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!!



Anonymous said...

Roughly how big (lbs) are the 1/2 pork tenderloins?

Sydnee Peacock said...

Hi!! I LOVE crockpot meals! So easy, and it allows us to spend more time with our family in the evenings...and we get to smell that wonderful smell all day! :)

Thank you for the recipes! I'll have to try them.

Feel free to stop by my blog, too!

<3 Sydnee

Kelsie aro-karna said...

Such an awesome idea! Do you ever cook the meat prior to bagging it?

Anonymous said...

How long does the peachy balsamic chicken cook for?

Leslie said...

I do 6-8 hours on low in the crockpot. (Sometimes I'm longer than 8 hours getting home, but it's always been find.)

Leslie said...

I'm sorry that I don't know lbs. I just buy the pork tenderloin packages either from the store's butcher or Hormel ones if they're on sale and I can find unseasoned ones.

Anonymous said...

Ok thanks can't wait to try this tonight. Any suggestions on a side for this?

Leslie said...

I have 2 go-to sides for crockpot meals.
1- I pick one of my favorite veggies (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc) and throw it in the crockpot for the last 45 min - 1 hour of the cook time.

2- Roasted veggies - Pick a veggie (or 2 or 3), cut into pieces (1-inch or so), drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasoning (S&P, or I love Steak n Shake fry seasoning), and cook at 425 for 20ish min (until tender).

Anonymous said...

I didn't think they would like this one but it's a keeper. Thanks again:-)

Leslie said...

I'm so glad!!

Anonymous said...

Okay I did the peachy balsamlic chicken last time. Tonight is the chicken taco bowl hope its a keeper too.

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