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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: From Fast Food to the Slow Cooker, The One-Pot Wonder

By Sherrie Norris

Many “soccer moms” rushing from one game to another and then back home as darkness descends, just to do it all again the next day, are wearing thin this time of year when it comes to making sure the family is well fed. I have heard from several who have been caught up in the fast food line more times than they care to admit, while at the same time, wishing for healthier options for the final meal of the day.

It’s almost impossible, it seems, for busy moms (and dads!) to maintain a healthy balance when the kids have practice, games and other extra-curricular events most evenings after school. 

It’s hard enough to get everyone out the door in the morning, heading to work and then picking up and dropping off —without thinking about dinner.

Don’t despair – help is here, especially if you have a slow cooker, crockpot or whatever you might want to call this one-pot wonder. It’s  been a huge help for many moms through the years and still proves to be an excellent way to have a meal prepared without a lot of time and effort. Take a deep breath, gather your ingredients, do a bit of prep work and relax while the slow cooker does the work.

Busy Day Beef Stew

1½ lb. beef stew meat

4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 jar brown gravy

1 can diced and peeled tomatoes

1 tsp. dried thyme leaves

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1 lb. baby carrots

8 small potatoes, quartered

2 small onions, cut into eighths

1 (8 oz.) pkg. fresh whole mushrooms

In medium skillet over medium heat, cook beef and bacon until beef is browned; drain.

In crock-pot, combine gravy, tomatoes, thyme, salt and pepper. Add beef, bacon and remaining ingredients, stirring gently to combine. Cover, cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender. Makes about 6 servings.

Cheesy Ham Au Gratin

2 cups diced cooked ham

2 cups milk

1 cup boiling water

2 cans Mexicorn (whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, drained)

1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup

1 pkg. Hungry Jack Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

In crock-pot, combine all ingredients; mix well, making sure potato slices are covered with sauce. Cover. Cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours or until potatoes are tender.

Slow Cooker Italian Meatloaf 

2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey

2 cups soft bread crumbs

½ cup spaghetti sauce

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. dried onion

¼ tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic salt

½ tsp. dried Italian herbs

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 Tbsp. spaghetti sauce

Fold a 30”-long piece of non-stick foil in half lengthwise.  Place in bottom of slow cooker with both ends hanging over the edge of the cooker.  Combine beef (or turkey), breadcrumbs, ½ cup spaghetti sauce, egg, onion, and seasonings.  Shape into loaf.  Place on top of foil in slow cooker.  Spread 2 Tbsp. spaghetti sauce over top.

Cover. Cook on High 2½ to 3 hours, or on Low 5 to 6 hours.  Remove using the foil handles.

Hamburger Casserole

2 large potatoes, sliced

3 medium carrots, sliced

16 oz. canned peas, drained

3 medium onions, sliced

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef, browned

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 can tomato soup

1 soup can of water

Place layers of vegetables in the order given in cooker. Season each layer with salt and pepper. Put the lightly browned ground beef on top of the celery. Mix the tomato soup with the water and pour into cooker. Cover and set on Low 6-8 hours, or 2-4 hours on High, stirring occasionally.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

3 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces

3-4 lb. corned beef brisket

2-3 medium onions, quartered

Cabbage, cut in small wedges

1 ½ cups water

Put all ingredients in cooker in order listed. Cover and set on Low 10-12 hours. High: 5-6 hours. Push cabbage wedges down into liquid after 6 hours on Low, or 3 hours on High.

Apple Crunch Cobbler

4 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

¼ cup honey

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 Tbs. melted butter

2 cups granola cereal, your favorite

Place apples in buttered slow cooker; Combine remaining ingredients and sprinkle over apples. Cover and cook on low 7 to 9 hours or on high 3 to 4 hours. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.