Once a Month Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking from the Stockpile: The Final Installment
Well, it's over. It took 24 hours, about 10 pounds of meat, 4 pounds of shredded cheese, and 1 ginormous zucchini, but my Once a Month Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking from the Stockpile is finally finished.
Overall it went well. I ended up with 5 complete meals and 8 pre-cooked ready-to-reheat meal components.
- Chicken & Stuffing Casserole x2
- Slow Cooker Lasagna
- Brown Sugar Chicken (just add fresh rice)
- 32 Meatballs
- 1 meal's worth of seasoned taco beef
- Italian Marinated Chicken x2
- Barbecue Marinated Chicken
- Sneaky Mac n Cheesy x2
I totally skipped making the pancakes, the pasta sauce, and the greens and beans. I wasn't 100% sure how the greens and beans would freeze, and I just didn't get to the pancakes and sauce. And frankly, I had enough to keep me busy yesterday morning. Here's my play by play post-mortem of the day:
The night before: I went "shopping" in the basement and set out all the ingredients I needed. In the blue bucket is about 10 pounds of ground beef and chicken.
I started getting set up at 8:30 Sunday morning. I hadn't started the crock pots the night before, so I assembled the Brown Sugar Chicken and Slow Cooker Lasagna, and got those rolling. This took about an hour and a half because my kids, although unbearably cute and sweet, kept asking me for random things (a snack, a clean pair of undies, a hair tie) during this time.Finally, around 10 am, my husband took both kids outside so I was able to focus a little more. I quickly assembled the 2 Chicken and Stuffing Casseroles and put them aside.
I finally got into a groove around 10:30. I started rolling out meatballs and decided to fry them because I just didn't want to turn on the oven. Maybe it's because I'm Italian, but this was my favorite part. I love making meatballs, and I rarely do it. The meatballs turned out really savory and delicious. As a thank you to my husband and kids for leaving me (somewhat) alone for a few hours, I saved some and made meatball subs for lunch.
The last things I did Sunday morning was cook 2 pounds of pasta for the Sneaky Mac N Cheesy and brown up the taco beef. I realized as the pasta was cooking that I needed ricotta for the recipe, and I didn't have any (or cottage cheese), so I had to put that recipe on hold until I went to the store.
At that point I took a break, shared some meatball subs with my family, and put the kids down for naps. I also passed out at this point. :)
When I woke up, we had a picnic to go to so I threw the final 3 servings of chicken (1 barbecue, 2 Italian marinade) in the two washed-out crock pots, and left. When we came home about 5 hours later they were bubbling, juicy, and tender.
This morning I ran out to Target at purchased cottage cheese (they didn't have ricotta!) and finished up the Mac N Cheese. Phew. A little over 24 hours later, and I am finally done with my cooking marathon.
Here's my freezer before:
To conclude, I'll leave you with some tips I discovered along the way:
- Make sure to read every recipe (no matter how many times you've made it!) and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. It was a pain to spread this out over two days because I wasn't as prepared as I should have been.
- Let me say this: I LOVE my kids and my husband. But this project would have been SO much easier if they had planned to be out of the house while I worked. Aside from the frequent interruptions, it's hard to pan-fry meatballs with an 18-month old clinging to your leg.
- Clean as you go. I did this and never got really overwhelmed with the mess. I was able to get the kitchen looking back to normal pretty easily (well, our normal at least).
- Let frying oil sit for a moment in the pan before trying to dispose of it. I tried to quickly pour it in an aluminum can and this happened:
That is bubbling, smoking hot oil overflowing all over the stove. Not my best moment in the kitchen.
- Don't undertake a plan like this more than once a month. It consumed about 5 hands-on hours, all told, on a busy summer weekend.
It's awesome knowing how much "easy" food I have in my freezer, though, and hopefully this will help us resist the temptation to order out on busy nights. Also, I made all 12 items using food that was in my pantry (except for that darn ricotta). In every case, I can just add fresh veggies or greens from our local CSA to make a complete, healthy, and delicious meal.