Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Freezer to Crockpot Meals

We are embarking on a kitchen remodel that will leave me without a functioning kitchen for a month or more. For someone who cooks every meal, nearly every day this will throw a serious wrench in our day to day routines. I am excited with what the new kitchen will bring. We have been saving money and making plans for over 3 years now so it seems high time to get it done!

In anticipation of being without a kitchen, I have had to make plans to cook on the bathroom counter. I went in search of recipes that I could prepare now and freeze to then thaw later and cook in the crockpot. I have done quite a few freezer meals over the years, but many of them require the oven to bake. I now have over 30 recipes prepped and waiting in the freezer. Some people do a month of meals in one day. I have often read about that method, but I know it wouldn't work for me. I never get that much focused time in the kitchen between kid's needs and other demands. I chose to do 7-8 meals at a time over a couple of weeks.

I am inspired by how easy it was to prepare them all. I mixed all the ingredients for each meal right in the gallon ziplock bag and didn't even dirty any bowls. I tried to group similar meals to the same prep time so I was pulling out similar ingredients. I did do some pre-cooking of dry beans to be ready to prep everything and I thawed meat I had only enough to pull it apart (but so there were still ice crystals in it) to keep it safe to throw back into the freezer. I had all the ingredients for the meals I chose on hand already which was really nice to stretch our budget and to help rotate what we store. A lot of the meals use chicken since I had stocked up with a recent sale.

I chose many recipes I have made in a crockpot before, but just haven't frozen before cooking. We haven't cooked any of the frozen meals yet, but I am very optimistic since I know what freezes well from past experience. I will share a few of the recipes below and post others as I have a chance.

Teriyaki Chicken - leave the cornstarch out since it does not hold up in the freezer at all. I prefer to stir in Ultra Gel just before serving to get the perfect thickness. For more about Ultra Gel click here. You can always add the cornstarch to the crock pot as you put the meal in to cook if you don't have Ultra Gel. Serve over cooked rice and stir-fry some frozen veggies for a side dish.

Marinated Chicken - Just throw some marinade in the bag with chicken breasts and then freeze. Thaw and grill or dump all in the crockpot for flavorful, juicy chicken. Chicken always cooks for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low in a crockpot. Serve a veggie tray and some sliced fruit on the side.

Creamy Black Bean Chicken - Put everything in the gallon ziplock bag except the cream cheese. Make a note on the bag to add cream cheese just before serving. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping or roll in a tortilla. Serve a green salad on the side.

Creamy Italian Chicken - I threw all the ingredients in my gallon ziplock bag including the cream soup and cream cheese. I have cooked it this way before and had great luck. I have found that I need to stir it a few times during the cooking process so the gravy doesn't burn on the edges. That means this is not a meal to cook on a day you have to be away for the full 4 hour cooking time. Serve over cooked egg noodles or rice. Serve a green salad or frozen veggies on the side.

Slow Cooker Freezer Beef Stew - I am trying this new recipe. I made just a couple of changes. I used frozen sliced carrots and omitted the potatoes. I will add them as I put it in the crockpot. (I know that potatoes turn black when frozen raw and I didn't want to deal with that.) I left the flour and cornstarch out since they would break down in the freezer. To help thicken the stew, I increased the tomato paste to 6 oz. I will add more thickener if needed just before serving. I will also add frozen peas the last 15-20 minutes of cooking.

Island Chicken Here is another new recipe I am trying. Her list of recipes on her post is inspiring - I didn't use all her recipes, but the titles made me turn to recipes of my own that I knew we liked with similar titles. Isn't that what food bloggers do - inspire us to enjoy dinner again?

Mongolian Beef Here is another new recipe from We are excited to try it.

That's enough recipes to share for one night. With the ones I had ready to share and the list from anyone ready to try this method has plenty to think about.

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