We’ve been working with a new approach to meal planning since the beginning of the year. It has been working really well and I am so pleased with the results. I will admit the kids still won’t eat everything I make, however, we have made great strides towards eating for most meals, and I for one, am considerably less stressed about what I am cooking
Not one for knowing when to stop, I have also been looking into freezer meals. I have already mentioned them before, with my Creamy Tortellini Chicken and Spinach Soup post. I have also invested in an Instant Pot – which is a hybrid slow cooker and electric pressure cooker, plus yoghurt maker, and 4 other things I cannot keep up with. I found it hard to commit myself to a slow cooker solely. I know so many people are addicted to them, I just struggle with the boiled meat thing. There are so many great things to do with food and boiling is not the first that comes to mind. I also find a huge lack of recipes for vegetarian meals, or meals without dairy in them. Now don’t get me wrong, they look amazing and I am sure taste just as good. But if you struggle with dairy like I do, it is just adding another layer of torment.
So, the instant pot for me was a no brainer. I like the idea of a pressure cooker – something, despite my mother using one for years, I have never really learned. However, I am open to it. Especially when I complain to my mother about some cooking and she just says I should have used a pressure cooker and cooked it in a fraction of the time! Great.
Thankfully the instant pot came with a recipe book. And thankfully, the first recipe I tried with the pressure cooking option was a winner. 3 minutes (I must caveat that all the instant pot recipes quite the time from reaching pressure, which can vary depending on what you put inside it). That was all it took to make steel cut oats for breakfast. It was magical. I love the texture of steel cut oats, but the 20 minutes + preparation has hindered me in the morning. But setting this inside my instant pot the night before (or even a quick dash in the morning before my shower), setting the timer and then getting up to give it a stir and toss in a few pieces of fruit before serving it up in bowls, yeah, I can do this regularly. I am looking forward to giving it a go with some mixed grains like buckwheat as well. This three minute thing is a winner with me for sure.
The other thing which really appealed to me with the pressure cooker, is that moment, when you come home and realise you forgot to pull something out of the freezer for dinner. Or you didn’t take it out of the fridge to put into the slow cooker. Or someone ate the ingredients you thought you had for dinner. You know those moments? Or this just me? Those times when you look around and think, I should order for delivery, but I really cannot wait the half hour to select what I want (this can actually be the longest phase of the entire process for me, and usually more like an hour), ring it in and then wait another half hour for it to appear. Somehow it takes longer than cooking. So, I like the idea of cooking my meal in record time, to make a quick chilli or stew. We shall see how that gets on. (No doubt a few adaptations will be making their way to a blog near you.)
Back to freezer meals….
Too many of my Pinterest searches for slow cooker meals have resulted in a record number of freezer meal pins. I was curious. I also had friends (like my dear friend in Washington who sent me her bible of recipes because I hounded her for months) who were getting into the freezer meal thing and hosting parties. I have been slowly rounding up those dear to me, to join me on this quest, I just haven’t found the time to make it happen. I have also been testing all these recipes for their worthiness as there is a huge difference between American/Canadian recipes and those we make in Britain. Never mind the completely different ingredients – some of which are impossible to buy, or are far too costly from the import shops to make the meal even worthy of consideration.
I am also keen to avoid having all my freezer meals ending up in the slow cooker. Don’t get me wrong. I am not dissing the slow cooker here, but I like variation. That also comes in the way things are cooked. So I like to consider things like Pizza dough. I happen to have a great recipe for home made, food processor pizza dough which takes so little time and effort, and goes into the freezer after only 20 minutes of resting time. Then you take it out in the morning, defrost it in the fridge before you roll it out and then cook it. What is not to like? Making the pizza sauce is also easy, and it freezes well, so make lots! And have you ever tried BBQ pizza? Wow. That is all I need to say at the moment (although my dear childhood friend and talented chef, Blake Mackay, has a couple of great recipes for this). It is why I generally have a day of the week dedicated to this special my-kids-actually-eat-it recipe. Yup!
I am quite keen to build up a repertoire of freezer friendly meals, aimed at making my midweek busy nights less hectic. Of course you have your usual pre-cooked meals which are heated up after defrosting in the freezer. But then these always taste like pre-cooked meals, don’t they? I think the appeal to the slow cooker freezer meals, is the idea of having minimal effort to pulling together a finished meal, cooked on the day. That certainly appeals to me. Of course, leftovers are great too.