Worth the Wait

Terri Dawes relies on her crockpot for family dinners at home.

In her job as a substitute dental hygienist and mother of two teenagers, Terri Dawes doesn't have much time for cooking. She can get called in to work at any minute, so having something cooking all day allows her to come home to a delicious meal. "I've been cooking in the crockpot as long as I can remember," she says. Round steak with potatoes and carrots is a fall staple in the Dawes house on Monday nights, and takes only minutes to get cooking.

Ingredients of steak, potatoes, onions, carrots and bell pepper are layered in the crockpot (Terri adapted an oven recipe), then slow-cooked all day. Butter, Worcestershire sauce and fresh ground pepper add flavor, and wonderful aromas drift out as the lid is lifted. Dawes has changed up the recipe over the years, adding golden cream of mushroom soup, chopped garlic, chopped onions or Lipton's onion soup. She tries to keep dry ingredients and potatoes in the pantry. "Whatever I have on hand and plenty of Tony Chachere's," she says. "I can pull something like this out of the freezer and put it in the crockpot."

Crockpot cooking also allows Junior League of Lafayette member Dawes and her husband to exercise together in the evening, whether it's taking a spinning class at Red Lerille's or bike riding with friends along Bayou Tortue. "I don't want to have to say I can't go because I'm in the kitchen," she says. "My recipes are mostly things I put on and go."

Other Dawes family crockpot favorites include beef stew in wine sauce, roast, pull-apart pork and green bean casserole. Dawes is also teaching her children to cook. "I had them in the summer pick recipes and, several nights a week, they're in charge," she says. Now that fall is approaching, Dawes is preparing to throw her annual neighborhood Halloween party. She'll be serving chicken and sausage gumbo ' cooked in the crockpot, of course. "It's more like a lifestyle," she says.

Meal-In-One-Dish Steak Casserole
1 1/2-pound piece of top round steak
4 medium potatoes
1 large onion
5 carrots
1 bell pepper
4 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground pepper

Place steak in a long casserole or crockpot, and add salt and pepper. Dot top of steak with butter, and add Worcestershire sauce. Add potatoes, sliced in large pieces, onions, carrots (whole or sliced) and bell pepper. Cover with lid or foil. Bake at 350 degrees in the oven for one hour and 15 minutes or on low in the crockpot all day. Serve with a green salad.