Freezer-to-Crockpot: Buffalo Chicken Chili

Huge thumbs up from my peeps….made delicious leftover lunches too! 

Hope you love it as much as we did!

Buffalo Chicken ChiliIMG_7079

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup hot buffalo wing sauce
  • 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15-oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
  • 2/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions

  1. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, warm olive oil.  Add chicken and cook about 4 minutes.  Add carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika and bay leaf.  Cook until vegetables are slightly tender, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock and stir to scrap up brown bits from bottom of pot.  Turn off heat.  Add hot sauce and stir well. Turn off heat and let cool down.
  3. In a 1-gallon plastic freezer bag, add tomato sauce and tomatoes.  Add chicken-vegetable mixture to bag (don’t forget to remove the bay leaf).
  4. Freeze for up to 4 weeks.  When ready to prepare, place bag contents in slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4-6 hours, until thoroughly warm.
  5. Serve warm with crumbled blue cheese on top.

Cheers, Jenn

Freezer-to-Crockpot: Beef & Broccoli

Are you a busy mom who loves her slow cooker?  I don’t know what I’d do without mine.  Your family will love this Asian-inspired dinner because it tastes delicious.  You will love it because you can make in advance, pop it in the freezer, and later take it out to cook in the crockpot without any hassle!  I made mine about 3 weeks before serving for dinner, and it held up in the freezer beautifully!  As if you needed more reasons to try this — it’s nutritious (full of fiber, vitamin C and iron) and economical (only $2.82 per serving).  Enjoy!

Beef & Broccolibeefbroccoli

Yield: about 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds flank steak, thinly sliced
  • 1 beef boullion cube
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 16 oz bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thick circles
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice

Directions

  1. In a 1-gallon size plastic freezer bag, place beef, boullion cube, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and cornstarch.  In a separate plastic freezer bag, place broccoli and carrots.  Seal tightly and freeze for up to 3 weeks.
  2. When ready to prepare, dump contents of beef bag into slow cooker.  Add 1 cup water.  Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.  Add vegetables to slow cooker during last hour of cooking time.
  3. Serve over brown rice.

March Theme Announcement!

A few days late, but better late than never!! 

healthylunchideas-foryour-kids

I’ll share my tips for prepping fast dinner meals that can be saved in the freezer and popped into the crockpot for dinner later.  Truly a life-saver in my house!

Stay tuned!

Cheers, Jenn

10 Essential Freezer Foods for Short Cuts

Consider this part two of the series…. this time I’ll focus on foods that I have to keep in the freezer at all times to make weeknight meal prep a breeze.  (Click here for part one – pantry foods for short cuts).

Keepin’ it real for you guys…. I do have some processed-ish foods that I always have on hand (**Gasp!**).  I won’t add them to this list because they aren’t what I’d consider essential for food prep.  For example, our Wednesday nights are crazy in our house.  So, nearly every Wednesday we have Trader Joe’s black bean taquitos.  Everyone likes them, they are tasty and fairly healthy.  So, there you go.

Here are 10 freezer foods that I keep on hand at all times…

  1. Lemon Juice Okay, I admit, this is an easy one for me.  We have a lemon tree that produces about 200-pounds of lemons every year.  Yes, 200-pounds.  We give them away to anyone who will take them!  But, we are fortunate to have lemon juice on hand all year round.  Freezing it in ice cube trays and then dumping the cubes into a large gallon freezer bag works great.  Always ready for sauces, recipes and lemonade!
  2. Frozen Berries If there is a killer sale, I buy a ton of berries and freeze them.  If I am running low on frozen berries, I buy them to have on hand.  Delicious in smoothies, for baking, or a cold side dish in the summertime.
  3. Sliced or Chopped Onions It’s no secret that I hate onions.  I hate them cooked, raw, fried, and any other form you can fathom.  BUT, it is indeed true that they are necessary in certain recipes, and my husband loves them. So, I buy about 5-6 at a time, slice or chop them in the food processor, and freeze them in quart-size bags.  Problems solved.  And, my fingers stink and eyes drip only once, instead of frequently.
  4. Grated Zucchini – When friends’ gardens are at their peak, or there is a great sale on zucchini, or there’s a huge offering at Produce on Wheels Without Waste (POW-WOW) here in southern Arizona, I stock up on zucchini.  Whatever we can’t eat right away gets grated in the food processor and stored in the freezer.  Perfect for baking or stir fry later on.
  5. Shredded Cheese My family goes through tons of cheese.  Too much, truthfully.  So, I commonly stock up on the 2-cup bags of shredded cheddar, colby-jack, monterey jack, and parmesan cheeses when there is a bargain.  Always ready for quesadillas!
  6. Peas – Frozen peas are SO much more flavorful than canned.  I mean, it’s like night and day.  They are a great addition to pasta, soup, salads…. nice to have those sweet babies ready to go.  My favorite new recipe uses them as a base for pesto.  Yum….
  7. Hash Brown Potatoes Frying these may not be the healthiest way to eat them, but if you get the minimally processed variety (with just potatoes and salt listed as ingredients), these are super to have ready for soups or breakfast-for-dinner.
  8. Homemade Wheat Pancakes If we are having a yummy pancake breakfast on the weekend, I always make more than we need.  They freeze great and make hearty breakfasts for a busy morning.  Whole wheat pumpkin spice pancakes is my favorite variety, but my daughter prefers chocolate chip pancakes!
  9. Veggie or Black Bean Burgers Yes, I love these.  No one else in my house is as crazy about them, so this is basically all about me.  I eat them often on days I’m working from home.  They are also tasty atop a salad/veggie bowl.  The black bean burgers from Costco are my new favorite kind.  Economical, nutritious and delicious.
  10. Freezer-to-Crockpot MealsAs I said in a previous posting, my girlfriends and I like to get together to make these meals as a group/party.  They have saved me many a busy weeknight!  Chili works best, but other favorites are beef-barley soup, beef and broccoli, and red lentil soup.

There you have it!  What is your go-to freezer staple?

 

Freezer Meal Party!

I have a group of very dear friends…. our families camp together, go to church together, and live life together.  I text daily with these ladies and my life would be so strange and lonely without them.  We are different – have different strengths, different families, different backgrounds, yet we have a tight bond.  About a year ago, we started Freezer Meal Party-ing!  It takes some organizing, especially with one gluten-free family, one vegan family, and a total of 10 children in the mix who can be picky eaters!

What is it?

The basic idea is that we each bring ingredients for 2 different recipes, 4 batches of each.  We aim for a freezer-to-crockpot style for each, but some recipes have a little variation on that theme.  Each gal goes home with 8 different meals for the freezer!

Prepping it all together is super fun!  We chat and chop and dump and drink margaritas!  Last night we were together for about 2.5 hours…. went home with one of each:

  • Thai Peanut Chicken
  • Vegan Chili
  • Red Lentil Soup
  • Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
  • Meatball Veggie Soup
  • Taco Chicken Bowls
  • Mexican Black Bean Soup
  • Beef & Broccoli

Where do the Recipes Come From?

Pinterest, cookbooks, Yummly….. we’ve tried them all.  The husbands & kids veto or rank the meals as they are eaten, so that defines what is made in future Freezer Meal Parties.  For example, one Sweet Potato Stew was a huge bomb….. the black rice in a Chicken-Rice-Soup recipe turned the chicken a gross purple color… but, we love how chili turns out, so we have a chili variation nearly every time.

Lessons Learned…..

  1. Each person can make an extra meal & donate it to a new mom or someone recuperating from surgery.
  2. Buy jarred minced garlic.  It takes too stinkin’ long to do this in quantity production.
  3. Par-cook veggies – carrots,
  4. Somebody needs to bring an electric can opener for all of those beans & tomatoes.
  5. Freeze the ziplock bags in a crockpot-ish shape, not flat like you see on many pretty Pinterest posts…. that way it’ll fit in the crockpot straight from the freezer.
  6. Buy chicken in bulk for the party & split it 4-5 ways.  We’ve done this with Zaycon chicken and it’s very economical.

There is something very comforting about having a freezer full of meals to use for busy days, or evenings when everyone is going in different directions.  Look at this great result!

— Dedicated to my Girls – Sandy, Shannon, Stephanie & Carrie