Sunday, January 20

LAZY Crock-Pot Freezer Cooking

Most areas of my life both suffer and benefit from my unpredictable moods. One week I'm in a mood to clean the house as if I'd invited Martha Stewart for brunch, and other weeks I let the dishes pile up until I have to hunt for something *anything* to contain my morning cereal. One week I'm Julia Child, the next week we're eating frozen pizza. One thing that makes the most of my manic housekeeping personality is occasional freezer cooking.

Two Saturdays ago I decided to shake things up and try a new kind of freezer cooking. Instead of chopping veggies for hours, standing over a hot stove for a few more hours, and cleaning up for hours after that, I turned to my beloved crock pot for a gentler, happier freezer cooking experience.

I love my Hamilton Beach 6-quart Set-n-Forget Programmable
Slow Cooker more than any appliance I've ever owned.
Even my Kitchen Aid mixer! Don't tell her, though! ; )

This is how I made a ton of delicious food while socializing, reading, going to church, and watching TV:

1. I prepped each recipe, generally with little effort or time investment, right before I plopped it in the crock pot. This required a cutting board, knife, and sometimes a frying pan. 

2. I chose the appropriate cook time and setting for my schedule. I cooked three of these recipes on high for 3-4 hours while doing other things. The other two I cooked for about 8 hours on low overnight. While the recipes were cooking I washed off my cutting board and knife and put any other dishes in the dishwasher.

3. Once each recipe was finished, I immediately emptied the food into a different dish to cool, cleaned the insert (careful not to burn!), and started the next recipe in minutes. This is the key - no letting the dirty insert cool with caked-on food, and no wasted time! While the next recipe was cooking I divided the cooled food into freezer bags and froze them flat on a cookie sheet until stiff and ready for stacking.

In a little over 24 hours I had made enough food to last us at least three weeks.

    All of these recipes are from the Crock Pot Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection cookbook. I've tried them all and they're delicious! Anything in italics below is my own addition or substitution.

Chipotle Chicken Stew
This is somewhere between chili and chicken tortilla soup.
With minimal prep work!

    Chipotle Chicken Stew

    1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
    1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
    1 can (15 ounces) navy beans, rinsed and drained
    1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
    1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes, undrained
    1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1 medium onion, diced
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp ground cumin
    1 bay leaf
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

1. Combine all ingredients, except cilantro, in a 4 1/2 quart crock pot (mine holds 6 quarts - worked fine)
2. Cover; cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. Garnish with cilantro if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli - picture it over pasta.
This was our favorite! Probably the least healthy, but most delicious!

Cream Cheese Chicken with Broccoli

4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (1 ounce) Italian salad dressing mix - I added an extra package at the end of cooking
2 cups sliced mushrooms - I used 16 oz fresh mushrooms (we love extra mushrooms)
1 cup chopped onion
1 can (10 3⁄4 ounces) condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted 
1 bag (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 package (8 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese, cubed (or Neufchatel cheese)
1⁄4 cup dry sherry

1. Toss chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian salad dressing mix. Place in 5-quart crock pot. Cover; cook on LOW 3 hours.
2. Coat large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add mushrooms and onion; cook 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
3. Add soup, broccoli, cream cheese and sherry to skillet (and second salad dressing mix); cook and stir until hot. Transfer to 4 1⁄2-quart crock pot. Cover; cook on LOW 1 hour (I recommend uncovered to thicken!). Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Yield: 10-12 servings 

Mama's Beer Chili
The beer adds sweetness and the corn adds texture.
We ate this with Fritos and shredded cheese. Yum!

Mama's Beer Chili

    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 large vidalia onion, diced
    4 tbsp garlic, crushed
    1 1/2 - 2 lb ground turkey
    28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
    1 cup beer, (dark preferred)
    3 Tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp curry powder
    3 Tbsp hot sauce
    1/3 cup honey
    10 oz frozen corn
    1 can (15oz) pink beans or kidney beans
    1/3 cup canned green chilies
    3 beef bouillon cubes
    1-2 tbsp flour, to thicken

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Add onion, cook and stir 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir 2 minutes.
2. Add turkey to skillet. Cook and stir until turkey is no longer pink. Drain fat and discard.
3. Add remaining ingredients, stirring until mixed. Transfer to 4 1/2 quart crock pot. Cover; cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Nice 'n' Easy Italian Chicken - picture it over pasta.
Not the prettiest dish, but really tasty. I love that it has so many veggies,
but they cook down so that you don't notice them -
would still be good for picky eaters.

Nice 'n' Easy Italian Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 26-oz jar pasta sauce
I added: garlic salt, oregano, and crushed red pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except pasta in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 6-8 hours or until chicken is tender. Serve over spaghetti.

Yield: 4 servings

Country Sausage and Bean Soup
The sausage and tomato are a nice change of pace from plain
black bean soup. This stuff is really hearty and filling!

Country Sausage and Bean Soup

2 cans (14-oz each) chicken broth
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and sorted
1 cup chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1 tsp sugar 
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
nonstick cooking spray
6 ounces reduced-fat country pork sausage
1 cup chopped tomato
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire sauce (I used more - love that stuff!)
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Combine broth, water, beans, onion, bay leaves, sugar and ground red pepper in crock pot. Cover; cook on HIGH 4 hours, or on Low 8 hours

2.  Coat large skillet with cooking spray.  Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausage; cook until beginning to brown, stirring to break up large pieces.  Drain fat.

3. Add sausage and remaining ingredients, except cilantro, to crock pot. Cover; cook on high 15 minutes to blend flavors.  To serve, sprinkle with cilantro.

Yield: 6 servings

I hope you'll give these incredibly easy and tasty recipes a chance. I'm loving the flavors and the fact that I haven't had to cook dinner for two weeks! As a bonus, these recipes are budget-friendly and pretty heavy in veggies and legumes.

What are your favorite crock pot recipes? What do you like to freeze for a rainy (or lazy!) day?

1 comment:

  1. I think my plan is to let you try out recipes and tell me what's good & ill cook those!