Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Crockpot Freezer Meals!

Hang on to your heads, folks. I know this is the post you have ALL been waiting for. ;) As many of you already know, a couple weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at preparing several crockpot freezer meals at one time. For those of you who don't know what those are, they are basically meals that you throw together in a big ziploc bag, and when you're ready to make them, you just thaw them out and throw them in a crockpot. Easy peasy! I've seen this concept many times on Pinterest but just never really felt that compelled to try it until recently. I think I came to the conclusion that I'd try it on one random Sunday when L was still in Arkansas and I was bored. I remember looking at Pinterest, seeing a bunch of recipes, and deciding at like 3:00 in the afternoon that it was a good idea to go to the store and do this whole process that night. Lucky for me, I had many of the necessary spices and ingredients on hand. Also lucky for me, many of the groceries I needed were on sale in the Cartwheel app! Use it people, I'm tellin' ya. I'm already up to $96 in savings. Aaaaaamazing. Anyway, I got home around 5:00 that night with all my groceries and started putting everything together. I think for 6-7 meals, it took me about 2 hours from the time I started to the time the bags of food were in the freezer. Not terrible, though I will admit I did have the, "What the 'f' was I thinking?" moment about half way through. ;) I'm super glad I did it, however, and while we've only tried one so far (chicken fajitas, yum!), I'd definitely go through the process again. Helps to have some time on a weekend to just dedicate to it, so then on those weeknights in the future, you can come home to a meal that's ready and waitin' for ya. It's a beautiful thing. In trying to figure out the best way to post this, I have struggled. Since I haven't tried all the recipes yet, I don't necessarily want to post all of my pictures because I don't even know if the recipes will be good or not. However, I would love to give you an idea of what and how I prepared so you can do the same if you so choose. There was no real rhyme or reason to my recipe choices; just thought they sounded good. You'll notice that most are chicken recipes, but there are plenty of other kinds out there if you have different interests. I'll show a few pics of my process, share the general recipes, and share a master shopping list. I am still trying to decide if I will do an individual post as I try each recipe, so stay tuned!

 All my labeled Ziploc bags!:)
 The majority of my ingredients. Yikes!
Another view. Yes, that is 4 giant bags of frozen chicken, ha.
6 pork chops (I used boneless)
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup chicken broth

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook in crockpot for for 4-5 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.

5-6 Chicken Breasts
1 cup diced green pepper (I just used one whole pepper)
1 cup diced red pepper (I just used one whole pepper)
2 cups diced mushrooms
1 tsp. minced ginger (I used about 1/4 tsp ground)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 bottle butter chicken sauce (I got mine at Target in the Asian aisle)

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
(I'm not sure I'll like this one as the butter sauce has a very strong flavor/smell. We'll see soon enough!)

5-6 chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
1 can diced tomatoes (14oz)
1 diced onion (I used frozen diced onions)
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 pkg. taco seasoning
3 Tbsp. sour cream (add when serving)
Serve over rice or wrap in a tortilla.

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook 8 hours on low, six hours on medium, or 4 hours on high.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
5 Tbsp. lemon pepper seasoning
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 lemon, sliced
1 tsp. parsley

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

(Tried this one and loved it!!! Will definitely be making them again!)

3 chicken breasts
2 green peppers, sliced
1 onion, sliced (I used frozen diced onions)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 taco seasoning packet
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Shred chicken and serve on tortillas.

(NOTE: Ours was quite liquidy, so in addition to what was in the crockpot, we made some rice on the side and added rice to the tortillas to help absorb some of the liquid. Amazing flavor! Also, the amount in the crockpot wasn't huge, so you could probably easily double this recipe depending on how many you are feeding.)

 Creamy Italian Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 dry packet of Italian seasoning

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Italian Sausage with Peppers and Onions
1 lb. Italian Sausage links
1 large pepper, sliced (I used green pepper)
1 medium onion (I used frozen diced onions)
2 cups diced tomatoes (I cut up a tomato rather than using canned diced)
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder

Place all ingredients in gallon-sized freezer bag; lay flat to freeze. Thaw 24 hours before cooking.
Cook on low for 6 hours or high for four hours.
(Recipe recommends serving on hotdog buns.)

All the bags of food! (The Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onions is not pictured in this photo since I had forgotten an ingredient and needed to prep and freeze that one a different night.)
Some of the messy aftermath, eeee! ;)

In case you are curious and want to try any or all of these recipes, I have created a master shopping list that I used when I went shopping. Knowing ahead of time what you need is obviously a major time saver with a big project like this! Just an FYI: I will include the whole shopping list that's required for these meals rather than the actual list I used to shop. Since I had some ingredients at home, I want to make sure you have a complete list! For what I bought, I spent somewhere between $80-90. Not too terrible in my opinion! Here's the list, and ask away with questions!

  • 6 pork chops (I got boneless.)
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage links
  • 23-24 chicken breasts (I had a few breasts at home and also bought 4 bulk bags of chicken at Target.)
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 4 green bell peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 cups diced mushrooms (I just got a package of pre-sliced mushrooms in the produce section.)
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (1 big tomato that I diced up was sufficient for me.)
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots (had leftover carrots and celery at home from making Chicken Wild Rice Soup:)
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 onions (I didn't buy these - I had frozen diced on hand.)
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger (I used 1/4 tsp. ground)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. sour cream (only necessary for topping chicken fajitas; optional) 
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 pkg dry Italian seasoning
  • Lemon pepper seasoning (5 Tbsp.)
  • Parsley (1 tsp.)
  • Chili powder (1 tsp.)
  • Paprika (1/2 tsp.)
  • Salt (1 tsp.)
  • Onion powder (2 tsp.)
  • Garlic powder (2 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 bottle butter chicken sauce (see picture above for a link)
  • 1 (32 oz.) carton chicken broth
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup salsa
Good luck!!! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Hearts Day!:)

As you are all painfully aware, the last month has been quite a tough and interesting one for me with L being in Arkansas and me being here. I have missed him like crazy, a little more with each passing day. You don't really realize how much of an impact a person has on your daily life until they aren't immediately there, so I certainly have come out of this even more appreciative of how lucky I am to have him. :) Anyway, lucky for me, he's finally home!!!!! He got back to town on Thursday evening (after having to stop on the side of the road and put on a spare tire since his tire blew, sad), and I almost cried when I saw him. I even said as I stared at him, "I almost forgot what you looked like!" We hugged for a VERY long time, possibly had a few kisses in there;), and immediately went into chatting like we had never stopped. I just love how 'easy' it is with him. While it felt like he was gone forever, once he got back, we just switched back into our normal routine and it was like he never left. So comforting! It was perfect timing for his return, because the next day was Valentine's day, and we haven't really been able to spend the actual day together before since we were always in different cities. I had to work that day, so it was a long, busy day of me wishing time away so I could get home and spend some real time with my babe! He picked me up from work, and much to my surprise, he was wearing a suit and had a bouquet of roses for me. I knew we were going to dress up for dinner, but I wasn't expecting him to be sporting his sexy black suit with a festive pink tie quite yet. I was grinning from ear to ear. I'm not one to obsess over flowers or things like that, but it's kind of rare for him (I don't mean that in a bad way), so it was a really sweet surprise. We got home and exchanged a few little things, and all of a sudden, he pulled a beautiful corsage out of the fridge that he had also gotten me. It was so beautiful! I don't know how he gets me so well, but he does, and I couldn't be more grateful for those 'little' things. He also got me an adorable card with a sweet handwritten message (I'll keep that to myself:), so that in addition to the dinner we went to was seriously a perfect Valentine's day. We ate at a restaurant down the street from us - it's called Oliva. It's Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, interesting mix! We always pass it and have never gone, but boy are we happy we did. It was fantastic! We had an appetizer, a great meal, and a nice bottle of wine. We were originally going to go to McDonald's afterwards for Shamrock shakes, but we were too full, so we opted out. Rest assured, I will still be getting one of those very soon! :) Anyway, we have been able to really just spend a lot of time together this weekend, which is exactly what I have been longing for. Just missed him to pieces and am so happy to have him back!! <3
 He is finally back!!
 If you can't tell, I was really happy! :)
 This is what he looked like when he picked me up from work on Valentine's Day. Um, hottie!! :)
 Enjoying a glass of wine next to my beautiful flowers!
My beautiful corsage! Felt like prom. :)
Blurry, but a glimpse at our outfits!
 Here's me wearing the crosage! There was more than one sweet couple eyeing us up at that table. I think they all couldn't help but smile and remember that they, too, were like us once. ;)
 If you look at the menu, our appetizer (the middle plate) was the Chaman. It was absolutely fantastic. We even took some home as extra because we couldn't stand the thought of wasting it!
 Our meals! I got stuffed shells and L got salmon wrapped in grape leaves. We were NOT disappointed! We are already talking about what we'll get the next time we go back. :)
 We were holding hands and chatting, and L didn't even realize I snapped this photo. I was just trying to get a pic of us holding hands while I was wearing the beautiful corsage, but it oddly looks like he's slipping a ring on my finger. Don't get too excited, folks. That didn't happen. ;)
Back home at the end of the night.
Hope you all had a GREAT Valentine's Day!! :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Crockpot Potato Soup

After a stressful few weeks at work, I can happily say that this weekend was perfect (minus L not being here, of course;). I got to explore the city a bit, I got to relax, and I don't feel a single ounce of stress about going back to work tomorrow. Not sure where the shift in mindset came from, but it feels SO good! Perhaps it's just me being happy that L will be back in 4 days (ahhhhh!:), but overall, I think I'm just getting a better handle on things in general, and when you can have a relaxing, productive weekend like I did, it just helps give some peace of mind. I'll share a few photos from my early weekend adventures, and I'll end with a potato soup recipe I made on Saturday. Stay tuned for another post soon about my crazy adventures today of preparing six crockpot freezer meals! That kitchen of mine and I are gettin' reallllll close these days. I think L might start to get jealous!;)
 My coworker Megan (left) and her new fiance Ilsa! Out celebrating with them this weekend!
Met up with L's sisters and sister-in-law yesterday for breakfast, a museum, and lunch. We had such a great day! Some evidence of that includes this delicious hot cocoa from Bradbury's!
 And cinnamon and sugar crepes. Mmmmmm.
 Still love seeing the Capitol!
 Had to have a bloody to snap me out of my hangover from the aforementioned night out!;)
 In love with the mini chaser that came with my bloody!
 Don't judge us for all ordering drinks while L's niece Dahlia was in tow. ;)

And now onto the Crockpot Potato Soup! (Original recipe here.)
 The ingredients!
 Throw your big bag of square hashbrowns into the crockpot. (I use a 6qt crockpot.)
 Add in the onions.
 And the cream of chicken soup.
 And the pepper.
 And the broth! (Just an FYI: I added a little more broth than the recipe called for since I read in the comments that some people thought it was too thick.)
 After the soup cooks for about 5 hours, cube up your cream cheese and throw it in the crockpot!
 Add in the cheese as well. 
(Sorry I didn't take one once it was all cooked up in the crockpot. My bowl below is as good as it gets!)
Num num!!

  • 1 bag (30 oz.) hash browns (The square kind is recommended.)
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth (That comes out to a little less than 4 cups; I used 5 cups total to address the issue of it being too thick that came up in the recipe's comments. As it cooked, I worried that I had used too much because it was rather liquidy, but it sure thickened up in the fridge later!)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions - (As usual, I used the frozen diced kind.)
  • 1/3 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 (8 oz.) block of cream cheese

  • Combine 1 bag frozen hash browns, 2 cans chicken broth (or however much you choose to use), 1 can cream of chicken soup, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and 1/3 tsp black pepper.
  • Cook in crockpot on medium for 4-5 hours. (I am still getting used to my crockpot, and I only have 'low' and 'high' options, so this timing didn't quite work for me. After 4 hours on low, nothing was really mixing together, so I put the last hour on high.)
  • Stir in cream cheese and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (I had an issue with the cream cheese not melting that well, so there were little small chunks of cream cheese still in there after an hour longer on high. Once I whisked it and got them mostly taken care of, I gave it a shot and it was pretty delicious.)
  • Top with cheese, green onion, and bacon crumbles (optional). 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Unncessary (but fun!) Purchases

Hey all! Hope you've been enjoying the weekend so far. I have had a really nice one, and at this point, I'm just avoiding the fact that I actually have to do some work from home before tomorrow. Ick. Anyway, on Friday night, I went to a Lia Sophia (jewelry) party. My aunt recently became an advisor, so her friend was hosting a party and I figured I might as well go for something to do. I found a couple pieces that I loved, but I found out that if I host a party, I can get those items for freakishly cheap, so that might be what I do! Get ready for some catalogs and party invites, people. ;) I left the party, and yesterday morning, I still kept thinking about this one necklace I fell in love with. It has kind of a beachy/tribal vibe, and there is something about it that I adore. Trust me when I say it looks even better in person! To cure my need for a jewelry fix, I decided to head to the mall yesterday and go to Charming Charlie's. Ever been there? If not, you don't know what you're missing! Don't judge them by their online selection, which I think is terrible. In person, they have an unbelievable amount of fantastic pieces. They have lots of amazing and sometimes over-the-top jewelry for pretty damn cheap. Their main focus is jewelry, but they also have purses, scarves, clothes, sunglasses, etc. Addicting! I came home with a bunch of pieces, and also some scarves from both there and a place called Dry Goods. I kinda have a scarf addiction at this point. Especially the infinity scarves. Mmmm. Love. All of this being said, I thought I'd show you some of the things I bought. Some of them are a little much for me, especially because I'm not a huge jewelry wearing person, but I still thought they were fun and could at the very least come in handy when L and I go to Florida again in May. (Our trip isn't booked yet, but as soon as he gets back from Arkansas, you best believe we're nailing it down. Can't wait to go again!) Hope you enjoy!
 Incredibly dorky pic of me, but this is that Lia Sophia necklace I have my eye on. :) Below are CC purchases.
 This one seems the most beachy and Florida-esque to me. I have a few shirts that would totally work with this! 
 This is the one I'm still not sure about. A LOT going on, but I think if it was paired with a simple shirt or something, it could be really pretty and eye-catching. And for $13, if I don't wear it often, big deal!
 I like this one (above) a lot. I think it's the one I'd be most likely to wear often.
 Just girly.
 Here they all are together.
Here are my awesome scarves. Love them!! I think the top two are my faves, but all still amazing.
 See how I could pair a simple tank with either that scarf or necklace?! Perfect. :)
 Took this selfie, and as you can see, the pic makes it look much more purple than blue. The picture with all the scarves in it is a much more accurate representation of the color.
Me and Aunt Gloria out and about, and of course, I had to sport one of my newly purchased items. :)