One of my struggles is having something ready to eat at the end of the day. Crazy for a food blogger to admit. Even more so, when you realize my commute from my workplace to my kitchen is literally ten feet. It should be easy for me to just pop in the kitchen and whip something up, but it doesn’t always happen.
This topic came up on a recent trip to visit my daughters in Oklahoma. They told me they were dealing with this problem in their life, too. [Their commute is much longer than mine.] Work zapped all their energy, leaving them uninspired when it came time to cook. Fast food was taking its toll on their bank account and on their health. And eating on the fly was not allowing them to sit down, relax, and reconnect with their families.
I mentioned once-a-month cooking, but they needed something that took less prep and could go directly in the slow cooker from the freezer. With a little research, we found what are called dump dinners. They are just what the name implies. Dump all the ingredients into the crock pot, set the timer, and voila’ dinner is ready when you return home. The beauty of these meals is that with a little time and planning, you can have a few packaged up in the freezer, ready to go.
Before our visit was over, the girls had some in their freezer. All they had to do each morning was put them in the slow cooker, set the time and temperature, and go. They have since reported back saying how much they enjoyed them. One added benefit—they loved walking into the house after a long day to the smell of home-cooked food. They felt spoiled, and hoped more dinners would find their way into the freezer the next time I came to visit. Lol!
Now that I am back home, I have been testing some recipes for myself. This week we enjoyed Pesto Ranch Chicken [See recipe below.] It was delish and oh so easy. I shared on social media what I was doing and it seems there is a lot of interest in having meals with little to no prep and can go from freezer to crockpot. Our fast-paced culture has not diminished our desire to come together and eat something good at the end of the day. This method of cooking makes that easy, and adds an aroma of goodness to welcome you home.
The smells of slow cooking spread around the house and impart a unique warmth matched only by the flavour of the food.
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting some of the Dump Dinner recipes I’m trying. Here is the one I put together today. It reminds me of the flavor of Salisbury Steak.
Savory Steak and Gravy
- 1 ½ – 2 pounds cube steak
- 1 cup sliced onion
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup
- 1 can French onion soup
- 1 package au jus gravy mix
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Whisk together cream of chicken and mushroom soup, French onion soup, Au jus gravy mix, Worcestershire sauce, and 2/3 water in crock pot.
- Add onions, mushrooms, and cube steak.
- Cook on low for five hours.
- Mix together 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water. Add mixture to sauce in crock pot to thicken.
- Serve with potatoes, noodles, or rice.
To freeze ahead: Dump meat, onions, mushrooms, soups, gravy mix, and Worcestershire into a one gallon freezer bag and freeze for up to three months. When it’s time to cook, dump frozen into crock pot along with 2/3 cup water. Cook on low for 6 hours. Thicken and serve.
Pesto Ranch Chicken
- 1 ½-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 small jar pesto sauce
- 1 package or 2 tablespoons dry Ranch dressing mix
- Dump all ingredients into crock pot.
- Cook on low 5 hours.
To freeze: Put all ingredients into one gallon freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.
Here are just a few tips I have found helpful before you get started.
- Label your freezer bags with a permanent marker and allow it to dry before you get started. Along with the name of the recipe, date packaged and cooking time and heat, include any ingredients such as water or broth that must be added at time of cooking.
- Place the freezer bag into a 64-96 oz. plastic bowl when ready to load. This will give it stability and will free up your hands.
- Leave meat in whole pieces. It cooks better and can be cut up or shredded when done.
- Freeze bag in bowl. This is a very important step. I know you’ve seen pictures of freezer meals all flat and stacked neatly on the freezer shelf. It’s a thing of beauty, but the shape simply doesn’t fit into the crock pot. Freezing the bag in bowl will give it the right shape to fit easily into the slow cooker without defrosting. Note: No need to leave in bowl once frozen. Remove and reuse bowl to shape more dinners.
Have fun! Please share your favorites with us. I’d love to hear about your life in the kitchen.