Three Chicken Slow Cooker Freezer Meals

Our halls are decked here and we are taking a break from school, so I’ve been busy cramming my freezer with ready-to-go meals.  Today I stumbled upon some marked down organic boneless skinless chicken thighs.  I love thigh meat, it holds up to long cooking without drying out.  It will shred nice, but also will stay in nice chunks if you cut it up.  I am a big proponent of eating the whole chicken, but there is much to be said for the convenience of boneless skinless meat.  I only buy it when it is organic and on markdown.   

While my hubs grilled up one pack, I put together some freezer meals for the other packs I bought. I must mention again that I have a large family, so these could easily be cut in half for two meals for a family of 3-4.

Cranberry Ginger Chicken

(this would also work with a pork tenderloin or pork roast)
2-2.5 lbs of boneless chicken thighs
2 bags of fresh cranberries
2/3 cup of organic sugar, sucanat or evaporated honey
(you could sub. a can of canned whole cranberries)
1 tsp. of ground ginger
2 tbsp. of arrowroot powder or corn starch
4 oranges, quartered then sliced
2 small onions (or one large) sliced
1 tbsp. of sea salt or real salt *
3 tbsp. of whole-grain mustard
1 cup of chicken stock (*if you are using store bought, leave the salt out until the end of cooking and then adjust accordingly, I use homemade stock and it doesn’t have any salt)
Combine all ingredients (except stock) in a freezer bag.  Freeze flat.  This fits tightly into a 1 gallon bag, but could easily be split between two.
On day of cooking add ingredients to slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low 6-8.  Shred chicken if desired and serve with mashed potatoes or rice.
I love to serve this tart/savory sauce with goat cheese smashed potatoes.  The combination of flavors is amazing.

Tropical Curry Chicken

2-2.5 lbs of boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch peices
3 bell peppers sliced
2 small onions (or 1 large), sliced
2 mangoes diced
1 whole pineapple, cored and diced
1 can of additive-free coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp. of curry powder
1 tbsp. of sea salt or real salt
1 cup of homemade stock
Combine all ingredients (except stock) in a freezer bag.  Freeze flat.  This will fill a 1 gallon bag pretty tight. On day of cooking add ingredients to a slow cooker add stock.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or 6-8 hours on low.  Serve with Jasmine Rice and fermented veggies like kimchi.

Fajitas (Oven or Slow-Cooker)

2-2.5 lbs of boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
3 bell peppers sliced
2 medium red onions sliced
2 generous tablespoons of taco seasoning
4 tbsp of lard or butter

Combine all ingredients in a freezer bag.  Freeze flat.  I like to defrost these and cook them in the oven, but you can also dump it all in the slow cooker.  If using the slow cooker, add 1 cup of chicken stock.  Serve with tortillas, or over rice.  Add cheese, salsa, sour cream, avocado, hot sauce, lettuce, tomatoes and cilantro to taste.

When you layer the food in the bag start with the fruit or veggies.  Intermingle the spices into the center parts of the bag, that way they won’t be stuck to the sides.  And put the meat on the top.

Make sure you cut all of the pieces into bite-size, especially if you have little mouths!
Grocery List
7-8 lbs of Chicken Thighs
6 bell peppers
2 red onions
4 yellow onions
1 pineapple
2 mangoes
2 bags of cranberries
4 oranges
1 can of coconut milkCheck you Pantry/Fridge for:
taco seasoning (make some!)
ginger
whole grain mustard
arrow root powder or corn starch
sugar/sucanat/evaporated honey
curry powder
sea salt
Chicken Broth (make some!)

Well that’s one less thing to worry about during the holidays.  Now as I start my cleanse from sweets in January I will have some yummy meals ready to go in my freezer.  And this only took the better part of an hour!

Taco Seasoning

Who doesn’t love tacos?  I would literally fall over dead if I met some one!  I’ve been trying all sorts of homemade taco seasonings I found on Pinterest and think I finally came up with one my family loves.  It’s not too spicy, but some we tried along the way were.  But here’s the final recipe:
Ingredients

1 cup of Chili powder 

1/2 cup of Onion powder
1/3 cup of Ground Cumin
1 tablespoon of Garlic Powder
2 tablespoons of Paprika
1 tablespoon of Sea Salt or Real Salt
1/8 teaspoon Cayenne (this adds a minimal amount of heat, but you can leave it out)
Makes 1 pint, so get out one of those lovely ball jars.  Add all of the ingredients and shake-it-Oh-Baby-Now!  That’s it.  It couldn’t be simpler–it is literally simplier than going to the store to buy it, and then searching for that skinny little packet in your pantry…seriously.  And if you consider all of the MSG you will be avoiding or $$ you will be spending on the facny organic packs–How can you go wrong?
We go through a lot of taco seasoning here.  I use this on fajitas, in chili, shredded chicken, burrito filling, refried beans, and of course taco meat.  There are also a lot of quick recipes floating around that use taco seasoning packets.  I think somewhere near 2 tablespoons would equal a packet, but the beauty in not using a packet is you can adjust to your taste!  You can store it in the pantry in a glass jar for up to six months.

Homemade “Biscuick” Mix

So many of my staple party recipes and treats this time of year involve biscuit mix.  But it doesn’t take a 5-year-old to turn that box of mix around and see the ingredients are all garbage.  For the sake of shelf-life, this box contains a whole host of preservatives and hydrogenated oils that noone needs to have.  But what about the sausage balls?  Ha Ha!

 

Here’s how to whip up a quick batch of biscuit mix.  This is in no way a substitute for the homemade biscuit recipe in Nourishing Traditions, but it is good for subbing that yellow (or blue box if you’re a Jiffy family) in all of your favorite recipes.
I have been messing with this recipe for a while, I wish I could say it is great with all sprouted flour or even whole-wheat flour for that matter, but the truth is it just plain isn’t!  But if you do half and half like I suggest you will get some fiber and still get a nice fluffy (not gritty) result.  Plus most importantly, this recipe removes the nasty trans-fats from that biscuit mix and replaces them with soul satisfying, quickly absorbable and converted into energy saturated fats.  I must say I can do some damage in the way of drop biscuits, I’ll share my Red Lobster knock-off recipe later this week, but the saturated fat in these makes them so filling and it is easier to say “when”!
Ingredients
3 cups sprouted whole-wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons aluminum free (non-gmo) baking powder
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 cup of lard (yes, lard!  It is complete awesomeness!) or organic shortening (palm oil)- a mix of the 2 works as well
Combine all dry ingredients.  Bring lard or shortening to room temperature (this is especially important if you keep your lard in the fridge like me).  Add the lard or shortening and cut it into the flour with a fork or pastry cutter.
I just use a fork, basically you are just pushing the fat through the flour until the pieces of fat become smaller than a pea size.  This is where you will be happy you let it come to room temperature, otherwise your hand will feel like it is about to fall off!
Okay that’s it!  Now you can store this stuff at room temp as long as it isn’t too hot, or I keep mine in the fridge for a month or more.  It will work cup for cup just like the boxed stuff.
For quick drop biscuits or on top of a pot pie style dinner, mix dry mix with enough kefir or buttermilk to make a sticky, but not runny batter.  Drop onto a pan or dish of meat and veggies and bake in a 375 degree oven until firm.  Times will vary based on the size of biscuits or of the entire dish.  Here’s to one less thing you need from a store!

Simple Sauerkraut and Kefir Cheese

I started my day with two slices of my soaked bread, slathered with grass-fed, cultured butter, and raw local honey.  Does it get any better than that?  I should have had some raw milk, but I was too full!  Besides cleaning, packing, and school lessons, I’ve been trying to use all of the fresh food in my fridge or get it frozen or preserved.

I made a batch of simple sauerkraut.  It took about 10 minutes, including the time it took to get enough whey from some kefir.  The recipe couldn’t be easier, and it will be ready to be transferred to the fridge when I get back from my sisters.  Here’s how I did it.
Simple Kraut (lacto-fermented)
Ingredients:
1 medium head of cabbage shredded (I use my food processor’s slicing attachment)
1 tbs. of sea salt (this is the mac-daddy of salt)
4 tbs. of whey (see a quick way to make whey below)
Tools:
a mallet/or tenderizer
a large bowl
a large mouthed jar (large enough for the mallet to fit into)
Put all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix.  Mash with the mallet until the juices start to form.  Nourishing Traditions recommends 10 minutes.  It will vary based on the shred size.  You want a good amount of juice.  Transfer the cabbage and all of the juices to the jar.  Mash it down as much as you can.  The goal is to have all of the cabbage fully submerged in the liquid.
Glass and metal aren't optimum, but this is what I have.
Glass and metal aren’t optimum, but this is what I have.

Here’s my easy way to make whey…that makes me giggle a little…I’m such an English nerd!  I take a simple 49 cent dish towel from Ikea, a plastic pitcher, and a stainless steel colander.  My contraption looks like this.  I’m sure if you dig through your cabinets you can find something to use.

Very quickly there is enough whey to use for the kraut.  Then I hang it like this.

You are waiting for the the kefir (or yogurt) to be the consistency of cream cheese.  Then remove it from the towel, and put your extra whey in the fridge.  Whey will store for months and it is useful for fermenting veggies and sauces (like ketchup), soaking beans and grains, and adding protein to smoothies or salad dressings.  The possibilities are endless, so if you are hesitant, thinking you won’t use it…trust me you will!
Oh!  The cheese, I almost forgot.  My favorite way to eat the kefir (or yogurt) cheese is on bread.  I mix it with just enough Grade B Maple Syrup to cut the sourness and add some chopped walnuts and spread it on THICK!!  It would also be good on sliced apples.

Three Freezer Slow-Cooker Meals

WARNING: Freezer Cooking is addictive!!  Freezer meals are all over blogs and Pinterest.  I can totally understand why.  I had done freezer cooking in the past, especially when I was nesting prior to one of my little love’s arrivals.  My third love was so late, I just kept cooking and freezing, I didn’t have to prepare a meal for a solid month after she was born.  That was such a blessing in those sleepless days.

There are several strategies to freezer meals.  There is the once a month approach where you shop, cook, and freeze an entire month’s worth of meals.  Another, is to always double anything that takes considerable time (i.e. enchiladas or lasagna) and then freeze the second.  Finally, and this is what I am doing here, is to take what produce you have access to via sales, gardening, or CSA and preserve it by freezing it in meal size portions with recipes all ready to go.

The three recipes I chose were all for the slow-cooker this time.  They are Slow-Cooker BBQ (inspired by Stephanie at Mamaandbabylove.com), Chicken Teriyaki (inspired by Jaima at ringaroundtherosies.net), and Ginger Beef from MomswithCrockpots.com.  I changed quite a bit of these recipes so I’ll post the entire recipes that I used.  I packed these in 1 gallon bags and I didn’t add the meat to them, because my meat was already frozen.  I think this will maximize my savings, because I buy all of my chicken on markdown and my beef from a local farmer, so it is already frozen.  Then I can make the freezer meals when I get the produce on sale or from my garden and then I have saved all around.  (If you can’t tell frugality is very important to me. I think it is rubbing off on my kids, today my daughter was cleaning up after dinner and she asked me if I wanted to save the hot dog water to use for something else!!)

**I used a full recipe in each bag.  This should be enough to feed my family of 6 and have some leftover for lunch the next day.  If you have a smaller family you should consider splitting the recipes between 2 bags.

Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken
(I fell in love with Stephanie’s idea of having so many veggies in BBQ, my main changes are in the ingredients in the sauce.  If you have a special way you like to make your BBQ sauce, by all means change it up!)
Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or legs
3 sweet potatoes diced
2 green bell peppers chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
2 zucchini chopped
2-6oz cans of tomato paste
2 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tbs. unsulphured molasses
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. whole grain mustard (or spicy brown)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
1 cup of smoky stock (or regular stock + a dash of liquid smoke)

Combine all ingredients, except stock in a freezer bag.  Freeze.  On day of cooking, add all ingredients to slow-cooker, add stock.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  (I will add the chicken the day of cooking, I do not think the chicken would have fit into the bag, if you are splitting it into to 2 meals the chicken will fit.)

Chicken Teriyaki
(This recipe had the ingredients of Sweet and Sour Chicken with Teriyaki sauce, I cooked it once before I froze any of it.  It was good, the peppers were a little mushy, so I will leave them out until the last part of cooking next time).

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or breast (weight varying on whether meat is bone in or boneless)
1 pineapple cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 red bell peppers cut into 1 inch chunks
2 chopped onions chopped
2-16oz bags of baby carrots
1 cup tamari, liquid aminos, or soy sauce (read here why fermented soy is better for you)
1/3 cup sucanat, honey or brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

Combine all ingredients (except peppers) into a freezer bag (or 2).  Put peppers into a smaller freezer bag and tape the smaller to the larger.  On day of cooking, empty large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high 4-6 hours.  Add peppers in last 30 mins-1 hour until desired tenderness. Finally, tasted the sauce, adjust to your tastes, more soy sauce if it is too bland.  More honey if you don’t think it is sweet enough. Serve this with rice and top with lo mein noodles if desired.

Ginger Beef

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of stew meat or roast cut into cubes (preferably grass-fed and local)
1-16oz bag of baby carrots
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
1-8 oz pack of mushrooms sliced
2 tsp. of grated ginger
1/2 cup of Hoisin sauce (gluten-free variety)
1 cup of beef broth (if using homemade stock or broth, you will probably have to salt to taste or add salt initially- I usually do a good palm full for a 6 quart crock meal, and then salt to taste at the end, homemade stock is always your best gluten-free option)
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
toasted sesame seeds (optional
garnish)

Add all ingredients (except peppers) to a 1 gallon bag or split between 2.  Bag peppers separate, label both bags and tape them together.  On day of cooking dump large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours, adding peppers last 30 mins-1 hour until they reach desired tenderness.

While I was at it I made a couple of bags with chopped celery, onions, and carrots to make a quick pot of chicken soup when I have leftover roasted chicken.  All in all, it was a couple hours that will save me many!  Give it a try!  You will not go back to cooking every night again.

Roasted Chicken to the Rescue

I didn’t make a meal plan this week.  In part, because of the chaos of the holiday weekend, but also some distraction on my part.  I was working hard to complete my 40 bags challenge before Lent was over.  And work in the yard, and…and…and.  So I must confess at the end of last week I started changing things from my plan, and then I didn’t even write one this week.  And yesterday, with all shame, because of a lack of planning on my part, I had to throw out some organic chicken that I bought.  Simply because I was off my game and I didn’t throw it in the freezer.  Because I didn’t have a plan.  I didn’t know what was coming.

This week I’ve been doing my best to eat everything in the fridge and get it all organized so that I am ready to have my game plan together for next week.  I’m also reading through some freezer meal recipes to replenish my stockpile of ready made meals.  The only saving grace this week was the almost whole ham we took home from Easter dinner and the 2 chickens I roasted over the weekend to warm the kitchen while I was baking bread.  (Which I will have to post, because take two on the soaked bread was AAAH-WSOME!)
Almost every week I roast 2 chickens.  I just choose a day when I know I will be home and get them defrosted and then roast them up.  Not for dinner, just because.  When they cool I pull the meat off the bones, use the bones for stock, the pan juice for gravy, the fat that rises to the top of the pan juice to cook veggies in, and the meat for whatever I need it for.  It makes meals so quick, like: Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Quesidillas, Casserole, Chicken Salad, Chicken Pot Pie…the options are endless.  Sometimes in the summer, I will do the same with chicken Andy grills or smokes for me.

Simple Way to Roast Chicken

It doesn’t take a lot of work, just a lot of time.  You’ll need:
2 Chickens
Sea Salt
Poultry Seasoning or other all purpose seasoning.  This is my favorite.
Lemon or Orange (optional-I don’t notice a lot of difference, but if you have one that’s about to go bad, use it!)
Deep Roasting or Casserole Pan (I prefer ceramic like this one)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove gizzards and neck (reserve for stock).  Rinse Chicken.  Place in pan breast side down.  Squeeze citrus over chicken if using.  Salt generously.  Sprinkle with Poultry seasoning.  Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temp. to 350 degrees.  Cook for an additional 40-60 minutes until temperature in deepest part of the thigh reads 165.  Remove and let rest.  Enjoy the skin and pull the meat for later use.  Or eat all of it for dinner.
I’ve tried on a rack and I am a fan of without, it keeps the white meat (which I put down) very moist.  When we are eating the chicken right away we will pour out some of the pan gravy and bring it to the table.  It’s messy, but so so worth it!
So I guess even though I didn’t do a game plan for the week, some of my obsessive planning still got through to make the week work for me.  I never regret the things I cook when I’m not trying to get a meal on the table.  They always come in handy later.

One of My Favorite Things

I’ve become super addicted to Cobb Salads.  It started at Publix one day when I was getting some sandwiches to head to the park and I saw it there in the case.  I fell in love.  Avocado, blue cheese, turkey, bacon…and not turkey bacon!  This salad is the real deal!!  I love salad so much, but I hate to get them out, because all salad dressing contains soybean oil.  This drives me crazy!  On the other hand, it is hard to make a good salad at home, because it means you have to have so much stuff on hand.

So I’ve resolved to keep some homemade ranch dressing in the fridge.  I know this means we will all eat more veggies.  My kids eat salad well, better than most kids I would wager to say, but seriously what isn’t good soaked in ranch dressing??  My ranch packs a one-two punch of probiotics and healthy fats and even protein.
Here’s the recipe (Yeilds 16 oz)
1 Cup of Raw Kefir (buttermilk would work also)
2 TBS. of Ranch Powder
Mix all ingredients well.  Let sit 2 hours or overnight.  Enjoy!
To make the Ranch Powder Mix:
7 tablespoons of dried parsley
5 tablespoons of dried minced onions
4 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Add to a jar, shake well.  Use 2 heaping TBS in any recipe that calls for that Ranch packet.
Finally, make sure when you eat salad you add as much fat as possible.  Fat will help your body absorb the nutrients in all of the veggies.  Real dressing (not that fat-free junk) is a good start, but don’t shy away from avocado, real bacon, and cheese.  This will turn your salad into a meal that will keep you full and happy, not ready to raid the pantry for any sign of food an hour later!

Real Mayonnaise Can Never Come From a Store

I have never been a fan of mayonnaise, but I did spend all of my life eating some low fat or fat free version of it.  I still would only use it for potato salad or tuna and would usually opt for some oil and vinegar type of dressing.  When we adopted a traditional diet and I started reading Nourishing Traditions I found one of the main culprits in some of the health problems my family was having was soy.  I cleaned house, nothing with soy could come in the doors..and along with that my husband’s jar of Hellmans.  Oh, did I mention that Andy LOVES mayonnaise….loves!  Luckily along with the demise of that white goo, I found a recipe for real mayo that is not only a spread that will make every sandwich taste worlds better, but will nourish your body.

First, you need good eggs…really good eggs.  From a farmer.  A person you look in the eye.  A person you chat with, shake hands with, a person who knows the names of your kids.  My eggs came from a man named Larry.  A sweet grandpa who one day even went out to the coop to get eggs for me.  Hand washed them, while my kids chased his chickens.  A man who hand washes every milk jar in front of a sunny window to make sure each customer big and small gets the freshest safest glass of milk.  I love this man!  I trust these eggs, I eat them raw.  And yes, real mayo contains raw eggs…per say.  Technically, in the traditional recipe for mayo and other things like key lime pie, the eggs are added to an acidic substance which “cooks” the eggs.

On top of good eggs and good oil, this mayo is lacto-fermented with whey. So you get a probiotic punch on top of a moist sandwich or perfect chicken salad.  This recipe has changed my perspective on mayo, just like when I switched from light “buttery” spread to real butter.  And well judging my the name of my blog, you can guess my opinion on butter!  You can slather this stuff up, make salad dressings, salads, whatever and never even consider ordering “light mayo” again.

Here is the recipe from Nourishing Traditions:  (I ususally do it 4-5x depending on how many eggs and oil I have, it will keep up to 2 months in the fridge)

1 whole egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of whey
3/4-1 cup of extra virgin olive oil or expeller-pressed sunflower oil or a combination (you need to do this part to taste, I have landed on 1/2 evoo 1/2 sunflower oil)a generous pinch of salt

In a food processor add all of the ingredients, except the oil.  Process for 30 seconds.  Drizzle oil through top while motor is still running.  Drizzle until a thickened consistency is achieved.  (It will not be quite as thick as mayo from the store yet, but not runny either)  Taste it, add salt or lemon juice to taste (It isn’t quite as bland as mayo, but trust me you will really enjoy this stuff!).  Once you are happy with the taste, jar the stuff up and let sit on the counter for 7 hours before refrigerating.  (It will thicken over this time.)  I know this sounds weird, but trust me…trust the farmer who you bought the eggs from.  Your taste buds and body will thank you for this stuff!

Chicken Pot Pie

As a child I grew up on those little individual pot pies.  They were so good, flaky crust, warm gravy inside.  But as an adult I shudder at the list of ingredients almost too long for that tiny box.  In years past, my “healthy version” of pot pie involved skim milk and baking mix, sometimes canned soup.  I again gag at the amount of unknown, unpronounceable ingredients I was putting in my family.  And if I am totally truthful, they lacked any sort of good taste, so it wasn’t really something I made all that often anyway.

Now that I know saturated fat is good for me and that full fat dairy will actually help me lose weight (and it has!), I am going to give pot pie another try.  It is the perfect meal for a cold dreary day, and that is about all we are having right now.
Ingredients:
The Crust:
2 1/2 cups soft wheat flour, or unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter cold from the fridge (I use salted butter, but if you use unsalted, add 1tsp of salt)
The Filling:
2 cups of frozen or fresh veggies diced (or a combo, try to get some celery in there if you have it)
1 onion diced
2 cups of chopped chicken or turkey (great use of left overs)
3 cups of Homemade Chicken Stock or Bone Broth
1 cup of Raw cream (always grass-fed if available) or heavy whipping cream
1 tbs. salt or to taste depending on your stock
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (salt-free, organic)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbs. unbleached all purpose flour
Directions:
To make the pie crust add the butter to the food processor and break it up, you may need to help it along with a spatula, when in several pieces add the flour and continue to process, when fully combined (it has a large grainy texture), drizzle a tablespoon of ice water at a time through the top until the dough forms a ball.  Remove the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and put into the fridge.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium sauce pan heat stock or bone broth on med. hi.  Meanwhile, in a 9×13 baking dish add veggies, onion, and meat.  Stir to evenly dispersed.  When stock comes to a rolling simmer, add 1 TBS of flour and whisk until combined, repeat twice with remaining flour.  Remove from heat and add cream.  Pour into baking dish, fold to combine evenly.
Cover your counter with a long piece of plastic wrap (about 2 ft. long).  Flour a rolling pin and roll dough out into a rectangle.  You want it slightly wider and slightly longer than your pan (let’s say 11×15), but it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Getting under the plastic wrap center your crust and flip it onto your baking dish.  Fold the edges however you see fit an poke some holes in the top of your crust.  Here’s your chance to be an artist!  Make it a lovely display of perfection or a rustic creation, your choice.
Pop it in the oven for 1 full hour.  Remove and let it set at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.  Enjoy with a tossed salad or your favorite light side.