Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Different Kind of Freedom

(Photo by Brent Fritzemeier)

I'm a little afraid of coming across as sacrilegious with my message this month. I definitely don't want to give you that impression. I am proud to be an American. I am thankful our country was founded on Christian principles. I am grateful to the men and women who have served and protected our country since it began. I add my prayers to those of many others for the military men and women who are still fighting that good fight today. I thank the families of those brave service people who have an empty place at their table this 4th of July because their son or daughter is serving our country somewhere far from home.

As I pondered this topic and how it might relate to food or the kitchen, I kept coming back around to freedom from heat. I know it may sound trite when compared to meditating on our country's freedom or our religious freedom.

But I also know it's 101 degrees outside as I write this. The south wind is blowing like a blast furnace.

It is hot.

So the last thing your kitchen needs is more heat.

Yet our families still think they need to have three meals a day, with a few snacks thrown into the mix. While there are plenty of summertime fresh fruits and vegetables to enjoy at mealtime, my husband still likes hearty main dishes.

Your slow cooker can come to the rescue! I know you have one. Maybe you use yours all the time. Maybe it's gathering dust in some upper cabinet. Dig it out, and try some of these tried-and-true recipes for your summertime meals.


GOOP is a recipe from Cook of the Week days, a feature I did back when I worked at The Hutchinson News. I'd forgotten about this recipe, but I found it again in Recipes and Remembrances from the Pratt First United Methodist Church: 1884-2004.

You can cook the mixture on the top of the stove (which is also quick and easy). But on a summer day or on a day you're away from home, the slow cooker does the work. I serve the GOOP on baked potatoes, though the recipe has different options. During the summer, when I prefer not to heat up the kitchen, I often bake potatoes in a different Crock Pot.

I further streamline this meal by browning extra hamburger earlier in the week. Then I just have to dump everything into the Crock Pot.

I serve the GOOP with a romaine salad with lots of cut-up veggies. Enjoy!

3/4 lb. ground beef, browned and drained (I always throw a little minced onion in when browning hamburger)
17 oz. white kernel corn, drained (I usually just use regular corn or fiesta corn)
14 oz. stewed tomatoes, cut up
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped (I don't always use this)
1 tbsp. chili powder
Baked potatoes (can also use rice or cooked noodles, if you prefer)


Sour cream (I usually use fat free)
Shredded cheese
Green onion (if desired)

Brown the ground beef; drain. Add the corn, tomatoes, ketchup, green pepper and chili powder. Either heat through in the skillet or put in a Crock Pot.

Use about 1 cup on a baked potato (or alternative). Top with sour cream, cheese and onion to taste.


Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

(From the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook)

Prick desired number of potatoes with a fork, and wrap in foil. Cover. DO NOT add water. Cook on High for 2.5 to 4 hours or Low for 8-10 hours.


Christy's Chicken Tortilla Soup

Maybe you don't think about soup being a summertime meal. But I like soup any time of the year. My son-in-law's mom, Christy, had this soup in a Crock Pot when we all helped Jill and Eric move from their apartment into their home earlier this year. Jill had told me about this super-easy soup before. Once I tasted the soup, it was a must-add to my recipe box.

If you can open cans, you can make this soup. Again, it is a recipe you can cook on top of the stove or put into a Crock Pot.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 can corn
1 can chicken broth

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

3/4 cup salsa (anything from mild to hot - suit your taste!)

1 can refried beans (I used fat-free beans)

2 cups cooked, chopped chicken

Tortilla chips

Shredded cheese

Combine black beans, corn, chicken broth, salsa, refried beans and chicken. Heat until heated through, on the stove or in a Crock Pot. To serve, top with shredded cheese and slightly crushed tortilla chips (You can also use soft taco shells if you prefer). Jill & I just cook chicken breasts in the microwave and then chop them. You could also use a can of chicken meat, if you prefer.

I have also used hamburger with this soup since that's what we beef producers have in our freezer.

I served with a fruit salad, but you can also round it out with a green salad, baby carrots or another side dish. Christy served it with a homemade cheese ball that was also delicious.

Easy Roast Beef

As I said last month, I like getting multiple meals out of one cooking effort. I just think it's smart to factor in "planned overs," a fancy name for leftovers.

We just completed harvest on our Kansas farm, so this plan of action came in handy on busy days when I might have to go to the field to drive the truck or when I was sent on an emergency run for parts.

But it's also great to have "planned overs" when you're part of a busy family with 4-H meetings to attend, ballgames to get to and summertime fun to have!

I never make pot roast in the oven anymore. I think it's so much easier and gives a more tender product to slow cook the meat in the Crock Pot.

To make planned overs, I usually use two small roasts (whatever you can fit in your Crock Pot). I have a fairly large Crock Pot that I use for these occasions. For the first meal, I serve the traditional pot roast with potatoes and carrots.

Then I can use the leftover meat to make beef and noodles over mashed potatoes for another meal. I use additional "planned over" meat to make BBQ sandwiches to take to the field.

If you don't want to use the beef all at once, you can package the leftovers in freezer bags and pop them in the freezer. Measure the amount you'll need for the recipe, label it well and then freeze. Then you're ready in a snap for a last-minute meal.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
3 to 3.5 lb. beef pot roast (or what fits in your cooker)
4 carrots, chunked (I often use baby carrots these days)
4 medium potatoes, cut in large pieces
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
3/4 cup water

True confessions: I don't measure this stuff usually. But I found this recipe and it's a good guide to use. I purchase the dry onion soup mix at a bulk food store.

Since our larger meal is usually at noon, I usually cook my roasts overnight. Just before bedtime, I put the roasts, dry onion soup mix and water in the slow cooker and turn it on low. In the morning, I add the carrots and potatoes. The veggies are tender by lunchtime.

But if you're cooking it for your evening meal, here are the "proper" directions:

In slow cooker, arrange vegetables; top with roast. Combine soup mix with water and add to slow cooker. Cook, covered, on Low 8 to 10 hours or on High 4 to 6 hours. Remove roast and vegetables.

I always serve the broth "as is" to top the potatoes. But if you prefer a gravy, here's how: To thicken gravy, stir in 1/4 cup water blended with 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (make sure those are well blended before you add to the slower cooker.) Cook on High until thickened.


I hope these recipes will give you "freedom" from kitchen heat. Use these as a jumping off point. There are lots of cookbooks especially designed for your slow cooker. Your Crock Pot probably came with a booklet with recipes. Or search for recipes online. One blog focusing on slow cooker recipes is: In 2008, the author made a New Year's resolution to use her Crock Pot every day of the year. There are even recipes for spoon bread and cakes made in the slow cooker.

If you try one and like it, be sure to comment here, so others can try it, too.


Blessings to you and yours as we approach the birthday of our great nation. I pray you are able to celebrate the great freedoms our country enjoys AND a little freedom from heat in your kitchen!


  1. yay! we are finally getting some freedom from the heat here in kansas.
    i must say goop sounds like something not too appetizing but when i read the recipe i can't wait to give it a try. Reminds me a bit of a goulash my mother used to make when i was a kid. as rachel ray would say, "delish"

  2. Thanks for commenting! Hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

  3. Thanks, Kim! Great ideas!