I spent about 6 hours over three days making the recipes for this month, plus about 2 hours of inactive/simmering time. This included about 30 minutes prepping the sauce and 2 hours cooking it; 2 hours prepping all the veggies and preparing the honey chicken, sesame chicken, and balsamic chicken bites, and an hour preparing the BBQ chicken and chicken pot pies. In total, they yielded about 38 dinners’ worth of food. I spent about $250 on supplies and food. For what it’s worth, you can use any meat you choose with these recipes–I chose chicken because we don’t eat pork, and eat very little red meat. (I thought they would taste odd with fish ).
The first thing I made was homemade pasta sauce, on an afternoon I was working from home. Because most of the time involved is the sauce simmering, I was able to whip up the base over my lunch break and let it simmer all afternoon. I modified this recipe, so that it made a huge pot, and had some modifications to our taste from the original. You make the sauce in two parts–first, make the sauce and let it simmer. Then make the meat mixture, cook it, and add it to the sauce.
2 large onions, chopped fine
3-28oz cans crushed tomatoes
3-10/12oz cans tomato paste
Small handful of fresh oregano, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
Brown onion in olive oil in a large pot until golden and fragrant. Add remaining ingredients, combine well, and simmer 1.5-2 hours. Your house will smell pretty awesome at this point!
2 lbs ground meat (preferably lean, I chose ground chicken)
1 1/3 cups almond milk (or milk product of your choice)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs, beaten
8 slices whole-wheat bread, cut or torn into 1″ pieces
1 T garlic powder
1 T salt
Small handful fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture will look horrid right about now. That’s exactly how it’s supposed to look. Pour it into a large, preheated skillet and cook until the meat is thoroughly cooked and the mixture is browned. Set aside until sauce has finished simmering.
Once sauce has finished simmering, add meat mixture to sauce, stir well to combine, and simmer 15-20 minutes until heated through. Serve over your favorite pasta, or in your favorite Italian dish.
After the sauce was finished, I froze it all. I put 3 cups into 8 gallon-sized ziplock bags–so that I had the equivalent of 8 jars of sauce in the freezer. Be sure to label with the recipe name and date, along with how much is in the bag. This sauce freezes flat really nicely if you get all the air out of the bags. To use after freezing, just defrost, heat, and serve.
On Thursday, I spent two hours in the kitchen prepping for the remaining five recipes, and making three of them. These recipes include chicken pot pie, BBQ chicken, honey chicken, balsamic chicken bites, and sesame chicken. Before beginning, I gathered all the ingredients I would need for each recipe. Then I threw the chicken that needed to be cooked (8 breasts) in the oven for an hour at 350. I then prepped my produce and the rest of my chicken. After all of that, the chicken in the oven still had 30 minutes to go–so I prepared the sauces for the honey, balsamic, and sesame chicken in separate gallon-sized ziplock bags (3 bags of each), placed chicken in the bags, mixed thoroughly, and threw them in the freezer (15 meals’ worth!). Once the chicken in the oven was done, I took it out, let it cool, wrapped up the remaining produce and cooked chicken, and put everything back in the fridge–and ran off to get a haircut.
Yesterday, I shredded the cooled chicken, put the BBQ chicken together, made the pot pie filling, assembled the pot pies, and packaged everything up for the freezer. About an hour’s actual work today, all told.
Here’s my tip on shredding chicken. This tip alone will make the time you’ve spent reading this post entirely worth it. To shred three chicken breasts in less than a minute, put them in the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment. Cover the whole thing with a dish towel to contain the flying bits, and turn it on to speed 3-4 until the chicken is pulverized. Took about 30 seconds for each set of three breasts I put in.
For the three bagged & frozen recipes, here’s what I did:
1 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup ketchup
2T vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Mix all ingredients in gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add four chicken breast halves, mash to coat, and freeze. Each bag serves 4. Label bag: Honey Chicken, Serves 4. Defrost overnight in fridge, then cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.
Balsamic Chicken Bites
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T worcestershire sauce
2 T dijon mustard
Mix all ingredients in gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add four diced chicken breast halves, mash to coat, and freeze. Each bag serves 4. Label bag: Balsamic Chicken Bites, Serves 4. Defrost overnight in fridge, then bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Serve over rice.
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2t. ground ginger
1/2t. garlic powder
1/8 cup ketchup
2T toasted sesame seeds
Mix all ingredients in gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add four chicken breast halves, mash to coat, and freeze. Each bag serves 4. Label bag: Sesame Chicken, Serves 4. Defrost overnight in fridge, then cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. Serve over rice or soba noodles.
For the BBQ chicken, the recipe I was planning to use turned out terribly. So I ended up mixing 4 shredded chicken breasts with our favorite BBQ sauce, and freezing in two ziplock bags.
The chicken pot pie was the most involved recipe I undertook this week. Here’s the recipe:
4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
3 onions, diced fine
6 carrots, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
4 T earth balance (or butter)
42 oz reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 boxes refrigerated pie crust (2 crusts per box)
3 cans peas
3 cans cream of chicken soup
Prep your veggies. Melt the earth balance in a LARGE skillet (seriously–the bigger the better), and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and the chicken broth, and let simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. I forgot to time this step, but I’d guess it took somewhere around 30 minutes. Don’t forget to stir.
While this is cooking, line three 9″ pans (pie plates, cake pans, or foil pans) with foil, then parchment, then pie crust. Eric found me a great product that’s foil and parchment in one–just make sure the parchment side is toward the inside of the pan.
Remove the veggies from the heat, and add your peas, cream of chicken soup, and chicken. Stir until combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into each of the three pie crusts, and top with a second crust, pinching the edges together. Cut a few vents in the top crust, and wrap tightly in parchment, then foil. Label the outermost layer with the directions: Chicken Pot Pie: 375 for 40 minutes. Each pie serves 6 heartily.
We ate the chicken pot pie for dinner last night and tonight in celebration of all the work I had done prepping these meals. We added some frozen veggies as a side, and finished dinner with creamsicles. Remember those?
I’ll get photos up tomorrow. For tonight, it’s goodnight!