Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Freezer Dump Meal" Cooking Session #1

Down in the "Dumps"...?  Bavarian Red Cabbage Freezer Dump Meals

I've spent a lifetime cooking. 

Day in and day out, homemaking, working part time/homeschooling/freelancing and raising a family, the chore of meal planning always fell to me.  Which is fine, because in general I do enjoy cooking.  Well, for the most part I do.  Though it often feels like I'm trying to find a delicate balance between several factors when it comes to meal making.  I'm a health-nut, so I gravitate towards Whole Foods.  I'm naturally a cheap Frugalista, so I want to save costs and economize whenever and wherever I can.  Plus as much as I do enjoy cooking, I'm a busy person, with, at any given time, dozens of other things I could or should also be doing.  So I don't really want to be spending 
*ALL* of my time chopping, hanging over the stove, washing dishes and cleaning up.  Sure, there are days when I'm totally down with making long, drawn-out and complex meals, but others when I'm totally not.  And yet we still need to eat, and eat healthfully (and cheaply).  So it can be a quandary:  Convenience food items may seem like tempting time-savers, yet they are significantly more expensive.  Plus typically chock-full of chemicals and preservatives the more processing it goes through.  Plain, whole foods are more wholesome, and generally less expensive, but cooking entirely from scratch can eat up huge chunks of time if you let it.  My food budget, in addition to my time budget, are both limited.  So what's the solution...?

Well, I think I may have found one with the meal planning method known as "Freezer Dump Meals".  Which is a rather unfortunate moniker for a concept that is actually quite positive -- minimal-prep, mostly raw ingredients that are 'dumped' into freezer bags, which are then dumped into the freezer, to later be 'dumped' into the slow-cooker with little fuss on cooking day.  These meals, AKA "Freezer-to-Slow Cooker", are prepared assembly-line style -- getting all the washing, peeling, chopping and measuring (and clean up) out of the way and done at once.  With as little pre-cooking as possible.  Genius!

The thing is, I'm whole foods/plant based, and not only that, but oil-free as well.  When you look these particular 'Dump'-style recipes up online, you'll find a PLETHORA of icky animal ingredients, oils, or processed food items -- like canned soup, jarred sauces and dressings. I don't use any of these things, so it looks like I'm going to have to experiment heavily with altering existing Freezer Dump Meal recipes to suit my specific needs, and even make up some McDougall-friendly recipes of my own.  But that's okay, I'm up to the challenge.

And so I'm going to document my experiments here on my blog, for my own amusement and education.  

 And so we have here my first attempt.  I had a lot of garden red cabbage to use up, so I batch-prepped four "Bavarian Red Cabbage, with Apples and Onions Meals" :

Assembly Line Style

 Bavarian Red Cabbage (Freezer Dump Meal) :
(which I quadrupled to make 4 meals): 
 ~1 large head red cabbage, washed and coarsely sliced
~2 onions, coarsely chopped
~6 tart apples, cored and quartered
~6 T bacon grease or butter (Nope!)
~2/3 cup cider vinegar
~2 tsp salt
~3 T Sugar

Freezing directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well mixed, then transfer to a heavy-duty gallon-size freezer bag. Label with the name of the recipe, the date prepared, and cooking instructions. Lay flat to freeze.

Cooking Directions:
Thaw the frozen mixture. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray (nope again!). Empty the contents of the bag into the slow cooker. Add 2 cups of hot water. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high for 3 hours. Stir well before serving.


 First I chopped all the cabbage, then the apples, then onions, then added the measured amounts of vinegar, salt and sugar (I subbed some of the sugar with a little grape juice) as required by the recipe, into each bag. It didn't take that long to assemble these (wasn't that much harder to put together 4 as opposed to 1.  And most of the work was the chopping), plus only the one-time clean up. On cooking day, weeks to months from now, I will throw a thawed bag into my slow cooker, adding some veggie sausage (which I intend to batch-make at a later date) -- to be served over wild rice and topped with a little homemade soy yogurt, for a complete meal. 

So I actually made a batch of this last year, at the end of the gardening season, using red cabbage that I'd harvested from the garden from a recipe I found in an ebook.  I guess I was feeling unsure of how it would turn out, so I made just the one bag.  Months and months later, I was anticipating an especially busy day where I was going to be out of the house for most of it.  I remembered the frozen "Bavarian Red Cabbage Meal" in the freezer -- fishing it out and cooking it up using the slow cooker function of my Instant Pot.  It turned out really yummy to me -- I am a fan of red cabbage anyway (the color cooked was the most intense purple, wow!), plus it made for such an easy meal for us that day.  Thus I felt confident in making up four more of these....

In any case, I'm intending to amass more Freezer Dump Meals like this -- pretty easy to do and a pleasant feeling knowing there is already something on hand all set and ready to go for especially those busy days...!

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