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Crock Pot “Dump” Meals

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I’m convinced that this is the answer to all my problems: Crock Pot “Dump” Meals. Ok, not really the answer to ALL my problems, but a really valuable tool for simplifying life a bit. “Dump” meals are the ones where you dump a bunch of ingredients into the crock pot, turn it on, and 6-8 hours later, voila! Food – hot and ready to eat! Here’s the key – most dump recipes, also called “Freezer-to-Crockpot” meals, can be prepped ahead of time and frozen in freezer container or bag, without cooking them first.

We’ve talked a lot here about doing batch cooking and using the freezer to store prepared food for future meals, but this is even easier. All that is required is to put raw food in freezer bag, label, and place it in the freezer. And pulling a bag out of the freezer and dump the contents into the crockpot? Easiest thing ever!

*Pro tip – freeze the food in a shape that fits into your crockpot or else allow several hours for the package to thaw before cooking it.

Here’s a super simple recipe to get you started:

Honey-Rosemary Chicken

Place in a freezer bag:

4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbs rosemary, chopped

1 tsp salt

When you’re ready to cook:

Empty contents of freezer bag into the crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

It really doesn’t get much easier than that, people! Serve it with salad or steamed veggies on the side, whatever you like, and enjoy the fact that dinner cooked itself!

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Funkalicious

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I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. A food allergy funk, if you will.

It all started on spring break. We had a lovely family day planned to go to a children’s museum, a bookstore where we had a coupon for a free children’s book, and to Nourish, our favorite food allergy-friendly restaurant. And the day was lovely, right up until we fed our oldest son a piece of absolutely delicious vegan cheesecake. Then his lip swelled up and he started having difficulty breathing. Then the day instantly became absolutely terrifying.

After a trip to the ER, a shot of epinephrine, and intravenous doses of both Benedryl and prednisone, our son was well enough that we could go home – a two-hour drive. Hubby and I did a lot of processing on that drive home. As Hubby says, it’s a major paradigm shift from “food can make you pretty sick” to “food can kill you.”

So it turns out that our boy is anaphylactic to walnuts. And, given the risk of cross-contamination, his allergist recommended that we avoid all tree nuts and peanuts. I’m now the type of mom that has to make sure the boy carries his Epi-Pen Jr. at all times and tries to figure out the best type medic-alert bracelet for a four-year-old. I no longer worry about keeping him healthy, I’m focused on keeping him alive.

So yeah, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and I haven’t exactly been inspired to write about my misadventures in the kitchen as a result. In fact, I’ve been working on how much food can I serve without really having to cook (much). Rice cakes and sunbutter, cans of tuna fish, pasta boiled in broth, cereal, microwaved baked potatoes, dried fruit, avocados – all that kind of stuff. My menu plan has flown out the window, and I’m just trying to survive from one meal to the next.

It’s ok. I know this is a season and just part of dealing with what happened to my four-year-old. But it’s going to take a few weeks to get back on my game in the kitchen, and every small setback seems nearly insurmountable right now. Gooey gluten-free bread? Must mean I’m a failure. Floppy waffles? I just can’t do anything right, can I?

But you know what? The kids and I are still alive. The allergies lost the battle that day in the ER. We live to fight another day. And we will, somehow, win this war. Oh, the allergies may never disappear, but I look forward to the day when I no longer have to fear their terrible power over my family. The day when our food allergies will finally be, truly, on ice.

Where it Began

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Cover of "Once-A-Month Cooking"

Cover of Once-A-Month Cooking

As the mom of a child with multiple food allergies, I know just how much work it is just to prepare dinner.  When I was pregnant with my second child, I knew something had to change; I simply could not cook every single day while caring for a toddler and an infant!  Having heard of people who only cooked one day each month, the idea intrigued me.

Soon, the perfect opportunity to try the idea presented itself.  The women at our church wanted to get my recipes so that they could make allergen-free meals for the family after the baby was born.  So sweet, but I do not trust anyone to cook for us.  There are so many hidden ingredients in food that could trigger an allergic reaction for someone in the family.  I suggested that in lieu of a traditional baby shower, the women gather at the church to prepare food for after the baby’s arrival.  The planners agreed and a date was set.

I am the type of person who loves to plan, so I started making my lists and spreadsheets.  (Yeah, I’m totally a geek, too!)

First, I had to pick and type out recipes that I thought would freeze well.  I picked five entrees, two side dishes, and three gluten-free, egg-free baked goods.  I figured that if we did triple batches of each recipe, it would be about a month’s worth of lunches and dinners for our family.  Then I had to add up the ingredients.  I discovered in a hurry that it is a bit challenging to add 1 ½ cups of onions to three onions and know how much food to purchase!  Finally, after quite a bit of math, I had a list of all of my ingredients.  After comparing the list to what I had in my pantry, I made up the shopping list.  I probably spent ten hours just doing the planning.

Whew!  At this point, I handed off my list to the shower organizers, and they did the shopping.  When the day arrived, we had two eight-foot tables full of ingredients.

About fifteen generous women came to the event, and we spent all afternoon cooking in both of the church’s large kitchens.  After about five hours, the task was complete, and everyone was exhausted.  I was so grateful to have my freezer so well stocked, and I knew that there was simply no way I could have prepared that much food all at once by myself in my small kitchen.  It was plain that once a month cooking was not an option for my family.

That is why we started Food Allergies on Ice – to find a allergy-free cooking solution that actually works so we can all get out of the kitchen and get back to spending time with our families.  Join us on our journey!

A Frazzled Mom’s Take on Simplifying Dinner

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Are you a frazzled mom trying to cook for your food-allergic kids?  Or are you just looking for ideas to spice up dinner?  Well, then, you’ve come to the right place!

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