Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Communal Cooking Rocks! 12 HEALTHY prepare ahead and freeze crockpot meals

I ran across a blog recently that featured 12 easy and healthy Paleo-ish crockpot meals.  This really peaked my interest with our family's absolutely insane schedule since school has started. I have started using my crockpot and have been searching for some new recipes.  And, since our family adopted a new philosophy on eating based on the Primal way of eating, which is similar to the Paleo diet, but we get to keep dairy in our diet (yay!).  A few days after I saw the blog post, I was having coffee with two friends and they were saying that they too had been considering dusting off the old crockpot (come on, admit it, you only use yours in the wintertime, dontcha?) a little early due to their busy schedules. I brought up the blog I had seen and we talked about getting together and doing all the prepwork together so that we could have a freezer stocked with meals that would only require grabbing a bag and tossing it in the crockpot and then we could come home to a tantalizing smell and delicious meal all ready to dish up!
We discussed that prices on meat are good at Costco and produce is priced really well at a local grocery store called Vallarta. So, instead of each of us visiting three different stores, we split up the list.  I took the non-produce and non-meat items, Em took the produce, and Mir took the meat. We all giggled at the checkout clerks and the strange looks they gave us when we were purchasing such huge amounts of seemingly randomn things.  I mean, really, what family needs that many canned goods, not to mention that many HUGE cans of diced tomatoes?

Then, on Sunday afternoon, we gathered at my house with a pile of groceries - I mean PILE!  It truly looked like we were ready for a Zombie Apocalypse!
This is just my part of the grocery list.

We had decided to follow the grocery list provided on the Graciously Saved website, and to prepare her 12 recipes, just as they were.  We discovered that there were a couple of curious things about the grocery list, and a couple of things that we would do differently the next time, but I will go over that at the end of this post.
The meals are to be prepped and then bagged into freezer storage bags that you have written the basic cooking instructions on in Sharpie.  I was excited about getting started, so I started writing on all of the bags about an hour before the girls came over. Well, thank goodness I did, because it took every bit of that hour to write on all 36 bags!  Note to self, make those girls write on their own bags next time - what a hand cramp! ;)  (Only kidding!)

Now... for what you have all really been waiting for... the Recipes!

Taco Chili

1 lb. cooked ground beef
1 medium onion chopped
1 can corn drained
1 can black beans drained
1 can navy beans drained
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 small can diced green chiles
1 package taco seasoning

Directions: Place all ingredients in freezer bag and freeze until ready. 

Write on bag: 1 can diced green onions, shredded cheese
   1. Thaw slightly, place in crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. 
   2. Serve with shredded cheese, chopped green onions and fritos.

* Note about this recipe: I searched my grocery aisle for canned Navy Beans and couldn't find them. So, we substituted Cannelini Beans instead.  Also, clearly this recipe is not Paleo because of the corn and beans, and pre-packaged seasonings are typically not Paleo. You can try your normal Paleo substitutes or skip this one. However, I was able to find gluten-free Taco Seasoning mix, so that was nice.

Thai Chicken Wings with Peanut Sauce

2 lbs. chicken drumsticks or wings
1/2 cup bottled salsa
1/4 cup Peanut Butter (almond butter for Paleo)
3 T lime juice
3 T soy sauce
3 T water
2 T freshed chopped ginger
1/4 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic chopped

Directions: Place all ingredients in bag and freeze until ready to cook. 

Write on bag:
   1. Thaw slightly and place in slow cooker. 
   2. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

* Note: for this recipe, we used drumsticks and almond butter. Have you tried almond butter yet? Yummo!

Crockpot Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions

1lb. Italian Sausage Links
1 large green pepper
1 medium onion
2 cups diced tomatoes
2t. onion powder
2t. garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in freezer bag and freeze. 

Write on bag:
   1. When ready to cook, place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours or   
       high for 4 hours.
   2. Can serve on warm hot dog buns or serve with salad, like we will:)

White Chicken Chili

2 T. olive oil
1 T corn starch
1 medium onion chopped
1 can chopped green chilis, drained
2 cans white beans (drained)
2 t. cumin
2 t. chili powder
1 lb chicken tenders
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Place all ingredients except chicken stock in large freezer bag, toss to coat and freeze. 

Write on bag: 2 cups chicken stock
   1. When ready, place ingredients in slow cooker, add chicken stock and cook on low for 4
       5 hours. 
   2. Remove chicken, shred & return to crock pot. 
   3. Serve with warm cornbread (or not:))

**Note about this recipe: Mir made this one last night and noted that 4-5 hours on low wasn't long enough for her chicken to be cooked through. Of course, all crockpots seem to cook differently, so you may have to compensate for your crock pot!  

Honey Sesame Chicken

1 lb chicken tenders
3 T olive oil
1 cup honey
2 T sesame seeds
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper

Place all ingredients in freezer bag, toss to coat and freeze. 

Write on bag:
   1. When ready, place in crockpot and cook on low for 4-5 hours. 
   2. Remove chicken & shred, and then return to sauce.
   3. Can serve over hot cooked rice or serve as lettuce wraps..

* Note about this recipe: I made this one last week, before we did our communal cooking, and my schedule forced me to cook it a bit longer than 5 hours and the chicken was totally over-cooked.  Bear in mind that my crock pot seems to cook hot, so I probably really over-did it.  The flavor was awesome, but the chicken was super dry! Still edible with lots of the sauce though!

Teriyaki Chicken

1 lg bag of carrots
1 red onion cut in chunks
2 lg cans of pineapple (undrained)
4 garlic cloves
4 chicken breasts
1 cup teriyaki sauce

Mix all items together. Split between 2 bags, lay flat and freeze

Write on bag: 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
   1. When ready to serve add ¼ cup teriyaki sauce to crock pot.
   2. Cook on low 8 hours-can serve over rice or lettuce

* Note: She didn't specify about the pineapple, so we opted for chopped pineapple as opposed to crushed or rings. Also, we used 4 carrots.

Crock Pot Beef Stew

1 large onion, diced
1 ½ lb lean stew meat, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 cups water
2 tsp beef bouillon or 2 cups beef stock
1 ½  cups V-8 juice
⅓  cup barbeque sauce
3 clove of garlic
1 lb carrots cut up
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional- bunch of celery

Add onion, meat, water, beef bouillon, V-8 juice, BBQ sauce, and garlic clove into your freezer bag.

Write on the bag: 4 medium potatoes (cut in 1 inch cubes-omit for Paleo)
   1. Dump contents of the freezer bag into your crock pot.
   2. Add 4 medium potatoes, cubed.
   3. Cook on high 6-7 hours or low for 8-9 hours.

*Note: we did add the celery and the potatoes. I figure I just will not eat the potatoes, but my kids will appreciate that they are in there. We added only a few stalks of celery.

Southwest Chicken

1 can of corn, drained
1 can of black beans, drained
1 16oz jar of salsa
3-4 chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)

Add the corn, black beans, salsa, and chicken to the ziploc bag.

Write on the bag: 1 (8oz) brick of cream cheese

   1. Dump ingredients into the crock pot. Cook on high for 6-7 hours and low for 7-8 hours.
   2. About 30 minutes before the meal is going to be served remove and shred the chicken.
   3. Cut up the cream cheese into chunks and add to the crock pot with the chicken.
   4. Serve over rice/lettuce. You can also top with shredded cheese-non-PaleoJ!

Crock Pot Cheeseburger Soup
1 pound ground beef, browned
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon pepper
3 cups beef broth
4 cups diced potatoes (skip for Paleo)
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine the beef, onion, pepper, spices, tomatoes, broth and potatoes in bag.

Write on bag: ¼ cup flour (almond flour=Paleo), 1 cup milk (almond milk for Paleo)
   1. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
   2. About 30 minutes before it is time to eat, combine the flour and milk. Whisk until no   
       lumps remain. Stir into soup. Add cheese and stir again. Cover and cook until soup is 
       thickened…about 30 minutes.

Low Fat Mexican Fiesta Chicken

4-5 Chicken Breasts
1 Package Taco seasoning
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup Water
1 Can Diced Tomatoes no salt added
1 Cup Frozen Corn
1 Can Black Beans rinsed and drained

 Place chicken in freezer bag, mix the taco seasoning in a bowl with oil, vinegar and water, pour over chicken. Add in tomatoes, corn, and beans.

Write on bag: 1 Cup Minute Rice or Barley
   1. Cook on LOW for about 4-5 hours or until chicken can easily be cut in half or shredded,
   2. Remove chicken and add rice or barley into slow cooker and stir, then add chicken and
      stir again, cook for an additional 20-45 minutes longer on LOW. The rice will need to 
      cook about 45 minutes and the Barley only 20-30 minutes
   3. Add additional water if needed with the rice or barley. Serve with shredded cheddar
      cheese on top. 

*Note: I made this one last night. I checked the chicken at 5 hours and it wasn't cooked.  So, you will need to adjust the cooking time based on how your crock pot cooks.  Also, I skipped the part about adding rice or barley. I served it to my kids over rice, and they didn't want the rice to be added next time. Also noteable, my kids rarely eat "seconds" of anything. They ALL ate seconds of this dish! Success!  I topped it with a dallop of sour cream, and chopped avocado - delish!
Spinach and Salsa Chicken
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 cups of salsa (or Pico de Gallo)
Frozen bag of spinach (I usually use 1/2 the bag, but you could use more or less)
1 to 2 tablespoons of Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning

Directions: Place all items in freezer bag, you can add or wait for the spinach

Write on bag:
   1. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4.
   2. Shred the chicken and mix together with the spinach.
   3. Serve on whole-wheat tortillas, over rice, or even over a salad for a healthy Paleo meal!

*Note: we used the store brand of the garlic and herb seasoning instead of Mrs. Dash.

Crock Pot SW Flank Steak
1-1/2 lbs. flank steak
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3 cups hot cooked rice

Directions: Trim excess fat from steak. Place onions and garlic in bottom of freezer bag and top with steak. Mix salsa, oregano, chili powder, salt, and pepper in small bowl and pour over meat. Top with drained black beans.

Write on bag:
   1. Cook on low for 7-9 hours until meat is tender
   2. Remove meat from slow cooker and slice into thin strips against the grain.
   3. Turn heat to high and return beef to slow cooker until ready to serve

*Note: We did not add rice to this dish.

Grocery List:
As I said before, we followed the Graciously Saved grocery list, and was super glad to have it for our first endeavor in communal cooking. However, we struggled a bit with how to multiply the list by our 3 families. Sad, I know, but with pre-packaged stuff, it was a tiny bit more challenging than simply adding by 3.  So... we had a few missteps - namely purchasing three bottles of bbq sauce when we really only needed one, and over-estimating how much chicken we were going to need!  But, no big deal, we can manage with that. Also, on her original grocery list, you find Italian Salad Dressing Mix, and darned if we could find a recipe that called for it!  Also, we purchased the spices, as we didn't pool our brainpower or pantries to determine what spices we already owned. So, we probably wouldn't have needed to buy any of those things!
Still, when all was said and done, we were able to shop for 12 meals for each family at an overall cost of $134.89 per family, and only $11.24 per meal!  And, that is in California, where I find groceries (like everything else) are more expensive than in some other parts of the country!

So, I am including a grocery list for you below that is broken up into how we split up the shopping. I have already figured out the total ounces of canned goods needed, as I found while shopping that the larger cans and containers were cheaper - and took less room in the shopping cart! Don't forget that you will have to multiply the amounts by how many families participate in your communal cooking.

6 medium onion
2 limes (for juicing)
fresh ginger
12 cloves garlic
2 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
8 carrots
1 red onion
1 bunch celery
2 potatoes

2 lb. ground beef
2 lbs. chicken drumsticks or wings
1 lb. Italian sausage links
2 lb. chicken tenders
16 chicken breasts
1 1/2 lb lean stew meat
1 1/2 lb flank steak

Non-produce/Non-meat items:
28 oz canned corn
56 oz canned black beans
14 oz canned navy beans
8oz canned tomato sauce
72 oz canned diced tomatoes
8 oz canned diced green chiles
8 TBSP taco seasoning
52 oz salsa
1/4 cup Peanut Butter (or almond butter)
28 oz canned white beans
8 oz honey
28 oz canned pinapple
8 oz teriyaki sauce
40 oz beef stock
12 oz V-8 juice
3 oz BBQ sauce (We used Sweet Baby Ray's - yummy)
8 oz frozen corn
1/2 pkg frozen spinach
2 TBSP garlic and herb seasoning

Items you should check your pantries for:
11 TBSP soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
7 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP cornstarch
2 tsp cumin
4 tsp chili powder
3 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBSP sesame seeds
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp oregano
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
36 freezer storage ziploc bags (gallon size)

Items to serve with (some are optional so read the recipes!):
diced green onions
shredded cheese
Hot Dog Buns
Cream Cheese
Whole wheat tortillas

I also recommend that you print out a copy of all of the recipes for each family. This makes the prep work session so much easier - and also I noticed that when I pulled my baggie out of the freezer and ran warm water over it to release the ingredients into the crock pot, some of the sharpie writing had rubbed off the outside of the bag, so I needed to reference the printed recipe to make sure I was doing it right.  I thought Sharpie never wore off anything!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Favorite Things Friday - Toothbrushes and Mouthwash

 Today, we are going to tackle Oral Hygiene.  Okay, not really, but I did want to share two of my favorite new things that have to do with Oral Hygiene.  It is not unusual for me to use the same toothbrush forever. I mean, until the bristles fall out and it is FUNKY.  Why do I do this? I have no idea.  But, when I was at the drugstore the other day, I decided to pick up a new toothbrush.
I usually pick out a toothbrush based on color. Isn't that the way we always did it as a kid at the dentist's office? The hygienist asks  you what color you want, and you pick from the three toothbrushes they are holding outstretched in their hands.  If you were lucky, one of the three is your favorite color. And if you weren't lucky, you were stuck using the ugly toothbrush for the next 6 months until your next dentist's visit.
I didn't pick based on color this time. I chose one that looked cool. This one looks like serious business. It looks like plaque is no match for it.  It looks like maybe, just maybe, after brushing, I will feel a little bit like I just left the dentist's office with nice, clean-feeling teeth!
Guess what - it is the best toothbrush I have ever used. I love it. If you can say that you love a toothbrush.
Colgate 360 Sensitive Pro Relief

My other favorite item is Tom's Mouthwash.  I have never been a mouthwash fan. Basically, I think it tastes awful. And the awful taste stays with you.  I picked up this bottle of Tom's the other day at Sprouts.  I love it. Why did I choose it specifically?  What can I say, I chose it because it says "wicked fresh". And, it is. It tastes great, and it works. And you don't feel like you gargled with something full of alcohol and chemicals. Ewww.  It is fresh. Wicked Fresh! ;)

Friday Funny


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Project of the Day - Tupperware Cabinet

 Maybe you have a gorgeous, perfectly organized tupperware cabinet. I do not. Mine is a disaster. All the time. Today, I am going to try to tame the chaos.  We will see how that goes!
Here is the before picture:
There is a lot of stuff crammed in there. There are a few small appliances, some can coozies, and lots and lots of plastic containers and lots and lots of lids. Maybe, just maybe, some of them go together. Maybe.

The first thing I did is to empty the cabinet:
I ask you... does anyone really need this many plastic containers? If everything in my refrigerator was neatly contained in one of these AND Martha Stewart came over to my house to neatly place all the containers into my refrigerator, I would still have lots of leftover containers. Easily.

The next thing I did was to separate the containers from the lids. Then I organized the containers by shape - round, square, and rectangle.

Then, I paired each container with the matching lid. If there was no lid to match, the containers went into a pile. At the end, all lids that hadn't matched up with a container went into the same pile. I made one last ditched effort to pair up anything in that pile. No luck.
The above picture is the pile that had no match. This, my friends, is why my cabinet was so jumbled up and it took an act of Congress to find a lid and container to put my leftovers in each evening after dinner.
I found in the cabinet, half of an Easter egg. Doesn't everyone need a half of an Easter egg in their tupperware cabinet.

Next, I nestled all the of the containers inside other containers to save space, placing the coordinating lid directly beneath the container it goes with. Then, I put everything neatly back into the cabinet. Surprise! Surprise! Everything fit neatly in the cabinet.
Everything is easily accessible and each container is paired with the lid that fits. Putting away leftovers will be a breeze!!

Go - clean out your cabinet - you will be sooooo happy. I promise!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Room Mom? Valentine's Day Class Party Ideas!

Being a room mom for many years for my girls, I am always on the look-out for great class party ideas!  I ran across these and saved them for later... maybe you can use them too!

When it comes to party planning, nobody does it better than One Charming Party. Here is the Valentine class party they shared on their blog - awesome!

This site shares party hat ideas from paper plates - for every holiday!

I know I shared Bingo the other day, but I had to include it here since Bingo is my go-to class party game if there is extra time!

For older classrooms, these Mad Libs are perfect!!

Make and Takes is a great blog with tons of good ideas - she pooled together these great Valentine class party ideas:

Letter Match - pair up upper and lower case letters - great for lower grades!

Heart Lei made with yarn, straws and hearts!

Giant Tic Tac Toe - use posterboard and handmade felt hearts for the playing pieces. Make a few and you can have 4-6 kids playing at a time!

Three pipe cleaners and each kid gets a new pair of glasses to take home!

Put these together and the kids can put theirs together and then trade with another student for even more fun!


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Even MORE Valentine Goodness!

 I think these would be great for the girls' teachers! We actually own the donut hole maker, so that would work!  She even includes printable labels!

What a neat idea this is - put a heart on your children's bedroom door each day with something nice about them. Start on February 1st and by Valentine's Day, they have a door full!

Love this idea! I wonder how much tic-tacs are at Costco? 

How neat are these Danish Heart Baskets? Love!

My next Valentine post will be filled with class party ideas!

Monday, January 28, 2013

More Valentine Goodies for you to Enjoy!

 Free Printable Valentine Bingo!

Aren't these paper candy hearts the best ever?

Did you realize how easy it is to make regular cupcakes into heart shaped ones? I didn't, but I do now!

How neat is this paper heart wreath

More valentine sharing in the next few days!