"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:3-6

Friday, September 20, 2013

Freezer and Crock Pot Cooking

Freezer cooking is my new best friend.  I especially love "freezer to crock pot" cooking.

I was enjoying it when I had two children, but it wasn't a necessity.
I would occasionally make a double batch of a recipe and freeze one for the future.  I had a couple recipes that I would make large batches up and freeze them all.  A couple were for dinners, but others were for easy lunches, refried beans, dough, broth, and odd things like that.

I knew that life was about to get much busier with three kids.
While Brent was in Ethiopia, I searched for some recipes, made my list, and went to the store for all the ingredients.
Prior to this, I would try to use grocery money from the weekly budget to purchase freezer cooking items here and there when I could. That was the main reason I hadn't had a big cooking day before.

But this time I went on a shopping trip and bought everything I needed to make SO many meals!  In fact, I didn't even have room for all of them in the freezer.  I had to use my mom's freezer too!
And now that our meals have stopped coming from our friends, I'm pulling these out and it is such a blessing.  Such a relief.  So worth it.

A couple of my friends and I often share recipes we find.  I also love finding new ideas online, but there is something nice about knowing the person who tried the recipe!
My sister also likes to freeze recipes and we love crock pot recipes.  So this post is for you busy lifers who need some new freezer ideas! :)

We still have some in the freezer, but I figured I'd post a few now and then I'll post more later.

Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers (no thawing required!)
This is a skillet meal.  I am famous for not pulling out my frozen food in time. Whether it is a meal or meat we plan to grill.  You know those awesome frozen bag meals that are really yummy but really unhealthy? This is a recipe for one!
Perfect for those days something came up for a change of plans and you need a meal or your original meal didn't thaw out in time:)
1/2 box Rigatoni Pasta (or shape of your choice)
2 Sweet (or spicy) Italian Sausage links
1/2 C. Ricotta Cheese
1 C. tomato sauce
Red, green, yellow pepper slices (amount to your liking)

Prepare the pasta shapes according to box directions. Drain, cool. When cool, scatter over a large cookie sheet covered in wax paper to "flash freeze"
Slice sausage into bite size pieces and brown in skillet. Cool, then "flash freeze"
Mix the cheese and tomato sauce and pour in an ice cube tray.  Freeze.  Pop out and place in large zip lock bag.  You will then add the other items once they are frozen.
When you want to serve, you just empty bag into the skillet and cook until sauce is melted and all is warmed through.  SO easy!!
I didn't take photos while I made it, so you need to go to the tutorial found at The Cozy Country Home. There are lots of steps and it's a little time consuming, but it was really yummy and worth it!
***I didn't buy the peppers and freeze ahead and add to the bag (and if I would have, there wouldn't have been room in the bag!) Instead, I just bought them when I needed them and sautéed them separately then added into big dish.
***I also have another skillet meal recipe that I made that called for 1/2 C ricotta and 1 C tomato sauce, so it worked perfect to buy a tub of ricotta and split it between the two.  I don't know when I will actually cook it and post about it, so here is the link for the recipe: Creamy Italian Pasta with Chicken (this one I had to use two bags to fit it all in!)

Pot Pie:
This is a recipe that was given to me from Marissa.  I have adapted it though to make it cheaper:)

You can use any meat you want.  We like beef or chicken.  It's super easy to double and freeze one.  You do want to make the filling completely before freezing it.

The original recipe calls for pie crusts to be the shell of the pot pie.  We always have bisquick on hand, so I add that to the top.  Then I don't have to add pie crusts to the shopping list.  For this recipe, I put some bisquick in a baggie and put that in the freezer with the pot pie to be sure we had some when it was time to eat it!

1 pkg refridgerated pie crusts (or the bisquick like I use)
1/3 c butter
1/3 c flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2/3 c milk
3 c shredded cooked chicken, turkey, or beef
2 c frozen mixed vegetables
1 can chicken broth


Unfold 1 pie crust and place in pie pan.  Preheat oven to 425. In saucepan, melt butter, add flour, salt, and pepper.  Stir until well blended.  Gradually add broth and milk.  Cook; stirring constanstantly until bubbly and thickened. 
Stir in chicken and veggies.  Remove from heat.  Pour chicken mixture in pie pan and top with 2nd pie crust.
Bake 30-40 min until golden brown
**My variation is the exact same directions except I just pour the mixture right into the dish and top with the biscuit mix.  I make one in a pie pan and this time I put one in a freezer pan.  You could also let cool and pour into a zip lock bag.  The day before cooking, take out of freezer and cut bag open to pour contents into dish.  I have found it thaws better that way so it all gets in the dish rather than thawing in the bag and trying to scoop it out!

Chicken, Rice, and Gravy:
I know, sounds pretty plain and boring.  But when I was making all of these meals my goal was cheap, easy, and basic ingredients.
I did add a little cheese to this even though it didn't call for it.  You could easily add any veggies too.  It was pretty good.  I made a bunch then divided into two meals.
2 c white rice, prepared
1 lb chicken, cooked and cubed
chicken gravy
Line bottom of pan with small amount of gravy
Top with Rice
Top with Chicken, then with gravy
**Again, I did mine in a zip lock bag, so the layers didn't really happen and that is ok.
To prepare from frozen: defrost, cover, and bake 375 for 45 minutes  (I definitely didn't bake it this long!!)
Option: top with canned biscuits for the last 20 minutes

Texas Skillet:
This is a favorite meal in our house.  It came from Kathi Olmstead.  I think it was from one of those email chain letters that you are supposed to send your favorite recipe--the one you have memorized.
This is the first time I'd actually made it ahead for a freezer meal. It froze well and tasted great as always.
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 can chili beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3/4 c minute rice
3/4 c water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3/4 c cheddar cheese
chopped green pepper or green chilies are optional
We serve with fritos or cornbread
In skillet, cook ground beef and onion
Sprinkle with salt and garlic salt
Stir in undrained tomatoes, undrained beans, uncooked minute rice, water, and green peppers or chilies.
Cook and simmer for 15-20 minutes
Top with cheese
Serve with fritos or corn bread
**For freezer version:  I always brown all my ground beef when I buy it and separate it into baggies in the freezer for meals.
Brown the beef and cool. Add beef and all other ingredients EXCEPT water to the freezer bag. 
On cooking day, add the bag and the 3/4 cup water to the pan.  Boil and simmer 15-20 minutes.
It's a one pot, easy clean up meal.  I love those!!! :)
Easy Enchiladas:
Another easy favorite at our house.  This is a great freezer meal and works well with beef or chicken.
I believe this recipe came from Carol Flin at my bridal shower, but I don't even have the recipe card anymore because I know it by heart.  It's so easy!!  (Sorry for the approximations in the ingredients.  It's one of those that I just go with what I have and adjust accordingly.  You just don't want it to be too dry.  So if you only have one can of soup, then add more sour cream or salsa)
Tortillas (we prefer the corn, but either will work) (I use about 15-17 corn)
Chicken or Beef (cooked)
can of corn
can of black beans
1-2 cans of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
can of green chilies
appx 1 cup sour cream
appx 1 cup salsa
cheese (8 oz shredded)
Here is the easy part---rip the tortillas and mix in everything else! That's it! Drain the corn and beans of course.  Be sure to save some cheese to top it all off when it is in the pan.
To freeze: mix all and put in freezer bag. Thaw in 9x13 and top with cheese. Bake 350 for about 30 minutes.

Stuffed Pepper Soup
This was actually a new recipe I just made, but it was so good and in a crock pot, so it was worth sharing!
2 green peppers
ground beef
2 cups rice
2 can diced tomatoes
chicken broth
Italian seasoning
I sort of winged this one off another recipe, but never wrote it down.  After I made it I had to add water because it was much too thick. 
Brown meat.  Cook rice. Add all ingredients to crock pot for a few hours to warm and get tasty.

Honey Rosemary Chicken
We love this one!! I've made it a few times before.
2 lbs chicken
1/3 c balsalmic vinegar
1/3 c honey
1/3 c olive oil
3 T rosemary
1 t salt
Marinate, then freeze.
Add 1 cup water and bag to crock pot on cooking day.  Cook low 6-8 hours.
Add cornstarch to thicken at the end.  The sauce is the best part!!

****You may notice the big zip lock bags.  I learned that trick from Money Saving Mom's website.  You make the food, put it in the bag, and lay flat to freeze.  Once frozen, you can stack and move around very easily.
**As mentioned though, if you do the zip lock bags, I like to transfer to pan to thaw so all the juices get into the pan rather than trying to squeeze them out after they have thawed.


1 comment:

  1. What a fun post!!! I will be trying some.... Or many of these! It's always nice to have suggestions on what to do after they have been tried and are liked!
    Thanks for all the work you put into it!
    And... How do you do it all :) way to go!