freezer cooking

Freezer Cooking Chicken – Cook now, Use later

Cans of chicken are a great convenience food.  You can make chicken salad sandwiches, casseroles, soup, or even use it as a salad topping.  But it’s so expensive when you look at the price per ounce.  It’s no where near the price per ounce of a whole chicken or even the price per ounce of boneless skinless chicken breasts!!

Tuna is cheaper.  I can find tuna on sale for dirt cheap prices.  I tried substituting it where I could (on salads and in sandwiches)… but some things just aren’t the same without chicken.

So, I tried making my own, by freezer cooking chicken.  The first time, I used a whole chicken.  But I’m all about convenience… and getting all those tiny bones out is such a pain.  Now I use bags of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I usually get them for less than $1.99 per pound.

Freezer Cooking Chicken

frozen chicken in the crockpot

Toss a bag of chicken in the crockpot, and cook all day.

When it’s done, it will fall apart.  You’ll even end up with a good amount of chicken broth as a bonus that I usually freeze in an icecube tray.

Take the chicken, one piece at a time, and shred between two forks.

shredding chicken

Store chicken in a freezer-safe container.

I bag the shredded chicken in 1-cup portions and freeze.  Sometimes, I chop the chicken or slice it, depending on what is on the menu for the near future.  Shredded is the most popular in our favorite recipes, so that’s what I do most often.

Save some money and freeze some chicken!

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Baby, freezer cooking

Homemade Baby Food

Raegan LOVES sweet potatoes.

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Love.  She’d eat them for every meal if I let her.

I’m pretty sure the day care staff has caught on, too.  Her daily info sheets say she eats them at least once a day at day care.

It’s so much easier to get a stubborn baby to open her mouth for a gross new food if you alternate bites with a favorite.  Deceptive…? Maybe.  Successful…?  Yes.

My mother-in-law bought us a few cases of baby food (THANK YOU!) and each case only has a few servings of sweet potatoes.  So, we went through them really fast.

Don’t get me wrong — we haven’t found a food that she won’t eat.  But, she doesn’t putz around quite as much when it’s something yummy.  She’s gets right down to business and shovels it in.

Problem:  We need more sweet potatoes.
Solution:  Home-made baby food!!

This was so much easier than I thought it would be!  I just threw the sweet potatoes into the blender with a little water, and viola!!  Mushy food!!

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Bake Potatoes, Remove Skin:  I was blessed enough to waitress on a night that sweet potatoes weren’t terribly popular.  So, I brought home a grocery bag full of sweet potatoes that had been baked so long the skin was falling off.  Step one, easy.

You might not be so lucky, but don’t worry!  Steam-bake your sweet potatoes, and the skin will fall right off!

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Mush:  I broke the sweet potatoes into smaller chunks so they fit better in the blender.  I added less than 1 cup of water for each sweet potato.  Depending on the age of your baby, you will want to adjust the consistency.  You can always add more water and mix again, so start small and add more as you go.

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Freeze:  For easy storage, I froze the sweet potato mush into icecube trays.  I get out one cube at a time and thaw it in the fridge for tomorrow’s meal.  Tip– I flipped the trays over and ran some hot water on them to loosen the cubes.  Then I put the cubes in a gallon freezer bag.

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I made an assembly line, since I only have two icecube trays.  I peeled all of the sweet potatoes at once, had two or three  sweet potatoes in the blender, and two tray-fulls in the freezer.  Then I would rotate — move the frozen cubes to a bag, move the blended mush to the trays, and move some peeled sweet potatoes into the blender.

Honestly, I had so many sweet potatoes that it took me a whole week to get this done.  But, we won’t ever need to buy sweet potatoes.

One day, this guy was in the kitchen waiting to help me.  Let’s here it for seven-year-old boys!

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freezer cooking

Freezing Onions

Aldi had bags of onions — 3 lbs for $0.69 — so I got two.

Then, I let them sit in my fridge for a week or two because I had no idea what to do with them!!  My grandmother suggested I chop them up and freeze them.

I tried using my food processor but I thought it chopped the onion too finely.  So, I started a chopping assembly line in my kitchen.

  • Chop the ends off each onion
  • Cut each onion in half, lengthwise
  • Peel each onion half
  • Cut each onion crosswise, into small slices (like rainbows).
  • Stack slices in small piles
  • Chop stacks of slices

(I made a video, and I can’t get it to upload.  Boo.  Any ideas?)

 

When I was done chopping, I bagged the onions separately for freezing.  Each onion gave about 1.5 cups of chopped onion.  So, I bagged the chopped onion, one onion per bag, and flatted the bags to freeze.

You can take out a bag and break off the amount that you need if you need less than a whole onion.  Just make sure if you’re using a recipe that calls for less than 1 whole onion, you write on the bag how much is left!!

DIY, freezer cooking, recipes

Waffles: Mix vs. Scratch

I used to make waffles from scratch.  I rarely made waffles because I had to drag out all of the ingredients, make the waffle mix, heat up the waffle iron, stand in the kitchen to make each waffle, burn a few, clean the waffle iron… I hated it.  But, my kid loves waffles.

Anything for love, right?

We were facing the possibility of a one-income household, so I was trying to cut corners anywhere possible.  When I took a look at our grocery budget, I noticed that a huge chunk of our monthly expense was PopTarts.

Yes, PopTarts.

But, it wasn’t just the kid.  It was all of us.  Especially me.  Between my son and I, we would go through a big box (6-packs) of PopTarts every two days.  Oops.  But they are sooo good with a tall glass of milk.

I’m trying to lose baby weight.  DH is trying to get in shape.  And the last thing our seven-year-old needs is sugar.  So, I started making waffles and freezing them to eat for breakfast.  And snacks.  And dinner when I’m feeling super lazy.

I read an article online (can’t find it now), explaining that it costs $2.00 to make waffle mix from scratch (yields 10 waffles).  And I thought I was saving money!!  Yikes.  So I grabbed a box of waffle mix at Aldi and did a calculation of my own.

1 box of waffle mix $1.49
8 tbsp of oil $0.24 ($2.89/48 oz)

This recipe (doubled the instructions on the box) yields between 32-40 waffles.  So, even if I come out on the short end of that, it’s $0.05 per waffle.  I was paying $0.19 per PopTart and we were all eating TWO at a time.  Now we all eat breakfast for less than a dollar.  Score!

Other Waffle Tips:

I use cooking oil to grease my waffle iron.  I use a spray bottle, even though the users manual says to brush it on the plates.  I hate washing my brush.

Cook waffles until the steam stops coming out of the sides of the waffle iron.  If you open it any sooner, the waffle top & bottom layers will separate and your picky seven-year-old will complain.

Freeze waffles.  If they last that long in your house… they don’t in mine.  No matter how many I make, they’re all gone within a week 🙂

Another short cut I like to use, is to mix up the recipe in a pitcher, for easy pouring.

 

 

freezer cooking, recipes

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf

I had never heard of this, but found it once while I was looking for low-calorie meals and it sounded like something my picky-eater-husband would like.  I’ve adapted it a little (probably adding calories) and we eat it at least once a month.  It’s also good if you mix up two batches at once:  eat one and freeze the other!  I heard my husband telling someone on the phone, “Yea, it’s great!  It’s just ground chicken, hot sauce, and an egg!”  Not quite, sweetie…
Ingredients:
1 lb ground chicken {if you can get “lean” ground chicken, go for it… I have trouble finding ground chicken at all in some stores}
2/3 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup of 1% milk {I was out of milk once and used water… no one noticed}
1/3 cup of hot sauce
2 egg whites
1/2 cup of bleu cheese crumbles

Step One:  Combine oats and milk.  Let sit for several minutes until oats are softened.  Sometimes I add the hot sauce here, sometimes I don’t.

Step Two:  Add everything but the bleu cheese (chicken, eggs, and hot sauce if not already added).  Mix well.  Stir in bleu cheese crumbles last.  {The cheese can get gooey if added too early}.

Step Three:  Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Allow loaf to rest/cool for at least 10 minutes before serving {or it will fall apart!}.

This makes about 8 pieces (4 servings).  Sometimes we sprinkle more hot sauce on top – sometimes we dip it in bleu cheese dressing… depends on the mood!  

Note:  I don’t like crunchy things in my meatloaf (or stuffing for that matter).  You can definitely add celery or carrots or onions or all three to this and it would still be delicious.  I leave them out as a personal preference, but I know I’m weird!!

Menu Planning Tip:  I always try to serve this in the same week as I serve pasta carbonara.  I use two egg whites here and two egg yolks in the pasta carbonara ~ so this way there is no wasted food!!

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freezer cooking

Fill Your Freezer: Freezer Inventory

My freezers are full!  I needed to get out frozen chicken breasts to thaw for dinner last night and tonight.  First, I couldn’t find the chicken.  Then, I couldn’t get everything back into the deep-freezer!!  
I need an inventory.  
If I know what I have, I’ll be able to plan meals more effectively.  
If I know what I have, I’ll know what I need.  
If I know what I have, I’ll know where to find it.  
I have two freezers.  One is part of my fridge.  One is a small deep freezer we keep in the basement.  Upstairs we have….
Left to right, back to front:  Shredded cheese, lasagna filling, bread for crumbs, hamburger buns, diced potatoes, brown bag burritos, twice-baked potatoes, tortillas, barley soup, vegetable soup, strawberry freezer jam, fish sticks, bananas.
Left to right, back to front:  yeast, pork ribs, sliced chicken, brown sugar, salisbury steaks, pot roast, butter, wheat flour, cheese pizzas, steaks, ground chicken, french bread dough, pork roast, hamburgers, beef broth.

Downstairs I try to keep mostly “meals” that are already put together.  We have… brown bag burritos, southwest roll-ups, pot roast with vegetables, 6 lb taco meat, 3 lasagna casseroles, 2 pizza casseroles, 2 chicken corn chowder bowls, 1 chicken cordon blue, 2 chicken ranch casserole, 3 lb sloppy joes, 3 rosemary porkchops, 1 cheeseburger meatloaf, 1 BBQ crockpot chicken, 1 lemon chicken, 1 macaroni and cheese, salsa chicken taco filling, strawberries.

Left to right, back to front:  Wheat flour, taco soup, chicken strips, shrimp, sliced chicken breasts, cubed chicken, bacon, boneless chicken breasts, corn, brussel sprouts.

I made a spreadsheet to hang on the fridge!  I have at least 30 meals ready to thaw and numerous ingredients for meals that involve a little more prep.  I think meal planning will be so much easier this month. We can just cross things off when we use them.  I included the location on the spreadsheet so I know which freezer to look in.  
Follow me and keep an eye out for the menu plans coming up using all of these goodies!!  
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freezer cooking, recipes

Fill Your Freezer: Potatoes

I LOVE MY NEW KITCHEN SINK!!  I could never have washed and diced 10 lbs of potatoes on my old countertop.  I am so blessed to have a handy dad (and father-in-law) to help out!
Today’s menu includes diced potatoes & twice-baked potatoes:
Most families would probably prefer homemade french fries, but we could eat homemade home fries 7 nights a week!  Sometimes I fry them in infused oil to add some favors, other times I just fry them plain.
Most of my freezer cooking is done to make meal prep easier and faster.  This method, however, probably takes longer than just making the fries normally.  That brings up another great benefit of freezer cooking:  You can cook large amounts of cheap food that would have spoiled otherwise!  I can buy 10 lbs of potatoes at a really good price and I don’t have to worry about where I will keep them (cool, dark place) or how long it will take to use them up!
Freezing potatoes raw can sometimes turn them funny colors.  To stop that from happening, I cut the potatoes (in whatever shape you like, french fries, home fries, curly fries, wedges, etc.) and toss them in boiling water for 10 minutes (or until tender).
Then, rinse them with cold water to stop them from cooking.  Space the potatoes out on baking sheets and pop them in the freezer to flash freeze.  Once frozen, transfer the potatoes to freezer bags in portions that work for your family.
While my husband would love it if I made 10 lbs of diced potatoes, I decided to use the other 5 lbs to make twice-baked potatoes.  I loved these as a kid — butter-flavored only!!  They are the very first thing I learned to make-ahead and freeze.
According to the Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book (everyone should own this), you can bake four potatoes by microwaving them for 10-15 minutes.  I nuke four potatoes at-a-time and let them cool down.  Then I scoop the insides into my KitchenAid and I add a ton of butter.  I baked 12 potatoes today and used almost a whole stick of butter (but I could have used more!! Yummmmm…).  I mix it on a low speed for a minute or two, then slowly add milk until it’s mashed-potato-consistency.  Scoop that into your empty shells, cram them on another baking sheet, and flash freeze!  Again, once frozen, transfer to freezer bag or individually wrap.
I have to admit that my family is a little disappointed that there isn’t room in the freezer for ice cream right now!  I’m sure they’ll be thankful in a week or two when the baby is screaming, we’re all exhausted, and we still have yummy home-cooked food to eat for dinner!!
If you’re interested in how I will use my {almost} fully stocked freezer during my postpartum weeks, make sure you subscribe!

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freezer cooking

Fill Your Freezer: Bread-Machine Sandwich Bread

The good news is — my sink is still functional and not completely disassembled — so I can wash some dishes today!!

I got a bread-machine for Christmas [from my mom].  I had been making bread “the old fashioned way” but I am way too impatient while it’s rising.  I can throw ingredients in the bread-machine and go on with my day (I don’t even have to be home!) and it kneads and rises all by itself.

At first, I was disappointed because the bread was dense and crumbly.  Then, I found this recipe at allrecipes.com that suggested a fix!!  Sandwich bread needs to be fluffier, which means it needs to rise longer.  This recipe calls for three rise cycles – but my machine only does two rise cycles (even on the “sandwich” setting).  So, after the first rise is over, I shut my machine off and start it over.  Works like a dream.

Here is my recipe~~

Ingredients: (this is the order my machine calls for)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup + 2 tablespoons water (1 & 1/8 cups)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 & 3/4 cups flour – I’ve used white bread flour, regular wheat flour, or a mix
2 & 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

However, I do it a little differently than what the machine says to do.  I add the sugar, yeast, and water first.  I let it sit until it gets foamy.

Then I add the other “wet” ingredients, then the other “dry” ingredients.  I set the machine for “Basic” on the “light” setting.  That setting takes 3 hours – and the second rise cycle starts 30 minutes into it.  My machine beeps when it starts the next cycle, I get a reminder if I forget about restarting the machine.

We don’t eat bread too often, but often enough that we need to have some in the house.  I cut these loaves in half crosswise and freeze one-half.  I’m making 2 or 3 loaves (depending on how much flour I have on hand) to freeze for the next month.

And when my feet get tired, I set up a burrito filling station on a tray table in the living room… 🙂

If you’re interested in how I will use my {almost} fully stocked freezer during my postpartum weeks, make sure you subscribe!

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freezer cooking, menu

Fill Your Freezer: Lasagna Casserole

FINALLY!!  I finally made lasagna casserole.  This recipe has been on my to-do list since before my Third Trimester Freezer Cooking Session.  I’m not a fan of cottage cheese, so I don’t keep any on hand and I don’t know what a good price is.  Since I had so much ground beef to use up, I finally sucked-it-up and bought enough cottage cheese to make 3 casseroles.

Looks yummy!  While constructing casserole #3, I knocked over the strainer that held all of my noodles… and they scattered all over the floor.  Thankfully, it was only the last half of the last casserole.  And thankfully, my seven-year-old mopped last night.  Yes, Landon mopped the kitchen floor.  It’s amazing what a savings goal (some obscure Lego set) can do for someone’s work ethic!!  I never thought I’d hear, “Mom, do we need to work in the garden this week?”  [But, I digress]  So, I carefully inspected and rinsed everysingleone of the handful of noodles I spilled, and added them to the casserole.  Five-second-rule, right??
Unfortunately, my kitchen is being disassembled tonight…  I’m getting a new sink, garbage disposal, cabinets, and a built-in dishwasher!!  My freezer cooking plan for tomorrow is to fill some more tortillas for brown bag burritos, because I already have the filling made and I don’t have to stand up to do it!!

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freezer cooking

Fill Your Freezer: Pizza Casserole & More Taco Meat

Tuesday is still my “go in town” day — but before the stores opened, I got a little freezer cooking done!

I was surprised to learn that this pizza casserole recipe actually makes TWO casseroles.  Now, I’m really glad I didn’t plan to triple it!!

I used two more pounds of the ground beef to make more taco meat (without beans added). That means I only have two pounds of ground beef left to use!! I’m going to make more Brown Bag Burritos because I have some enchilada sauce left that needs to be used.  I just need to get some more tortillas…

I also managed to hurt myself.  My first freezer cooking injury:  I punched through a plastic container trying to get frozen ground beef out of it.  It looked a lot worse last night….

What’s left on my plan?

  • Lasagna Casserole
  • Brown Bag Burritos (1&1/2 recipe of filling to fill as many tortillas as possible)
  • Waffles (as many as I can crank out – this will feed my seven-year-old all summer)
  • Sandwich Bread (in the bread machine)
  • Make a freezer inventory list
  • Sit down with my feet propped up and relax!!
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