Saturday, August 21, 2010

Simplifying Homeschool Days With Easy Cooking

 I love simplicity. 
Things natural feel simple to me,
  When I am cooking, I often think that a simple version of the food being prepared is the best.
Food is one of my great delights in life, 
so finding a great way to prepare something especially delicious that is also easy
is a favorite past time of mine. 

Welcome to our practical Saturday post, where we share some of the things that have made life with a large family easier.  Things I wish we would have known years ago,
when I was struggling to adjust to a bigger family, like around child #5. 

Recently, In attempting to bring more simplicity to my life
I have come to hold my crock pot as near and dear to my heart. 
There is just nothing so wonderfully easy as  putting a chicken in the crock pot on a Sunday morning
and coming home to a wonderful smelling dinner,
on paper plates, so we don’t have to wash,
but can relish an afternoon of quiet, preferably including a nap and some chocolate. 
For a family our size, I put two parted chickens in the crock pot with a head of garlic
separated and peeled ofcourse, and then generously pepper the whole thing. 

The blessed kindness of a crock pot in the summer
is that it does not heat up the house like my big gas oven.  
Served with a salad, fruit, or made-ahead side dish, 
you end up with a lovely dinner and almost no preparation.
Another Sunday favorite is to fill the crock pot with meat on Saturday,
ours would be venison, but it could be a big roast of some kind,
and cooking it all day with an assortment of onion slices, whole garlic, salt and pepper.
  On Sunday morning, it is turned on low during church, and when we arrive home, 
we make sandwiches with the pull- apart soft meat.
  I like the hoagie rolls or outdoor buns that are a bigger version of a hot dog bun. 
Mayo, peppercinni’s, mustard, and some pepper jack cheese
  together with the slow cooked meat makes a mouth watering sandwich
  that holds the same flavors of grandma’s "Sunday dinners", but much easier. 
We like these two options for Sunday so much, 
we typically have them over and over, which also seems simple to me. 
Great variety in a menu  plan is not too high on my priority list. 

The school season is just around the corner,
and I am planning on utilizing my crock pot a lot as we adjust to the new schedule and routine. 
With two preschoolers, 5 of mine in our home school, plus my niece,
and entering my last trimester, I am thinking;
simplify and survive!
  A few things on my menu that I am planning on fixing in the crock pot as we begin another school year are: spaghetti casserole, chicken and rice casserole, tacos, a Tarheel roast (recipe follows),
sloppy joe's, and sweet and sour chicken. 
I  want easy recipes, with standard ingredients that I can throw in the pot and forget about it for the day.

For some extra inspiration and fun,
wander over to A Year of Slow Cooking
for everything under the sun in a crock pot. 
I was strolling through the budget meals category and found plenty of interesting looking things to try.

Tarheel Roast

Any cut of roast, pork, beef, venison, or elk. (Size depends on your family)
1 or 2 quarts canned green beans with juices
1 head of garlic, peeled
Pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in pot and cook all day.  Serve with cornbread.

When I make a batch of cornbread, I often mix up three at once. 
It is just as easy as doing one. 
With three bowls side by side, I add the dry ingredients to each bowl. 
I then add the wet ingredients to just one bowl, and put the other two in zip lock bags in the pantry. 
When I want a quick fix corn bread, all I have to do is add the eggs and milk, and bake.

I love a good old roast chicken or venison with potatoes and carrots as well,
which I cook in a big cast iron dutch oven at a low temp from lunch till dinner.
  Prep time is low and the results are fabulous.
 Once the fall weather gets here, we will have soup most every day,
fixing a big pot and then lunching on it for a few days. 
Until then, a sandwich and some fruit will be our main school day lunch. 
I buy a buffet ham every month, then take it to the meat counter at the store of purchase
and have them thin slice it. 
This makes a very fugal lunch meat, and I can freeze portions in ziploc bags
to make it last the month through. 
Alternating the meat in a sandwich keeps the children content; pb&j, tuna, ham and cheese,
left over chicken made into sandwich filling, and egg salad are the common staples for us in warm weather.
I often serve a sandwich on a paper towel thus diminishing clean up.
I have learned, over the years, that it is wise of me to let some of my ideals go,
and use paper plates on occasion,
cook some less extraordinary dinners,
and leave some margin in my day. 
Every day does not have to be picture perfect (I really tried for this)
just happy and God focused.
  Planning simple meals, especially during a school season, just makes sense. 
I am still trying to see the beauty of paper plates,
but is just doesn’t seem romantic to me,
so I’ll wait until dinner to set a proper table, and find balance in life.

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