Crock Pot Frozen Dinners

by Kathryn Hatter

    Although it might be tempting to place frozen foods in a slow cooker for simple meal preparation, most slow cooker manufacturers advise against this practice because the frozen foods will not warm fast enough to avoid bacteria from developing. Instead, turn the process around and make slow cooker dinners that you then freeze for future meals.

    A slow cooker's low temperature makes it unsuitable for cooking frozen foods. Meats and poultry that stay above freezing but below 140 F for several hours can begin breeding harmful bacteria, which can lead to food-borne illness. For food safety, a slow cooker should cook foods at a minimum of 185 F. With both a high and low temperature setting, many slow cookers cook food at 200 F on low and 300 F on high.

    Make one-pot meals in the slow cooker and then freeze them. Suggested meals that freeze well include chili, chicken and rice soup, Spanish chicken and rice, Shepherd's pie, beef stew, spaghetti sauce and meatballs, turkey enchiladas and even boneless chicken breasts. Prepare the food in the slow cooker according to the recipe. Season foods the quick and easy way by stirring in a packet of dry dressing and seasoning mix during cooking. When the food finishes cooking, turn the slow cooker off.

    Allow the recipe you prepared in the slow cooker to cool completely before popping it into the freezer. You might cool it down first on the counter and then place a removable crock into the refrigerator to chill the food slightly. After the food chills, spoon or pour it out of the slow cooker and into quart- or gallon-sized freezer bags. If you use quart-size bags, you can separate a casserole into smaller portions that may be ideal for child-size dinners or even a fast lunch. Remove as much air as possible from the bags and seal them completely. Write the date and contents on the outside of the bags and freeze them flat.

    When you want to serve a freezer meal you prepared in the slow cooker, pull the bag out of the freezer and place it into the refrigerator. Thaw the bag for at least eight hours and then pour the thawed casserole into a baking dish. Because you already cooked the casserole, you only need to reheat it in the oven or in the microwave to heat it through. Be creative and add a crust or biscuits to stew filling to make a pot pie. Top casserole fillings with a variety of cheeses or crumbs mixed with dry dressing and dip mix for a flavor boost.

    About the Author

    Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator and regular contributor to "Natural News." She is an accomplished gardener, seamstress, quilter, crocheter, painter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator and she enjoys technical and computer gadgets. Hatter's Internet publications specialize in natural health and she plans to continue her formal education in the health field, focusing on nursing.

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