Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steph's Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti night is a favorite in many households including ours. This recipe is my go-to spaghetti sauce recipe. I've been making it this way for years. I add lots of veggies to my sauce because I like the flavor it gives the sauce, it makes it pretty with all the different colors, and it makes it healthier. If you have a favorite family sauce, make it in a large quantity and freeze it. I've had several friends ask me how I make my sauce, so here it is...

3 pounds ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
2 bell peppers, any color, diced
2 pounds sliced mushrooms
2 large carrots, diced very small
2 yellow onions, diced
4 - 5 garlic cloves, minced
2 - 3 zucchini, diced small
2 - 3 yellow squash, diced small
2 large (66 oz.) jars of traditional spaghetti sauce
2 tablespoons butter
Italian seasoning, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Write on 4 two gallon bags: Steph's Spaghetti Sauce, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low for 4 - 6 hours or heat on the stove until veggies are cooked. (You could easily leave this on low in your slow cooker for longer)
  2. Over medium-high heat, saute mushrooms in butter in a saucepan on the stove. I do this in one pound portions - mostly because of Julie Child and the movie Julie & Julia: "Don't crowd the mushrooms!" Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside to cool.
  3. Brown meat with onion, garlic and seasonings. I also do this in one pound portions. Once cooked, remove from pan and set aside to cool.
  4. Dice vegetables and distribute between the bags. 
  5. Distribute sauce between the bags.
  6. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.

Serving Ideas
  • Serve sauce over your pasta of choice. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese
  • Use it to make lasagna, baked ziti or serve over raviolis
  • Make Million Dollar Spaghetti - It's so good!
  • Use leftover sauce to make a sort of minestrone soup. What? Yes! Add chicken broth or water, green beans, white beans and small pasta - Boom! You've got soup!
Usually I will serve the sauce over pasta the first night and use the leftover sauce to make Million Dollar Spaghetti or our version of minestrone soup. I'm not good at eating leftovers, so I always try to reinvent them into something else.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Savory Pepper Steak

I found this recipe on Pinterest, which lead me to the Six Cents blog. I went ahead and cooked the steak before freezing it, but the original recipe did not require that. My round steak was frozen so I had to unfreeze it in order to cut it into strips. My Mom said that once a meat is thawed it should not be refrozen without being cooked. Why? I don't know. I didn't question my mom on this. She's a great cook and a smart lady. Her word is good enough for me.

By the time I remembered to take a picture of our dinner plates, it had already been gobbled up, so I ran out to my freezer to take a pic of the second bag. Not real pretty, but trust me, this meal is real tasty. We all loved it! My toddler son ate all of his and several bites from my husband and I's plates. He made yum sounds and clapped his hands. My husband loved it too. This is a real winner and I'll certainly be making it again.

3 pounds of round steak cut into ½ inch thick strips.
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Joe's Stuff  or your favorite seasoning
1 large onion chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2  16oz cans of Italian diced tomatoes
2 tbsp beef bouillon
4 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ofsteak seasoning
2 tablespoons of steak sauce
Cooked rice, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon freezer bags: Savory Pepper Steak, the date and the following instructions: Cook on low 4 hours if beef is already cooked or on low for 8 hours if it is uncooked. Serve over rice.
  2. Toss steak strips in mixture of flour, Joe's Stuff/your seasoning, and salt and pepper.  (At this point I cooked the steak strips in a skillet with olive oil. Then set it aside to cool before putting it in the bags)
  3. Mix together beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and steak sauce and divide evenly into two bags.  
  4.  Add remaining ingredients between the two bags.
  5. Press the air put of the bags and seal them shut. Lay flat in the freezer.

Tex-Mex Chicken with Beans

I can pretty much always count on Martha Stewart for recipes. I made a few changes and turned the original recipe into a slow cooker freezer meal. Also, I added extra seasoning, my favorite all purpose seasoning: Joe's Stuff. Use whatever seasoning you would for chicken or for a Tex-Mex dish. Taco seasoning would actually be really good here. In fact, I'm going to add some when I cook up the other bag. I have noticed that some of the slow cooker freezer meals can be a bit bland for our taste, so I've started adding in more seasoning.

1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 jar (11 ounces) mild or medium salsa (1 1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons mild enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons Joe's Stuff or your favorite seasoning - taco seasoning would be great!
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: †ex-Mex Chicken with Beans, the date, and the following instructions:   Cook on low heat for 8 hours. (Do not open lid or stir.) Remove chicken from stew; shred into large pieces and return to stew. Serve topped with sour cream.  
  2. Chop onion, cilantro and bell peppers - divide between bags
  3. Season chicken with salt, pepper and your choice of seasoning - divide between bags
  4.  Stir together beans, salsa, chilies, flour and 1 cup water - divide between bags
  5. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Anytime I'm at El Tequila in Tulsa and the lunch menu is available, I order chilaquiles. So when I stumbled upon this recipe while perusing through Cooking Light's list of their top slow cooker meals, I was excited and knew I had to make it into a freezer slow cooker meal. I adjusted the recipe by using chicken thighs, I used enchilada sauce instead of chipotles in adobo and I used shredded taco cheese instead of queso fresco. It's your dinner, so feel free to do what you want.

I am happy to report that the recipe turned out great. Our son even ate two helpings of it! This recipe makes 8 servings total, 4 servings per bag.

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
1 1/4 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup fat-free,lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons mild enchilada sauce
6 garlic clove, chopped or minced
2 (28-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
tortilla chips, for serving
shredded taco or cheddar cheese, for serving
sour cream, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: Chilaquiles, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low for 4 - 5 hours or until chicken is done. Then remove and shred the chicken, return to slow cooker. To serve: ladle over tortilla chips, top with cheese and sour cream.
  2. Chop onion, garlic, cilantro and bell peppers - divide between the two bags
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper or whatever you like - divide between the two bags
  4. Open cans of broth, tomatoes and green chilies - divide between the two bags
  5. Divide the cumin between the two bags
  6. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in the freezer.

12 meals, 6 recipes

I usually just make 2-3 recipes each weekend to slowly build up my freezer inventory. I assemble meals on the weekend so my husband can watch my son, but his work schedule has him busy the next two weekends, so I had to step up my game. Thank goodness for my mom. She helped me shop, chop, prep and bag meals this weekend. Dad and Grandpa did a good job entertaining our son.

We made Sloppy Joe's, Cajun Chicken with Sausage, Savory Pepper Steak, Chilaquiles, Tex-Mex Chicken with Beans, and Red Beans and Rice.

I've made Sloppy Joe's and Cajun Chicken with Sausage before but the other four are new. I hope they turn out to be yummy. I'll post those recipes as I try them in case I need to make adjustments or in case they flop entirely.

Sloppy Joe's

I love Sloppy Joe's. I just do. I love this recipe too, not only because it's delicious, but because it saves me on the days when I forget to throw something in the slow cooker. The beauty of this recipe is that you can warm it on the stove or in your slow cooker. The original recipe is courtesy of Pillsbury. I added a bottle of chili sauce to the Pillsbury recipe because it wasn't saucy/sloppy enough for our taste. 


3 lb. lean ground beef

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 (12-oz.) bottle chili sauce

1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 sandwich buns, split

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: Sloppy Joe's, the date, and the following instructions: Cook in slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours or warm through in a saucepan on the stove over low heat. Serve on split buns with a side of corn on the cob or other veg of choice.
  2. In large skillet, cook ground beef, onions,celery and bell pepper over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Cool. 
  3. Add all ingredients except buns to freezer bags. (Sometimes I freeze buns so I don't have to run to the store and have them on hand the day I make these)  
  4. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in the freezer. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Freezing Cookies

I love Pinterest! I came across a pin about freezing cookies which lead me to a blog explaining three ways to freeze cookies. Genius! So, on this chilly, rainy day Levi (my 1 year old son) and I decided to whip up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies and give it a shot. I'm not going to post the recipe because it's my best friend's family recipe, so it's not really mine to share. I'm sure just about any cookie recipe will do.

I followed the recipe to prepare the dough then dropped spoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Next, I placed them, uncooked in the freezer.

 I left them in the freezer for about an hour and then transferred the dough balls into a freezer bag. Now I can bake a batch of cookies any time I want without making a mess of my kitchen. I also went ahead and baked a batch so we could sample them. You know, just to make sure they're OK. And they were. Yum! After Levi ate one, he ran up and hugged me, so I'd say he liked them too.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Angel Chicken

I found this delicious recipe on Pinterest. It was posted on the blog, Cleverly Inspired. I have simply rewritten the recipe for slow cooker freezer meals. This one requires that you make the sauce first, then freeze it, but it's worth it - it's delicious!

Makes 2 gallon-sized freezer bags. It's enough to feed two adults and a toddler. I've also made it with 3 chicken breasts per bag and there was still plenty of sauce. Just crank your slow cooker to high for a bit to make sure the chicken gets cooked thoroughly.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1 8-oz. pkg. fresh button mushrooms, quartered
1 6-oz. pkg. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1/4 cup butter
1 0.7-oz. pkg. Italian dry salad dressing mix
1 10-3/4-oz. can condensed golden mushroom soup
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 of an 8-oz. tub cream cheese spread with chives and onion
Serve over: angel hair pasta

1) Write on 2 gallon freezer bags: Angel Chicken, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low for 5 hours or until the chicken is cooked. Serve over angel hair pasta.
2) Melt butter in saucepan, add Italian dressing mix.
3) Stir in soup, wine and cream cheese until it combines and melts, set aside to cool.
4) Clean and cut the mushrooms.
5) Put 2 chicken breasts in each bag. (I season the chicken at this point)
6) Divide sauce and mushrooms between the two bags.
7) Press the air out of the bag and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Taco Soup

My Dad called today looking for a taco soup recipe. Did I have one? Of course! He wanted to know if it was easy and good. I said, "Dad, it's Paula Deen's". Enough said.

This recipe is the very first thing I made as a married woman that tasted really good. Her original recipe calls for olives, but my husband hates olives, so we don't use them. It makes a ton so it's a perfect recipe to half into two freezer meals.

Image and original recipe courtesy of Paula Deen and Food Network

2 pounds ground beef
2 cups diced onion
2 (15.5 oz.) cans pinto beans
1 (15.5 oz.) can pink kidney beans
1 (15 1/4 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz.) can tomatoes with chilies
2 (4.5 oz.) cans diced green chilies
1 (1 1/4 oz.) package taco seasoning
1 (1 oz.) package ranch salad dressing mix
Serve with: Corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheese

  1. Write on two gallon freezer bags: Taco Soup, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low 6-8 hours. Serve with chips, sour cream and shredded cheese.
  2. Brown meat and cook onions in a skillet, set aside to cool.
  3. Divide canned goods, meat and seasoning packets between the two bags.
  4. Press the air of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cajun Chicken with Sausage

This is our ultimate favorite slow cooker freezer meal. I asked Mark to choose what he wanted for dinner tonight and I was not one bit surprised that he picked this one. I first made it for Fat Tuesday last year. I wanted to do something fun to celebrate, so I found a Cajun recipe and I brought home a mini king cake from Merritt's. I want to thank Google and McCormick for helping me with this recipe. This makes two meals by splitting the recipe in half between 2 gallon-sized freezer bags.

Cajun Chicken with Sausage fresh out of the freezer

1tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I use a little less because I'm a wimp)
1 package (14oz) turkey Kielbasa sausage, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced celery
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
4 bay leaves
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
2 cups instant white rice

1) Write on 2 gallon freezer bags: Cajun Chicken with Sausage, the date, and the following instructionsCook8 hours on low or 4 hours on high until chicken and vegetables are cooked. Remove chicken to a cutting board, dice it into bite-sized pieces, then return it to the slow cooker.  Add 1 cup instant rice to slow cooker, stir and cook on high for 15-20 minutes until rice is tender. Remove bay leaves before serving.
2) Chop onions, bell peppers, and celery - divide between the two bags.
3) Cut the kielbasa on a diagonal - divide between the two bags. 
4) Open the can of tomatoes, and measure out chicken broth - divide between the two bags.
5) Divide the seasonings (paprika, thyme, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper) between the two bags.
6) Put 3 chicken thighs in each bag
7) Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.  

Split Pea Sausage Soup

 Recipe and image courtesy of:

This soup is delicious! It's easily become one of our favorites. I modified the recipe to work for a slow cooker freezer meal. It make 2 meals. I split the recipe in half to fill two gallon-sized freezer bags.

1 pound dried split peas
10 cups water
1 package (14oz.) cooked turkey kielbasa, sliced
6 cubes chicken bouillon
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 package frozen potatoes. I use the Steam N' Mash cut russet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 onion, chopped

1) Write on 2 gallon freezer bags: Split Pea Sausage Soup, the date, and the following instructions: Add 5 cups water. Cook on high 4-5 hours. Remove bay leaf before serving. -->
2) Chop onion, carrot, and celery - divide between the two bags.
3) Cut the kielbasa on a diagonal - divide between the two bags.
4) Divide the frozen potatoes between the two bags.
5) Divide the seasonings (bouillon, garlic powder, oregano and bay leaves) between the two bags.
6) Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.  

My friend, the slow cooker liner

Thank you Reynolds for creating the Slow Cooker liner. The product's tagline: "Allows you to cook delicious homemade meals with no messy cleanup"pretty much sums it up.

So, if you live near me and you're at the grocery store, and all the slow cooker liners are gone from the shelf - I'm sorry. To us it's worth every penny to be able to quickly clean up dinner each night. If you haven't tried these, you're missing out.

How it all began

We brought our beautiful baby boy home from the hospital and were blessed to receive many meals and visitors. When the meals stopped and my husband returned to work, we started eating lots of take-out and fast food.
 Photo taken by Kristen Mackey

Our baby had silent reflux, was intolerant/allergic to every formula but one (which was a lengthy process), and he was labeled as colicky. I was getting 45 min. of sleep at a time - at most. We were in "survival mode." Pinterest helped keep me awake during late night feedings. This is where I first heard of Slow Cooker Freezer Meals. Life changing! I read through several blogs and thought, I can do this! So I did.

I followed this blog to the letter. I made the Vegetable Beef Soup, Healthy BBQ Chicken, and the Goulash. I copy and pasted the recipes to an excel spreadsheet and then started to group the ingredients into categories: produce, meat, canned foods, spices, frozen foods, etc. I took inventory of what I already had in my pantry, adjusted the list and then hit the grocery store feeling very organized.

When I returned home, I cleared everything from the kitchen table and got ready to assemble the meals. I had a big cutting board, knife, giant spatula to scoop/distribute chopped veggies into the bags, big bowl for garbage/scraps, gallon freezer bags, a sharpie, and a printout of my recipes. I wrote out the cooking instructions, the date it was prepared (most OK for 3 months) and what to serve the meal with on the bag with a sharpie. Then I proceeded to chop, measure and assemble the meals. I remember being skeptical of putting raw chicken in the bag, which seems funny to me now that I've done it at least 100 times since then - it's fine. Just do it. Lay the bags flat in your freezer so they take up less space.

On the day of cooking, break the bag up into pieces to get it to fit in your slow cooker. Speaking of slow cookers, I use a smaller one now since I divide the recipes in half. This is the one I have. It's 3.5 quarts, it automatically switches to warm and I love it! If the contents of your bag are frozen solid and you can't break it up easily, you can put it into the microwave at 30% for a few minutes. Of course, if you plan ahead (which I almost never do) you could lay it out for a bit to defrost before putting it into your slow cooker.

Slow cooker freezer meals have helped us break our take-out and fast food habit. We are eating healthier meals each night and saving money too.

I plan to share my my slow cooker freezer meal recipes, tips and strategies with you all through this blog. I've been making them for almost a year now and I've learned a lot - like you must use frozen potatoes and you can freeze tortillas, for example. I hope it can be a helpful tool for you and your family.