Life,  Slow Cooking

Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Part One

So in the past few years, I’ve developed a very co-dependent relationship on my slow cooker.  I’ve come to love and adore it and I have no idea what I would do without it. A few years ago, Organized SAHM held an online cooking day where people prepped meals and froze them. I did almost a month’s worth of meals in about 10 hours. It was glorious. Those meals, because many of them had leftovers, worked for nearly eight weeks. I was completely in love with freezing and prepping meals!

Now honestly, working for so long on the meals (that long long day I mentioned above) is really hard for me. I don’t often have the time to set aside for it and I just work much better when I can do a couple at a time. So I developed a system (and called it Home Economics class) where my kids and I spend an hour or two (tops! No more than that!) putting together meals that will usually last us at least two weeks.

This afternoon, for example, in about 30 minutes, we prepped three meals and have them in the freezer. I thought, since I’m often asked about it, that I might share a couple of my recipes here. 🙂

Before we get into the recipes though (I know! I know!) there are a few things I’ve learned over the years about prepping meals ahead and freezing. The first time I did this, I made a neat little stack of meals like this one:

(Picture from Southern Living. I'm not nearly this organized!)
(Picture from Southern Living. I’m not nearly this organized!)

It was fantastic – I loved that I could just go and grab one easily. But then I realized something. I couldn’t put the frozen meal in my slow cooker. It stood up straight out of the pot and as it melted, chaos was created. I tend to avoid chaos at all costs, so I had to improvise for future freezer meals. You have two options here. You can freeze it in more of a cylinder shape – set the bag on it’s bottom and squeeze out the extra air at the top if you like. OR you can take the food from the freezer the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight before you want to put it in the slow cooker.  Some people have had problems with their slow cooker insert shattering because of the frozen food on the inside and the heat on the outside, so thawing it first would remove that possibility. I’ve never had one shatter, but better safe than sorry. The USDA also recommends NOT putting frozen meat into a slow cooker because the temps don’t let it thaw quickly enough to stop the growth of bacteria. Again, I’ve never experienced a problem with this, but it is something you might want to keep in mind if you’re setting up for a freeze/prep session.

Also, another hint that I employed – Double bagging. I tend to be a little OCD about the possibility of needing to clean out my entire freezer, so I double freezer bag everything. And my own system is to put the food in one bag and then put the next bag OVER the opening of the first bag. So I seal the first bag, but if the seal should pop for some reason, it would open into the bottom of the outside bag.  The picture is a bit blurry, but here’s the general idea:

It’s a little fuzzy (sorry!) but you can see here that the internal bag is zipper DOWN in the outer bag. This will prevent a mess if the seal on the inside bag should open up or leak.

When you’re prepping these ahead, there isn’t a lot of extra that’s needed. I dump all the ingredients into the bags and then mark the date and what it is on the bag. There’s nothing extra that you need to do for them. So these are easy little preps that take just a few minutes before you freeze them.

Okay – so that’s my couple of tips for prepping ahead of time and freezing.  Now we get to the fun part – some recipes right? Of course these can be prepped ahead and frozen or you can put them right in the slow cooker fresh – either way works!

Salsa Verde Pork (this could also be made with chicken)
1 4-6 pound pork roast
1-2 jars salsa verde.

That’s IT! How easy is that? Seriously? I cut up the roast into large chunks to get it to fit into a bag easier. And usually it takes two bags to do this size roast. So you can either split the salsa verde between the two bags or you can use one jar per each bag. Either works. Dump those two ingredients into the slow cooker and set it on low for 12-14 hours or high for 6-8 hours. You could go overnight on this one if you wanted – we’ve done it up to 24 hours because pork usually takes a long time to get tender. Now we usually shred the meat and let it sit for another 30-60 minutes in the juices. This helps make the seasoning a little stronger on the meat, but you don’t need to do that if you don’t want to. When you’re ready to serve, just shred the pork and you’re good to go.

We eat this one as the meat for pork tacos, but it is also great served over rice or as a great addition to a green salad in summertime.

French Dip Sandwiches
3-4 pound chuck roast
1 dry au jus gravy packet
1 dry onion soup mix
1 cup water

Later: Hoagie rolls and mozzarella
Mix up the water and the packets and pour it over the roast. Then cook it for 4-6 hours on high or low for 8-10 hours. Then shred the meat and serve it on the rolls with a little shredded mozzarella on it and use the juices on the side as a dip for the sandwich. It’s wonderful!

Those are just two of my favorite freeze/prep meals, but if you guys like these and would like some more, let me know and I’m happy to share more!