Crock Pot Meal Plan Review: Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

Well, it was bound to happen. My first flop. Okay, flop is a bit harsh. Let me just say this: I am not enjoying this and I have a TON of it.

This is the recipe:

Crock Pot Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 large carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1.5 cups chopped green beans (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups dry green lentils
  • fresh rosemary (the recipe didn’t specify an amount so I used about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put above ingredients into the freezer bag. Before cooking, add:

  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 64 oz. vegetable broth

Cook on low for 10 hours. Add additional broth if the soup is too thick after cooking.

Verdict? 2 out of 5 stars.

2-out-of-5-stars

You see that part about cooking on low for 10 hours? I probably should have tried that. I was short on time, so I cooked on high for an hour and then low for 8 hours. That should have worked but the lentils were crunchy. After 8 hours I tried to give it another hour or so. Better, but not great. The lentils are edible but not how they should be.

The flavor is fine but something is missing. It doesn’t taste bad. It is just not delicious.  It tastes like the healthy, vegetarian soup that it is. I am pretty much forcing myself to eat this for lunch this week but I have had enough. Even Max said “I no like this” and he loves sweet potatoes.

Oh, I reduced the broth (I used chicken). 64 oz seemed like way too much. I did around 45-50 oz. Maybe that is the problem. Or maybe raw lentils are not meant to be frozen.

I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes for this one because they are generally more flavorful. It didn’t help much (or did it?).

So now I have a ton of leftovers (the Knight is away this week, and the Little Prince won’t eat it. I could freeze it but I’m pretty sure I’d never defrost it. I hate wasting food.

Oh well, they can’t all be big hits. At least I didn’t waste expensive meat on this.

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Next day edit: I have been thinking more about this and I have a theory. When I put the contents in the slow cooker the lentils were not covered by the liquid. The bag contents were in one big frozen chunk. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.

Here is what I will do next time. I am going to break up the contents and ensure that everything is covered by broth. Also, per my friend Razak’s suggestion I am going to add cumin, paprika and maybe some cayenne. Stay tuned.

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Crock Pot Meal Plan Recipe Review: Salsa Chicken

The next recipe we tried was Salsa Chicken. This might be the easiest of the recipes.   Salsa Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 15oz jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can sweet corn drained & rinsed [I used frozen]
  • 1 can black beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

To serve, you can serve as is or shred.   What did we think? I’d give it 3 stars. 3-stars-out-of-5 But here’s the thing. I don’t really like chicken very much. I know, who doesn’t like chicken? I actually don’t mind chicken thighs, or fried chicken or other fatty chicken. I just find chicken breasts generally very unappealing. So keep that in mind as I review the chicken recipes.

I used a combination of breasts and thighs for all of the recipes because of our divided household. The Knight prefers chicken breasts.

The first night I shredded the chicken and served it over tortilla chips (I know, not terribly healthy, but I just wasn’t feeling like eating straight chicken). I added some grated cheddar, along with the corn and black beans and some of the juice from the crock pot.

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The second night I served it over brown rice with salad. I liked it better, but I’m not sure why.

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For lunch on the third day I put it in a tortilla with brown rice and cheese. This was my favorite of the three options.

The Knight wasn’t home to enjoy this. The Little Prince liked it just fine.

This made a ton so I wound up freezing three big bowls full for later, with one bowl for the next day’s dinner/lunch. I think this would be great over salad or rice, or in a tortilla.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Recipe Review: Beef Stew

The first recipe we cooked up was the beef stew. We skipped the freezer step, so I don’t exactly know how the raw potatoes would have done in the freezer (I will report back).

Here is the recipe:

 BEEF STEW

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 20 small red potatoes cut in ½ or ¼
  • 6 carrots, chopped [add more]
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth

Directions:

Put meat, flour & spices in the gallon freezer bag first & toss together to coat meat. Dump in rest of the ingredients & seal bag.

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The verdict? I’d give in 3.5 stars (out of 5). 

3-5-stars

It is a winner. All three of us enjoyed it. The flavor was good, but not fantastic. It needs something… I am going to experiment and see if I can improve it.

The beef came out super tender. The chunks (from Costco) were a bit large for me to eat without cutting.

As for quantity, this made enough for the three of us for dinner, plus three big bowls more. It probably would have fed us for two more dinners/lunches.

The recipe that I made was low on potatoes and carrots for my liking so the recipe I posted doubled the veggies in the recipe I posted.

If you make this, please let me know how you like it (and if you have any suggestions for zipping up the flavor). Enjoy!

 

Crock Pot Freezer Meal Plan

Hey look! It’s a post about cooking. It has been a while, I know.

I’ve been wanting to start doing some batch cooking for a while.  Big thanks to my friend Melissa for getting me going by sharing her recipes and the plan she developed. Using some of her recipes and ones I saved on my own from different sources, I came up with a plan. (I regret that I didn’t keep track of recipe sources to give proper credit. When I started compiling these recipes I never intended to develop a plan or share it.)

The idea morphed into making 18 crock pot-ready meals. (Yes, I have a huge freezer.) Nine different recipes, doubled. Everything chopped, measured, and prepped, ready to be frozen and then popped into a slow cooker. Note that there is no reason why you have to double these. Just adjust the shopping list accordingly.

Most recipes involve little to no additional work other than dumping the contents into a slow cooker and turning it on. A few involve adding pantry  ingredients in the morning or in the last 30 minutes of cooking. A couple require shredding the meat before serving. The goal is to keep this as simple as possible for those of us who are running out the door in the morning and have limited time to prep dinner in the evenings. Sound familiar?

We headed to Costco first for a huge load of meat and veggies. We like their organic chicken. We got a combination of boneless breasts and thighs (I like dark meat, the Knight likes white). We bought the onions, peppers, carrots, and frozen corn (to sub for canned corn), and broth/stock.

We picked up the rest of the ingredients at the commissary (and then to Harris Teeter the day we cooked for the forgotten ingredients). I purchase all of my spices from Penzeys, and headed there to get the taco seasoning (2 heaping tablespoons equal one packet). [Side note: If you don’t know about Penzeys, you have to check it out. Many years before they opened a local store I started ordering from them. Their stuff is high quality. I originally bought the 1/2 cup jars for most spices (1/4 jars for the lesser used ones). Now I buy the refill bags and keep the extra in my freezer. It works great and saves a lot of money! Trust me, you can tell the difference with these spices.)

Prepping was a pretty big undertaking. We spent about 2 hours in the morning and about 2.5 hours in the afternoon. This was with two of us working (well, 2 1/2, which slows things down quite a bit).

There is a lot of similarity in flavors of some of the recipes. Next time I will try for a little more variety next time. I will let you know how I feel about this as I get through the meals.

I am really excited about this little experiment. I will post reviews of each recipe as I cook it. For now, here is the plan (the shopping list is at the end). Note that each recipe is for one bag. The shopping list is for two of each recipe. Pantry staples and spices are not listed, except for things I didn’t have – like taco seasoning.

Unless the directions specify otherwise, you should dump the entire contents of the bag into the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. You could probably cook on high for 4 hours.

One final note: the recipes make a lot. At least 6 serving of each, some make 8-10 servings. I definitely plan to freeze some of the cooked food for later reheating.

The Recipes:

 Beef Stew

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 20 small red potatoes cut in ½ or ¼
  • 6 carrots, chopped [add more]
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth

Directions:

Put meat, flour & spices in the gallon freezer bag first & toss together to coat meat. Dump in rest of the ingredients & seal bag.

 

Beef Fajitas

  • 1-1/2 – 2 pounds flank steak
  • ¾ cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2-3 bell peppers, sliced (I used red, yellow, & orange)

When cooked serve with tortillas, cheese, etc.

 

Salsa Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 15oz jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can sweet corn drained & rinsed [I used frozen]
  • 1 can black beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

To serve, you can shred and put over chips/rice or just as is.

 

Taco Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can green chilies (pick which spicy level you like)
  • 1 envelope low sodium taco seasoning

[The recipe doesn’t state, but I’m thinking you could serve this in taco shells, on chips, or even in tortillas with rice and/or beans for a burrito]

 

Honey Sesame Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Toss meat, flour, salt & pepper into bag & toss together. Add remaining ingredients & seal up bag. Once cooked garnish with scallions and serve over brown rice or quinoa.

 

Crock Pot Barbacoa

For the freezer bag:

  • 1.5-2 lbs Beef Rump Roast
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2-4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
  • 1 container of chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours [These times don’t sound right to me.] Shred the meat (discard the bay leaf).

Then add:

  • 1 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 12-16 ounces can green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook 30-60 minutes longer on high.

 

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken
  • 8 ounces frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • t teaspoon pepper
  • 3 scallions chopped

Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning. Serve over rice. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream if desired.

 

Crock Pot Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 large carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped,
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1.5 cups chopped green beans (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups dry green lentils
  • fresh rosemary (the recipe didn’t specify an amount so I used about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put above ingredients into the freezer bag. Before cooking, add:

  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 64 oz. vegetable broth

Cook on low for 10 hours. Add additional broth if the soup is too thick after cooking.

 

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

  • 3-4 chicken breasts/thighs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen corn
  • 1 taco seasoning packet [or 2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chilies

A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. [The recipe didn’t specify, but I assume you are supposed to cook it a little while longer at this point.] Serve with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and/or sour cream.

 

 

Shopping List

Meat

  • 4 pounds beef stew meat
  • 3-4 pounds flank steak
  • 4-6 bell peppers
  • 26 pounds chicken (combination of breasts/thighs, to your liking – can do all of one or the other depending on your preference)
  • 4 pounds rump roast [They didn’t have rump roast at Costco so we substituted another cut – round something I think]

Vegetables

  • 16 carrots
  • 12 yellow onions (Costco sells a big bag of yellow onions that is plenty for this plan)
  • 1 red onion (I skipped this and used extra yellow onion)
  • 30 cloves garlic (around 3 heads)
  • 1-2 pounds mushrooms (optional – I used cremini)
  • 3 limes
  • 40 small red potatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6 scallions
  • 22 carrots
  • 8 stalks celery
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  •       Fresh rosemary (I couldn’t find any so I used dried)

Frozen

  • Frozen corn (1 big Costco bag or 4 regular bags)
  • Green beans (I medium bag – 3 cups)

Other

  • 132 ounces Chicken or Vegetable Broth (we got a case or organic stock at Costco)
  • 2 cups (I can) beef broth
  • 2 cups honey (Honey at Costco is in way too big a package)
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 16 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 6 cans black beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 4 cups dry lentils (I bag will work)
  • 8 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (I bought the case of organic diced tomatoes at Costco and just added green chiles to each recipe)
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 24 ounces tomato paste plus 2 tablespoon [Note, you can freeze leftover tomato paste in spoonsful on a sheet or in ice cube trays, then put the frozen portions all into a ziploc for future use)
  • 4 cans green chiles (extra if you plan to buy plain diced tomatoes)
  • 4 envelopes taco seasoning (I bought a bag at Penzey’s. Two heaping tablespoons = 1 packet)
  • 1 can chipotles in adobo (split for recipe)
  • 3-4 jars salsa