Keep it simple

I love experimenting with recipes and trying new combinations. Sometimes, however, it’s fun to make simple recipes and enjoy time at the dinner table instead of in the kitchen. These are a few of my favorite simple recipes because they are versatile for each diner to customize. Spice it up with jalapeños or slap on a slice of provolone cheese. Forego the hoagies or buns to cut carbohydrates.

They also allow me to prepare in advance for last-minute meals. Each of these recipes can be made in a day and frozen in serving-size resealable plastic containers. Choose one and move it from the freezer to the refrigerator in the morning and by evening you are ready to warm it up and serve a hungry family. The sloppy joes lend themselves well to freezing in single-serving sizes for a quick lunch solution.

Stop by the website for a bonus recipe, Midwest Chuck Roast with au jus.

Meatball Sub Sandwich

This recipe is a hit at Sutton Central because it meets the tastes of each family member. Some eat just the plain meatball, some skip the bread and some add additional toppings. I double the meatballs and freeze 12 of them to add to spaghetti on another night.


1 lb. lean ground beef

1 large egg

1/2 c. seasoned croutons, roughly crushed

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1 (26-oz.) jar pasta sauce

4 hoagie rolls

1 c. finely shredded mozzarella cheese


1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ground beef, egg, crouton crumbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix until incorporated.

2. Form into 12 meatballs and place on an aluminum foil-lined 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until beef is no longer pink.

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3. Microwave the pasta sauce until hot.

4. To serve, halve each roll lengthwise and place three meatballs inside. Drizzle with pasta sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

Apron Strings Tip: Toasting your rolls prior to adding meatballs makes a nice texture. Experiment with types of pasta sauce or marinara sauce to change the taste of the sandwich. To convert this to a slow cooker recipe, place the raw meatballs on the bottom of the crock and completely cover each with pasta sauce and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork Sliders

Just a hint of root beer flavor in this pork is a nice change up from the usual pulled pork sandwich I do.


4 lb. boneless pork loin

1 (12-oz.) can root beer

1 garlic clove, minced

1 (16-oz.) bottle barbecue sauce

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Slider rolls


1. Place pork in slow cooker and pour root beer over the top. Toss garlic on top and sprinkle with pepper. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 10 hours.

2. Remove pork from slow cooker and let rest on cutting board for 10 minutes. Discard any fat. Using two forks, shred the meat. Drain liquid from slow cooker and return meat to crock and stir in barbecue sauce. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until heated through.

3. Serve on slider buns with coleslaw or dill pickles.

Simple Sloppy Joes

This is one of our favorite recipes for busy nights and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day.


3 lbs. lean ground beef

1 c. yellow onion, chopped

1 c. celery, chopped

1/2 c. green bell pepper, chopped

1 (12-oz.) bottle chili sauce

1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Hamburger buns


1. In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onions, celery and green pepper until beef is thoroughly cooked. Drain if necessary.

2. Put mixture into slow cooker. Stir in all remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Serve on buns.

Apron Strings Tips: This recipe shortcut is to skip the slow cooker and simply let it simmer in the skillet for an hour, stirring occasionally. I like to serve it with steak fries and offer sliced cheese to add on the sandwiches. I can sneak in carrots as well if I grate them and add them in step 1.