Getting Crock’d

Crock’d – Slow Cooker Freezer Meals, a MUST HAVE freezer-to-crock pot recipe book and guide from NewLeafWellness.biz

I’ve been a freezer meal evangelist since the very first “Once-A-Month Cooking” book was published back in 1986. For years I slaved one weekend a month – prepping, cooking, assembling — and we had home-cooked meals for the next 30 days. Quite an accomplishment considering my husband and I both worked about 50 hours a week and had 3 kids at home.

As my chickies grew and left the nest, I fell out of the routine of prepping, and even of cooking on a regular basis.  Recently I realized we were eating out more than in, and my bank account was feeling it. I needed to get back in the dinner groove, so to speak, and get control of the meal planning & preparation again.

Crockd_Cover-600x630
CROCK’D Slow Cooker Freezer Meals Cookbook

In googling keywords like ‘meals’, ‘planning’, and ‘organization’, I came across a website called  NewLeafWellness.biz promoting a PDF book entitled, “Crock’d”.  What an epiphany – meat doesn’t need to be cooked before it’s frozen in meals! (I checked with the USDA Food Safety and Inspection service website to verify the safety too).  I immediately bought and downloaded the book, and within that very week had stocked my freezer with frozen gallon bags of crock pot meals.

Jokari
Jokari Hands-Free Baggy Holder

The beauty of this make-ahead freezer meal book is the simplicity of preparation, and the tastiness of the results.  Because you don’t pre-cook anything (yes, you freeze the meals with raw meat!), they taste fresh right out of the slow-cooker, rather than like reheated leftovers.


It took a minimal amount of planning. The book has grocery lists and labels to copy too. I ordered freezer bags in bulk for a great price (from Amazon.com), and also spent just under $6 on an extra pair of hands that the author recommended (Jokari Baggie Holder) – This doodad works fantastic! It simply sits on the counter and you clip your baggie into the top clips, adjust the height depending on the size of the bag, and voila! you are free to use both hands to fill your freezer bags.
ziploc
The most exotic ingredient in the recipes I used was freshly grated ginger – which really adds so much more flavor than dried, ground ginger —  most everything else, aside from the meats and fresh veggies, was already in my cabinets and refrigerator.  After one large grocery purchase (just over $200), instead of putting everything away, I got out the freezer bags and assembled 27 meals in about three hours.  The bulk of the time and effort went into peeling, slicing and dicing carrots, onions, and multi-colored bell peppers, but once that was done it was just a matter of grabbing a bag and dumping ingredients in. (While I was chopping, I set my son up with a stack of freezer bags and the paper labels I’d pre-printed from the PDF download, and had him tape them onto the bags with wide, clear packing tape.)

I put together nearly 30 meals in about 3 hours – a record for me! The recipes in Crock’d use a variety of meats: chicken, pork, beef – fresh vegetables, a few canned or frozen veggies (corn, tomatoes), some standard sauces (tomato, mustard, Worcestershire) and spices — all in all VERY healthy.  The only added fats in any of the dishes were the occasional tablespoon of olive oil – again, VERY healthy.

There was a time where my family began to dread crock pot meals… “We’re eating out of the pot, again!??” It was so bad I’d sometimes sneak the crock pot contents into a casserole dish and put it in the oven at the last minute so they wouldn’t know. But now my last child at home and my husband fight over who gets to pick out the meal for the next day. Every freezer bag we’ve “crocked” has scored high on the “make this again” scale… Definitely a surprise.

Kelly McNelis, the gal behind ‘Crock’d’, as well as the whole website over at New Leaf Wellness, has a promotional giveaway going on right now, offering an awesome prize package including a new crock pot and lots of accessories, along with her freezer cookbooks. Entering is as simple as leaving a comment, so stop over and write her a note.  Peruse the website too. She’s my new hero.

**notice & disclaimer: The reviews of anything mentioned in this blog post are entirely based on my own personal experience and opinion. I have not received compensation of any kind, nor do I expect to. I have never met, nor communicated with the author of the New Leaf Wellness website, but I highly respect what she’s sharing, and wanted to pass it on. I will, however, receive a few pennies if you decide to click on any of the pictures and order products through Amazon.com.  I do not plan on quitting my day job any time soon 🙂

Saving my two cents worth

I love/hate coupons. I truly appreciate saving money – even twenty cents. But whether I’ve clipp3d-piggy-bank_G1YKVLuOed them at home, or picked them up at the store, I invariably pay for my purchases and find myself still clutching the coupons as I get in my car to leave. That is, if I even remember to take them. Uggh.

Problem solved:

Most grocery stores have “loyalty” cards that are hooked to your phone number. Even if you forget to take your card, you can punch in your phone number and still receive the in-store discounts.  Better still, many grocery stores now allow you to go online to view their weekly sale flyer and coupons, and with a simple click, load any or all of the coupons that you want directly onto that loyalty card electronically (or you may print them out if you just aren’t ready to go all digital).  You are usually also able to print out a simple list of the coupons that you’ve attached (so you remember what you wanted to buy), in addition to creating a shopping list while you’re perusing the ads and coupons.

The end result is that when you swipe your loyalty card, or enter your phone number, all of the coupons available are automatically applied if you’ve made the required purchases.

FoodLion1

The best recipe organization tool Ever…(note)!

I’ve written before about using Evernote for organizing your genealogical research. Now I’ve discovered another amazing use for Evernote that I want to share: Using it to organize recipes & cookbooks! I’ve collected genealogy books and ephemera for a long time, and part of that collection has been old family recipes and cookbooks. My mom clipped and saved recipes, and from her I inherited seven full-sized notebooks and numerous folders full of recipes, both her favorites and those she just wanted to try.

Mom was an amazing cook – ask any of our relatives. Holiday meals were almost always at our house, with anywhere from 10 to 20 or more people around as many tables and folding tables as the house would hold. And not only was her food tasty, as well as “delicious & nutritious”, but mom always looked great by the time it was served. I’ve inherited her love for feeding a crowd, but I still haven’t mastered the art of planning & timing, so by the time folks arrive for a feast, I’m pretty much still look like I should hide in the kitchen. But I digress. The point is, I am the keeper of cherished family recipes. My own daughters are now starting families, and call or IM with questions about the foods they remember. “Where is grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe that’s made with maple syrup?”, or “What’s in your deviled eggs?”. Add to that my own continued obsession of reading cookbooks, and saving recipes I find online, and I found myself looking desperately for a way to organize the recipes I have, so that I can easily find them, and just as easily share them. 

I started my quest for the perfect recipe organization plan by looking at computer programs. I’ve been using Betty Crocker’s Cook’n for several years, and was satisfied with it for a long time. But now that I have both an iphone and an ipad, I wanted more. I don’t like to drag my laptop into the kitchen, because I’ve seen what happens to my cookbooks, but I often slip my ipad into a gallon-size ziplock bag, and use it to refer to recipes while I cook. Anyway, I wanted something that would: 

• Sync all information between my PC, phone & ipad, and be available offline, too

• Accept scanned images, and index them with OCR automatically 

• Easily grab recipes from websites 

• Allow tags to organize, and be every word searchable 

• Easily include photographs 

• Have the ability to print individual recipes, or entire collections 

• Be easy to share 

I kept thinking that the program I was looking for had to be specific to cooking, yet the more I looked, the more I couldn’t find anything that met all my requirements…Until one day when I was working on some genealogy research, clipping images and saving them into my Evernote folders, that it dawned on me. Evernote would be perfect! 

 Syncing

Evernote is resident on my PC, and I have the apps on both my phone and ipad. Everytime I open the program, as long as I’m connected to the Internet, all devices will sync automatically. And even if I’m not online, my Evernote files are available to me on my PC. (You need to have a Premium account to use your Evernote files on iOs & Android devices offline. More about Premium accounts later) 

Scanning & OCR

Not only can I use my wand scanner to scan recipes from books, recipe cards, or scraps of paper or napkins, I can also use the camera function on my phone to snap pictures of recipe cards and send them directly to Evernote, where the advanced OCR capability scans typed documents and indexes them automatically. Think about the possibilities! I can snap a picture, or scan the index pages of my many cookbooks, and then when I search Evernote for, say “enchiladas”, not only will the results be those recipes I’ve entered into my Evernote files, but will also show me which of my cookbooks have recipes for enchiladas in them as well! No more flipping through a dozen or more books to find that favorite English trifle recipes (OK, It’s the one in the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook that I’ve used so many times I even remember the page number – 324) but you get the idea! A Premium account will also OCR index PDF files. 

Internet recipes

Everything’s on the internet! There are dozens of really wonderful recipe websitesCooks, Epicurious, Foodnetwork, Punchfork… I think I’m on AllRecipes.com just about daily, perusing potato salad recipes, quick dinner ideas, etc. Even though I can save things to my own Recipe Box on the website itself, if I find a recipe that is a ‘keeper’, I can snag that recipe and import it directly into my Evernote recipe folder. You can do this with either the snipping tool that is on your computer’s accessories, or you can install the handy Evernote Clipper  – a handy little button that sits on your toolbar waiting to grab web pages and send them to your Evernote folder of choice. The neat thing about using the Evernote Clipper is that it automatically adds the URL of the page you were on into the note, making returning to that recipe page online a snap. 

Tagging

Most folks are familiar with the concept of tagging – adding keywords to help find things more easily using a search tool. Instead of creating all sorts of folders and separate notebooks for different types of recipes, I just created one notebook called Recipes, and put everything in there.  You don’t have to organize within the folder yourself, because another great thing about Evernote is that it automatically indexes every word in every note – even words in photographs! So you don’t have to use a million tags, since technically all the ingredients are already indexed. I only tag things that aren’t in the recipe, like adding the tag “Family Favorite” to those recipes that I go back to over and over, or “Marcelle Osmer” to recipes that were my mother’s favorites. Another tag I use is “Quick Dinner”, to remind me of meals I can throw together fast. I really appreciate that I don’t have to spend a lot of time tagging, since it’s already done automatically for the most part!

Pictures

Since I’m only just starting organizing all my recipes with Evernote, I haven’t added a lot of photographs, but I plan to. My goal would be to photograph the final result for each recipe that I’ve got entered. When I’m grabbing recipes from the internet, I try to include a photo if one is provided there, too. 

Printing

Want to create a family cookbook? You can easily print individual recipes, or print them all. You can even set them up to print onto 3×5 index cards. Not many of the recipe apps support printing, and I shuddered at the thought of inputting all my recipes, and not being able to print them out if I wanted a copy.

Share & (if you want) Collaborate

Easy to share? You bet. You can easily share individual recipes by email, Facebook, or Twitter by using the easy Share button at the top of the screen. You can also right click on a Notebook, and share the entire Notebook, as I do with my daughters, so they now have access to all the family favorite recipes I have entered so far. With a Premium account, you can allow others to edit and add to your Notebook, or you can choose to just let them to view it. 

But wait!  There’s more!

Evernote does even more than I was hoping for! You can easily create a weekly meal plan, and have the recipe list for the week automatically hot-linked to the recipe itself. Just right click on the recipes that you want to put on the list, and choose “Copy Note Link”. Then open up a new note, perhaps title it “Weekly Menu Plan”, and paste what you’ve copied into that new note. Make a list of recipes for the week like this. When you now click on that recipe name, it will open up the actual recipe from your file. So cool! 

To pay, or not to pay?

A basic account with Evernote is free. You will be allowed 100,000 notes, up to 25 mb each up to a total of 60 mb a month; 250 syncronized Notebooks, 10,000 tags, and 100 saved searches. A Premium account costs $5/month or $45/year. It increases your note size to 50 mb each, and your total monthly storage to 1 gig. In my humble opinion, Evernote is essential for geneaogy research, and an amazing tool for recipes organization too. My Evernote Premium account is almost as essential as my subscription to Ancestry.com.  

Evernote Food

Evernote has an extension, called Evernote Food. It’s almost it’s own ‘animal’ so to speak, but doesn’t address recipes, or the creation of food, as one might expect from the name. Instead, it is promoted to “Preserve and relive memorable food experiences. From fine dining to family gatherings to a local food truck, remember every delicious moment.” I guess it’s for those folks who always post pictures of their meal on Facebook. I really am not sure.

Coming up next…?

My next goal is to figure out how I will be using Evernote for quilting!