Have You Eaten? Super Easy Beef and Noodles

If you're in a season of "just trying to hold on," it can be hard to 1) have creative ideas and 2) do anything that requires extra effort.  In my experience, figuring out what to have for dinner and then executing that plan can feel tough. When you add in picky eaters, your pantry situation, a limited take-out budget, and whatever happened between 4 and 6 p.m. today that you didn't expect--it starts to feel impossible. Never mind thinking about the dishes that will have to be washed. If it is harder than making four boxes of mac and cheese, it goes to the bottom of the list. Sometimes mac and cheese feels too hard also, and if you're there...you are not alone. We are just trying to hold on!

This recipe is for you. I got it from my aunt years ago, and I've been grateful ever since. It's one of the few things that everyone in my family likes right now (no promises for yours). Since it’s really easy to make mostly ahead, I like it too. I seriously just throw a frozen hunk of beef in there and let it go. Then it doesn't much matter what happens at 4 p.m., and I can let the morning's coffee carry me through the main execution. I'm no chef; I'm just a woman trying to get the food in the bellies. 

Beef and Noodles in the Slow Cooker

I make this in a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker to serve about 8; but you could easily scale down for a 3-4 qt. crockpot—just use half as much of everything as a starting place.

3-4 lbs. chuck roast; or stew beef
Water to cover beef and fill crockpot 2/3 full (8-10 cups)
3-5 beef bouillon cubes or equivalent amount of beef broth instead of water, to taste
1 lb. wide egg noodles (could use whole wheat noodles, or frozen egg noodles, as you please)
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Place roast in crockpot, cover with water and stir in beef bouillon. Cover with lid and cook on low for...several hours or until you want to eat in an hour. I generally leave this all day. 
Step 2: Half an hour or so before eating, shred meat in crockpot with forks. (A chuck roast will probably just collapse before you. A particularly tough piece of meat like the cubed steak I was using yesterday can be beaten into submission with a stand mixer, then put back in.) Taste broth and add more beef bouillon, salt and pepper, or other seasonings as desired.
Step 3:  Add egg noodles and stir, replace lid and let sit for until the noodles are ready--that's somewhere around half an hour, but it can wait a while too. I serve this in bowls with spoons. 

One might do better to thaw it or use fresh meat, brown it in some oil, make it the day ahead and chill the broth in the fridge to skim the fat off, then reheat and go to the noodle stage the next day...but...I haven’t done that since I had kids. I'll leave that to you.  That lowers its rating on the Box-o-Mac Scale significantly.  

One feeling creative might add whatever other spices you please...but I think the non-spiced factor here explains the success with my crew.

If you have other super easy "just fill the bellies" meals, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below!

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