Planning Ahead

The list of things that I intend to accomplish in 2017 is vast. There’s a qualifying paper for my PhD, kids in transition, summer excursions, bodies to get into shape, education reform that needs leadership, friends to catch up with, and plenty of fun to be had. It takes some planning.img_5716

Weekly menu planning is something that I’ve done for years. By setting out a day by day food agenda, it helps me with my shopping list and even if we don’t follow it, there’s no stress around the question of what’s for dinner. The slow cooker has been this working mom’s friend for a long time but recently, I’ve branched out from the traditional one-pot meals and stews. Why it took me so long, I have no idea.

The notion of making tomato sauce in the slow cooker is golden. This is a throw it in the pot and walk away recipe that fills the larder for a few weeks. Tonight, we’ll use it on polenta and roasted vegetables but it’s versatile and can be served with pasta, chicken parmesan, Italian sausage, or act as a base for other recipes.

As my kids are growing up and are more independent, having real food that they can grab from the fridge is important. Admittedly, I give in to a few of Amy’s frozen burritos but if I have spaghetti or soups or stews available, they’ll dig right in for an after-school snack or weekend lunch. Given that it’s winter here, I used canned tomatoes but this could easily be prepared with fresh tomatoes.

Slow-Cooker Tomato Sauce
Modified from
Serves: 5 – 6 pints
  • 2 28oz cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 1 carrot, chopped small
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • crushed red pepper or chopped fresh jalapeno to taste
Toss all of the ingredients into your slow cooker (the tomatoes can go in whole). Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. Once the tomatoes have broken down, uncover. Continue cooking for another hour or two, until sauce has thicken. Run the tomato sauce through a food mill or blender, carefully blend in a blender, or use an immersion blender to create a smooth sauce.

Make ahead sauce and menu planning are a couple of things that help me accomplish the other things on my list.

What are some of yours?

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  1. Lately, I’ve been cooking a chicken on the weekend (1 meal), making something like stir fry the second night (one dish/easy meal), boiling down into broth, creating one recipe of chicken something soup, freezing extra broth (usually get about 3-4 recipes worth of broth). I often portion out chicken for wraps & other dishes too. (Neither one of us is crazy about drumsticks, so those usually end up as soup.

    Any good ideas for extra lamb roast? Also, how is your PhD going? I’m back doing a masters in music education, then onto a PhD myself!

    • leftover lamb chopped with basmati rice, chopped onion, dried apricots and cinnamon, throw in some toasted pine nuts and chopped mint. Mmmmm.

      i love learning and I am learning so much – not even half way done.

  2. Carolyn Niethammer

     /  January 22, 2017

    Once you look at all the added sugar to commercial spaghetti sauces, it just makes sense to make your own.

    • Even in the slow cooker, most recipes add sugar. I don’t but it’s certainly an option.

      • I’ve never understood that. I like my tomato sauce to be savory, and it’s plenty sweet for me. I make tomato sauce on the stove all the time, and all I ever add are herbs.

  3. What a great idea, Tammy! Best of luck with your Ph.D. and wishing you plenty of fun!

  4. Just having a list helps me stick to my weekly goals. Good luck with your PhD.

  5. Sally Jones

     /  January 22, 2017

    You are one true inspiration for motivation and setting goals!

  6. Eric

     /  January 23, 2017

    I want you to be my president.

  7. Lisa H

     /  January 23, 2017

    I love my crockpot! It’s like a cook-free night and it makes enough to freeze another meal. Your tomato sauce looks delicious. Thanks for re-inspiring me.

  8. Naomi

     /  January 25, 2017

    Such an inspiring post, thank you Tammy 🙂 Wow, all the very best with your PhD and everything else you have on the go! We’ve recently got into smoothies and are absolutely loving them. Finally, at 50, I have the answer to great breakfasts!

    • We love smoothies also.. It’s a terrific way to pack in a ton of nutrition. I’m in the process of reevaluating my diet a bit and smoothies in the morning are a definite go!

  9. That’s an impressive list of things to accomplish this year. I certainly need to get my body in shape and must make that a priority. Menu planning is so vital for busy people. Good luck with all your goals xx

  10. I made so many (giant) pots of soups when my kids were all home over the holidays. Things seemed to go better if there were a couple options that could be reheated anytime. Good luck with all your projects!

  11. Lovely. (Hoping to hear more about education reform.)

  12. A wonderful tasty recipe! I lo e it how easy it is,…must be utterly delicious too! We have had a lot of yellow raspberries so I have been making a lot of crumbles, jams! Also we are having an over abundance of red currants,…that means, freezing them, making jams, making cakes, etc! In 1 week, we have 1 moth of vacation! I can’t wait!

  13. I miss you, Tammy! I hope you see this, as it is many months ago that you posted this. But I was going through my old posts to find something for a friend and found several wonderful comments from you. I so appreciated your thoughts! I have not been posting much
    myself lately – some life changes have taken up much space in mostly wonderful ways. I’m glad to see you are still sharing your thoughts and life. Perhaps we need to meet sometime in the near future!

  14. Love anything with tomato, and this is excellent, slow cooking.
    Long time no post …… ?


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