From Freezer to Slow Cooker: Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

With my first experience of freezer cooking going so well (read about it here), I was anxious to try the second meal I’d prepared: Chicken Tater Tot Casserole. This recipe also came from New Leaf Wellness.  A few years ago, I might have turned my nose up at the idea of tater tots but the need to provide a quick, toddler friendly meal has knocked me off my nutritional high horse just a tad.

This meal came together really quickly. The biggest time investment was cutting up the chicken. I found a tip online about standing your freezer bag upright in a pitcher to keep the food from spilling out while you work. It was a great tip!

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Meal prep clocked in just under 11 minutes. IMG_2946

Ready for the freezer! IMG_2947

The results? Wonderful! I actually overcooked this one a tad. My slow cooker doesn’t have a timer-I’m going to have to invest in a timer switch if I’m going to keep on keeping on with freezer cooking-so I chose to prepare this one on a day that my parents were babysitting at my house so my mom could turn the slow cooker off as directed. The problem was that I misdirected her on when to turn it off so it overcooked slightly. I actually like slightly burnt cheesy potato type things so I thought it was fine but it would have gone up in smoke if I’d left it for a whole work day. So, the 4 to 6 hour cooking time is no joke!

That little issue aside, this is a cheesy flavorful dish. The big question of whether my toddler would eat it was answered quickly when he tasted a bite then immediately started reaching for his plate for more. The chicken was nice and tender and easy for him to chew. It was a tad salty so next time I will skip the added salt.

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

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32oz bag frozen tater tots

3oz bag bacon pieces (look out for the little square of paper inside! )

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)

3/4 cup 2% milk (any kind will do)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Add all ingredients into a gallon freezer bag. Put the chicken on top so that it will be on the bottom when you pour all of the ingredients into your slow cooker. Squeeze out all of the air, seal up the bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

The night before you want to serve, place the meal into the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Place in slow cooker the next morning and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

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.

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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.