Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Experimenting with Split Chicken Breasts

Continuing with my theme of better meal planning and prepping ahead of time. I gave split chicken breasts a shot- for a few reasons
  1. Pure curiosity
  2. They were on sale for $0.99/lb
  3. I haven't found boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale in awhile
  4. You can make chicken broth by boiling the bones
So I got a bunch and the first batch - a few weeks ago - I just deboned by hand, used the chicken for various recipes and threw the bones in the freezer to make chicken broth later. It was surprisingly easy. Once I got the hang of it, all 6 split breasts went pretty quickly. I found it was easier to just look at the chicken as I was cutting and make it look the way it should. Reading other people's description of what they did, just made it more confusing, so just go with your gut.

So now, it's time to do some more cooking for this week, so I pulled 2 more packages of split chicken breasts out of the freezer, partially defrosted them by running them under cold water and tossed them in the crock pot. I needed shredded meat for this week, so I decided that by cooking the chicken in the crock pot {with chopped onion, oregano, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and water}, I could probably get some chicken broth out of the deal too! 

I let the split breasts go for about 3-4 hours on High before testing them- the meat shredded off perfectly and had a nice taste. The broth tasted pretty good too, but since we figured the longer the better, we left the broth going for about 6 hours total on High. Since I have a small crock pot, I could only do 1 package at a time (2 split breasts), so I did the whole process twice.

With the meat from the first package (~4.5 cups), I made Buffalo Chicken Taquitos. They are delicious, definitely a go-to meal around here! We had enough for dinner, a snack and lunch, plus about 5 that got tossed into the freezer. I also got about 4 cups of chicken broth after straining off the spices and bones!

Some of the homemade chicken broth
So for that one package it cost $2.58, which was about 2.6 lbs (including bones)-- I got more than 2 boneless skinless breasts worth of meat (since you also have 2 tenderloins in there), plus a container's worth of broth (~$2.99). It makes the whole process pretty cost effective since you get chicken and free broth. Especially since I haven't seen boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale under $3.99/lb in some time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First Attempt at Freezer Cooking

 EDIT: I actually wrote this post a while ago and never posted it. So this was all actually done on August 26th, and since we've eaten all but the Spinach Lasagna Rolls (dinner tonight), French Dip and the Sour Cream Enchiladas. Everything so far has been great! We're starting to plan our next freezer meal adventure now!

Command Central
After weeks {okay, fine months...} of saying I was going to try to do better at meal planning and prepping things ahead of time, I dove in this past weekend! Between Pinterest freezer cooking pins and some other recipes I've found over the past few months, I picked out my test recipes. Fortunately, Greg is wonderful and helped out with the shopping and prepping and cooking! Yeah, be jealous :)

As you can see in the picture above, Lion was being incredibly helpful. I think they enjoy watching while we slave away. Plus, he's not even supposed to be on the table to begin with!

We picked out 7 recipes {my sources are linked}:
Buffalo Chicken Taquitos -- Dinner Sunday & Lunch Monday (it was absolutely delicious!)
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells -- Dinner Monday & will there will be lunch leftovers
Skinny Sour Cream Enchiladas -- Freeze (one meal with leftovers)
Stuffed Bell Peppers -- Freeze (separated into two meals)
Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta -- Freeze (one meal with leftovers)
Lasagna Spinach Rolls -- Freeze (one meal with leftovers)
French Dip Sandwich with Au Jus -- Freeze (one slow cooker meal with leftovers)

We packed all the shopping, prep and cooking all into one afternoon after church {whew, it was a lot of work!}. We cooked for about 4 hours total! Fortunately, with 2 of us working it wasn't too bad and sometimes Greg did some cleaning while I was still putting things together.

We started by throwing about 6 chicken breasts into a big pot of water to boil. After about 25 minutes, we had a big bowl of shredded chicken for the 3 chicken recipes. We also had an almost constant pot of water boiling for pasta cooking {we had to do lasagna noodles, penne, and jumbo shells} in the beginning.
Boiling Chicken
Lots of pasta always cooking

Then we did some chopping & dicing prep. Onion and garlic were the most commonly called for ingredients, I realized that for the onion and had it all chopped. But for whatever reason, didn't do that with the garlic, so about halfway through, Greg minced a bunch of garlic since I kept asking for them one at a time!

At this point, it started to become easier to work on one at a time. So one recipe at a time, we started to put things together. We usually worked on one each separately, and sometimes had a third going in the background. The Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta had a 30 minute long simmer, so I was glad we started it in the middle, not at the end. The French Dip was super easy, since it was just put stuff into bag and freeze. I did the Taquitos and Sour Cream Enchiladas back-to-back since they are the same concept-
Filling for the Sour Cream Enchiladas

1. Make filling
2. Stuff filling and cheese into taco shell
3. Roll like burrito & place in pan
4. Add sauce (only for the enchiladas)

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of the Buffalo Chicken Taquitos.... but we had them for dinner and they were delicious! And contrary to what a lot of people commented on the recipe, mine stayed together really well!
The lasagn rolls were the most time consuming for me. Well it was either that or they were last and I was exhausted by the time I was doing that, but nevertheless, we finished rolling and placing!

So overall, I would say it's a success! Next time, I think I would stick with 4 recipes and make double of each {which is what a lot of other bloggers have said}. But now we have a variety in the freezer, so if we continue we should be able to build up a reserve of delicious meals that we can quickly pull out and cook. Which will really help remove that temptation to stop by McDonald's on the way home from work {sorry Dad, but the new Mighty Wings are pretty good!}
Frozen Stuffed Ball Peppers (2 separate meals)

Baked Penne with Sausage and Ricotta
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

I managed to miss a few meals in the pictures, but trust me, it was a hectic few hours. But we ended up with 7 separate recipes, and got 8 different meals out of it, with tons {and I mean tons} of leftovers!


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