long ago i spoke of my love of casseroles, how i think they are a wonderfully perfect food. they are easy to prepare, make ahead, throw them in the oven, and all ready for dinner. they almost stress-free to make, and personally i think they're delicious. unfortunately, my kids enjoy eating all their food separately, and therefore do not share my love of casseroles.
there is another style of food i love for dinner, one that is easy to make ahead, one that i can pull out of my freezer and heat up, one that helps keep supper time stress free. i am now talking about my new found love of crock pot meals.
i used to make food all the time in my crock pot. i even have a much loved, falling apart cook book filled with different crock pot recipes. and then, as my boys got older, i stopped. like i've mentioned, they like to eat all of their food separately, spread across their plate in neat piles, eating one kind of thing at a time before moving onto the next. crock pot meals cook everything together, so it's not always easy to separate into different components. and so, for the exact same reason as casseroles, my boys don't like them. and because i got tired of all the complaining, i stopped making them.
lately, though, i've seen all sorts of links and site and talk about crock pot meals. and not just regular crock pot meals, but make ahead meals. these are recipes that allow you to throw everything into one bag, pop it in the freezer, and pull it out at a later date to cook when things get really busy. some recipes are even complete meals, no need to make mashed potatoes or pasta or rice as a side.
i personally think that's a brilliant idea for a couple of reasons. using these make ahead and freeze for later meals means not only do i have dinner for a night where i don't have much time to make anything, it also means that i have something to cook when i don't really have any ideas of what to make, because it's already done for me. also, because these are crock pot meals, it means that i can start it in the late morning, go and be busy for awhile, and still have a yummy dinner all ready and waiting when we need it. the extra bonus of cooking it in the crock pot is that if we are running late, an extra hour cook time doesn't mean a ruined meal like it would if it was a dinner in the oven. an extra benefit i found when preparing these freezer meals is that i was able to make them now when the protein i was using was on sale, so it's even more economical than saving the recipe and making it later.
so yes, today i made 12 meals for future use, all bagged and tagged and stored in my deep freeze. i went through a couple of different sites, picking out the recipes that i thought my family would like best. still, i know i'm going to hear some complaints about how everything is all mixed together, but with three kids it's very rare that i don't have at least one complaining about something i'm forcing them to eat, so i'm not that worried about it. these crock pot meals might just turn out to be my new favorite thing.
right behind chocolate cake.