When the weather changes from winter to spring suddenly I have the urge to cook something other than soup.  My family begins requesting BBQ foods as soon as the tree blossoms open!  I love BBQ but it is still cold and dark during the beginning of spring making outdoor cooking not much fun. 

In addition, the kids are still in school, homework needs to be done, showers taken, and bedtime is not that long after dinner.  BBQ in spring, on a weeknight can be a challenge.  Some years ago I learned a great time-saving process to make a BBQ dinner without fuss or much mess.

My secret process?  The slow cooker.  I LOVE the slow cooker.  It is quick, easy, low mess, and makes a great meal on nights I’m exhausted. 

For a mid-week BBQ dinner I made BBQ beef, citrus salad, and lemon, prickly pear, ginger ale drink. 

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef
BBQ Beef Recipe:
1 3-4 lb. chuck roast
Salt & pepper
Olive Oil
3-4 cups beef broth
Bottled BBQ sauce of your liking
Buns of your choice – hamburger, ciabatta, french, sourdough etc.
Season a beef chuck roast with salt and pepper.  Brown it in a skillet with a small amount of olive oil.  You are not cooking the roast in the pan.  Just brown it to give a good sear. 
Place the roast in the slow cooker with 3-4 cups of beef broth.  Set the slow cooker for 6 to 8 hours. 
Walk away and go about your day. 
When the slow cooker is done.  Remove the roast carefully.  It will fall apart because it has braised for quite a while.  Shred the beef with two forks in a dish.  Add BBQ sauce, mix, done.
For the buns:  My family likes large hamburger buns but you can use ciabatta, french rolls, soft sweet rolls or any bun/bread your family likes.  I lightly butter the buns and brown them on an indoor grill or skillet.  Done.
Place some of the BBQ beef on the buns, add a bit of cheese if that is what your family likes, or more BBQ sauce depending upon taste.  Main course is complete.
Citrus Salad
I love salads and fruit.  I saw this idea in a Better Homes and Gardens  magazine and had to try it.  It is a very simple and customizable dish. 
Citrus Salad Recipe:
3-4 cups spring mix greens
Fruit of your choice:  oranges, blood oranges, mango, papaya, pomegranate seeds
Salad dressing — best with a vinaigrette or lemon
I used spring mix greens, pomegranate seeds, navel orange sliced and quartered, and mango slices.  The salad dressing was a prepared balsamic vinaigrette.  You could make a salad dressing with olive oil and lemon, olive oil and balsamic, or just squeeze lemon with salt and pepper.
The salad is light, very refreshing with the fruit, and satisfying.  I will make it again with fruits that are in season — perhaps I’ll try kiwi next time.
Lemon, Prickly Pear Ginger Ale
This drink is pretty and delicious.  My husband’s cousin Kelly created a fantastic tonic with simple syrup, lemon, and prickly pear.  She added the tonic to ginger ale and created this fantastic drink.
The beauty of this drink is it is fully customizable like the salad.  My kids and husband LOVE this drink.  It is a great party drink, alternative to soda, and a change from basic lemonade. 
Tonic Recipe:
Step 1:  Simple Syrup
Equal parts water and sugar.  For example:  1 cup water, 1 cup sugar
In a sauce pan bring water and sugar to a gentle boil.  Allow sugar to dissolve completely.  Cool.
Add lemon juice and prickly pear juice to taste.  (Alternative flavors below.)
I like to place the finished tonic in a nice glass container and store in the refrigerator.
Alternatives:  try adding lime instead of lemon, passion fruit juice, pomegranate juice, orange juice, or whatever flavors you prefer.
Drink Recipe:
Add 1 shot of tonic to a glass with ice.
Add ginger ale to your liking.
Add mint sprigs.  Stir gently.
Add lemon or lime twists or slices.
Give these recipes a try.  Add your own touches or changes depending upon your family’s likes.  I am sure you will enjoy them throughout the year.