In my quest to become the “perfect” (ha!) mom, I have stumbled upon a little thing known as “dump” chicken. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up, shall we? (Oh…it’s too early for shall we!...Anyone??)
You all know I like to make a healthy, home cooked meal for us for dinner. We don’t always get a healthy, home cooked meal for lunch, but I can control dinner most of the time so I like it to be as wholesome as possible. I’ve also dusted off my britches and climbed not so gracefully back on that wagon of healthy eating. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds of the weight I gained when I was pregnant, but unfortunately I had gained about 30 pounds between my healthy weight and my second pregnancy, so I have to re-lose that 30 pounds now. It was a struggle then and I’m sure it will be even more of a challenge now considering my time is even more cherished than it was before.
The problem? When you have a 5 month old who goes to bed around 7p every night and a husband who gets hungry for dinner around 6p, your time is limited especially considering I don’t want to spend those precious few hours between day care and bed time cooking.
The answer? Freezer meals. It’s not a new notion. In fact, it is one of the most pinned topics on pinterest! I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get on board, but once I did, I never looked back. Here are just a few ways my freezer has saved me in the past few weeks:
Dump Chicken: This website has tons of seemingly great recipes. In less than 10 minutes, I “made” three different recipes from this site. The concept is simple…take a gallon freezer bag, add chicken, veggies, and sauce. Seal and throw in the freezer. When you’re ready to make it, pull it out the day before and put in the fridge to thaw out a little. The next day, either put it in the crock pot in the morning or bake in a casserole dish that night.
I tried the Caribbean Dump Chicken and I have mixed reviews. I’m not sure if it was because I used the crock pot or I just didn’t like the recipe, but something tasted off. I’m thinking I just don’t care for chicken in the crock pot though, to be honest. I also have Citrus Ginger Dump Chicken and Chili Maple Glazed Dump Chicken in my freezer, but haven’t cooked them yet.
As a bonus meal, I emptied one bottle of Lawry’s Sesame Ginger marinade over two extra large chicken breasts and froze. I thawed, then grilled them up last night and they were fabulous! So moist, tender, and flavorful! Definitely trying that again!
Chicken Enchiladas: If you read this post, you know I’ve made enchiladas for the freezer in the past. The only problem? When you freeze them with the sauce and then thaw them to cook, they can become soggy. I’m not sure how I came up with the solution, but I decided to make up the enchiladas and freeze them without the sauce! Genius! I bought burrito tortillas, filled them with chicken, refried beans, black beans, and corn, and wrapped them up, tucking the ends in so the filling didn’t fall out. Then I froze the burritos in a freezer bag. When I wanted to serve, I pulled out a couple burritos, put them in a small baking dish, covered with sauce and some cheese and baked at 400º until heated through. I even put them in the oven frozen! Love this.
Dad’s Spaghetti Sauce: I love the recipe I affectionately call Dad’s Spaghetti. I could eat it every week. The problem? If you want to do it right, the sauce has to simmer for approximately 3-4 hours. How did I solve this? I made a huge batch and let it simmer all day. I dumped 4 cans of diced tomatoes in a large pot, added some olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and some more spices and brought it to a boil. I then reduced the heat to simmer and let it sit there for several hours, stirring occasionally. Once I thought it looked done, I turned off the heat and let it continue to sit on the stove until it was cooled. Then I split the recipe up into four separate containers and froze them. Now, when I want a quick dinner, I’ll defrost the sauce, cook up a batch of pasta, and toss to combine. Add a side salad and maybe some rolls and you’re done! Easy peasy Japanesey.
Casseroles in general: We are a huge casserole family in this house. We love them! I asked Jeff if he had any requests for my cooking extravaganza and he said Tater Tot Casserole and Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole. I love both of those too! My problem is I don’t have enough casserole dishes to prepare them ahead of time. I have two solutions to this.
The first is lining the casserole dish with aluminum foil, making the casserole, and then wrapping the foil around the dish. You then freeze the entire thing and pull it out of the dish once frozen. When you want to serve, you pull the foil wrapped casserole out of the freeze and put it back in the dish you used to freeze it. Then bake, eat, wash, etc.
The second way I found was to implement those trusty freezer bags again. Let’s use the chicken cordon bleu as an example. In this recipe you make a white sauce, then combine it with diced chicken, ham, and swiss cheese. Then you top it with a mixture of crackers, cheese, and butter. YUM! I put the chicken, ham, and cheese in a bag. I then made the white sauce and let it cool to room temperature. I put the sauce in the bag with the chicken mixture, sealed it, and rolled it around to cover everything with sauce. Then I put the crushed crackers and cheese in a separate sandwich bag. I added the butter, unmelted, to the bag. The day I wanted to serve, I put the chicken mixture in a dish. Then, I melted the butter, added it to the sandwich bag, and tossed to coat. Finally, I put the cracker mixture over the chicken mixture and baked in the oven.
I can’t decide which way would be easier for me. I like the dump method of using freezer bags, but it may be more economically friendly to use the foil as opposed to the bags. Either way, I would recommend leaving anything you want crispy or crunchy out of the mix until the day you serve, otherwise it could become soggy.
These are just a few of the ways I have started implementing freezer cooking in my life. I also made a few meatloaves to store in the freezer. Jeff loves my meatloaf and has requested to have it once a week. When I make it, though, he eats it for dinner, then for breakfast the following day, and if there’s enough left he eats it for lunch. I have to hide some if I want leftovers!
For more tips and tricks, check out the following posts from other bloggers:
Freezer Meals on the Cheap by A Turtle’s Life for Me
Dump Cooking by When the Dinner Bell Rings
101 Spring Freezer Meals to Make Your Life Sane by Once a Month Mom
Also, Natalie at A Turtle’s Life for Me recommends the book Don’t Panic, Dinner’s in the Freezer. She says it’s where she gets a lot of her recipes. I just bought the book and will be hopefully putting it to good use in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes!
So, I want to know…what is your favorite recipe to make ahead?