Monday, April 8, 2013

3 Days of Freezer Meals: Part One (Chicken)

ETA:If you enjoy these recipes and are looking for more great and easy freezer meal recipes, please check out my e-Book, “Make Ahead Meals: Freezer Meal Recipes that Make Dinner Quick and Easy”. The book is both a step by step guide to getting started with freezer meals and a cookbook. The book contains over 50 recipes and printables for inventory tracking, labels, and grocery lists. All of the recipes use whole foods and each recipe lists the calorie content per serving (most are less than 500 calories per serving). This book will show you the best way to make and cook healthy and cost efficient freezer meals from start to finish! For more information please CLICK HERE, the book can be purchased either as an e-Book or hardcopy.

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Hiya people!  I haven't updated on Freezer Meals for a while and that's because.....I haven't had to make any!  That's the great thing about freezer meals, I can go 3 months without having to make more because I have such a good stock pile of things.  If you're new to freezer meals you can check out my first post HERE.

So anyways, I had an unexpected day off last week thanks to a flat tire so I took a little trip to BJ's before I brought my car in for fixing.  I had been meaning to go for a week or two so I had already planned what meals I wanted to make (and gotten my coupons at the ready!).  I focused on 3 proteins, two different types of meals for each- I chose the protein based on what was running low in my freezer.  So for the next 3 days I'll update you with my recipes and cooking plan for each protein; one for each day!  Here's what the plan is:

Day 1: Chicken
Chicken and Vegetable Soup
Chicken and Kale Casserole

Day 2: Meatloaf Mix (Updated- See Day 2 HERE)
Meatloaf
Meatballs

Day 3: Shrimp (Updated- See Day 3 HERE)
Baked Shrimp Scampi
Garlic Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry
Cauliflower Rice

I tried to pick meals that were mostly healthy and easy to prepare the day of serving (just thaw and heat). 

Today's protein is chicken.  I bought 4 whole chickens and then got about to making chicken stock.  I do this for a couple reasons.  One, I prefer the taste of homemade chicken stock.  Two, I like the chicken meat better than store-bought rotisserie chickens- which tend to be dry, flavorless, and expensive compared to the amount of meat you receive.


I like chicken stock because it's so easy and the majority of the time is hands-off; just letting it simmer so you're free to do other things.  I made two batches of chicken stock (2 chickens in each batch for a very flavorful broth).  Here are the steps

1. Throw half an onion, a few sticks of celery, and a few baby carrots in a pot.  Add some peppercorns and bayleafs if you feel so inclined.
2. Add in two whole chickens (this might be a tight fit!) and fill with water
3. Bring up to a boil on high heat and then lower to a simmer, cover, and let cook for appx 1 hour or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Strain broth into a container and let sit in the fridge for an hour or two.  Once the fat has solidified scoop it off with a spoon (FYI, homemade chicken stock gets jiggly once it's been refrigerated, this is normal!)
5. Shred the white and dark meat off the chicken bones and store for further use.

Easy peasy!  While my chicken was cooking away this shit was happenning so you can see how 'hands-off' it really is lol



So I did that Friday night, stored everything in the fridge, which was bursting at the seams at this point, and then Saturday afternoon during naptime I started in on the actual meals.


So first up was the Chicken Vegetable Soup.  Super easy, super healthy, and a really good light spring time soup IMHO.

Ingredients:

Chicken stock from 4 chickens (above)
4 Cups of shredded chicken (from appx 2 whole chickens, half of what was made above)
1 Bag of kale
3/4 large bag of green beans, cut into bite size pieces
3/4 large bag of diced squash
1/2 large bag of baby carrots, sliced (remaining carrots were put into small bags for snacks for the week! yum!)
6 sticks of celery, sliced
1.5 cups of parmesan cheese
1.5 Boxes of Whole Wheat Pasta (I used three boxes of a small penne pasta for this meal and the meal below, so just cook up 3 batchs of pasta so it's about 3 minutes before al dente and have it at the ready for both meals)

I made two big pots of this soup, one right after the other, because my pot isn't big enough for both at once-- so for one pot just do half of what is listed above.  First throw in a few handfuls of pasta, your veggies, and your chicken. Since there's so many veggies you don't need to have a LOT of chicken or pasta.  Fill your pot to the top with chicken broth and bring to a simmer until veggies are cooked through.  I tried to get organic veggies as much as I could and was pleasantly surprised with the organic selection at my big box store.  Also keep in mind that when i say 'bag' it means the BJ's (or Costco or whatever big box store you go to) size bag of vegetables.

You can also add some spices, I added a bit of cayenne, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.  Pretty simple because the broth is quite flavorful.  Next I started partitioning into tupperware containers (remember not to fill to the top because it will expand as it's frozen).  Lastly, I added some parmesan (appx 1/4c) to the top of each soup to give some depth (parmesan has umami right? haha). 

This recipe yields 5 large tupperware containers of soup (appx 3-4 servings per container).  Based on my limited calorie knowledge one serving of this soup (1.5 cups or so) should be appx 250 calories. 



So after that Charlie was up and my hubby was kind enough to keep an eye on him while I continued cooking.  The next set of meals utilized the leftover veggies, pasta, and chicken from the soup made above.  A yummy Chicken and Kale Casserole.

Ingredients:

4 Cups of shredded chicken (from appx 2 whole chickens, the other half of what was made above)
1 large bag of kale
1/4 large bag of diced squash
1/4 large bag of green beans (cut into bite size pieces)
1 stick of butter
2 Onions, diced
Minced Garlic (~9 cloves worth)
3lb tub of ricotta
3 Eggs
2 lemons + zest
1 tbsp Sriracha
Parmesan Cheese (2 cups)
1.5 boxes of whole wheat penne
To make this meal just melt the butter and saute your onions until translucent and then add your garlic and cook until fragrant.  Then add your veggies (green beans, kale, and squash) and cook 80% through.  Damn that looks yummy!


While this is cooling mix ricotta, lemon juice from two lemons, lemon zest, 3 eggs, and some sriracha (we put this on pretty much everything, it's optional of course) and appx 1cup of parmesan cheese. 

Divy up your chicken and pasta between 3 9x13in bakeware pans (I use Glad Ovensafe bakeware because it goes straight from freezer to oven and is reusable).  There's actually way more chicken in there than it looks like, the pasta is just covering it up :).  Once your sauteed veggies have cooled a bit split that up between your three trays, then split your ricotta mixture between the three trays. 


Mix everything together and cover with 1/3C of parmesan cheese.  To cook after freezing thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then cook at 350C for appx 30 minutes or until warmed throughout.

Pretty simple, and the best part is it utilizes all of the leftovers from the previous recipe!  I'm looking forward to trying this one!  I'm not sure the calories, but I'm sure it's more than the soup-- my guess is under 350 calories per serving which I think is pretty good for a casserole with meat, pasta, and veggies all in one!


These are the storage containers that I recommend for making these recipes. The OvenWare trays and Ball Freezer Jars are all reusable and the bags are heavy duty and freezer proof.







So there you have it-- 8 chicken freezer meals in 24 hours!   I'll be back tomorrow with my recipes for using meatloaf mix :)  OH also, on Day 3 I will put a Master Grocery List up for your reference (so if you're a weirdo like me and feel like making all 6 types of meals in one shot this list will have all ingredients consolidated in one list for your convenience).



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