Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Freezer to Crock Pot Day

10 meals - 4 hours!

So there have been 3 days where our PMP (Precious Most Precious) has been at school & I have not been scheduled to work. Day 1 - got a massage. Day 2 - went to the dentist.  Day 3 - had a freezer to crockpot meal day.
A few of my friends have asked me to write about it, so here is what I did.

FYI regarding my cooking style & crock pots. The crock pot works well for our family. I'm pretty easy going, not too perfectionistic, when it comes to food. If its edible I'll eat it, my family is pretty much the same. The husband will touch up his food to his taste upon plating (tonight he put hot sauce in my homemade chicken soup) but he is stoked about anything I make. The crock pot works great for us in this regard, normally the flavor cooks out a bit in the crock; needing to be re-seasoned after cooking, therefore each of us can adjust the flavors to before we eat.

Recently I've tried the freezer to crock pot method & it worked great. One gallon size freezer bag makes a meal for the family with leftovers for a lunch the next day. Last time I made 6 meals during nap time; this time I made 10 meals in 4hrs (including an emergency trip to Kroger for tomato sauce which I forgot on the initial shopping trip - this summer I plan to grow & can our own sauce so this won't be a problem).

Growing up in California I'm a fan of southwestern flavors, so 4 out of the 5 recipes fit into this category, plus it narrows the shopping list.  The 5th recipe was planned based on items I had on hand.

(each recipe yields 2 freezer bags):
Mama's Healthy BBQ chicken (a family favorite from Mama and Baby love site - if you love this cooking method check out her e-cookbook, its awesome!)
Mama and Baby Love

Veggie chili (Adapted from Real Simple Veggie Chili with Sweet Potatoes)
Real Simple

Chicken Enchiladas (Adapted from Taste of Home Slow Cooker Cookbook)

Lazy Day Stew - (Adapted from Ring Around the Rosie) her recipe called for lima beans. I substiuted kidney beans instead.
Ring Around the Rosie

Southwestern Chicken - my own recipe

I choose to use dried beans instead of canned, so the night before I soaked a bag of black beans and a bag of red kidney beans to use in these recipes (just soak - they will cook in the crock pot). I did a big bag of beans. The leftover beans I simmered for about an hour until they were soft. I divided then into 15 oz (can size) portions in freezer bags, with a bit of the liquid. This was I have a few "cans" on hand in the freezer, without using cans.

Shopping List 
6 Sweet Potatoes
6 Baby Red Potatoes
2 Green Peppers
1 Red Peppers
2 zucchini
6 yellow onions
2 red onions
2 jaleneno peppers
2 15 oz cans of fire roasted tomatoes
5 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 cans Rotel
2 cans of diced tomatos
4 lbs  chicken thighs
4 lbs chicken breast
4 lbs cube beef for stew
bag of frozen corn (or 4 cans whole kernnel corn)
bag of dried black beans (or 6 cans)
bag of kidney beads (or 6 cans)
celery (5 stalks)
4 carrots or bag of baby carrots
chili powder
ground yellow mustard
brown sugar
salt & pepper
Worchester Sauce
arrowroot powder (or other thickening agent)

Prep - a few days before I gathered the recipes I wanted to use, checked the pantry for what I had on hand & then created my shopping list. The night before I soaked my beans. You can also do some of the chopping. Potatoes turn brown if chopped too early.

Label Freezer bags with recipes name, date, cook time & what to add on cooking day.

Chop all Veggies. FYI - I did not know this - use gloves or a plastic bag on hands when chopping jalepenos, the oils burn for days!

Line up bags to be filled. I had onions to go in each bag - so I filled each bag with the appropriate amount of onions, so bags would stand upright.

Fill bags with ingredients excluding meats. If you need the extra organization some people tape the recipes to the wall or cabinet above the bags to keep everything straight.

I'm pretty cautious about chicken. So I get EVERYTHING else in the bag with only the chicken remaining.
Add chicken, discard chicken trays, & wash hands.  Squeeze air out of bags & lay flat to maximize freezer space.  Viola!!

10 Meals ready for the freezer! 

My shopping for these meals were $41. I had Worcestershire, honey, spices, arrowroot powder, bag of dried black beans, bag dried kidney beans, 2 cans of rotel & garlic in pantry. I also had gallon size freezer ziplocs on hands. So other than that that's $4.10 per healthy nutritious meal for the family, plus left overs. Can't really go wrong here!

divide each recipe evenly between 2 freezer bags

Mama's Healthy BBQ Chicken - she asked to not post her recipe, just link to her site. Link - Mama and Baby Love

Veggie Chili with Sweet Potatoes
2 medium red onion, chopped
2 green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
kosher salt and black pepper
2 - 28-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 - 15.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
2 - 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces

Day of cooking add 1 cup water. Cook low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

Lazy Day Stew adapted from Ring Around the Rosies
4 lbs beef cubed for stew
6 red potatoes cubed
2 15 oz kidney beans
4 tsp of arrowroot powder (or similar thickner)
Salt & Pepper
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (1/2 in each bag)
2 tbs brown sugar
4 cups carrots chopped
2 onions chopped
2 cups celery chopped

Day of cooking add 1 cup water. Cool low for 4-6 hrs.

Chicken Enchiladas
this recipe actually called for turkey drumsticks or thighs, but i didn't like the look of them at the market so I substituted chicken breasts.
2 chopped jalepeno
4 large chicken breasts
2 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 15 oz of black beans
2 15oz corn
1 cup chopped onion
4 tbs of Worcestershire sauce
4 tbs chili powder
4 cloves garlic chopped

Southwestern Chicken:
4-6 boneless chicken thighs
2 - 15 oz corn
2 - 15 oz black beans
2 - 15 oz kidney beans
2 - 15 oz diced tomatoes including juice
2 cans Rotel
2 tbs chili powder
2 tbs cumin
salt & pepper

Cook on low for 8hrs.  Serve on torilla with sour cream, cheese, salsa, & avocado.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hello - Again.

So the crafting has taken a back seat to the "crafting" a healthy, happy family. The past three years have been full of trials, joys & sorrows; much as I'm sure everyones lives have.

Our precious little boy, or PMP (Precious Most Precious) was born in 2011. There are really no words to describe motherhood, so no reason to even try; he amazes & tests me every single day.

We lost the namesake of my crafty company Deuce, our wonderful boxer succumbed to a brain tumor after 10 years with us.  We miss his never ending happiness every single day & our other dog Oscar is just not the same without his Deucie.

So life now consists of full time motherhood, full time wifehood, full time work as an ICU nurse. Somehow I've become an avid excersiser; part time crafter with only one craft show planned this spring/summer season. I got a new haircut, lost some weight (numbers not important - being able to toss the ball & keep up with a 18 month old all day long is.) And somehow life has completely transformed as we know it, I guess that's what parenthood is all about.

With these changes, it has become clear what is really important to me:
1. Creating a happy, healthy family. I am truely blessed that I have a rewarding & gratifying job that allows me to be home with my son more days than he is in daycare.
2. Providing healthy, nutritious "real food" on a daily basis for all three of us family members. I'm in no way a food nazi, I understand that if DH picks up PMP from school at 5:45 & there is not a dinner waiting for them, there may be some Wendy's or Burger King involved. Or an ice cream sandwich . . . However I do my best to ensure that this is the exception not the rule.
3. Saving money: couponing, freezer to crock pot meals, etc  - especially since part time daycare is now thrown into the  budget.
4. Limiting toxins, pesticides & chemicals in my household's environment. Recycle, be kind to fellow humans, animals & the planet. And most of all I wish for whirled peas.
5. Crafts produced from Deuce Goods (besides crochet) should all be upcycled or reused pieces. The DH has even gotten into the act, learning to weld with salvaged car parts from his work. So proud of him expressing his creativeness, his pieces will be part of the Deuce Goods craft tent.

Goals for spring & summer:
Plant & maintain an organic homestead. Freeze or can as much food as we can produce.
Learn to bake bread. As my awesome mother does this, I should be able to follow suit.
1 craft show, revamp & update Deuce Goods website & etsy shop.
2-3 5k excersiser activities - Warrior Dash already planned.
Declutter. Donate/purge 10-20 items a month.
One date night a month.
One Family adventure a month

Some of my recent internet obsessions:
Real food - who knew that that way I eat was actually a food movement!

So that's the direction were going, hoping you'll stay along for the ride.
PMP with one of DaDa's pieces.