Crock it Like it's Hot!
The following is “Part 1” in a series of three blogs on how I prep meals for my entire family for the entire month in 3 hours.
Hour 1: Prepping Crockpot Meals
One of the things I miss most about college on the East Coast is watching the leaves turn majestic shades of yellow and orange in the fall. I didn’t appreciate it while I was there, but now that I’m back home in California-- where it’s pretty much summer time year-round-- I wish I could experience real seasons again. Sure, there are some tell-tale signs that fall is here: the boot sale at Nordstrom, the return of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Halloween stores that seem to pop up out of "nowhere"… But it’s still not quite the same as being able to actually watch and feel the season transition before your eyes. My solution? Whip out the slow cooker! Slow-cooked meals are the next best thing to actually experiencing the fall with your eyes. You get to experience it in your mouth. That’s what she said.
So here you have it: I have compiled my family's top 5 most delicious freezer crockpot chicken meals that I prepare all at once, in ONE HOUR:
1) "Nom Nom" Chicken Noodle soup
2) "Orale" Chicken Tortilla Soup
3) "Smack ya mamma" Coconut curry chicken
4) Nana's special Chicken Adobo
5) "Party in my mouth" Jambalaya (warning: this one is not even close to being low calorie, but it tastes amazing)
You might be asking yourself why we're only making chicken meals. Have patience, young padwan.
Soon you shall see.
My first rule of meal prepping is, BE EFFICIENT.
By this, I mean to make as many meals out of the same basic ingredients as you can.
If this is your first time prepping freezer meals, start with the basics: several pounds of ground meat (beef, turkey, etc), several pounds of boneless/skinless chicken breasts, etc.
Today, class, we are prepping chicken meals to “pop n drop” straight from the freezer into the slow cooker.
This is what you'll need to make it happen:
Meat: approximately 25 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (my rule of thumb is "1 breast per guest"-- feel free to scale back to 4 breasts per recipe if you have a smaller family), smoked sausage and shrimp* (for jambalaya).
Veggies: 1 bag of full-sized carrots, 10 zucchini, 3 yellow onions, 1 bag of whole celery stalks, 1 large bag of pre-cleaned spinach, 4 lemons or limes, 1 bunch of fresh cilantro
Canned goods: 4 8oz cans of diced tomatoes, 1 8oz can of coconut milk, 5 boxes of chicken broth (I like to purchase 32-oz boxed, organic/free-range broth).
Spices and sauces: curry powder, ground pepper, seasoned salt, Cajun or Creole seasoning, cumin, red chili paste, minced garlic, thyme, parsley, basil, chili powder, ginger paste, soy sauce, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar,
Carbs: long grain rice
Fats: Olive oil, shredded cheese and sour cream (optional topping for tortilla soup)
Other stuff: Gallon-sized zippered freezer bags, Slow-cooker liner bags for the non-soup meals, a Sharpie pen, and several mixing bowls
Chop all of your "choppable" veggies (carrots, onions, zucchini, celery, etc) and separate them into bowls.
Next, chop up all of your chicken into chunks or cubes
Step 2: Label your freezer gallon bags with your sharpie-- I like to write the name of the meal, the date I prepped it, and the approximate time it needs to be cooked.
Step 3: Start bagging the meals!
MEAL 1: Tortilla soup
Approximately 3 chopped chicken breasts, 1 cup chopped onion, 3 chopped carrots, 5 chopped celery sticks, 5 chopped zucchini, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1/2 of a bunch of chopped cilantro, the juice from 2 lemons, 2 boxes (64 oz) chicken (or vegetable) broth, 1 cup water, and seasoning: cumin, chile paste, about 4 tbsp minced garlic, and a little salt and pepper. For those of you who have access to a Wal-Mart or Safeway, I'm gonna hip you to a little secret:
Anyway, that's it. Zip up that bag and move on to the next.
How we serve it:
Top it with crispy tortilla strips. My husband also tops his with shredded jack cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a lime wedge, and a sprig of fresh cilantro if we have it. I like to cut out calories by avoiding most of the "extra" toppings, but if you are having a splurge day, I recommend my hubby's version. :)
MEAL 2: Chicken Noodle Soup
In a freezer bag, add: 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth, 1 cups water, about 2 cups chopped carrots, about 3 stalks of chopped celery, 1 tsp ground pepper, 1 tbsp sea salt, 3 tbsp parsley (or 1 if it's dried), 1/2 tsp dried thyme, 3 tbsp minced garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 tbsp EVOO, and 4-5 chopped chicken breasts (small chunks)
Zip the bag up, and put it in the freezer. You're done.
Cook on low for about 6-8 hours. When you get home, throw about 2 cups of egg noodles in the pot and let that cook while you take your shoes off, change into your "home clothes," and set the table. They cook in about 10-15 minutes. I experimented once by adding zucchini "noodles" (or as I call them, "zoodles" about 10 minutes before the soup was served. The kids loved it.
I like to cut my carrots into little hearts so that my family knows that even though I didn't slave over their food, it was still made with love. AND THEY BETTER EAT IT.
I'll post a tutorial on that later. :)
MEAL 3: "Smack Ya Mama" Coconut Curry Chicken
My Nana used to say, "tastes so good, it'll make you wanna SMACK ya mama!" THIS meal, friends, is so delicious, it'll make you go crazy. WATCH YOUR PORTION SIZE on this one-- the calories creep up on you...
In a labeled freezer bag, add about 5 chopped chicken breasts, 1 can of coconut milk, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water, 4 tbsp curry powder, 1 entire chopped onion, 4 tbsp minced garlic, the juice from 2 limes, 1 tbsp seasoned salt, 1 tsp chili powder, and a tsp of sugar.
Done! Stick that bad boy in the freezer.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours. When you get home, add about 2 cups of uncooked spinach to the pot 5 minutes before eating. Serve over jasmine rice. Hide your kids, hide your wife. Hide your mama.
MEAL 4: PARTY IN MY MOUTH Jambalaya
Next bag: Add about 5 chopped chicken breasts and 2 cups smoked sausage. 5 chopped celery stalks. One entire chopped onion. 32 oz chicken broth. 1 cup water. 2 cans diced tomatoes with juice, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp cajun or creole spice mix, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 3 tbsp minced garlic.
Boom. That's it. Zip it up, it's ready to freeze.
This meal should cook about 6-8 hours on low. Add 1 pound of cleaned shrimp and 1.75 cups of uncooked rice when you get home. Turn up the heat in the slow cooker to high and let it cook for another 30 minutes while you check the kid's homework.
MEAL 5: Chicken Adobo
Add 5 chopped chicken breasts to 1 cup water, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 3 tbsp EVOO, 3/4 cup vinegar, 1 pinch of salt and pepper, 2 bay leaves, 6 tbsp minced garlic, 1 tbsp ginger paste, 1 whole chopped onion, 1/4 cup brown sugar.
Place your bags in the freezer. Then, in the morning, POP your frozen meal out of the freezer bag, DROP it in the slow cooker (and set it to slow cook on "low" for about 8 hours), and then ROLL on out the door.
When you get home, the aroma is gonna smack you right in the face, like "OMG what is that amazing smell? Could it be? ... Is it really?... Hot dinner?... Already done?... When I walked through the door?!!"
Your kids will love it. Your partner will love it. You will love it. You are going to feel like a FREAKIN' ROCK STAR. AND-- did I mention this?--There will be NO POTS AND PANS TO WASH. just put away any leftovers and toss the slow cooker pot in the dishwasher.
Go ahead, try it. You GOT this. Let me know how it goes!