From Freezer to Slow Cooker – How to Make Easy Meals

slow cooker

slow cookerThere are things you may not know about me.  In the past, I haven’t brought it up to my readers because I’ve actually lost out on opportunities due to this, but I’m going to say it now.  Here’s my confession:  I’m bionic.  I’m not the kind of bionic that can run miles in a flash, lift heavy objects, or be hired out for amazing feats that no one else can accomplish.  In fact, the exact opposite is true.  Being bionic can be limiting, but the biggest limitations are the ones others set for me – limitations based on what they don’t know regarding my strengths, abilities, and motivation.

I have titanium in my spine and have to deal with the ramifications of it on a daily basis.  Anyone who has ever had spinal surgery knows how horrible the recovery is for it.  In my case, I had spinal surgery twice.  My desire isn’t to go into the whole ordeal to seek sympathy or even to sugar coat what it’s like to be me.  We all have our bionic limitations in one form or another.  That’s what makes us human.

A limitation my husband has is in the cooking department.  I know there are so many wonderful male chefs out there.  I know there are so many wonderful male home cooks.  I’m not married to one of them.  Trust me, you don’t want him to make you a box of macaroni and cheese.  He did that once for the kids, and they lost all trust afterward.

After my first surgery, my husband’s idea of cooking dinner was to bring me canned soup.  Now, although appreciated at first (because something is better than nothing), I just couldn’t take it anymore.  The metallic taste incorporated into chicken noodle soup REALLY lost the appeal after awhile.

The second time I had to have surgery, I made up my mind that I wasn’t eating soup again.  I made meals ahead of time and froze them so that my husband could defrost them and just place them in the oven.  I even came up with a great system for this, and the food was so good (and greatly appreciated).

Being able to freeze meals ahead of time and throw them in the slow cooker makes life easier for everything from having babies to having surgeries to working all day and having a meal already waiting for you.  Nothing is better than to come home from a hard day of work and smell a great meal already waiting for you…even when no one else is there.

I decided to create some new meals that can be frozen with the slow cooker in mind.  I knew I wanted to make the meals quick and easy, but I also wanted them to not be complicated.  I made stuffed peppers using different kinds of beans and cooking methods, a pasta dish (SO GOOD), and a meatball idea that was a failed BBQ sauce where I decided to throw caution to the wind since I had so many leftover cans of cranberry sauce sitting around.  When my husband proclaims how great the meatballs are, then…my mistakes become a new dish in the house.

I created two versions of stuffed peppers. This first one is the one I prefer because the other one rendered a more chewy pepper skin that was difficult to cut with a knife. With this one, the peppers became a real part of the meal. I enjoyed the red bell pepper even more than the green bell pepper, but pick whichever peppers you prefer.

The first version almost tastes like a chili and is so good. The liquid builds up in the slow cooker, so there’s plenty to drizzle onto the peppers.  The peppers become soft, so if soft is not your thing, skip boiling the peppers (but don’t expect them to bake up just like the oven).  If you can’t fit all the peppers into the slow cooker, you can stack them a bit.

Hudson Valley Handymom Stuffed Peppers

Chorizo Stuffed Peppers

6 bell peppers (red or green)

1 pound of chorizo sausage, casings removed

½ cup onion

1 tsp minced garlic

1 ½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1 – 12 oz. can of corn (drained)

1 cup uncooked rice

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (reserve ¼ cup)

1 cup of shredded sharp chedder cheese (reserve ¼ cup)

1 – 15 oz can pinto beans (drained)

1 – 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 – 14.5 oz can of chili style diced tomatoes

 

Begin by boiling water in a large pot. While water is boiling, cut tops off of peppers and remove the seeds.

When water is boiling, submerge peppers into boiling water. Remove with a large, slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels by turning them upside down.

In a large bowl, add chorizo, onion, garlic, chili powder, and salt. Mix together by squishing mixture with hands.

Stir in corn, uncooked rice, 1 ½ cups of the cheeses (reserve ¼ cup of each cheese for the end), pinto beans, and diced tomatoes.

Fill peppers with mixture.

To freeze ahead of time, place peppers carefully into two gallon sized freezer bags.

Prior to cooking, defrost completely in refrigerator.

Place into large oval slow cooker. Pour diced tomatoes with chile over the top.

Bake on high for 6 – 7 hours.

Top with remaining cheeses before serving.

 

Alternate recipe:

6 bell peppers (red or green)

1 pound of chorizo sausage, casings removed

½ cup onion

¼ tsp garlic powder

1 ½ tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup of corn cut off a corn on the cob

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack Cheese (reserve ¼ cup)

1 cup of shredded sharp chedder cheese (reserve ¼ cup)

2 cups of cooked rice

1 – 15 oz can black beans (drained)

2 – 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes

Cut tops off of peppers and remove seeds.

In a frying pan, break up sausage while cooking over medium heat. When sausage is almost done, add chopped onion to it and the drippings, and cook until soft.

In a large bowl, add chorizo and onion mixture garlic, chili powder, and salt.

Stir in corn, black beans, one can of diced tomatoes that has been drained, 1 ½ cups of the shredded cheese, and the rice.

Fill peppers with mixture.

To freeze ahead of time, place peppers carefully into two gallon sized freezer bags.

Prior to cooking, defrost completely in refrigerator.

Place into large oval slow cooker. Pour remaining can of diced tomatoes over the top.

Bake on high for 4 to 6 hours.

Top with remaining cheeses before serving.

 

Creamy Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese

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1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite sized pieces

4 cups of raw, fresh broccoli, cut up

1 cup of ham, cut into pieces

½ cup butter

½ cup flour

1 ½ tsp of salt

3 cups of milk

12 z can of evaporated milk

2 cups of shredded smoked gouda

1 cup of water

1 pound of large shell pasta

For freezing ahead:

In a gallon sized freezer bag, place red bell pepper, broccoli, and ham.

Microwave butter in a medium bowl until melted by heating for 30 seconds, stirring, and repeating until melted.

Whisk flour into butter. Gradually pour evaporated milk into mixture and continue to whisk until well blended.

Whisk milk and salt into mixture and pour into bag.

Add the cheese into bag. Close the bag and place in the freezer.

Prior to cooking, allow bag to defrost in the refrigerator.

Pour bag into slow cooker.

Pour the pasta into the slow cooker, add the one cup of water, and stir together with a spoon.

Set on low and cook for three hours stirring occasionally while cooking.

 

 Cranberry MeatballsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

1 onion, diced

1 ½ pounds of ground sirloin

1 cup of dried breadcrumbs

1½ tsp salt (1 tsp for meatballs, ½ for the sauce)

10 ¾ oz can of tomato soup

1 tsp of dry mustard

1 TBSP of molasses

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 TBSP cooking sherry

¼ cup ketchup

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp of fresh ground pepper

1 14 oz can of jellied cranberry sauce

 

In a medium bowl, mix together onion, ground sirloin, breadcrumbs, and 1 tsp of salt with hands.

Form into 1 ½ inch balls.

For freezing: place balls, uncooked, into one gallon freezer bag.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients.

Pour the mixture over the meatballs. Close bag and place in freezer.

Defrost completely in refrigerator prior to placing in slow cooker.

Once defrosted, place in slow cooker on high for 6 to 8 hours until the middle of a meatball is well done.

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