He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

16 August 2012

Prep Ahead Chicken for Dinner

I recently read a blog post by Natalie over at A Turtle's Life For Me and was inspired by her freezer meal prep.
I've heard of freezer meals and Once a Month Cooking but those are often casseroles, lasagnas, and stews and those aren't on the menu often around our house.
Instead, Natalie shreds chicken, prepares sauces, and marinates the meat ahead of time. For me... this is brilliance!
So I took my first stab at it yesterday and after purchasing chicken from Costco (they have organic whole chickens, chicken breasts, and thighs now!)
I didn't follow Natalie's full approach because if you look she did a lot more than I did. To be honest, as much as I appreciate the ease of throwing a meal in the oven straight from the freezer, I'm a bit of a food snob and don't usually like the flavor of food that's been frozen first. Instead, I went halfway and prepped 9 meals worth of raw chicken so that it's cut up (if it was needed) and flavored ahead of time. With about an hour of simple preparation (pouring the ingredients into the bags along with the chicken) I have meals started with the most time consuming parts done and they're ready and waiting in the freezer for me to grab.

And here's the six recipes I used...

Our favorite marinade, tried and true...
Mediterranean Chicken from skinnytaste.com
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
1 t oregano
1 t garlic, crushed
kosher salt

I pre-sliced the chicken into strips for easy grilling in a grill pan once thawed. Threw in all of the remaining  ingredients in the bag, pushed out as much air as I could and sealed the bag. Laid flat and put it in the freezer
When it's time to use I'll simply put the bag out on the counter to thaw (or you can that it in the fridge if you're good like that) and when I'm ready, dump the entire contents onto my grill pan and grill.

Another favorite of ours is...
 Ellie Krieger's Teryaki Chicken Thighs
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
2 T dry sherry
2 T rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 t finely grated ginger
I just dumped all of the above ingredients in a freezer bag, laid it flat, and froze. 
When I'm ready to use this I'll thaw in the fridge or on the counter. Once thawed, heat the broiler to high. Arrange the chicken on a broiler pan skin side down and broil until brown and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Flip the chicken and broil until almost cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook until the seeds turn golden brown and the chicken is done, 1 to 2 minutes longer. 

Oh... and another one of my favorites... 
 Chicken Gyros from The Girl Who Ate Everything
1 1/4 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
For these I pre-sliced the chicken and added the remaining ingredients to the bag. Mixed it all around, laid flat and froze. 
Once I'm ready to use I'll create my Tzatziki sauce while the chicken thaws...
Tzatziki sauce:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

Shred the cucumber or chop in food processor. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. 

Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Heat pitas. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and sliced onions. Serve immediately. 

I tried this recipe for the first time not long ago and we loved it. I'm hoping it translates from the freezer well...
 Beer Crockpot Chicken from My Daily Dish
6-8 bone in chicken legs
1 can of beer (we used our favorite pale ale)
1/2  t garlic powder
1/2 t basil
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t black pepper
1/2 t salt
Don't bother thawing this bad boy... dump  the entire contents of the bag into a crockpot and heat on high for 4-5 hours or 8-10 hours on low.

And here are two newbies I thought I'd try since I had the extra chicken...
Herb Wine Dump Chicken from Food.com
1 cup red wine
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 lemon, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds chicken pieces

Place all ingredients into a freezer bag. Lay flat to freeze.
Once ready to cook... Take the bag out of the freezer the night before, making sure the freezer bag is completely sealed. Place the bag on a shelf furthest from the freezer (It works best if the bag is laying flat, although this may not be the best option with a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer).

You can either bake this dish.... Place all ingredients into a large baking dish, turn chicken to coat. Bake until chicken juices run clear (about 30 to 60 minutes depending upon the chicken pieces used). 
or Slow Cook... Put chicken in the bottom of the pot. Pour remaining ingredients over the chicken. Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 4-6 hours or until done. 

 Buttermilk Roast Chicken by Smitten Kitchen
2 cups buttermilk
5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon table salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 pounds chicken parts (I used all legs)
Drizzle of olive oil
Mix all ingredients but oil in freezer bag, lay flat and freeze.
When ready to make, thaw in fridge. Once ready, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil  Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and arrange in dish. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with additional paprika and sea salt to taste. Roast for 30 minutes (for legs; approximately 35 to 40 for breasts), until brown and a bit scorched in spots. Serve immediately.

And that's that! I'll let you know how the recipes turn out as I go but I can assure that if all goes well, I will most definitely be doing this on a regular basis. Just thinking about only having to make one mess in the kitchen for nine meals makes me giddy! 

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