From the Freezer to the Slow Cooker: Beef Tortellini

You have no doubt seen the many, many posts on social media about “freezer cooking”-mixing up ingredients ahead of time, often in large quantities then cooking them in a slow cooker. I have always been skeptical of these posts and recipes partly because they often involve the word “dump”.

“Just dump it all in a freezer bag! Then dump it all in a slow cooker!”

Sounds so appetizing. NOT.

In addition to my skeptical view of the recipes, I don’t have a stand-up freezer as ours died during the great ice storm of 2009. So there’s that.

Months ago, I was talking to a group of ladies at work and we were having the “I-Would-Eat-Better-If-Someone-Would-Cook-My-Dinner-Each-Night” conversation when the topic of freezer cooking came up. Turns out that many of them practice it, and they were fans. Still skeptical, I thought  maybe they don’t know good food. But I started looking for recipes.

I found the site New Leaf Wellness through Money Saving Mom and it was this post on kid friendly freezer meals that made me take the plunge. Not only was I intrigued, I was excited!

“I’m going to try freezer cooking!” I gleefully announced to my friend Candace.

“Is that where you fix like 72 meals in 7 hours?”

“Why yes! It is!”

I didn’t go that gung ho. I picked out 3 to start with and ended up only preparing 2 so far. I also fixed them individually instead of having an all-at-once freezer bag packing frenzy.

The first one that I actually prepared was Cheesy Beef Tortellini. I’ll share the recipe then the results.

Cheesy Beef Tortellini

Original post from New Wellness is here.

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 (19-ounce) package refrigerated three cheese tortellini
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (you’ll need this the day of cooking)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (you’ll need this day of cooking)

You will need a gallon freezer bag. Make sure it’s actually made for freezing and not just storage. Baggie people are sly. Prepare a label for your bag. If you sign up with New Leaf’s mailing list, you get a PDF of her very nice printable labels. Or you can just make your own using any kind of paper at your disposal. You’ll want to write the date that you made your freezer meal so you’ll know exactly how long it’s been in the freezer.

Once your bag is prepped, toss everything except tortellini and cheese into it.  Squeeze out as much air as you can then seal it up and freeze. I froze my package of tortellini alongside of the meat. So, they could get to know each other.

IMG_2953

The prep time here was under 10 minutes.

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The night before you plan to cook the dish place it and your tortellini in the refrigerator to thaw. The next morning empty the bag of meat and tomatoes into the slow cooker. Don’t add your tortellini yet. Cook on low for about 8 hours. Then, stir the sauce and break up the meat. Mine was still in some pretty big pieces. Add in your tortellini and the cheese. Cover and let cook for another 15 to 30 minutes until the tortellini is hot and the cheese is gooey.

Like this:

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Yes, it’s that good looking. Take another peek. IMG_2989

Served up with some steamed broccoli.IMG_2990The verdict: DELICIOUS!!! If all my freezer cooking experiments go this well, then I’m a convert. And my 20 month old son cleaned his plate too.

Based on this, I can understand why freezer cooking is so popular among busy people. I can’t wait to experiment more.

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