Post #401 5 Make Ahead Slow Cooker Meals

August 10, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #401 5 Make Ahead Slow Cooker Meals

When I graduated high school, I decided not to go to college immediately and took a little time off to work and get my feet on the ground.  I started working at a factory in my home town that made blue jeans.  I started by working in the shipping dept filling orders, but eventually became responsible for entering the inventory into the computer as it came off the line.  I liked working there because I knew 50% of the people in the place, and I was able to re-establish old friendships with people I’d lost contact with.

One of those was a young woman from my church.  We’d known each other for a long time but had lost touch.  She invited me over for dinner after work one night to catch up.  She had a small(!) apartment near the factory so we walked to her place one afternoon.

“I hope you like turkey!” she said as we stepped inside.  I smelled the delicious aroma of roasted turkey and was floored.

“When did you have time to make a turkey?”

She grinned.  “I made it a few weeks ago and froze the leftovers.  I came home at lunch and put a bag of it in the crock pot to reheat.”

I don’t recall anything more of the dinner, and she eventually married a marine I knew and moved away.  But the thought of using the crockpot to reheat frozen meals was an eye opener for me at that time.  Don’t judge me too harshly.  It was the late ’70s and I was only 19.  The idea stayed with me ever since.

Everyone knows how easy it is to use a slow cooker to make meals; everyone knows how easy it is to freeze those meals.  Till that day, I never knew how easy it was to reheat a frozen meal in a crock pot.  Of course, the first time I tried it, it was a disaster.  I had some frozen spaghetti (does it seem like spaghetti features a lot in my life?) in a zip lock sandwich bag.  Before I left for work, I put a cup of water and the bag of frozen spaghetti in the crock pot and turned it on low.  When I got home from work, I was greeted by the smell of spaghetti and the happy fact that I wouldn’t have to make anything for dinner since it was already done!  I changed and cleaned up, took the top off the pot, and found the bag had split from the heat and spilled its contents into the water.  The sauce had thinned out to a soup like consistency, and the noodles had swelled to twice their normal size.  I pulled the bag out and was about to resign myself PBJs for dinner, when the luscious aroma hit me again.  I stirred it around and the starches from the noodles thickened the sauce a little.  I tasted it and it was still delicious, just not the same consistency as it was originally.  So I went with my first plan and had a salad and slightly watery spaghetti and called it all good.  And started using stronger bags.

But that leads to another aspect of slow cooker cooking: the make ahead meal.  These have gotten pretty complex over the years.  It used to be as simple as soup.  Now you can pre-make beef stroganoff or chicken fajitas.  It takes some organization and stronger freezer bags, but you can make up a week’s worth of meals in about two hours.  So I’m going to ignore the bags and the organization and just give you some of my favorite recipes.

1- Applesauce BBQ Chicken

  • 2 boneless chicken breast, cut into large cubes
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 small onion sliced thin (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for six hours.

2- Beef Barley Soup

  • 1 pound beef, cubed
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (any type)
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup uncooked barley

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook: empty zip lock bag into crock pot with two cups water.  Cook on low for six hours.  Serve with crackers.  Salt and pepper to taste.

3- Lemonade Chicken

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts or 4 chicken thighs
  • 1 small can lemonade
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  The lemonade can be thawed first.  To cook: empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/2 cup water.  Cook 6 hours on low, uncover for last two hours.  Serve with rice or noodles.

4- Aloha Pork

  • 4 boneless pork loin chops
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (I’ve used fruit infused vinegars for a different flavor)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for six hours.  Remove pork and pineapple and shred.  Return to juice sauce and mix.  Serve with rice.

5- Western Beef

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can kidney or red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/s cup tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder

Place all ingredients in a large zip lock bag and freeze till needed.  To cook:  empty zip lock bag into crock pot with 1/4 cup water.  Cook on low for 4 hours.  Stir ingredients at one hour intervals.  Serve with corn tortillas in any form at all.

Enjoy

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