Sunday, January 31, 2010

Once-a-Month Cooking Festival: Take it in Mini-Bursts!

It’s time again for our once-a-month, once-a-month cooking festival. If you’re new to Moms in Need of Mercy, on the first of every month, we share any tips that help us speed up our time in the kitchen. You do not have to be a “once-a-month” cook to participate. A bulk cooking day requires much planning, and obviously lots of time. While it pays off with a well-stocked freezer, it can be stressful. A more manageable and less time-consuming approach is to take it in mini-bursts.
When you see a great sale on meat or poultry, buy several pounds—enough to last you until the sale runs again, usually about 6 weeks later. While you can split these up in freezer bags to cook later, take just a few more minutes to prep your meals right then. By doing this, you’ll have a meal you can grab from the freezer and pop in the crock-pot or oven on a busy day, or a night when you just don’t feel like cooking.

Let me illustrate what you can do in a mini-cooking-burst. When boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale for $1.79/lb (which is a great price in our area), I bought about 15 pounds. I trimmed them; cut some up for chicken fajitas, seasoned them, and browned them (slightly under full doneness, since I will be reheating them to serve). Then I froze the seasoned chicken strips. When I want to make fajitas, all I have to do is pull out the bag, add them to the skillet and warm them.

I also found a recipe I wanted to try for Chicken Durango. It’s quite easy. Here it is:

½ c. butter, melted
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 T. paprika
1 T. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts, split (I used boneless, skinless breasts)

Mix together all ingredients except chicken. Marinate chicken in sauce for 3 to 4 hours. Place chicken in baking dish, skin side up (if using split breasts) and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until done at 325 degrees.

Another easy recipe is to take however many chicken breasts you want for a meal (I used 5 or 6), place them in a freezer bag, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, a half can of milk (measured in the empty soup can), a packet of onion soup mix, some beef bouillon granules, and any other seasonings you’d like (maybe a little onion or garlic powder). Then, once thawed, you can simply put this in your crock-pot and serve it over rice or noodles.

Finally, I froze a few chicken breasts just plain to have on hand for when I find a chicken recipe I want to make.
Doing this mini-burst of freezer cooking was super easy, and it’s nice to know I have some meals all ready-to-go. Be looking for recipes that you can assemble and freeze with no cooking required (until serving day), like the Chicken Durango one I shared. This way, when a certain kind of meat goes on sale, you’ll already have some ideas for how you’ll put that in your freezer. Or you can buy the meat, and skim through your cookbooks when you get home.

Cooking like this also saves a lot of money. When you buy a large quantity at a low price-point, you’ll have all the chicken, for example, you need until the next sale. Had I not bought a lot of chicken when I did, I would have needed to buy it at full-price (or a less-than-great sale) if I wanted meals with chicken between sales.

Have a tip you’d love to share or any meals you’ve stashed in your freezer? I’d love for you to link up and share!

And a reminder—our next once-a-month cooking festival will be right here on March 1st!

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