Why and How to Freeze Cooked Meats

One of my secrets to quick meals is having cooked meat in the freezer.  This is by far the biggest time saver you can do for your meal prep.

 

Ground Beef

You can cook ground beef (or ground chicken, pork, sausage etc) on the stove-top.  Or use this trick to do it in the slow cooker.

Grilled Chicken

If it’s nice out, fire up the grill and cook the chicken outside.  Slice and freeze. The smokey flavor will bring summer to your winter meals.

Rotisserie Chicken

3 Costco Rotisserie Chickens yield 5-6 meals. 13 possible recipes

 

If you’re not in the mood to cook it yourself, grab several rotisserie chickens.  Pull the meat off the bones and freeze it.  You can find meal possibilities here and 10 more meal ideas here.

Whole Chicken 

Or bake a chicken yourself.  Use the slow cooker or do several at once in the oven.

Freezer Friendly Meatballs

how to stretch ground beef

 

Meatballs are so versatile for quick meals.  I have this recipe that includes rice to stretch the ground beef and make it go further.  Or try this more classic meatball recipe that still makes a bunch.

Turkey Breast

turkey breast in slow cooker

 

You can get a lot of meat off a turkey breast.  It’s a great deal if you find a sale.

Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork is always good to have stashed away in the freezer for quick meals.  Serve it as sandwiches.  Add pineapple and cheese for a Hawaiian version.  Serve it over rice, like haystacks.  Lots of possibilities.

Virtual Freezer Cooking Party

 In case you’d like to have grocery lists and plans done for you, we’re running a sale on 12 Slow Cooker Freezer Meal Plans.  Click the image  below to find out more and use the code PARTY to save $2.

200 lp12 slow cooker freezer meal plans

 

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How to Keep Homemade Tomato Soup from Curdling

How to keep Homemade Tomato Soup from curdling

I make homemade tomato soup pretty frequently.  It’s quick, easy and so good!

Plus all the ingredients are things that are easily kept on hand.  I do have buy the tomato juice special, but it keeps in the pantry until I’m ready to use it.

But the last time I made this soup, it curdled.  I made sure not to boil it, but it still curdled.  Curdled tomato soup is still edible.  There’s nothing about it that will hurt you.  It’s just not as good, because the texture is off.

So last night I was determined to avoid curdling.  I went on an internet search and found a few tricks that might help.

There were several tips for stirring milk into the base or vice versa.  A couple of sites mentioned that the heat is part of what causes curdling.  One site mentioned using baking soda to help neutralize the acid.

I decided to tweak my recipe with some of these ideas.

I added 1/4 tsp. baking soda to the flour when making the roux.

I used cold milk instead of warmed, which my original recipe called for.

I whisked in the milk very, very slowly.  I’m pretty sure I’ve curdled the soup before, just by being impatient and pouring in the milk too fast.

And I heated the finished soup over low heat.  It took a few minutes longer, but it worked!

I’ve updated my recipe for Homemade Tomato Soup so it shows all of these steps now.

homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons

 

Don’t miss the grilled cheese croutons to top it off!

I do admit that last night we just had regular grilled cheese with our soup.  Either way, this is an easy winter supper.

 

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How to make 6 slow cooker freezer meals in 1 hour – February (and a video)

February slow cooker freezer meals

Every month, as part of the Slow Cooker plan for Weekly Meal Plans, we do a freezer meals week.  The goal is to be able to assemble all 6 meals in just about 1 hour.

I stock these away to use on our really busy days.  I love having them in the freezer!  In fact, as I write this I can smell the Chicken Cacciatore cooking for our dinner tonight.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a video showing how I assemble the meals.  I’m not great at video.  I haven’t taken time to learn to edit.  And the storage on my phone is almost out (yes, I’m super high tech and record with my iPhone), so the video cuts out near the end.  But you don’t miss out on too much.

I hope you find the video helpful.  And if not, just skip it :)

All of the slow cooker freezer meal plans have downloadable, color-coded grocery lists.  I love shopping with these.  It makes it so easy to pick up what you need.

The February plans are all available in the member area now.  Members have access to all three plans – Traditional, Whole Food and Slow Cooker.

The recipes I make in this video are all available on the site.  But to get the printable grocery list, recipes and assembly instructions, you’ll need to be a member of Weekly Meal Plans.

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22 Slow Cooker Recipes That Can Handle Cooking All Day

22 Slow Cooker Recipes that can cook all day

A lot of times when we think of using the slow cooker, it’s because we’re leaving the house early and won’t be back until dinner. Slow cookers are great for those days, but not all recipes will work.

You need to use a recipe that can take the heat for that long and still hold up. Soups, stews, large pieces of meat (especially if it has a bone) all do well.

Another tip is to make sure you’re using a slow cooker size that’s right for the amount of food.  It should be about 3/4 full or more if you want to cook it all day.  Less than that, and the slow cooker will cook too hot, leading to overcooked food.

Here’s a list of recipes that you’ll have success with.

african pulled beef sandwich done

African Pulled Beef Sandwiches

beef stew done

All Day Beef Stew

bbq chicken sandwiches in slow cooker done

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

beef and bean topped potatoes done

Beef and Bean Topped Baked Potatoes

beef shwarma in the slow cooker

Beef Shwarma

Calico Bean Soup with Smoked Sausage (aka Mixed Bean Soup)

chicken enchilada soup in slow cooker done

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Fiesta with Black Beans

Honey Mustard Chicken

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Curry Soup

Thai Chicken Curry Soup

Easy Shredded Taco Beef

Garlic Chicken with More Garlic

pumpkin black bean chicken chili

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

Pulled Pork

BBQ Peach Pulled Pork

slow cooker beans for the freezer done

Beans for the Freezer

Chicken Cock-a-leekie Soup

Chicken Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Chicken Minestrone in the Slow Cooker

Chicken Minestrone Soup

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Ham and Bean Soup in the Slow Cooker

Ham and Bean Soup

Slow Cooker Smoked Sausage and Sauerkraut Soup

Sauerkraut and Smoked Sausage Soup

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

 

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How to Convert a Slow Cooker Recipe for Oven or Stove Top

how to convert slow cooker recipes to oven or stove top

One trick I use in the kitchen is to match my cooking appliance to the kind of day I’m having schedule-wise.

I’m talking about fitting the dinner cooking schedule with all the other daily activities.  If I have more time to prep a meal in the morning, I’ll choose the slow cooker.

If I find myself at 5 o’clock having done no dinner prep, then it’s too late for crock-potting.  But some of my favorite recipes are slow cooker recipes.

No worries.  Almost all slow cooker recipes can be converted for making in the oven or on the stove.  Most of them started out with these traditional cooking methods anyway.

I’ve already talked about how to convert recipes into slow cooker recipes.  Here are a few tips for going the other way and using the oven and stove top.

1.  Soups

If it’s a soup, it can be made on top of the stove.  It will take a fraction of the time that the slow cooker calls for.  You’ll still want to follow the order given in a slow cooker recipe.  Meats go in first.  Creams, milks and cheeses are often added at the end of cooking time because you don’t want those to boil.

2.  Try using a Dutch oven.

A Dutch oven is a cooking pot with a tight fitting lid.  Many pots and pans sets come with a dutch oven.  Cast iron Dutch ovens are popular, especially those with enamel interiors.

Assemble the slow cooker recipe just as it calls for, but put the ingredients in a Dutch oven.  Bake at 350 degrees for for an hour or 1 1/2 hours.  Add time if it’s a large piece of meat.

3.  Casserole type recipes

Most crockpot casserole recipes started out as oven recipes.  Generally, baking in a casserole dish at 350 degrees for about 1 hour will work.

4.  Determine what the cooking time is accomplishing.

Is the time in the crockpot meant to cook meat from raw?  Or is it just for bringing something to a near boil, such as a sauce?  Answers to these questions will help you determine how much time the recipe will need on the stove or in the oven.

 

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10 Recipes to Use Costco Rotisserie Chicken (or Leftover Turkey)

One of the best things I do to keep weeknight meal prep easy, is to have chicken cooked and frozen. Having the meat ready to go is such a time saver!

If you’ve got leftover turkey, count your blessings! Then package it in plastic freezer bags and stash it away. You can use cooked turkey just like you would chicken.

10 Recipes to Use Costco Rotisserie Chicken

Lately, I’ve been buying Costco rotisserie chicken to keep in the freezer. But sometimes I cook it myself.

The main thing is to get some cooked chicken or turkey ready for use in recipes. Many of the recipes below are 15 minute meals. Some take a little bit longer, but they’re all easily doable on a busy weeknight.

Here are 10 recipes to get you started.   [Read more…]

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Freezing Single Servings for Teenage Boys and Other Hungry People

Freezing Single servings

 

A reader asked the other day about what types of foods are good for freezing in single servings.  She’s got a hungry teenage boy to fill up. (I can relate to that!)

Short of keeping the kitchen open all the time, with a cook waiting on hand, filling the freezer with single serving foods is the best way to keep those boys filled up.  And it works for others in the family too, who need to eat at off hours.

If you’re trying to feed boys, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1.  Include protein.  They like foods that will stick with them.

2.  Make it easy.  Hand-held is good.

3.  Keep a list on the freezer so they know what’s in there and where to find it. Or is it just my boys who forget what I’ve told them?

Here’s a list of recipes that will keep all kinds of  hungry people happy:   [Read more…]

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6 Ways to Use Leftover BBQ Chicken

How to Use Leftover BBQ Chicken

 

No matter if your BBQ chicken was grilled, baked, slow cooked or even a BBQ rotisserie chicken, it is wonderful to have leftovers.  It might not be quite as versatile as plain cooked chicken, but there are still a lot of possibilities.

1.  Fajitas

bbqchickenfajitas_thumb.jpg

We love this version, but you can add any type of veggies you like.  You might even try adding pineapple!

2.  Quesadillas

Instead of wrapping in a soft tortilla, use the BBQ chicken to make quesadillas.  Try adding your choice of cheese, along with bacon and green onions.  Toast until crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.

3.  Nachos

15 Minute BBQ Chicken Nachos

 

I made these 15 Minute BBQ Chicken Nachos with rotisserie chicken, but they’d be even better with BBQ Chicken.  Keep the ingredients handy for game day, because these are great for a party!

4.  Top baked potatoes or baked sweet potatoes

Use leftover, shredded bbq chicken to top baked potatoes or sweet potatoes.  This is a great meal if you’re dealing with a few picky eaters.  You can bake both white and sweet potatoes and let everyone have their choice.  And if they’d rather have the meat on the side, that works too.

5.  Slop Bucket/BBQ Sundae

photo-52

 

I ran across versions of this treat twice this summer.  Basically, it’s a layer of cheesy potatoes, a layer of baked beans, a layer of bbq meat topped with slaw.

Or there’s this version:

10620803_758871124154922_6880181212675736571_n

This one has baked beans on bottom, then cole slaw and topped with meat.

I’ve never done this at home, but why not?  They’re delicious and a little different.  And again, if someone wants to keep all the elements separate, they can do that.

6.  BBQ Chicken Pizza

Top your choice of pizza crust with bbq chicken, bbq sauce, red onion, pineapple and Monterey Jack cheese.  Or change it up with different toppings to go with the chicken.  Sounds like a winner to me!

How do you like to use leftover BBQ Chicken?

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7 Ways to Use Leftover Rice

How to Use Leftover Rice

Leftover rice is so versatile.  It’s one leftover you’ll be glad to have.  Here are 7 ideas for using it:

Turn it into Cheesy Rice

One of my favorite lunches growing up was cheesy rice.  We would could minute rice and add cheese, but it’s even better if you have long grain white rice or brown rice.

Heat the rice and add any kind of shredded cheese and a generous shake of black pepper.

Make Pizza Rice Casserole

Easy Pizza Rice Casserole

 

I used instant brown rice in this Pizza Rice Casserole, but you can also use leftover cooked rice.  This makes a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Make Chipotle’s knock-off Cilantro Lime Rice

Reheat the rice, add a splash of lime juice and a handful of chopped cilantro.  Serve it with any Mexican dish.  Here’s the recipe I wrote on the Savings Lifestyle blog.  I used basmati rice, but you can use leftover rice.

chipotle cilantro lime rice done

Make Freezer Burritos

Vary the filling according to what you have available, but this is a great way to use up leftover rice.

freezerburritosdone_thumb.jpg

Make Haystacks

Use taco meat or this slow cooker recipe for Sweet Korean Haystacks.  Either way is great!

Slow Cooker Sweet Korean BBQ Haystacks

Fry it!

Fried rice is easy and a wonderful way to clear out your fridge.  You can use up leftover rice, meats and veggies with this one.

fried rice new pic

Make a salad

Wild Rice or Brown Rice Salad is fantastic for lunches, picnics or as a side dish.

Wild Rice Salad - redeeming leftover rice

 How do you like to use leftover rice?

 

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Naturally Quick Foods – 15 Minute Meal Series

We’ve been talking about making 15 minute meals.  I’ve shared quite a few recipes, but there are lots of possibilities for quick dinners.  When you’re looking for a speedy recipe, there are a few types of foods that work great.

Build your meals from these items and chances are you’re going to have dinner ready in a jiffy.

Beans

I like to use canned beans – black, kidney, pinto, red beans, refried…  They’re all good.  Beans add protein to your meal and pair up with all kinds of other foods.

If you’d rather cook your own from dry beans, here’s a great recipe to use:

slow cooker beans for the freezer done

 

Slow Cooker Beans for the Freezer

Pasta and Couscous

pasta

Almost all pastas will cook in under 15 minutes.  I really like angel hair and fresh or frozen tortellini and ravioli because they cook in about 5 minutes.

Add a sauce, meat, cheese and veggies and you’ve got the makings of a quick meal.

Rice

rice

My favorite rice to use when I need a quick dinner is jasmine.  It cooks in just 15 minutes.  And it turns out great every time.  For some reason, I have trouble cooking other types of rice.  It either takes forever or stays crunchy or the water won’t absorb…  But jasmine rice never lets me down.

Eggs

brown eggs

Is it even possible to cook eggs for a long time?  There may be a few dishes (quiche comes to mind), but most egg recipes are very quick to make.

Add veggies, garlic, cheese and maybe some meat and you’ve got a great dinner.

Tortillas

Using tortillas is a bit of a twist on the old sandwich routine.  Wrap nearly anything in a tortilla, then grill it or bake it or fry it or…  The possibilities are endless.  Quesadillas, quick enchiladas, tacos.  Bonus – these dishes are crowd pleasers!

Migas is a quick meal that combines eggs and tortillas.

Migas my favorite egg dish

What are your favorite ingredients to use for quick meals?

 

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