Monday, September 27, 2010

Soccer Moms Unite

(Sam is the QB w/ the cool looking hat on.)
Soccer mom, football mom, gymnastic mom, working mom, stay at home mom ... whatever kind of mom ... we are BUSY ! This year in the Britton household, we entered the world of pee-wee sports. (I guess it's not called that anymore, but it should be.) The first week of practices, we ate out... twice. See, practice is from 5:00-6:00pm, two nights a week. Um, that's usually what time we are eating around here. So now, not only are we not eating during that time, but I'm also not able to cook during that time. What's a mom to do?

It's no secret that I adore the crock pot. However, recipes that I will actually make more than once in a crock pot are far and few between. Confession: I have this thing (by thing, I mean serious issue) with my the different foods on my plate touching each other. I buy those kids plastic plates with the dividers claiming they are for my kids, but secretly using them myself when no one else is looking. (Not really.) The point is, most slow cooker recipes are usually on the verge of "casseroly". Casserole = food touching, big time. Not good. Yet I press on, because again, what's a busy mom supposed to do on those days where standing in the kitchen isn't possible. (Of course, a good friend told me that slices of Velveeta cheese and hot dogs are perfectly acceptable. So there is always that.)

So I decided to start a little corner of my blog called, Soccer Moms Unite. Hopefully as I learn how to steer through the busy days of growing kids, I will catch on to a few really useful tips and/or crock pot recipes worth cooking again. Those I'll pass along. Realistically, I'll be passing on what DOESN'T work more often than that, because I have what doesn't work down to a science.

Tonight I start with a pretty scrumptious CP recipe. And while it is probably technically a casserole, Italian dishes don't count as casserole. It only counts as a "casserole" if some kind of creamed soup (and usually rice) is involved. Bleck! (Be warned, I don't actually FOLLOW recipes most of the time, so I'll be sure to sneak in some changes that I made in case you care.)

Slow Cooker Ziti
1 lb ground beef (I used Jenni-O lean Italian Style Ground Turkey)
1 box ziti noodles (or similar)
2 jars pasta sauce
1tsp. Italian seasoning (um, I also rarely measure seasonings. Just dump, shake, or shimmy, depending on my mood)
salt & pepper to taste
1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese (i use low fat to feel better about using such a healthy item)
2 8oz packages of mozzarella cheese (of course, I'm gonna go for the pre-shredded Italian four cheese mixture instead, because it's just better and easier. Okay, and seriously, I LOVE cheese! But this was waayyy to much cheese in my opinion. 1 oz. pkg would have been just fine.)
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese

(So here's what else I added that wasn't in the recipe .... 1 onion, 3 or 4 minced garlic cloves, and 4 cups of spinach.)

Brown beef. (I browned mine w/ the garlic and onion.) Add seasoning and pasta sauce to meat. (Here I also added the spinach which I pureed in the food processor. Whatever I can do to get the family to eat more veggies, I'm gonna do. And pureed spinach has become one of the easiest ways I can find to do so.) Drain fat. (Here's one more tip for free: don't dirty another dish by actually using a strainer....or clog your drain w/ grease for that matter. Tip the pan, push the meat to one side and watch all the fat drip to the other side. Shove two or three paper towels in the pool of grease until it's soaked up. Toss paper towel.) In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan and half the mozz. cheese in a bowl. In crock pot, place 2 cups of sauce mixture followed by half of noodles and then half of cheese mixture. Repeat once more. Top with remaining sauce. Cook in crock pot on low for 5-6 hours. Um, I didn't think about dinner until about 3 hours prior to practice, so mine went in on high for 3 hours. (Hint: Not home all day? Invest the $10 in a crock pot timer. Set it for what time you want your meal to start, and there you have it.) Last 10 minutes or so, place remainder of cheese on top and cook until melted.

Here's how the logistics went down. Got everything in the pot before kids got home from school. Dishes were done as they walked through the door. We did homework and reading, then headed off to football practice. Cheered on son. Came home. Threw remaining cheese on top of ziti to melt. Buttered some bread slices, added some garlic powder and sea salt. Broiled on low. Burned anyway. Washed up salad. (Yes, I wash salad. I like fresh lettuce heads much better than the pre-packaged stuff. Not to mention the cost difference.) Everything was ready! Pour wine. Eat as a family despite the busy night!  YAY! Eating as a family will be one of those things that I will do my best to not give up the more activities the kids become involved with. All that to say, I really need to keep finding good CP recipes.

See. One doesn't have to be June Cleaver to pull it all together. Just need some pre-canned/boxed/shredded food and a crock pot, and this mama's happy!

Until next time.....
GO BRONCO'S!!!! (That's the name of Sam's football team. :) )