They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, if that’s true my husband’s heart has definitely suffered since I started homeschooling. Each day I’m busy with the kids, busy schooling, busy with laundry, busy handling phone calls, and busy cleaning messes. On top of all that are the days I’m also busy with church-related groups, busy with the kids’ sports, and busy with my daughter’s drama club. With such a full schedule, who has time to cook?
Providing healthy meals for my family can sometimes be quite a challenge. My kids might be happy enough with peanut butter sandwiches for dinner, but I know it’s not a good long-term solution to my family’s health needs. And, I can tell how much my husband appreciates coming home to the sweet aroma of a home-cooked meal.
Over the years, my friend and fellow homeschooler, MJ, from Cheltenham, PA has been a wealth of ideas for quick but great meals for the busy mom. She also runs a very popular crock pot blog called “What A Crock!”. Recently I interviewed her to get some ideas on combining cooking great meals with homeschooling. Here’s a few of her tips for a better kitchen experience:
On Planning: “The day before I go grocery shopping, I take a look at my plans for the week and make up a menu for each day based on our schedule. Days that I know will be very full of activity (church night, meeting night, softball night, etc.) are the days that will be my crock pot days. Days that aren’t as busy I spend a little more time in the kitchen. By planning ahead, I actually save myself time and still create good, healthy meals.”
On Crockpots: “I use my crock pot at least twice a week. I’ve found that the ugly, old, orange and green crockpots (found at thrift stores and yard sales) actually work better for me than the newer ones. There are many great crock pot recipes designed for 8 to 10 hours of cooking. The older pots can cook all day. Newer crocks cook at higher temperatures. They usually cook for a maximum of 5 to 6 hours.”
On Crockpot Cooking:
“I spend about a half hour to 45 minutes in the morning cutting vegetables, or browning ground beef, or just getting food and spices ready to be thrown into
the crock pot. (This prep work can also be done the night before.) Chicken is easy because I can just put it into the pot raw. Then, the rest of my day is free. Using a crock pot takes the pressure off of dinner time. It’s a big help with homeschooling.”
On Favorite Recipes/Uses for the Crockpot: “If we have roasted chicken for dinner one night, I usually put the bones in my crockpot to make home-made soup for the next night’s dinner. Soups are some of my favorite meals for the crockpot. My three personal favorite crockpot recipes are: Taco Soup http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/taco-soup-in-the-crockpot/, Sweet Aromatic Chicken http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2007/05/28/sweet-aromatic-chicken-crockpot/, and Crock Pot Carne Asada http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/crock-pot-carne-asada/.”
On “What A Crock!” MJ’s Cooking Blog: “I post new recipes on my blog 4 to 5 times a week. Most posts are crockpot recipes or easy meal recipes.
There are a variety of different recipes listed on my blog: some for dinner, some for soup, some for dessert, etc. I have a search function on my blog, so viewers can search by crockpot recipes or by ingredients. I also have a“Freezer Friday” section on my blog. The idea is to prepare a double portion of a meal, eat one, and then freeze the other. That way on busy nights you have an already prepared meal you can pull out of the freezer to cook.”
Some of my most popular posts have been:
“One Banana Banana Bread” http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/one-banana-banana-bread/
“Paula Deen’s Banana Bread” http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/recipe-review-paula-deens-banana-bread/
“Chocolate Covered Rice Crispy Treats” http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/chocolate-covered-rice-crispy-treats/
“Paula Deen’s Amazing Pot Roast” http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/paula-deen%e2%80%99s-amazing-pot-roast/
“Crock Pot Carne Asada” (see link above), and
“Slow Cooker Green Beans, Ham, & Potatoes”. http://mjpuzzlemom.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/slow-cooker-green-beans-ham-and-potatoes/
On Favorite Blogs: “My four absolute favorite cooking blogs are these”:
1. “I’m an Organizing Junkie” http://orgjunkie.com/ “I really like this blog because it has great organizing tips. It also has a section called Menu Plan Monday. You can look up others’ menu plans and share your own.”
3. “The PioneerWoman” www.thepioneerwoman.com “This recipe blog has beautiful pictures of prepared meals. There are step by step, thorough
instructions for each recipe. The blog writer has a great sense of humor. These recipes aren’t simple. They’re complex, but fantastic. I believe she may also be a homeschooler. She has a homeschool tab on her site.”
4. “Diary of a Stay-At-Home Mom” www.familycorner.blogspot.com. “I really like this blog because of the great cooking section she has on Thursdays.”
Using a crockpot for more of my meals certainly seems like a great way to combine good schooling with good eating. Thanks MJ for your excellent tips! If you’d like to check out MJ’s cooking blog, please click on the link provided below. It’s also provided every week on the sidebar of this blog.
Copyright July 28, 2011 by Gwen Fredette