Freezer meal stock up (+ giveaway)

This is technically round 3, but I promised, and never delivered rounds 1 & 2. How long can I blame these sorts of things on being a new mom? Does the grace period wear out when G turns 1? If so, I am squeezing another 5 weeks out of that excuse!

The cost

A lot of food we buy is organic (dairy, meat, and the dirty dozen for sure), so that does up the cost a bit. But overall I think we spent about $200 between Costco and Safeway (use the Just4u app!), and wound up with 18 freezer meals, all of which will give us plenty of leftovers. Probably 36-45 meals total. This breaks the price per meal down to roughly $4.40 per meal. Not too shabby, and cheaper than my soy latté this morning. On the day of, some of the meals will require add ons like cooking some quinoa, or making a salad, but nothing over the top price or money wise – maybe $50/week for produce, yogurt, milk, and other staples as we run out (less in the summer).

Picking recipes

This go round I mixed in some tried and true freezer meals with some new ones. Most meals made in the crock pot can be turned into freezer meals. They are my favorite kind because they are quick and easy, for the most part. You just dump, seal, and freeze. I also love making yummy marinades for meat – they are perfect for the grill. And finally, casseroles are a good standby. The ones I pick are more time consuming than most, of course.

For freezer meal inspiration I have a pinterest board, pick and choose recipes from Once a Month Meals *(OAMM, formerly Once a Month Mom), and use tried and true family favorites. My burlattas have actually been featured on the Once a Month Meals 2011 November menu too!

*I haven’t done a full OAMM menu yet, however, because I’m not a fan of tangy sauces, and am not a huge meat eater. So customizing a menu to my own taste is something I take the time to do. But if you aren’t picky about that sort of thing, OAMM is a GREAT freezer meal resource!

The method

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First I compile my favorites and newbie recipes. I make a grocery list (sorted by area of the store), and create a word doc for directions. For a big cooking day I try to chop all my veggies the day before during G’s nap. This doesn’t always happen, but makes the process smoother. The next morning I’ll throw chicken in the crock for shredding (pretty much all my menus require some shredded chicken – it’s best with some taco seasoning thrown in the mix), and get to filling freezer bags (either ziploc gallon size or foodsafe bags for our vacuum sealer) with my dump and go meals. Then I attack the casserole dishes one by one. I’ve attempted making more than one at once (i.e. making pasta while sautéing the ground beef/Italian sausage mixture and rolling enchiladas), but I usually miss a step with something, or forget to throw in an ingredient or two. So I figure it might take a bit more time to focus on one at a time, but haste makes waste, right?

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After I do my dump meals I flash freeze the casseroles before vacuum sealing them. Flash freezing is very easy – I just make a flat space in my freezer, lay a cookie sheet down, and then place whatever meal I need on top of the cookie sheet. After 45 min to an hour I can usually vacuum seal. Some things take longer (like the pulled pork, I needed to wait for the Dr. Pepper to freeze a bit more before sealing otherwise the liquid would all go out of the bag). Sometimes I leave them all night, it just depends on what comes up and gets in the way of the process!

We generally eat 1-2 freezer meals a week, and cook 1-2 times. Once I have a full freezer I often will double recipes once a week, and freeze the second half. That way I don’t have to do big cooking days – which can be really difficult with a little one. Once the freezer starts to get low I start looking for inspiration again. Also, some of my girlfriends are getting into freezer cooking and we swap meals. I’m trying to rope more friends in, as swapping can really add to the variety of your freezer.

This rounds recipes – all were doubled

** indicates a tried and true recipe

Dump & go crock pot meals:

Mustard Lime Chicken – can be baked or grilled. I doubled and will probably cook in each style to decide what I like best for the next go round. I suspect grilling will win!

Chicken & Dumplings** – I’m looking for a non-condensed soup version if anyone has a recipe suggestion. Though this one is really tasty. I used the Cascade Farms Organic peas/carrots/corn blend for the veggies because it was 50%. Score! Not having to chop veggies is priceless for bulk cooking days!

Pulled Pork**- this one was tripled because of the cut of meat we bought, and it is SO tasty! I’d like to find a recipe that doesn’t use soda, but Dr. Pepper is pretty magical, so I guess I can handle it every once and a while.

Pesto Ranch Chicken Thighs – an easy crock pot meal to serve over rice, quinoa, or pasta.

more time consuming & casserole style meals:

Cream Cheese Spaghetti **-  I’ve made this with spaghetti, ziti, and fusili. I like the fusili the best. I do half (local, organic) ground beef and half Italian sausage. Do not attempt to add mushrooms! I tried last go round and the filling was way too watery. Doubling the onions and bell peppers works though. And do not neglect the French fried onions at the end of the cooking process. I’d never eaten a French fried onion before this meal, and man, I was missing out!

Paleao meatloaf – I made this with Italian Sausage, instead of ground pork. I have no idea of that is paleo compliant, (probably not!). I’ve never made meatloaf before, can you believe it?!? I actually rarely cook meat, I’m more of a chicken or fish kind of gal. But this recipe was super easy, and allowed me to finally use the almond meal I bought at Trader Joe’s forever ago and forgot about. Also, you top the meatloaf with bacon. And as we all know, bacon is amazing. I also made these in silicone cupcake liners so I could pop them out when frozen and just pop 3 or 4 in the oven at a time. If I get adventurous this week I might make some mashed potatoes and freeze them in the silicone cupcake liners for single servings as a side for these meatloaves. Which would totally ruin the paleoness of this meal, haha.

Avocado chicken enchiladas – This was made the following day after the chicken had cooled & was shredded. I added a small onion (diced) to the sauce. I filled my tortillas (purchased from a local Mexican restaurant for a more authentic taste) to the brim. I think one enchilada will be a substantial meal, so this should yield us 7 meals.

The verdict

We’ve only had one of the freezer meals for this round so far, (pulled pork), and it was a total keeper. We had pulled pork sandwiches one night, and used as taco filling another night. We still have plenty leftover too!

And exciting news, I’m pairing up with Jenn at The Wannabe Housewife for a $100 cash giveaway! Enter through the rafflecopter below 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What are your favorite freezer meal recipes or freezer meal websites?

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How pinteresting: Slow cooker chipotle black beans over rice

Two important things before we get to the recipe: a) Happy 60th Birthday to my dad!

b) tomorrow is my one-year blogiversary – check back for an exciting giveaway from Firebird Chocolates!

And now, the pinteresting recipe:

(pinned here, via)

I spotted this slow cooker chipotle black bean dip Monday and immediately re-pinned it. It has easy and quick written all over it. I also happened to have nearly all the ingredients in my pantry, which meant I could whip up dinner without running to the store. #winning

I don’t, however, consider tortilla chips to be an appropriate carb base for my dinner, so instead I enjoyed this marvelous dip over brown rice, (I think quinoa would be a great alternative). The leftovers I wrapped in a warm flour tortillaland tortilla. ‘Twas scrumptious. It isn’t pretty, but then again, this is a meal comprised mostly of beans. You can’t expect too much.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Black Beans & Rice

Adapted from this recipe

Serves 4

Nutritionals: 387 cal, 41g carb, 14g fat, 23g pro, 9g fiber, 3g sugar

Ingredients

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can non-fat refried beans

1 cup salsa (I used Kirkland Organic)

10 oz frozen corn

2 chipotle chiles, diced (in adobo sauce)

6 oz shredded cheddar cheese, divided into 4 oz portion and 2 oz portion

1 small onion, diced

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Directions

In slow cooker, combine black beans, refried beans, salsa, frozen corn, chipotle chiles, 4 oz cheddar, cumin and garlic powder. Heat over low for 2 hours. Add onions and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 2 additional hours.

Serve over brown rice or quinoa (or use as a dip). Top with remaining cheese, sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt), green onions, avocado and tomatoes.

Enjoy!

 

I’m linking up with Camille at All Things Lovely for her Pinterest Recreation Linky Party – check out what others are recreating here.

What is your favorite use of chipotle peppers?

Slow Cooker Black Beans with Green Onion Lime Rice

I work at an awesome school. The building is totally old school. Every room is different, each with its own distinct qualities. The brick building is cozy and inviting, and at first glance, it appears you are stepping into a storybook school house. But the best part about my neighborhood school is that it is walking distance to my house. This means I am able to walk home during my Tuesday morning hour prep and whip up a homecooked meal, letting my slow cooker do the majority of the work.

Today’s creation is one my new favorites, black beans, and pairs perfectly with savory brown rice. The hubs wasn’t as excited as I was, wondering why Meatless Monday was extending to Tuesday, but I assure you, these beans are perfect any day of the week.

Slow Cooker Black Beans with Green Onion Lime Rice

Ingredients for Black Beans:

2 cups dry black beans, rinsed

5 cups filtered water

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

3 garlic cloves, halved

Ingredients for Green Onion Lime Rice

1 cup short grain brown rice

2 cups filtered water

1 tsp cumin

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 green onion bunch, chopped

2 tsp key lime juice, or juice of 1/2 a lime

salt to taste

Directions for Black Beans:

Combine black beans, onion powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and garlic in slow cooker. Cover with water. Turn to low, cook 7 hours.

Directions for Green Onion Lime Rice

Combine brown rice, water and cumin in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, cover with lid, and reduce to simmer. Cook 45 minutes. Remove from heat and add garlic, green onion, key lime juice and salt. Stir to combine.

To serve

Top green onion lime rice with shredded cheese, black beans, salsa, tomato, avocado and anything else your heart desires.

Enjoy!

What is your favorite black bean recipe?

Santa Fe Chicken

Santa Fe Chicken a la crock pot

I love, love, love my crock pot! I mean, how much easier can cooking get? Throw ingredients in pot, turn nob, let sit a few hours and enjoy. Simple, simple.* I only have a few rules when making a crock pot meal: no browning or sautéing anything prior to cooking. Okay, I guess I only have one rule. The beauty of a crock pot is that meals made in it only require it to do the cooking. Why mess with a good thing by creating more dishes to wash?

*I really wanted to do a fun rhyme like easy peasy. But the only thing I could think of to rhyme with simple was pimple, and that doesn’t make you want to eat this meal.

So the other day when my friend Mandy’s facebook status inquired about favorite crock pot recipes I responded with Gina’s Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken. While it is pretty darn tasty, I wanted to mess with it a bit to clean out my veggie drawer.

Enter Leila’s Santa Fe Chicken, inspired by this recipe.

Nutritionals (for 1/8th of recipe) Cal: 269, Carb: 28, Fat: 3, Pro:32

Ingredients

3 large chicken breasts (nutritionals from 26 ounces of chicken)

2 cups chopped onion (I used a blend of sweet and red)

1 large bell pepper, chopped (any color but green)

6 garlic cloves, minced

15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

10 ounce bag frozen corn

14.4 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 tsp. ground cumin

1.5 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. black pepper

2 cups (or 14.4 ounce can) chicken broth

Salt to taste

Well hello my friends, what  a delightful and colorful bunch you are.

Directions

Throw all ingredients, but chicken, into crock pot. Stir to combine.

Nestle chicken breasts into the mix.

Cook on low for 10 hours, or high for 6 hours.

Enjoy over rice or quinoa.

So soon Sunday?

Why do weekends have to end?

Yesterday was so relaxing, I want to bottle up the feeling of my carefree Saturday and spritz it throughout my work week.

Last night’s festivities were quite enjoyable.

Seaweed salad,

gyoza,

and soosh were consumed.

John and Kim’s looked a lot more exciting than ours.

We skipped across the street to Nectar and cleansed our palate with their Last Sip.

The hubs was very excited that I Love Lucy was on in the background, (he has five sisters, yes five…hence the enjoyment of the Luce).

John + Kim

Me + Tim

Me + Kim

And the Shameless Hussy…

Upon arriving home we split the Elvis cupcake, (banana cupcake, peanut butter/chocolate frosting and bacon on top)…

The verdict? Not a fan. But I will give their Maple Bacon cupcake a try next time I see it in the shop.

While Saturday’s always have to end, one member of our family thoroughly enjoys Sundays.

Every Sunday morning the hubs tosses the newspaper aside and Rikka takes residence on the cartoons. She stays crouched like this for hours.

Until, of course, a wandering animal spikes her curiosity.

Rilo also wanted to see what the big fuss was.

This morning’s breakfast was another attempt at pseudo 3-day oats (oats/dried apricot/chia seeds) and a spinach pancake.

The hubs prepped himself a more manly meal.

The sunshine brought us outdoors for 2.78 mile run walk/jog.

Clear sidewalks & streets!

And blue sky, oh my!

And p.s. we still have our wreath on our door…but it still smells amazing, so I’m not taking it down 😉

After our endorphin rush I assembled a lunch of pickle spears, orange slices and a turkey/laughing cow/dijon sammie on Dave’s Killer Bread.

And a friend’s fb status this morning encouraged me to pull out my crock pot for an easy dinner. I used this recipe as my inspiration to create my own Sante Fe Chicken.

Doesn’t my crock pot look pretty?

Chicken breasts nustled in for a daytime nap…

My house smells so good right now. I cannot wait for dinner. If I enjoy it as much as I think I will I’ll share the recipe sometime soon.