Anyhoo, how does one who does not plan meals ahead manage to come up with anything for dinner? Well, I'll tell you. I try to keep standard (for me) ingredients on hand, so when I'm ready to make dinner, I can take some meat from the freezer (or, hopefully remember to thaw it the night before) and pull something together. Sometimes this works better than others. Occasionally, when my husband asks what we're having, I reply with something like, "Funny you should ask! It started out to be one thing, but when I started to make it, I realized I didn't have everything for the recipe, so I had to improvise." Heh.
I love to use my slow cooker. There are a couple of nights each week that go much more smoothly if I have dinner in the crock pot. This last week I made a recipe I hadn't made it quite some time, remembered how much I enjoyed it, and thought I would share it with you! It's from a lovely cookbook called Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting, by Rick Rodgers. Actually, the version I have is (ahem) a few years old and it's simply called Ready and Waiting. The recipes in this book are fabulous. Mr. Rodgers calls for real, whole foods, and while they do take some planning and preparation time, they are worth it!
Additionally, Mr. Rodgers provides clear instructions for every single step in his recipes. When I purchased this book, I was a newlywed, and had very little experience in the kitchen. I mean, there are steps to things (Mr. Rodgers calls them "principles of good cooking"), and I had no idea what I was doing. This cookbook was a wonderful addition to my collection, and I've used it often over the years. It does more than provide recipes - it teaches you how to use a slow cooker. I've been flipping through it again, and have found more recipes I'd like to try. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as my family! does
- 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
- 1 - medium onion, chopped
- 2 - garlic cloves, minced
- 1 - 28 oz can peeled tomatoes in thick tomato puree
- 1 - 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 2 tsp Italian herb seasoning
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lb bow-tie pasta or fettucine, freshly cooked
- 1- 10 oz packaged frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed to remove excess moisture
- 2 C ricotta cheese
- 1/2 C freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic, stirring often to break up lumps, until the meat loses its pink color, about 5 minutes. Tilt the pain to drain off excess fat, then transfer the beef mixture to a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker.
- Add the tomatoes with their purée, the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and pepper, stirring to break up the tomatoes with the side of a spoon. Cover and slow-cook for 7 to 8 hours on low (200˚ F).
- Skim the fat from the surface of the meat sauce. Stir in the cooked pasta, spinach, and ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, and slow-cook for 5 minutes. Serve the casserole directly from the slow cooker.
- This recipe was posted with permission of the creator, Rick Rodgers.
- My husband requested that I leave the spinach out, so I have.
- Instead of "tomatoes in thick purée," I use crushed tomatoes. I have one who doesn't like chunks of tomatoes. (Also, I am not sure I've ever seen a can labeled, "tomatoes in thick purée.)
- I make my own Italian seasoning from this recipe. I ran out of Italian seasoning from my little jar one night, so Googled how to make my own. It's easy to do, I had all the listed ingredients, and one batch lasts a long time. It does say to combine the ingredient in a spice grinder, but I don't have one, so I just mixed them together and put them in a little container.
- We like it with cottage cheese just as well as with ricotta cheese.