Crockpot freezer kits, part two….

A few weeks ago, I posted about crockpot kits for the freezer, and a few folks on Twitter really took it on board! Now they’re asking for more recipes, so I thought I would share a few more kits…

Beef stew…. In the dry bag: carrots, mushrooms, onions, celery. In the wet bag: stew beef, beef broth, garlic, herbs, Worcestershire sauce. Add some potatoes when starting the crock, and stir in some frozen peas right before serving. For a creamy stew, add a can of cream of mushroom soup

Asian chicken thighs…. In the dry bag: carrots, chopped cabbage, onion. In the wet bag: boneless skinless chicken thighs, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce (optional). If you have some, stir in some bean sprouts and bell peppers right before serving, and serve with rice or noodles. This one is also nice with a couple of pork tenderloins

Chicken cacciatore…. In the dry bag: onion, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini. In the wet bag: boneless skinless chicken thighs, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (optional), garlic, basil, a pinch of rosemary, salt and pepper. Add a sprinkle of crushes chiles if you like it spicy! Serve with pasta and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Freezer Mashed Potatoes!?!

I had a strange experience when shopping for a client yesterday. I needed just a few potatoes for a pan of scalloped potatoes.  Here were my choices: loose potatoes for $1.29/lb (I’d need at least 2lb, so let’s say $3 worth), a 5lb bag for $3.99 or a 10lb bag for $2.99 (!?!)  Of course I bought the 10lb bag. I know I’ll need them next week for something. But still….

There are not many foods you can’t put in the freezer – salad is one that springs to mind…  But for a long time, I thought mashed potatoes were on that list, too.  Then I found a strategy that I’ve been using successfully for many years now.

All you have to do is add sour cream or cream cheese to your mashed potatoes, and they will freeze beautifully.  So if you have three-quarters of a bag of potatoes that are just about to grow roots, get out a big pot, boil ‘em up, mash ‘em and fill the freezer.

A few tips for this so-called recipe…

Unless you have very squeamish kids or really tough potatoes, don’t bother peeling them (the potatoes, not the kids).  All the good stuff, the fibre and the vitamins, is in or near the skin, plus it is easier and takes less time.  I like to buy thin-skinned Yukon Gold potatoes.  You don’t have to peel them, they cook up nicely and their yellow colour makes everyone think there is lots of butter in them, even when there isn’t.

For this recipe, cook the potatoes until they are very tender, almost falling apart.  This makes them mash more easily and smoothly.  Add butter, salt and pepper or whatever you usually add.

Then add about ½ cup of sour cream or cream cheese for each 4 cups of potatoes.  This is just a guideline, though.  You can make them “looser” by adding some extra milk or broth, but do this only after you’ve added some sour cream or cream cheese.  You can also add milk after you thaw them if you want them more spreadable to put them on shepherd’s pie or something like that.

When you thaw the potatoes, you might think they’re ruined.  They may be soggy-looking or grainy or watery…. DON’T WORRY!  This is OK.  Just heat them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and stir vigorously, then let them sit for 1-2 minutes.  The potatoes will re-constitute themselves and look appetizing again.  Repeat this process if they are not heated through or don’t want to come together.

When I am making a big batch of mashed potatoes – like that time I couldn’t resist the 50-pound bag for $3.99 – I use my sturdy KitchenAid mixer to mash them.  A smaller batch might be a good workout for what I recently heard termed “bingo wings”, those flabby tricep muscles that us ladies over 30 prefer not to talk about…

These potatoes are another weapon in your arsenal for streamlining  meal planning – combine with slow-cooking and great supermarket finds, and dinner will come together in a flash.  Put a roast in the crockpot, pull a bin of mashed potatoes out of your freezer stash, serve a bagged salad with a home-made salad dressing, and you have a fabulous meal on the table in ten minutes!

I love it when a plan comes together….

Cream of Tomato Soup

If your garden is like mine, you’re about to be overtaken by tomatoes.

Make this rich soup and freeze it to take advantage of the freshness of homegrown or market fresh tomatoes.

For a more refined soup, peel the tomatoes before cooking.  To do this, impale each with a fork and hold them in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Cut the skin carefully into four and peel with the edge of a knife.  Don’t worry if there’s a tiny bit of peel still left.  Leaving the skins on will make a more rustic soup.

In a pot, put: 3-4 large tomatoes

Water or broth to cover

If using water, you may choose to add 1-2 boullion cubes

Simmer until tomatoes are just cooked.  Puree in a blender or use an immersible one right in the pot.

Add heavy cream until you like the looks of it, or until your arteries threaten to harden in protest (ie. as much as you want).

Puree again, making sure you’ve blended all the chunks.

Freeze for up to 6 months.  To use, thaw in fridge 24-48 hours and heat in microwave or saucepan.

Stir vigorously to recombine the soup into its smooth state.

Let’s Tidy Up! It’s Tidy-Up Tuesday…

This is my first time participating in Tidy-Up Tuesday, a weekly event on my friend Sara’s blog. My favourite room in the house is the kitchen, followed closely by the pantry, which may or may not be considered a room (I now *kind of* have one, a closet near the kitchen, but not it in. It is my dream to someday have a proper one, right in the kitchen), so that’s what I’ll be talking about tidying.

An organizing store recently opened in my neighbourhood, and I was excited. Then I got their flyer. Holy expensive! I realized I was not even on the same planet as that store. My pantry is organized using several cheap and free items. My dry beans live in a sturdy cardboard box that came home with us from Costco one time and that I cut down to size, and any bagged or cellophane-packed pasta stays tidy in a dollar-store plastic dishpan. I have one of those skinny deep pantry cupboards, so keeping things in these containers means I only have to drag out one box instead of seventeen bags when I want to get at the items at the back.

I did buy some “spice bleachers” and a little basket at the organizing store, but managed to keep my total under $50(!)  A girl needs to treat herself now and then…