For starters today, we have a totally terrific letter-recipe combo guaranteed to gladden your heart, put a smile on your face, get dinner to the table fast as a flash and probably bring back some happy memories, too. Wow!
We're talking Little League baseball here, and here's what Snohomish cook Kathy Anderson has to say on the subject.
"Ah, the memories!" she writes. "The crack of the bat, the smell of newly mown grass, freezing my buns off in the stands, trying to get grass stains out at 11 at night ... .
"With three kids who all played ball, I have 18 years of experience in feeding athletes. For many years, when they were all playing, it was often nine games a week, plus practices.
"They each took weekly music lessons as well, and my sons had to be at school at 7 a.m. for jazz band practice at two different schools!
"We live six miles from Monroe, but in one week, I would put 1,100 miles on my van, racing between fields and other events. This 'stay at home mom' seldom saw the inside of the house!
"Now for some advice: crockpot. Preferably a large one with a removable crock. Almost any recipe can be adapted for it, and you always come home to a hot, healthy meal."
We'll call her handy how-to:
Kathy Anderson's crockpot dinners
Two-day beef roast: On the first day (advice is usually to brown meat before putting it in the crock, but I never did and it came out fine), place cut-up potatoes, carrots and celery in the bottom of the crockpot; dump a 6- or 7-pound roast on top. Cover liberally with salsa, cover and cook on low all day. Dinner is served.
Place the crock with leftovers in the fridge after dinner, and wash and sort a bag of 15-bean soup mix, cover with water and soak overnight in a large bowl.
On the second day, drain the beans and dump them into the crock with the leftovers (chop the meat up a bit). Dump in a can of garlic-and-onion diced tomatoes, a couple of cloves of minced garlic and some dried Cajun (or other) seasoning. Fill the crock with water, leaving "bubble" room, cover and cook on low all day. I would usually set up my breadmaker as well, so we would have fresh bread with this. You can see how you can play with this to suit your family's tastes.
Crockpot pork chops: Layer the chops (I found boneless loin chops worked best) with cream of mushroom and garlic soup between each layer. I liked to throw in a little chopped celery with the soup. Cover and cook all day on low. I used to serve this with quick-cooking rice, but now they have the wonderful 90-second rice for those starving players. Add a salad and you're there.
Winding up, Kathy adds, "These are just some starting points. The crockpot is truly a savior of the Little League mom! I used to say life would be perfect if I could put a microwave in my van.
"It was nuts, but I really miss it, still find myself checking the ballfields and waxing nostalgic. The 'kids' are now 27, 24 and 21. Little League is only a memory and, like giving birth, you remember the good times! Ha!"
The next Forum column will run Monday in the comics pages.
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