Monday, February 08, 2016

Saving Time in the Kitchen

One place I have really had to learn to be intentional is in the kitchen.  Having four people eating 3 meals from home every day really adds up quickly.  The time spent cooking and cleaning up can quickly be overwhelming, especially in the midst of all of our other everyday tasks.  


I've found that keeping a few things on hand in the freezer that can be used to whip up a quick meal with little cooking is extremely helpful on busy days.  We all know there are tons of advantages to eating home-cooked meals as much as possible.  Lately, I've been keeping my freezer stocked with cooked, shredded chicken that can be used in skillet meals, soups, chili, or even quesadillas or burritos.  Using my crockpot means it takes hardly any time or effort, so it's easy to squeeze in during a busy week.

I like to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts at Aldi when they have them as the special buy of the week.  I bought some for $1.49/lb. this week!  Other great places to buy them inexpensively are from warehouse clubs (we only have Sam's Club) or Harris Teeter.  If you have a Harris Teeter in your area, they always have chicken breasts in the fresh meat counter for $1.99/lb as an E-VIC special.

I cook several pounds of chicken breasts in the crockpot at once to stock my freezer with seasoned shredded chicken.  I usually cook around 5 pounds at a time, and I am a bit of a spice snob when it comes to cooking them.  Usually, I'm OK with inexpensive spices, but I've found that I can tell a difference when it comes to this chicken.  I love Penzey's black pepper, and their roasted garlic and onion powders.  Here's what I've found works for me:

5-ish pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp roasted garlic powder
1 tsp roasted onion powder



I rub the seasoning on the chicken and place them in my crockpot to cook on low for around 8 hours. You could add a little olive oil to your rub if you'd like.  You could also experiment with your own garlic and onion powders or even fresh to see how you like the flavor as well.  

I let the chicken cool a bit.  Then I shred it with two forks, and I package it in approximately 2 cup portions.  From my last batch I got 3 baggies to freeze, and I use one large breast for some white chicken chili that night.  I'll often heat up a bunch of veggies or beans or something in a skillet and add the cooked chicken for a quick made-up recipe.  

Once you know what types of flavors your family likes, you can experiment with your own made-up skillet recipes.  Do they like Asian flavors? Try zucchini and carrots with some soy or Teriyaki sauce.  You can even add some cooked rice to the skillet.  Do they like Tex-Mex flavors?  Throw in some sauteed onions, a can of black beans, and a can of diced tomatoes or Rotel.  Season it with some cumin and maybe even a little chipotle chili powder, and you have a yummy meal.  My boys especially like this when I add some frozen corn near the end!  I appreciate how having this pre-cooked chicken in the freezer saves me from the drive through, and my wallet does too!

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