Friday, August 5, 2011

A Year of Living Frugally-Chicken Shortcut, 5 Ways

One of the staples that we use in our household are the frozen boneless chicken breasts. We go through a 3 lb bag every two weeks and have several meals that feature this item. Over time I realized that many of my recipes started the same way, so I have developed a few short cuts to speed up the nightly dinner cooking process. Once every few weeks, I will take the time to do some prep work.  I cut and chop my items and divide them into 5 individual quart size bags for the freezer. I call these my Chicken Shortcut Packets. The dishes that these make, should feed a family of four. For Doug and myself, this is dinner, and leftovers for lunch the next day. Here are the prep items: 

3 medium onion
2 bell peppers
1 lb of sliced smoked bacon
1 3 lb bag of frozen boneless chicken breasts

I start by chopping my onions and bell peppers into small  quarter inch pieces.  While I am doing this, I set the bacon into the freezer. You don’t want the bacon frozen, but  10-15 minutes in the freezer will make it easier to chop up, later. I divide the onions and peppers equally between five quart size freezer bags. Next I take out the chicken breasts. I want these still frozen, as they will be easier to cut up, and easier to cook this way. I microwave the bag about 45 seconds, which is just enough to make the chicken breasts easier to cut up, but not enough to thaw them out. I then chop up the contents of the entire bag of chicken breasts into bite size pieces. I divide these equally into each bag. By now the bacon is slightly frozen, so I unwrapped it and chop the entire lb of bacon into quarter to half inch pieces and divide that into each bag. Now all 5 bags go into the freezer for future meals.  Utilizing my pre-made chicken packets I  can now make the following recipes.

Recipe 1

Chicken Mac and Cheese

1 Chicken Shortcut Packet
1 lb box of pasta (I prefer shells or macaroni)
1 can of evaporated milk
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1-2 cup (8 oz) pkg of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or 1 pkg of mild cheddar and 2 oz of shredded Asiago Cheese)

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta, according to the box directions for the pasta.  As soon as the pasta goes in, start to sauté the frozen chicken mix in a skillet. When the chicken, bacon and vegetables are cooked through, add the evaporated milk and the cream of chicken soup. Bring to a low boil, and then
add the shredded cheese and turn off the heat, stir until all cheese is melted. Add your cooked and drained pasta. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Recipe 2

Barbeque Chicken Pizza

1 Chicken Shortcut Packet
1 can of Pillsbury pizza crust dough (or dough of your choice for a 13X9 or 15 inch round pan)
3/4 cup of Barbeque sauce (Sweet Baby Rays  is my favorite, but use what you like)
1 ½ cups of shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese

Preheat oven to 425. Saute the chicken mix in a skillet, drain off any additional fat. Roll out the pizza dough, and spread with the barbeque sauce. Spoon your sautéed chicken mix over the barbeque sauce and top with  the cheese.  Bake for 15-18 minutes. 

Recipe 3

Chicken Tortellini

1 lb bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 Chicken Shortcut Packet
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 TBSP of jarred pesto
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 TBSP butter
Salt and pepper

Cook the tortellini according to the directions on the package.  While that is cooking, sauté the chicken mix, with the garlic. As soon as that is cooked through, add the pesto, olive oil and butter.  As soon as it starts to sizzle, take off heat. Add the cooked tortellini and toss until all is coated.  This is great served with salad. You can also substitute any pasta for the tortellini, and it is just as good. 

Recipe 4

Chicken  Enchilada Casserole

1 chicken Shortcut Packet
1 can of enchilada sauce (mild or hot, your choice)
1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
1 can of Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chiles
4 cups of crushed/broken tortilla chips
2 cups of Cheddar or Monterrey Jack Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Saute the Chicken Mix, add the enchilada sauce, Ro*tel, and the soup, stir until all is incorporated.  Oil a 9X13 baking pan and add the cover with the crushed tortilla chips. Pour the chicken/sauce mixture over it and just stir around until all the chip pieces are covered.  Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then take the foil off and bake for another 10 minutes.  This is excellent served with a dollop of sour cream.  Serves  4-6. 

Recipe 5 

Quick Chicken Soup

1 Chicken Shortcut Packet
2 cloves of Garlic
2 tsp of Italian seasoning
10 cups of water
2 TBSP of Chicken Soup Base (available in the soup aisle of the grocery store)
1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup of box pasta, such as penne, rotini or bowties
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the water to a boil and add the frozen chicken mix, garlic and chicken base. Let boil on medium for about 10 minutes. Add the frozen vegetables, and the pasta and bring back up to a boil and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is done. Serve. 

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