Slow cooker beef and tortellini

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in the Feb. 24, 2012 issue of the Banner. 

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I work for a company that’s generous enough to let me work from home pretty regularly, but I still commute to Fargo, N.D., just as often. The drive makes for some long days, especially when I get home right about the time that my little man is ready for supper. (And by “ready for supper,” I mean “flailing on the floor, screaming.”)

This slow-cooker meal is perfect for days when I need supper ready in a jiffy, and with minimal effort. The prep work takes about 10 minutes, at most. But if that’s even more time than you can spare in the morning, you can assemble the first four ingredients the night before, and refrigerate the dish until morning -- especially if your slow cooker has a removable insert. I sometimes prep the food the night before, and then ask the hubby to get everything set up and plugged in before he leaves the house.

And then I leave approximately 42 Post-It notes throughout the house as reminders. My nagging is more than just an annoyance. It’s also a carefully cultivated talent.

This meal is quite versatile. You can use any pasta sauce you like, and whatever vegetables you and your family enjoy. Just keep the relative cooking times of the vegetables in mind. For example, I sometimes add carrots along with the beef, because carrots cook slowly. And I might add mushrooms together with the zucchini at the end.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it’s very kid friendly. So many people have told me that their kids love this dish – even the vegetable part. I believe that it’s the Cheese Tortellini Association Theory. Most kids adore tortellini. And if the tortellini are willing to pal around with the zucchini, then zucchini can’t be all that bad, right?

(Photo reprinted with permission from the Minnesota Bison Association. Also, this recipe works just as well with bison as it does with beef.)