A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how I had finally caved in an visited Pinterest, and wasn’t sure if it was going to be awesome or a total time sink. I’ve since found that it cuts way down on the number of tabs I have open in my browser at any one time. Instead of just leaving tabs open, I’ve been pinning them onto boards on my Pinterest page so that I can come back to them when I need them. Whenever I come across ideas I like (anywhere on the web, not just on Pinterest), I add them to my Pinterest page in the appropriate category. It’s like a visual to-do list and idea page. I’m definitely liking that aspect of it.
I’ve found that I don’t spend too much time browsing Pinterest, but when I do, it’s nice. I can sit here and nurse our little guy while I scroll through ideas for bathroom tile (since we’re going to be putting a bathroom in our basement soon). And I can easily save the ones I want to show my husband later on – without leaving eight new tabs open in my browser. Good all around.
A few days ago, I was browsing around Pinterest and came upon this genius idea: Freezer-to-crockpot meals. Yes! I can do this. I love my crockpot and use it several times a week. I also love the idea of just dumping a bag into the crock pot, adding some water, and letting it do its thing. She’s got a ton of other freezer cooking recipes on her site too.
I wasn’t sure about the idea of just putting the veggies into the freezer raw, since I know a lot of stuff needs to be blanched first. Plenty of comments on the site indicated that people had no problems with it, but I decided to blanch some stuff first. I read that potatoes can turn black if you freeze them raw, and I wasn’t sure about carrots. So I chopped up a ton of potatoes and carrots and blanched them for a couple minutes before I prepped the freezer bags. It only added a few minutes to the total prep time, and I was doing several meals at once – not a big deal. If you try this and don’t blanch anything, let me know how it goes!
Here are my first two meals:
The recipe came from the Costco magazine (bottom left corner), and everyone I’ve ever made it for has raved about it. I make it at least twice a month, and always make a double batch (which fills my crock pot right to the brim). Instead of broth, I use water and veggie bullion cubes, so I added the bullion to the bag along with the lentils (rinsed), brown rice, raw onions, garlic and celery, and blanched carrots and potatoes. A double batch fits nicely in a one-gallon ziplock bag. All I have to do when I cook it is add 12 cups of water plus one bag to the crockpot. And it was pretty easy to make a second double batch at the same time.
This would make a great gift for a family with a new baby or anything else that makes cooking more of a chore than usual. It would also be a good idea for a get-together with friends. Each person could bring some ingredients and you could all chop stuff up, blanch whatever needs it, and then stuff a bunch of bags. Everybody goes home with lots of different ready-for-the-crockpot meals. Sounds like a winner to me.
I also roasted a bunch of onions and garlic so that I could prep this amazing tomato soup (I cook that one at least twice a month too). I already have lots of roasted tomatoes in the freezer from last summer’s garden. So I just combined the spices with some bullion (in place of broth) and the roasted onion and garlic and stashed that in jars in the freezer. Now all I have to do when I want to make that soup is dump the onion/garlic/spice jar into a pot with a jar of tomatoes and a can of coconut milk and some water. Couldn’t be much easier than that. Roasting onions and garlic is easy, but it’s time consuming. This way I don’t have to think as far in advance about dinner, since everything is already roasted and in the freezer.
I also prepped the Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken recipe from the original site that I found on Pinterest (link is at the start of this post). I left out the chicken though, so mine will be BBQ veggies. I might add tofu or something like that after I cook it, but I’m sure it will be good either way.
I really love this idea. It makes batch cooking for the freezer seem a lot more do-able. I spent about 90 minutes putting together enough food to fill the crock pot six times (a full crock pot lasts us at least two meals), and I had a three-year-old helper the whole time. Definitely not as challenging as spending the entire day in the kitchen for once-a-month cooking, but it will make my crockpot days a lot easier!
If you have links to other sites that have recipes and ideas for prepping crockpot meals ahead of time, please share them in the comments.