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TCP Kitchen

Crockin’ Up a Storm

A passion for slow cooking has led to quick success for a pair of Texas moms known as the Crockin’ Girls

A pair of busy Texas moms, Nicole Sparks and Jenna Marwitz (aka the Crockin’ Girls) have found quick success promoting a method of slow cooking. The moms, who live near Brownwood in North Central Texas, where Sparks is a member of Comanche Electric Cooperative, have a website, a Facebook page with thousands of followers, and a cookbook, all devoted to the versatility and utility of the slow cooker.

The friends’ journey to cookbook authors started with an event they dubbed Crockin’ Mondays, when Marwitz, while watching Sparks’ children, would post on Facebook about what she was making for dinner. In 2010, those updates spawned a Facebook page with recipe swaps. That page attracted more than a half-million followers. And that led to the cookbook, TV appearances and national attention.

Marwitz summed up the pair’s food philosophy, saying, “We have to reinvent sitting down to dinner” by making cooking convenient and easy.

Slow cookers certainly can do that, they pointed out, adding that the appliances are popular not only with busy moms and dads, but also with military personnel, who move around a lot, and long-haul truckers, who can use them in their cabs to concoct a home-cooked meal as they move down the road.

Sparks and Marwitz said that they have 22 slow cookers between them and use them all week long. Their cookbook, The Crockin’ Girls Slow Cookin’ Companion, which came out last April, includes more than 150 recipes that could keep all those cookers going morning, noon and night. One of the best recipes might be this one for an easy, hearty lasagna.

Crockin’ Lasagna

2 pounds ground beef
2 jars (24 ounces each) marinara sauce
2 pounds ricotta cheese
3 to 4 cups shredded mozzarella
1 egg, beaten
Italian seasoning, to taste
1 box (1 pound) uncooked lasagna noodles
2 to 3 handfuls (about 4 ounces) fresh baby spinach

  • Brown ground beef and drain and add marinara. Allow to simmer 20 minutes. While sauce simmers, combine ricotta, mozzarella, egg and seasoning in a bowl.
  • Reserve two cups sauce and 1 cup ricotta mixture.
  • Coat inside of slow cooker with cooking spray.
  • Layer ingredients, starting with a layer of meat sauce, then noodles (breaking them up as necessary), then ricotta mixture, then spinach.
  • Repeat layers, then top with reserved meat sauce and ricotta mixture.
  • Cook on low for 3 hours. Any longer could lead noodles to be overcooked.

Servings: 12. Serving size: 1 1/2 cups. Per serving: 594 calories, 34.8 g protein, 26.8 g fat, 45.2 g carbohydrates, 6.4 g dietary fiber, 655 mg sodium, 8 g sugars, 122 mg cholesterol

February 2013 Recipe Contest