Probably by now everyone who is supposed to be is back in school. I guess there is a reason that the starting date for districts varies by as much as two full weeks. There are those of us who never had to worry about what date school was starting each fall — it was always the day after Labor Day. I realize that we get more days off during the year now, and I certainly agree this is a good thing. It just seems strange to see crayons, backpacks and school clothes for sale right after July 4th. With that, guess what we are going to talk about today? Back-to-school recipes, you say?

The recipes are not for what to pack in a lunchbox but dishes easy to have for dinner after someone has worked all day either in a school or any setting.

However, just one note on “brown-bag lunches.” I recently read about schools that have a no-nut policy because of so many students (and staff) who have nut allergies. I shudder to think what would have happened to one of my boys who had a PB and J sandwich every day for 12 years of school. I think it is a challenge to pack a lunch every day for a student and to make it nutritious, appealing and something that will not return home in the lunch box.

The first recipe is a slow-cooker recipe. I do not know why I do not make more use of my slow cooker. Even in the summer heat, using a slow cooker is a cool way to cook.

Gone-All-Day Casserole

  • 1 cup raw rice
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 2 cans (four ounces each) sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 3 beef bouillon cube or 3 teaspoons beef bouillon base
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 2 pounds boneless round steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups water

Layer ingredients in order given in a slow cooker staring with rice on the bottom.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until rice is tender. Stir before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.

This is another beef recipe, but I did not cook it in the slow cooker, however it is easy and quick to make.

Pirate Stew

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can (8-ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes (I used new potatoes and left the peel on)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a sauce pan or a deep skillet, cook meat, onion, and celery until meat is cooked and no longer pink. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes. Makes 4-5 servings.

This is just a plain pound cake, but it is hard to beat.

Buttermilk Pound Cake

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix dry ingredients and set aside. Cream butter and sugar, and add eggs, one at a time. Continue beating and add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk. Add vanilla and mix well. Pour into a greased or sprayed tube pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Check with toothpick in center for doneness. Let set in pan for 10 minutes before removing to plate.

— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist and has written three self-published cookbooks. Her column appears in the News-Journal’s Taste section each Wednesday. Write her at bayrm12@gmail.com or in care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.