Ideas for freeze-ahead slow cooker meals
My mother recently remarried. She didn't cook every night in the first place, but now she barely does at all because: A) husband and step-son are used to bringing home fast food every night, and B) they are remodeling, so she's busy and also has no working oven, and C) she's a teacher and school just started back up.
Since she has no oven, I've decided to put together several frozen crock pot meals that she can just throw in before she goes to work. I've found a few recipes on Pinterest that I'm going to do, but I was wondering if anyone here has any great recipes to share?
I'm making stuffed peppers in the slow cooker today- didn't even know I could until I looked it up (its so hot and humid here right now the oven is NOT an option.) I really only use my slow cooker for making stock (which I do all the time,) and soups or roasts in the winter. Turns out it's super easy- clean and hollow out your peppers, stuff them, put them in the bottom of the cooker and dump stock or canned tomatoes (I used rotel,) in on top of them and cook for 5-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
I don't see why you couldn't stuff them and freeze them, just increase the cooking time to accommodate for the freezing. I think I would only cook them on high though, so they don't sit in an out of temp range for too long while warming. I think I would heat the cooking liquid and pour it over the top, too. (I always do that anyhow.)
I have read this thread for a while now and think the best way to get home cooked meals on the table using a crockpot (and later the oven) is to do one of two things. Your mother could designate a day in the week (probably Saturday or Sunday) and cook many meals to freeze that day.
The other idea is to go to one of those meal preparation companies where you prepare a month's worth of meals in one day.
Here is a national directory of companies by state.
I think these types of companies work well with people who do not hate to cook, but find thenselves short of time.
I know of a couple with kids who use such a service. They had been doing takeout from all knds of restaurants but realized that was getting old. Since the mom was an attorney, and the father was a contractor, they had more money than time. They soon got tired of restaurant foid every night.
re: John E.
Your first suggestion is exactly what I'm trying to do; the only difference is I'm prepping the meals and putting them together. Between work, supervising the renovation, and moving the rest of her stuff out of my house, she just does not have a few hours in one chunk that she can set aside for the week's meal prep.
I DO have that time on Sundays, I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, and I kind of want to force my step-dad and -brother to eat something besides pizza and Chik-fil-a all the time.
I freeze slow cooker kits for a 'chicken tortilla soup' recipe that I created for myself.
1 carton (or 4 cups) chicken broth
2 - 2 1/2 cups diced cooked chicken (we season and then grill on the George Forman)
2 green onions, chopped
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (or black beans, I've used both)
1 can chopped green chilies
1/2 bag frozen corn
1/2 bag frozen chopped onion
1/2 bag frozen chopped green pepper
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cumin
salt to taste
When freezing, I put everything except for the broth in a gallon size freezer bag. All you have to do after it is frozen to prepare is drop the bag on the table a couple of time to break up any chunks, and then add to the slow cooker with a carton of chicken broth. Cook on low all day.
Recipe is tomato-less because I'm allergic, but you could definitely have some if you wanted. My husband basically lived on this when I had ankle surgery. I top with a little sour cream and tortilla chips to serve, and we add hot sauce to taste as well.
What about getting her an electric pressure cooker? You can make meals in that in less than 30 min.
For example, I will throw some frozen meatballs, a jar of sauce with just a little extra water to thin it out a bit, and some pasta in it, it's done in like 10 minutes - no need to boil water - the pasta cooks in the sauce.
Or some frozen chicken tenders, and some chicken broth and pasta. Then after it's done pressure cooking, I will take the lid off and put it on burner mode and stir in some frozen veggies and maybe some cream or cream of mushroom soup until everything is heated through.
You can make a beef or pork roast in it in about 45 min. Pork roast and saurkraut comes out great in it too.
I doubt she's interested in buying more equipment, honestly. As I mentioned upthread, she's pretty ambivalent about cooking. She feels bad about eating out all the time, but is definitely not food-centric like I am. (Plus, every extra penny they have is going into this renovation. We definitely aren't in the income bracket of most of the people on this board.)
I am not even doing this at her request. My two siblings who still live there have mentioned several times that "mom never cooks any more", and it makes me feel bad.
Kind as this idea is, few slow cooker meal from frozen raw ingredients are likely to be successful or safe. Most meat will need to be fully cooked, then frozen, then thawed overnight and placed in slow cooker for reheating / finishing. If she has a stovetop, perhaps just package some prepared meals that can be thawed in the microwave or quickly cooked on stovetop.
If the kitchen is being remodelled, is electricity reliably on all day? If not, slow cooker is a dicey choice for meal prep.
I don't have any specific recipies, but frozen spaghetti sauce with meat (bolognaise) works well in the slow cooker, then all that is needed is a salad and cooked pasta. Also, chili, soups and stews are good slow cooker meals. If your mother is not already a decent cook, then I don't know if a slow cooker will help all that much.