I love the convenience of a slow cooker… but even more than that, I really do love the flavor that comes with cooking something for hours and hours. There is just something about it… the smell of the house when you walk in, knowing that there’s a wonderful meal ready to go.
The concept with ‘dump dinners’ is really quite simple… you spend one afternoon getting everything ready: wash and chop the veggies (best to avoid potatoes – they don’t freeze well), cook the odd thing that needs to be cooked (apparently onions, but only for some recipes), then dump the ingredients into the relevant freezer bags and pop in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. Magical, isn’t is? Anyway, here are 5 of my favorite ‘dump dinner’ classics…
1. Beef and veggie stew
- 2 pounds stew meat
- 1 diced onion
- 2 sliced carrots
- 1 sliced parsnip
- 1 large rutabaga (peeled and cut into cubes)
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons beef stock base or 3 bouillon cubes
Chuck everything into a large Ziploc bag, and freeze. When you want to make your delicious beef and veggie stew, pull your baggie out of the freezer, pop it into your slow cooker, add a cup and a half of water, and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. By the time you get home from work, you’ll have a perfect pot of stew.
You can serve this with rice or mashed potatoes, and a big hunk of crusty bread for the sauce.
2. Cranberry-Mustard Pork
- One (3-4 pound) pork roast (loin, shoulder or butt)
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown or Dijon mustard
- 1 diced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- zest and juice of 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Rub the meat with the mustard, then cover in the sugar and the other spices. Add in all the other ingredients and freeze until needed. When you’re in the mood for some delicious mustard pork, just open the freezer, crank up the crock pot, drop the whole lot in and let the magic happen! (No need for extra liquid, but if you’re feeling a little nervous, okay, go ahead, 1/4 cup of orange or cranberry juice…but don’t tell…) Again, 8 to 10 hours on low, and you’re ready to rock!
This is great served with mashed potatoes and some steamed greens. Personally, I love asparagus, but broccoli works just as well.
3.Lentil and butternut Squash Curry
- 1 diced onion
- 2 cups red or brown lentils
- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 1 large sliced carrot
- 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon curry powder,
- 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions: Chop the onion and butternut squash and add it to a large ziplock bag with the rest of the ingredients. Hide it in your freezer until you’re ready for lentil curry.When you add your frozen ingredients to the slow cooker be sure to remember the water. Add 4 cups at the start of the cooking process, and then check half way through if more water is needed. Lentils absorb a lot of water and the soup could get very thick. Cook for a total of 6 to 8 hours on low.
Serve with your favorite chunky bread, or go traditional, and enjoy with a delicious raita.
4. Chicken Cacciatore (i have an oven recipe for chicken cacciatore in my recipe section, so i had to include this one… )
- 1 pound chicken breast
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite tomato based pasta sauce will do)
- 1 can of whole Italian tomatoes
- 1 zucchini
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 sweet onion
Instructions: Chop the veggies and add everything into a large Ziploc bag and chuck it into the freezer until your ready to use it… simple 🙂 When you’re ready for chicken, (just pop it in the fridge the night before*), dump in the crock pot in the morning, and cook for 6 to 8 hours on low.
Again, chicken cacciatore is great with either mash potatoes or tagliatelle.
5. Meatball Veggie Soup (found at newleafwellness.biz)
- 1 pound small meatballs (store bought or homemade)
- 24oz jar of pasta sauce (about 2.5 cups)
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 cups green beans, ends cut off and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium-sized zucchini, ends cut off and cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
Add all the chopped ingredients and the meatballs and beans into a large freezer bag. Seal well and store safely in your freezer until you’re ready to enjoy. When you want to fill your family’s tummies with the wholesome goodness that is this delicious soup, remove it from your freezer, (thaw overnight in the fridge*), then plonk it in the crock pot in the morning. This soup takes approximately 8 hours on low, and requires no extra liquid.
Serve with lots of soft bread for dipping, or be a little different, and why not try dipping some bread sticks in?
* = optional
Some tips to remember when preparing crock pot meals :
- DON”T FORGET TO LABEL THE BAGS. Make sure to include the name of the recipe, cooking time, and any special instructions (adding liquid, etc.)
- Some people do prefer to thaw the bags out over night – I have seen people arguing both sides of the story… tit is really up to you if you decide to thaw or not…TO EACH HIS OWN, but it really doesn’t add very much time to the cooking process 🙂
- Any dairy, like cream or sour cream, for dishes like stroganoff, should be added in right at the end. If you add it too soon, it curdles.
- The bags can be frozen flat, but it does make it a little more difficult to fit them into the crock pot if you’re going to put your meal in frozen. In this case, it’s best to freeze your bags standing up, so that the shape is a little easier to get into the pot.
- Some pre-frozen veggies just seem to work better than freezing fresh. These include broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes.
I’m sure i’ve convinced you, so, if you don’t have a great slow cooker or crock pot, you NEED TO get yourself one ASAP! Amazon has an amazing selection, and their prices are surprisingly reasonable! You have to check out these babies out for yourself! My Favorites are these two…
Crock-Pot Cook’ N Carry
Elite Platinum Programmable Slow Cooker With Spill-Free Locking Lid
but here are a whole bunch more to choose from…
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