It may just be that I'm inordinately picky about pasta texture though.

  4. LOL, anon. It auto-changed the spelling on me! (PS, I'm really trying to not let anonymous comments in-- you can pick any name without putting in an email address)

    fixed! thank you for the head's up!

  5. I love Ravioli Lasagna in the crockpot! I use the pre-cooked turkey or soy crumbles so I can skip the browning the meat step.

  6. We love your regular CP Lasagne recipe -- it's more of a template in we're out of something.

    I know zucchini are plentiful now -- why not cut some of those really big ones into planks and substitute those for the lasagne noodles?! I put some in on top of the noodles (we aren't GF) and seasoned them with extra generic Italian seasoning -- delish!

  7. Hi Liz! great idea. look in the index under "vegetarian no noodle lasagna"
    we had the same brainstorm!

  8. Well, after a quick trip to the store, pizza chicken is in my slow cooker - AND, again, my goal is to be the proud owner of one that goes to warm when done cooking.... right now, I have to be home and use timer!!!! Thank-you for this recipe today!! It's perfect for the kind of day I am having - tons to do (it feels like anyway!!) and not seeming to be getting it done!! At least we will have a dinner tonight instead of "I don't know?? What do you want???"!! So thanks again!!!

  9. Well, results are in: This recipe is a WINNER!!!! This is perfect! We all liked it, even the unexpected guest, and there was enough for everyone!! (I did have an extra breast so put that in. The pkg I bought had 5 in it and they all went in!) Thank-You for an easy, great tasting and wounderful recipe!! Excellant!!

  10. mmm these do sound really good. I will gave give these a try. I love cooking with the slow cooker, especially at the beginning of the school year when after school is busy with paperwork and getting into a homework routine.

  11. Yummy! I never would have thought to make these in a crock pot, but I'm going to have to try this! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Bethany8/27/2011

    Have you tried the Quiona pasta yet? It's pretty tasty and gluten free.

  13. HIEEEE, STEPHANIE! School's staring, back to work, the days will be getting cooler, so I've dusted off my slow cooker again. (ahh, nothing warms up the kitchen like a slow cooker) And checking your site for ideas! I see you have a new book out, congratulations! You are awesome. Looking forward to more dried-beany and 'seasonal veg' recipes here, thanksverymuch!

  14. Ah! Now these sound easy enough to make. I too have had my fill of summer.We tried to make it as fun as possible but I don't think we succeeded sadly.I have a slow cooker but have rarely used it.I want to try these anything with cheese my kids love.I do like the idea of using zucchini as lasagna noodles.

  15. I had everything for Pizza Chicken except for the pepperoni, so I left that out and added some sliced summer squash with the veggies. It was yummy, and the kids ate it all up, too. Thanks for the recipes. I use my crock-pot a couple of times a week, especially when we have meetings and sports in the evening.

  16. God works in such mysterious ways. I regularly read your blog a couple of years ago (not sure why I stopped?) and loved your recipes. I was recently diagnosed as gluten sensitive/intolerant and have felt more than a little sad about not being able to cook things I used to. I suddenly remembered that you specified GF in your recipes and am so excited to have all of these options. THANK YOU!

  17. Anonymous8/30/2011

    I'm a low carber so the pizza chicken looks edible to me, except that sometimes things with a ton of cheese are really greasy, is this recipe greasy?

  18. These look so yummy!! I'll bet that pizza recipe would work with pretty much any pizza toppings - ham, pineapple and feta here we come!!

  19. I really enjoyed this! I was afraid it would be greasy (kinda looks it in the picture) but it wasn't at all. I think that can be from certain kinds of pepperoni. I thought my kids would love it. My son wiped off the pizza sauce and slathered it in ketchup (go figure!). And then he admitted that he'd just eaten a snack about 90 minutes beforehand so didn't eat as much I'd like. My daughter also didn't eat much but said she liked it. Oh well, what's a mom to do? Cook for myself!!

  20. This sounds delicious! My husband and son are going to be really happy I found your blog (and this recipe!). Thank you!

  21. The pizza chicken was a big hit at my house!! I made it while we were securing our home and yard before Hurricane Irene hit. My in-laws ended up at our house after mandatory evacuation of their town, it was great to be able to very easily feed everyone a hot and delicious dinner. Thanks!


  22. Melissa9/06/2011

    Thanks for the great recipe! I double the batch and made it this weekend camping. I doubled everything except the cheese & that is because there wasn't enough room in the crock pot. Everyone loved it! It did end up with a lot of juice not sure if it was b/c of the chicken or sauce??? Either way only a few leftovers for lunch this week.


  23. Way to go Mellisa!!! by chance do you have any recipes you might have lying around?

  24. Does the chicken have to be frozen?

  25. I made the pizza chicken and it was okay. The cheese just turned into a giant clump of brown on one side of the dish. Not sure why. I did drop the pizza sauce on the tile floor and had to replace it with pasta sauce. I ended up using too much. Anyway, I'll try it again and see if it ends up any better.