I love to cook — I think that may be obvious. But, even I have days when I have zero desire to make a meal. I’m either exhausted from my teaching job and taking care of three kids and trying to keep up with writing (just typing that makes me pause), or I am running around taking kids to choir and Daisy Scouts while finishing errands and there just isn’t enough time. Those are the days when a sink (or two) full of dishes may send me over the edge.
That’s when I break out my best friend, the crock-pot. I pull out an assembled freezer meal the night before or run a bag under hot water in the morning to get it thawing, and toss it in the crock-pot before leaving for work. I come home to a house that smells amazing and a meal that is practically complete.
I’ve tried a lot of different crock-pot freezer meals and honestly, they end up tasting overcooked and dry (and they all strangely taste the same). However, there are a couple that my family really likes, and this is one of them. In my opinion, the meals in a crock pot that turn out well are made with beef stew meat. This is a tough cut of meat and needs the long braise that a crock pot provides. All those tempting recipes on Pinterest made with chicken breast don’t need four to six hours to cook. And if you are like me, my days at work are much longer — so the chicken ends up tasting like cardboard.
I’ve tweaked the recipe for Mongolian Beef found on hellobee.com. It is a good one just the way it is, but I feel I wasted a lot of expensive liquid ingredients (I don’t skimp on my soy sauce — I go tamari all the way), so I cut the amount of liquids down along with the amount of brown sugar AND I amped up the sweet heat while adding some acid. I think what I’ve ended up with is a pretty balanced finish for a crock-pot dinner, but you will have to try it yourself and cast your vote.
How to make this (can be easily assembled in a freezer bag and pulled out the night before you need it, too):
1 1/2 pounds of beef stew meat, cut in chunks
1/4 Cup of packed brown sugar
1/3 Cup of hoisin sauce
1/3 Cup of tamari or good soy sauce
1/3 Cup of water
2 Tbs of terryaki sauce (I love Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki brand — it is thick, has sesame seeds in it…yum)
1/2 tsp dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp dry ground ginger
1/2 bag of pearl onions, blanched and peeled (about 8-10 onions)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs of corn starch dissolved in 1 Tbs cold water
sriracha sauce, to taste
Throw all of the ingredients, except the vinegar, corn starch slurry, and sriracha sauce into a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. About a half hour before serving, add the rice wine vinegar then whisk in the corn starch/water mixture to thicken the sauce. Add as much sriracha hot sauce to suit your taste.
Serve over fluffy brown rice or some fragrant jasmine rice and some steamed broccoli. You could also add some sliced mushrooms to the crock-pot about 1/2 hour before serving.
Delicious and not too bad for a meal you really didn’t have to cook.