Sunday, 15 July 2012

Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals

It's my last week of  holidays and I'm back to thinking about ways to eliminate the rush of housework, cooking, baking etc during the work week.

One of the best ways to put a smile on my face is to smell something delicious from the slow cooker wafting down the hallway when I come through the front door.  Somehow I always seem to forget that I've put the slow cooker on and when I come home I get a whiff of dinner already cooked and it is a wonderful thing :)

I've prepared a menu of 4 different meals and I am going to double the portions to make enough for 8 meals.  I'll cook the double portion so that I have one meal for that evening and then can either freeze the other meal or eat it later in the week.  There should also be some leftovers from each evening that we can take for lunch the next day.  8 meals will last me about 4 weeks if we use 2 per week.

I have added a note at the bottom of this post on how to increase the flavour in slow cooker meals.

4 x double quantity freezer to slow cooker meals (8 meals to feed 4 people)
Menu (each meal serves 4 - portions given are doubled so serve 8)
Beef Goulash
Chicken and Vegetable Casserole 
Chili (recipe found here on my blog) Just add all ingredients into a ziplock bag and freeze.
Moroccan Chicken


Shopping List
16 chicken thighs (or a mix of chicken pieces)
1 kg cubed beef
1 kg beef minced
8 tins tomatoes
4 red capsicum
10 large carrots
1 bunch celery
1 bunch broccoli
250 - 300gm Mushrooms
6 onions
2 cups frozen peas
Bulb of garlic
Paprika
2 cans red kidney beans
Large Ziplock bags


The other ingredients like stock, herbs & spices, I have a regular stock of in the pantry so if you are going to follow my menu check the recipes and your pantry before going shopping.


Beef Goulash
Ingredients
1kg. Lean beef cube
3 onions chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. Paprika
½ tsp. Basil
2 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
2 bay leaves
3 tins tomatoes
1 small carton lite sour cream


Method
Place beef cubes in a large ziplock bag with onions, garlic, and tomatoes, paprika, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and bay leaves. I give the mixture a good squish around in the bag to combine the flavours as I'm not usually around to stir it while it is cooking. 
Write a label so you know what the recipe is when you come to cook it.
Dump in crock pot frozen and cook on low for at least 6 hours. When ready to serve, add sour cream and serve over pasta.

Moroccan Chicken
Ingredients
·     8 chicken thighs or pieces (or a whole chicken cut into serving pieces)
·     6 - 8 potatoes
·     2 cans diced tomatoes (or 6-7 large fresh tomatoes, diced
·     6 carrots or parsnips, quartered
·     2 large onions, sliced in 1/4's
·     2 - 4 cloves crushed garlic
·     2 red capsicum, cut into 1" cubes or slices
·     2 cups peas (if desired)
·     parsley (1/4 cup fresh or 2 tbs. dried)
·     3 tsp paprika
·     a pinche of saffron, if you've got it
·     salt and pepper to taste


Method
Place chicken pieces in a large ziplock bag with tomatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, capsicum and peas.
parsley, paprika, saffron, salt & pepper. I give the mixture a good squish around in the bag to combine the flavours as I'm not usually around to stir it while it is cooking. 
Write a label so you know what the recipe is when you come to cook it.
Peel and cut potatoes into large pieces and place on the bottom of the crockpot.  Empty bags into crock pot frozen and cook on low for at least 6 hours. Stir occasionally to combine flavours.
Add water if necessary to keep mixture wet and saucy. Check seasonings and re-season with salt and pepper if needed.
Now, if you want to eat in authentic Moroccan style, dish onto a large plate and serve with lots of pita or flat bread (or something crusty like French works well too).
Freeze vegetable peelings and offcuts for stock making
Chicken and Vegetable Casserole 
Ingredients
8 chicken thighs or legs (or a whole chicken cut into serving pieces)
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, sliced thickly
4 large potatoes
1 bunch broccoli
4 stalks celery
salt, pepper
1 tsp dried thyme
4 cups chicken stock


Method
I prefer to remove the skin from the chicken. Peel the vegetables, except for the potatoes, and cut into large pieces so they don't go too mushy, especially the broccoli (it can be cut smaller after cooking).
Place this mixture into a zip lock bag with the salt, pepper, thyme and stock if preferred and freeze. I give the mixture a good squish around in the bag to combine the flavours as I'm not usually around to stir it while it is cooking. 

When you are ready to cook, peel potatoes, cut into large pieces and place in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the frozen chicken and vegetable mix and pour over the chicken stock if you haven't combined this in the frozen mix. After cooking you may need to thicken with a little flour before serving.  To do this just mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of plain/all purpose flour with a little water to a smooth paste and stir through the casserole.  Cook for a few more minutes before serving.

The whole process from getting the ingredients out of the cupboard and fridge, right through until finishing the clean up afterwards took a total of 2 hours.  That included a few wanderings out to the herb patch and a couple of other small side tracks.

At the end of this cooking bonanza I had a really good start on the next lot of vegetable peelings for making another batch of the slow cooker stock.

Note:  To get more flavour into your slow cooker meals it is best to caramelize the meat and onions before placing them into the slow cooker.  This freezer to slow cooker method eliminates that and it is sometimes necessary to use extra salt and spices.  However you can fry off the meat and onions and then when they are cool add them to the freezer bags along with the raw vegetables.  The problem I see with this for me is that I am away at work for 8 hours and the meat dries out too much because it has been precooked, but if you are home and are using this method you can turn the slow cooker off after just a few hours.

Chez



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