Picture by MomTimesFour
I’ve read a lot about making dinnertime easier, but haven’t really moved past the reading part. Until last month! And, oh my goodness! What in the world was I waiting for?! I haven’t cooked in 3 weeks thanks to the one hour my husband and I spent assembling Ziploc bags full of uncooked food and laying them flat in the freezer.
To do this, you’ll need some space in your freezer, a crock pot, lots of Ziploc bags, lots of crock pot liners (they’re definitely worth it!), and not a lot of time. That’s not asking too much, is it?
The instructions for all of these is to put the ingredients in a gallon Ziploc bag, squeeze the air out, label the bag with the name of the dish, and lay it flat in the freezer. (If it calls for chicken, you can use breasts or thighs, but I find breasts dry out no matter how you cook them, so I only use thighs, boneless make it even easier.) The night before you’re ready to eat it, put it in the fridge to thaw. In the morning, put it in your crock pot on low for about 5 hours or on high for about 3 hours (times are very general and vary by crock pot and ingredients).
Below are some of the recipes that I’ve made that my family has loved. I found them all online and have tweaked them according to our tastes. Each meal feeds us at least twice if not three times. If we get tired of eating off of it, I put the leftovers in the freezer and serve it again a week or so later. Oh! And if you want to steam a fresh vegetable as a side, place it in the crock pot 20-30 minutes before serving the entree and it should be tender. Winna winna, chicken dinna!
BBQ ribs (The original recipe and picture is here.)
1-2# country-style pork ribs
1 1/2 c. ketchup or tomato paste
1 1/2 T spicy seasoning (like Old Bay or Zatarain’s)
1/2 t. liquid smoke
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T. white vinegar
Twenty minutes before we are ready to eat, I steam a bag of veggies and make some organic mac ‘n’ cheese for the picky kids. Dinner is served!
Chicken Broccoli Alfredo (The original recipe is here.)
1 1/2# chicken
16 oz. broccoli
2 jars of alfredo (I think I’ll make my own next time. It could have been better.)
1 chopped green bell pepper
1 c. sliced mushrooms
Twenty minutes before we are ready to eat, I slice up the chicken and put it back in the crock pot. Then, I cook up some whole wheat fettuccine on the stove. This is a one dish meal. Dinner is served!
Beef Stroganoff (The original recipe is here.)
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/4 c. butter
1# beef stew meat
1/8 t. paprika
2 c. mushrooms
3/4 c. sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (low sodium if you can find it)
1/2 c. cream cheese
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
Mix sour cream, cream cheese, and mushroom soup before placing in Ziploc bag. This is really good, but very heavy. I may halve the cream cheese next time, leave out the cream of mushroom soup, or omit the butter? Not sure yet. Let me know what you do if you lighten it up. I serve it over egg noodles with a side of steamed veggies. Dinner is served!
French Dip Sandwiches (Of all the crock pot freezer meals we’ve made, this is our favorite and the absolute simplest! Here’s the original recipe and picture.)
An hour or so before you’re ready to eat, take the roast out of the crock pot and cut it in thin slices against the grain. Then put it back in the crock pot until you’re ready to eat.
What makes or breaks this meal is the quality of the rolls you buy. I get Cobblestone Mills Wheat Grinder Sub Rolls, open them up, put a slice of provolone on each side (or only one side if the person eating it wants mayo on it), and put them in the toaster oven for a few minutes. Then I put the meat on with a little gravy (too much made the rolls soggy). I just realized it’s called the “French Dip Sandwich” because you’re supposed to put the gravy in a bowl and dip the sandwich in it before each bite. Le sigh. Anyway, I serve this with steamed corn although some soup would be delicious, too. Dinner is served!
Honey Lemon Garlic Chicken (Our 2nd favorite! The original recipe is here.)
2 lemons juice (or about 1/4 c. lemon juice)
1/2 c. healthy oil (olive oil, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, etc)
1-2 T. minced garlic (or 8-10 minced garlic cloves)
1/2 c. honey
2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
I serve this with homemade mashed potatoes. I quarter Yukon gold potatoes and boil them until they’re tender. Then I simply add butter, half and half or whole milk (whatever I have), and salt to taste. If they seem a little dry, just add more milk. I also steam a bag of green beans. Dinner is served!
Creamy Italian Chicken (The original recipe is here.)
The original recipe I found called for an additional packet of Italian dressing mix. I thought it was waaay too “zesty,” so the next time I’m going to omit it. And I think it would have been good with only one package of cream cheese, too.
I served this over whole wheat spaghetti with some fresh Parmesan on top. As a side, I serve what we call a California salad (lettuce or spinach leaves topped with feta or goat cheese, craisins, roasted walnuts or almonds, and a cranberry vinaigrette dressing). It’s the only kind of salad my husband will eat.
Teriyaki Chicken (The original recipe is here.)
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. teriyaki sauce
1 T. sesame oil (YUM!)
1 diced green bell pepper
1 t. ginger paste
1 c. chicken broth
1 t. minced garlic
2 cans of pineapple or 2 c. fresh pineapple
This can be a one dish meal or you may want to serve it with edamame. Serve over steamed rice. Dinner is served!
(There isn’t much fat in this recipe, so you may want to add a generous amount of butter to the rice. We didn’t do this and were hungry about 45 minutes after we ate.)
London Broil (The original recipe is here.)
2# London broil or flank steak
1/2 large sweet onion
1 t. minced garlic
3/4 c. red wine
1/3 c. ketchup or tomato paste
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice against the grain when you’re ready to serve. I serve it with homemade mashed potatoes or warm dinner rolls as well as a steamed veggie. Dinner is served!
(The following night we ate the meat in tortillas with cheese and still had to enough for another meal, too.)
Chicken Bolognese (I can’t seem to find the link to the original recipe. So sorry!)
3 chopped carrots
2 stalks chopped celery
1 chopped onion
1 jar pasta sauce
1/2 c. Italian salad dressing
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
Before serving, chop up some fresh basil and add it to the crock pot for a lovely, fresh flavor. I served this with whole wheat spaghetti and warm whole wheat dinner rolls. Dinner is served!
Sausage with Onions and Peppers (The original recipe is here.)
16 oz. sliced sausage (any kind that looks good to you!)
1 chopped onion
3 bell peppers (make it colorful!)
2 cans of fire roasted tomatoes, not drained (I only used one)
1 chicken bullion cube
1 t. minced garlic
1 t. spicy seasoning (like Zatarain’s or Old Bay)
This can be a one dish meal, so serve over rice or on tortillas. (I don’t like sausage but my husband loves it so I made this for him. For someone who doesn’t like sausage, it was pretty good!) Dinner is served!
The following are meals that are still in my freezer that I haven’t tried yet, so make at your own risk! :) I’ll move them up to the previous section as we try them.
Chinese Beef and Broccoli (The original recipe is here.)
Add 2 c. broccoli 30 minutes before serving over rice. Dinner is served!
Black Bean and Corn Salsa Chicken (I can’t seem to find the link to this one!)
2 cans rinsed black beans
2 cans drained corn
1 packet taco seasoning
1 c. salsa
3/4 c. water
This is a one dish meals, so just serve over rice or healthy tortilla chips. Dinner is served!
Brown Sugar Meatloaf (Click here for the original recipe and picture)
Mix all ingredients together. Since it will be thawed overnight before serving, you can mold it into a loaf-shape before placing it in the crock pot. It’s even easier to hold its shape if you use a crock pot liner. Before serving, mix 2 c. ketchup or tomato paste with 1 cup of brown sugar and 2 t. Worcestershire and pour over the top. I serve it with a side salad.
Balsamic Glazed Drumsticks (The original recipe is here.)
Sweet and Tangy Meatballs
1 12 oz. jar of chili sauce
16-18 oz grape jelly
2# slightly browned meatballs (ground beef, 1 c. of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, seasoning to taste)
UPDATE: 9/9/14. We had this last night as part of an assortment of appetizers that we called dinner. It was good but appeared to cook very quickly in the crock pot. Heads up!
Sweet and Sour Beef (The original recipe is here.)
Add a bag of steamed stir fry veggies before serving over rice.
Please let us know in the comments which were your favorites or if you made any changes to them! Bon appetite!