A Month (or Two) of Slow Cooker (or Sun Oven) Freezer Meals! ;)

Sunday, June 14, 2015
Without going into too much personal (and boring) detail, things tend to get a little crazy around my house every couple of months.  (Ok, well, truth be told, things are ALWAYS crazy around my house, but then get EVEN CRAZIER than normal every couple of months.)  With multiple jobs and multiple doctor appointments and dentist appointments and piano lessons and all kinds of other activities needing our time and attention, it is not always easy for me to spend an hour or so in the kitchen getting dinner ready every night.  And I'm really not a good menu planner type of person.  Most days I'm lucky if I can remember my own name - and worrying about planning what is for dinner that night often doesn't cross my mind until about, oh, 6:30pm, when everyone is complaining about being hungry.  We've gotten into a really bad habit of turning to fast food when that happens, and it has been happening A LOT lately.  It's killing our budget, and it's killing my waistline...

So, in a desperate attempt to be able to proactively combat the "what's-for-dinner-tonight" problem, especially on those crazy nights, I've started trying to make sure that we've got meals stocked away in the freezer, meals that can be tossed into a crockpot (or sun oven) to cook all day and then be ready, with little or no additional work, when dinnertime rolls around.  I need meals I can put together in a very short amount of time, with not much prep, and that are not terribly complicated.  I love using my crock pot to cook meals in, because I can put something in in the morning, and then let it cook all day and then - voila - it's ready by dinnertime!  So I've been focusing on so-called "slow cooker freezer meals" - meals you can prep and freeze, to then later be cooked in your slow cooker (crock pot).  In my case, these also work brilliantly for cooking in my sun oven, too!

We just used the last of our freezer stockpile last week, so it was time to restock.  With the help of my amazing husband who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty in the kitchen, we were able to put together 28 freezer meals in about 4 hours.  (This is one of the largest "sessions" we've done recently - often I only have time to do 10-15 meals at a time.)

Yesterday's meals are a mixture of tried-and-true favorites, and some new recipes we'll be trying out for the first time.  Here's what was on our menu, along with my notes and a link to the recipe(s):

[Note: I chose 14 recipes and made 2 of each, for a total of 28 meals.]

Orange Chicken - Recipe HERE
This is a new one for us, but since it comes from Six Sisters, I have no doubt it will be good.  I have yet to make anything from their site/books that isn't great.

CafĂ© Rio Chicken - Recipe HERE (it's recipe #5 on the page)
We've tried this one several times before and loved it each time.  The main recipe is all over the internet, but this time I tried a slight variation of seasonings as recommend by Our Best Bites.

Darn Good Chili - Recipe HERE
This one was a new one, but we tried it tonight and it was quite good.  A few notes - the recipe instructions are a little misleading for making it into a freezer meal, but basically, just dump all ingredients into a Ziploc freezer bad and then freeze.  You can brown the hamburger before adding and freezing, if you want, but it's not necessary.  I didn't, and it turned out just fine.  This makes a HUGE batch (it won't fit all in one gallon Ziploc bag, and it barely fit in my 6qt crock pot) so I would suggest cutting the recipe in half.  Also, it was a little more liquid-y than my family likes, so next time I will cut back on some of the liquid (probably drain and rinse the beans, rather than add the bean liquid like it says in the recipe).  It was also a tad bit spicy, so I'll probably leave out the green chilies next time for my kiddo's sakes.

French Chicken - Recipe HERE (it's recipe #1 on the page)
This is one of my all-time favorites!  I've made it a ton, both in the crock pot and in the conventional oven.  You can actually use any of three different types of dressings, and they are all great - French, Catalina or Russian.  We usually do Catalina or Russian, because French tends to have dairy in it.  So I call my version "Cranberry Catalina Chicken". 

Teriyaki Chicken - Recipe HERE (it's recipe #2 on the page)
Again, this is one that we've had often.  Nothing terribly fancy, but it works! 

Honey Dijon Pork - Recipe HERE (scroll down past a few of the pictures for the link to the recipes and grocery list)
This is a new one for us.  I made it exactly as specified in the recipe, but it didn't seem to have much liquid with it, so I think I may end up doubling the "sauce" ingredients.

Turkey Black Bean Chili - Recipe HERE
This is one we had in the last batch and it turned out fairly well, so we're trying it again.

Beef Fajitas - Recipe HERE
We had these before, and then turned out good, but I realized I used a different recipe last time.  So this particular recipe is similar, but new to us.  I'll have to let you know how it turns out.  HERE is the one I used last time for the fajitas...

Cranberry Apple Glazed Pork Tenderloin - Recipe HERE
This one is new to us this time.  The recipe says to add 2 cored and diced apples, but we have pretty big apples, and one seemed like it was plenty.

Sweet BBQ Chicken - Recipe HERE (it's recipe #3 on the page)
Had this one before, and it's pretty hard to mess up slow cooker BBQ chicken - it's always good!  ;)

World's Best Chicken - Recipe HERE
This one is new to us this time, but all the others from this same source have been great, so I hope this one will be as well.

Beef Garden Veggie Soup - Recipe HERE
We had this one previously and liked it.  SOMETIMES the carrots are an issue - I'm not sure why.  (They have a really funny texture after being frozen and then put in the slow cooker.)  I think it was because when we had this one before, we cooked it straight from frozen (without letting it thaw the night before), so we're trying it again to test my theory.  I'll let you know what I find out.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs - Recipe HERE
Alright, at first I thought this sounded a little strange, with the meatballs and all, but it's actually REALLY good!  We've probably had this about twice a month for the last three months. [The Meatball Veggie Soup at this same link is also pretty good, too!]

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry - Recipe HERE
A new one for us - hoping it turns out okay.  I know it won't be "gourmet" curry like we get at our local (and absolutely amazing) Indian/Nepalese restaurant, but that's okay.  [If you'd like an "actual" curry - which shouldn't actually have any curry powder in it - try out THIS ONE - it's not a freezer meal or a slow cooker meal, but it is absolutely divine!]

There you have it - fourteen recipes for slow cooker freezer meals!  Now, if someone could just invent laundry that does itself...  ;)