Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Crockpot Heaven

So after a Facebook post today, I got many requests for my process and/or recipes when I do a mass-crockpot-prepping/freezing day.  I figured a blog was the easiest way to get the info into one place.  

I was inspired to do this by 1.) my ridiculously busy schedule, 2.) my desire to eat and feed my family in a healthy manner, and 3.) Pinterest.  (How did we live before Pinterest?!?)

Ok, so I begin by searching through the millions of pins I have made of healthy crockpot recipes or freezer recipes and I make a list of meals I think will be good.  I try to get some chicken, some pork, sometimes other meats as well. I love chicken, but if it's in every meal, even if the stuff with it changes, it gets kind of boring. And I plan on making TWO of each of the recipes I pick.  (Just as easy to prep twice as much and fill 2 bags while you're doing those ingredients.)

After I've made that list, I make a grocery list.  I (because I'm this kind of neurotic) make a list with different sections of the store, such as "fresh", "meat", "cans", "freezer", "dairy", "spices", and "other". And then I put stuff for the recipes into my list.  I make a tally of things I'm getting multiples of so it's easier to know how much chicken, how many onions, etc.  Plus it's easier to buy family packs of stuff when I see I need 32 chicken breasts rather than 8 meals with 4 each.  (Yes, I'm an idiot and a little off in the head.  Don't act shocked.)

Then I shop!  Sometimes I power-through by myself.  Sometimes I take my best list-checker (aka the 5-year-old) and sometimes I take my best "can you run over there and get X and Y" guy (aka the hubs).  I try to go to the store the day I'm going to prep or the day before.  It's quite a bit of food to store for longer than that and still function in the kitchen. :)

So when I'm ready to get prepping, I set up a station.  Gallon sized FREEZER ziplocks, a few bowls, good paring knife, sharpie, my 2 big glass containers, and TUNES - you've got to have some good tunes!!

Pick a recipe.  Grab 2 ziplock bags.  Write the name of the dish and then I write anything I need to prep other than this bag the day of the meal.  (Is there something I need to throw in last minute?  Do I need to cook some rice or grab a fresh veggie to be a side?)

Now here's where it gets VERY technical & professional (because I AM SOOOOO technical & professional)!  I have these 2 big glass containers that I stick my bags in just to help the bags stand up so it's easier to put stuff in them without worrying about spillage or tumpage.  I know.  Be jealous of my brilliance!!
I'm sure a tall pot or mixing bowl would serve the same purpose.

Then I just prep 2 bags at a time.  2 BBQ chickens, 2 taco bowls, etc.  When you have the bags ready, get all the air out, zip them up, and HERE'S THE OTHER IMPORTANT POINT: Your instinct will be to get the bag super flat so it takes up less space in your freezer.  And if you're the kind of person who can remember to get the bag out of the freezer into your fridge at least 24 hours before you want to throw it in the crockpot, then you GO FOR IT!!!  But if you're like me and you NEVER remember to thaw early enough, You want to get the food into a position that would fit into your crockpot as a solid chunk (which it will be) and put it in your freezer like that.  That way, when you remember the big blob of awesomeness with 5 minutes before you need to run out the door to get your kid to school before the tardy bell (NOT that I ever do that), you can grab the bag, take your scissors to the side of it, peel it off, plop it in the crockpot, and turn that puppy on!  Done.  (I know.  Again, be VERY jealous of my brilliance.... or laziness.... or forgetfulness... or ridiculousness.)

So when you're all done, your freezer can hopefully look this happy.

One last tip that will CHANGE YOUR LIFE if you're doing crockpot meals regularly (I do 2 or 3 a week sometimes - cook one Monday, leftovers Tuesday, church Wednesday, cook one Thursday, leftovers Friday, etc.) CROCKPOT LINERS!!!  They're not that expensive.  They're easy to use, and when you're done, you throw it away and the crockpot is ready for the next meal with nothing BAKED onto it.

So now that you know the process, I'm going to put some of my favorite freezer/crockpot recipes.  I've scoured them from here and there on the internet, tweaked them occasionally, and crammed them into my recipe cabinet.  I don't do all of these at once, but they're the ones I rotate into my mass-production. :)

Chicken Taco Bowls
4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 can black beans; drained
1 can corn; drained
1/2 onion; chopped
1 jar of your favorite salsa
1 Tbsp chili powder
½ Tbsp cumin
½ Tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
to taste cracked pepper

Throw it all in your freezer bag & freeze it.  Cook in the crockpot on low 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice (we used whole grain brown and it was awesome) with a little shredded cheese and cilantro (if you're a cilantro person).

Turkey Breast of Wonder (their name, not mine)
1 (5-6 pound) turkey breast (I used 2 turkey filets because that's what I could find that day)
1/2 C orange juice
1 (14 ounce) can whole cranberry sauce
1 (1 ounce) package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
salt and pepper
(add a fresh vegetable to the mix if you want your side to cook with it)

Put the meat in your ziplock.  Mix everything else in a bowl first, then pour it over the turkey.  I had some broccoli florets, so I threw them in. Freeze.  Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with rice, couscous, or quinoia - pour the juice from the crockpot over your starch like gravy.  YUM!

Chicken Fajitas
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
peppers (how many and which colors are such a personal choice - I used 1 green bell, 1 yellow bell, and a handfull of sweet peppers) - sliced longways into strips
1/2 onion  - sliced into half rings
1/2 c chicken broth
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 ½ tablespoons chili powder
1 lime

Put the peppers in the bag.  Place the chicken on top.  Pour the broth into the bag.  Sprinkle the spices over the chicken. Squeeze the juice of the lime over all of it.  Freeze it. Cook it in the crockpot on low 6-8 hours. When it's done cooking, the meat may look weird where the spices have browned on top.  It's fine.  Shred with a fork and run with it.

Serve it over rice, with tortillas, with cheese, sour cream - whatever your fajita-lovin' heart wants!

BBQ Pulled Pork
1/2 pork tenderloin (at my grocery store when I buy the store meat, 1 pack has 2 halves in it)
1 pack of McCormick pulled pork seasoning (or if, like me, you can't find that, whatever meat seasoning tickles your fancy that day - I used some Emeril something or other)
1/2 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
1/2 onion; chopped

Put it all in the bag.  Freeze it. Cook it in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.  Shred it with a fork.

Serve it on a bun with pickles and fries or on a plate with some beans or slaw.

Peachy Balsamic Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup peach preserves
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or a heaping spoonful of minced garlic)
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
(throw in a fresh veggie if you want your side to cook with it)

I had some fresh green beans that my favorite bean-snapper (aka the 5-year-old) prepped for me, so I threw them in the bottom of the bag. Put the meat in the bag.  Stir the broth, preserves, garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt, & pepper together and pour over the meat in the bag.

Amazing Pork Tenderloin 
1\2 pork tenderloin (@ my store, if I buy the store meat, pork tenderloins come with 2 halves in the pack)
1 cup low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup white wine (or apple juice, no added sugar)
3 Tbsp garlic, minced
3 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
8 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper
pepper to taste

Place pork tenderloin in the bag.  Sprinkle all seasonings over the meat.  Then pour the broth, wine, & soy sauce over it all. If you had a fresh veggie to throw in, it would be great in this.  Maybe asparagus, broccoli, or zucchini?  Freeze.  Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 lb shredded chicken (I use a rotisserie chicken from the store and de-bone it into the bag.)
1 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 4 oz can chopped green chile peppers (I used half a can becuase 5-year-old lips would be eating it.)
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
10 oz corn (frozen or canned)

Put it all in the bag.  Freeze it.  Cook in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with cilantro & tortilla chips.

Creamy Farmhouse Chicken & Garden Soup (This is my FAVORITE!!)
1 pack of your favorite frozen veggie mix.  (This is such a personal preference. I wouldn't go with veggie soup mix, but something with different veggies in it.)
2 cups frozen corn
4-6 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh)
1/2 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbs chopped parsley
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 14 oz. can chicken broth
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 cup half and half

Put all the ingredients except the zucchini and half and half in the ziplock bag.  Put the zucchini and half and half in a separate baggie and label it.  (I label the big bag with the name, "Needs last minute bag and egg noodles".  I label the small bag "Farmhouse chicken last minute bag".)  Freeze both.  Cook the big bag in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.  Add the "last minute bag" for the last 30 minutes- 1 hour of cooking.

Serve over egg noodles (or no yolks).

OK, Sorry for the long blog, but I figured this way all of the info is in one spot.  Hope this helps reduce your crazy chaos like it has for me!!


Friday, April 27, 2012

That's Gonna Leave a Mark!

*In an attempt to get back to blogging, I'm going to begin posting my weekly newsletter devotionals on the blog each week. Hopefully it'll inspire me to write other times as well. ha

Drew, Tucker and I went to dinner tonight at one of our favorite places in Alpharetta and were heading to the Cirque show that his school's drama department puts on. T and I both had on dresses. I broke out an extra-high pair of heels. (You know, the ones I never wear to church 'cause they're not conducive to sitting in the floor or 80 trips up and down the stairs and from end to end of the building.) I even put on mascara. It was a seriously big night. (haha).

And as I sat at the dinner table having a grown-up evening, I reached in my purse for a moment to get my glasses and had to move a pair of Rapunzel undies out of the way. You see, no matter what kind of evening I'm having, I'm still a mom and the marks of it are everywhere. My purse always has spare toddler undies (in case of accidents), spare kiddie barrettes, and usually a small game or book of some sort. My car is always stocked with emergency pull-ups, juice boxes, a stroller, and a cd of princess songs. I might as well have "Mommy" permanently tatooed on my forehead.

It got me to thinking. Motherhood changed my life completely and it has left its marks outwardly all over my world. How much more so has knowing Christ changed my life? And are there any outward markings of that change?

Yes, some of us wear crosses or carry Bibles and those can be outward signs of being a Christian, but to me the real outward signs of having Christ in your heart is an outpouring of his love. Kind words, helpful hands, showing kindness even to those who are different from us, being slow to anger and fast to forgive -- I think all of these are outwards signs of the change Christ brings to our lives. We may not create an "emergency box" in our cars because we're carrying Christ with us like we do for our children, but he should leave his mark in our choices, behaviors, and our interactions with others. There should be something about the way our cups are overflowing with his love that marks us as his.

One of my favorite choral pieces I've ever sung goes like this, "Though shalt know him when he comes, not by any din of drums, nor his manners, nor his airs, nor by anything he wears. Though shalt no him when he comes, not by his crown or by his gown, but his coming known shall be by the HOLY HARMONY which his coming MAKES IN THEE!"

Has he made his mark on you? Do others know he's here because of the change he made in YOU? My prayer is that he will guide all of our thoughts, words, and actions so that others can see the holy harmony he has made in each of us.

Love & Shipoopies,

Friday, November 18, 2011


I'm sure I've mentioned more than once on here that I have a big brother.  In most of the obvious ways, we are night and day.  He's always been a daredevil; I'm a bit of a scaredy-cat.  He's a boundry-tester; I'm a strict adherer to the rules.  He's hard rock; I'm bluegrass and jazz.

Needless today, a very large portion of our lives was spent at least a little at odds.  We are 2.5 years apart (and only 2 grades in school), so we were close enough to clash over friends and coolness frequently.  And then during our college and post-college years, we had moments of really connecting and moments of "forced friendship".

A month or so ago, I was chatting with one of Drew's graduated students and he was saying he needed to go spend some time with his brother.  Then he said, "I don't know why I bother.  We have NOTHING in common and he doesn't make ANY effort."

I was so glad to be able to say that I knew EXACTLY what that kind of brotherly-relation ship felt like.  I told him that my brother and I went through years of that, but that I am SO GLAD that one or the other always MADE the interaction happen occassionally because now, when our lives have become much more similar than dissonant, we very easily slipped into being close friends.

NOW, we're both parents of 3 year olds (born exactly 4 months apart, to the day).  We're both married.  We both have had struggled through unhappy work situations (and now we both have found better jobs).  We struggle through many of the same things in life, we find the same things funny, we cheer on the same football team (ROLL TIDE!), and we both LOVE our lives and try to stay focused on the joys our families bring us. 

We still listen to different music and he's still WAY more *ahem* BALSY than I am, BUT he's one of my best friends.  We talk regularly, whether it's about what to do when X happens with one of the girls or just to check in and say, "I was thinking about you and wanted to tell you that I love you!" 

I'm so glad that we always made the effort to keep a little in touch and I'm even MORE glad that we have grown so close.  (And I am VERY glad that I will be seeing him for a whole WEEK very, very soon!)

Love you, Scooteroo!

Love & Shipoopies,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lest we think she's not paying attention...

Tucker LOVES to "read" her books to us.  For a long time her stories all began, "Cinderella (or whichever character) was a kind and beautiful."  Now she's started picking up other parts of stories she's been read and throwing them in.  My favorite parts?  "Who's been benning in my house?!?"  and the fact that she is SO PLEASED with herself for putting monsters in the story.  So funny!

Happy Friday!  One more week for me at this job!  Woot!!!

Love & Shipoopies,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

If you don't ask...

I realized something about myself recently.  I have been putting limits on the things I pray for.

Don't get me wrong.  I would never put limits on what God is capable of.  I'm not crazy.  I've read about and even seen some of his miracles and I know if it's his desire, he can make it happen.

It's just that I've always put limits on what I'm willing to ask for.  I guess I've sort of developed the sense of, "There are so many other people in the world who have diseases and missing children and horrible tragedies that need his help, and I'm doing ok."  I mean, my life's been far from perfect, but I figure I've got a home and food and family and friends and in the greater scheme of things, I'm doing alright.  So I guess it felt sort of selfish to ask God for GREAT things in my life when there are people who really NEED great things, so I limited myself to asking for just enough to survive. I mean, WHO AM I to ask for miracles when God could spend his miracles on someone who needs them more?!?

But here's the thing.  God's not like a jug of lemonade, so when it's used up, it's used up.  It's not like to give one person a miracle, he has to deprive someone else of one.  He is LIMITLESS not only in his power, but in his ability to give and love.  It's like being a parent.  Having a second child doesn't take love away from your first child.  There's a whole other chunk of love that develops and multiplies to cover the second child.

So I decided I wasn't going to put limits on my prayers anymore.  I've been praying about a new job for a very long time now, and I wanted to find a GREAT job not just another job to get by on.  (Heck, I've been doing that for 8+ years now!)  I've been praying that God would just help me find something where I wasn't unhappy more often than not.  It didn't have to be amazing, just better than the current.  But I finally decided to ask God for the stars.  I began praying for a GREAT job, one that would make me HAPPY and where I would succeed and feel WONDERFUL about the job I was doing.  I asked for a job where I would feel I had a purpose and was making a difference.  And then I asked for a budgetary miracle because, let's face it, the job I'm currently miserable doing pays WAY better than the jobs I know I'd be happy doing.  It's the reason I've been doing it so long.

And you know what?  He did it.  He has guided me through multiple interviews and multiple churches (and 4 interviews at the final church).  He kept me calm and helped me show myself, not some fake interview-version of me.  And then?  He gave us a budgetary miracle. We didn't win the lottery or anything, but he tweaked enough stuff here and there that it's all going to work out.

And?  I HAVE A NEW JOB!!!!!  Starting the first Sunday in Advent, I will be the Director of Children's Ministries at a local Methodist church.  It's the dream job I never knew I wanted and I'm SO excited about it.

And God and myself?  We have a new policy.  I'm going to continue asking for the stars and for my dreams
knowing that sometimes the answer will be "Not that", "Not now", or just plain "No".  But I figure it can't hurt to ask because he loves me more than I deserve and he wants me to be happy and he wants me to contribute, and he wants me to do it WITH HIS HELP!!!

Love & Shipoopies

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Hidden Meaning

I'm always curious when I hear commercials if others listen to them as critically as I do.  I mean, I don't intend to be critical, but sometimes the "hidden meaning" behind what they are saying is too obvious to not mock it just a little.  You know, like when a store advertises "Everything up to 50% off!"  You know technically, that could mean that nothing in the store is on sale AT ALL, right?!?  Because 0% off falls into the "up to 50% off" category.  Tricky, tricky...  Here are some other commercials I've heard or seen lately that have prompted my ScoobyDoo ears to say, "Uuuurrrrrrghhhhh?"

*One particular chicken chain has recently been advertising their "popcorn chicken" saying something to the effect of, "Those other guys have chicken NUGGETS.  What part of the chicken IS a nugget anyway?  Here at KFC, we serve succulent, juicy POPCORN chicken." 

Umm, dude, what part of a chicken is the popcorn, anyway?!? 

*A local car dealership advertisement I heard on the radio the other day claimed, "Open until 10:30... even later if we know you're coming!"

Who the HECK buys a car at 11pm at night?!?  I mean, yes staying open until 9 is probably VERY helpful to some people who have full time jobs and kids to feed and bathe and can't get to the dealership until like 7:30 or 8 and still need some time to look.  But past 10:30 at night?!?  REALLY?!?  Remind me to never apply to be a salesman at THAT place!!!

*And then there's Moe's.  And trust me when I say, the Bowers fam consumes its fair share of Moe's.  My husband could eat it every single meal of every single day and never get sick of it.  But I heard an advertisement the other day discussing their amazing meat options as "grass-fed cows, cage-fed chicken, and pulled pork!" 

Does that translate to anyone else as "super healthy cows, amazingly cared-for chickens, and... ah heck, pigs'll eat ANYTHING so who cares?!?!!!"  hahahaha!

Do you guys ever do this?  What are some of YOUR favorite commercials with hidden meanings?

Love & Shipoopies,

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

We didn't have a pumpkin, but it was GREAT!!!

Get it?  The Great Pumpkin?  tee-hee

Ok, here's a little dose of our Halloween.  We always hand out candy at Will & Ashie's house because no one makes it up our street far enough to get to us.  And can I say, our 3 year old liked handing OUT candy more than getting it herself.  So cute!

I LOOOOVE this face! 

As we were taking our family picture, one of Tucker's best friends from daycare walked up.  Daya and Tucker were in the same room from the time they were 3 months old until Daya moved to a nearby city at the start of this school year.  We have only been able to have one playdate since she moved, so they were SO EXCITED to see each other. :)  Monkey Joe's, you should expect 2 VERY giggly girls soon. :)

Love & Shipoopies,