Category Archives: Cooking

Pineapple chicken freezer meal

freezer meal pineapple chicken
Hello everyone! I’m so sorry that I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve spent the last few weeks sick. Like going to bed on Saturday and waking up on Wednesday type of sick. I spent most of the time making muffled hacking noises and drooling on my pillow.

While I was sick, I had serious issues with dinners. It’s not because I didn’t have food. I had plenty of prepped meat and vegetables in the freezer. I even had some freezer meals prepared. But my family was at a loss as to what to make for dinner.

The instructions on my freezer meals just weren’t clear enough. Usually when I make up freezer meals, I scrawl something like Bake at 350 or the name of the freezer meal on the plastic, since I know how to prepare most of the meals. This just didn’t cut it when I was incapacitated.

So I’ve resolved to start making freezer dinners more family-friendly. Something that even my junior high kid could cook if needed. The first meal? Pineapple chicken.

There are lots of pineapple chicken freezer meals on the web. However most pineapple chicken meals involve dumping the contents in the crockpot. I like crockpot freezer meals as much as anyone else. But cooking chicken in the crockpot causes it to shred. And I don’t like shredded chicken for Asian dishes.

This meal takes about 15 minutes to prep, and 15 minutes to cook.

To prep meals for the freezer

This recipe makes up three meals – one for now and two for the freezer. You can adjust it as needed. Each meal serves 6 and costs $3.52 per meal.

You’ll need:

  • Freezer bags – gallon size
  • Freezer bags – quart size
  • Sharpie or permanent marker
  • Printout here – pineapple chicken download
  • 3 lbs boneless chicken breasts or thighs — $5.25
  • 3 bell peppers — $1.50
  • 3 20oz cans of pineapple chunks, juice reserved — $2.99
  • 6 Tb soy sauce — $.12
  • 3 garlic clove, minced — $.24
  • 1 Tb grated ginger — $.11
  • 1 Tb cornstarch — $.04
  • 6 Tb brown sugar — $.12

First, cut up the chicken into bite-size chunks. Divide among three quart freezer bags. Seal and mark the chicken bags. Set aside.

freezer meal pineapple chicken

Drain the pineapple and set the juice aside. Divide the pineapple among three quart freezer bags. Chop and seed the bell peppers. Divide between the pineapple bags. Seal and mark the vegetable bags. Set aside.

freezer meal pineapple chicken

Next, prep the sauce for freezing. Combine brown sugar, pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl.

Here’s a tip when prepping liquids for the freezer: line a cup with an empty freezer bag and pour the liquid in the cup. This keeps the liquid from spilling when you pour. A third of the sauce needs to go into the freezer bag. Seal and mark the sauce bag. Prep two more sauce bags and set aside.

sauce in cup

Place 1 tsp cornstarch in a quart bag. Since you don’t have to worry about freezer burn for cornstarch, you can place the cornstarch in a quart sandwich bag.

Place a bag of sauce, a bag of chicken, a bag of pineapple/peppers, and a bag of cornstarch into a gallon size bag. Place one of the cooking instructions from the PDF in the gallon bag with the rest of the quart bags (The instructions should keep dry). Bag the next two meals. Freeze.

This is best served over cooked rice or cauliflower rice. If you’d like, you can bag the uncooked rice, write instructions for cooking the rice, and tuck into the gallon bag. You can also fill a quart bag of prepared cauliflower rice and add to the gallon bag.

chicken package

pineapple chicken printable

Pineapple chicken freezer meal

Pineapple chicken freezer meal

Ingredients

  • Freezer bags - gallon size
  • Freezer bags - quart size
  • Sharpie or permanent market
  • Printout of instructions
  • 3 lbs boneless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 3 20oz cans pineapple chunks, juice reserved
  • 6 Tb soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb grated ginger
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • 6 Tb brown sugar

Instructions

  1. Cut up the chicken in bite-size pieces. Divide among three quart freezer bags. Seal and mark the chicken bags. Set aside.
  2. Drain the pineapple and set the juice aside. Divide among three quart freezer bags. Chop and seed the bell peppers. Divide among the pineapple bags. Seal and mark the vegetable bags. Set aside.
  3. Next, prep the sauce for freezing. Combine brown sugar, pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl.
  4. Line a cup with an empty freezer bag and pour the liquid in the cup. This keeps the liquid from spilling when you pour. A third of the sauce needs to go into the freezer bag.
  5. Seal and mark the sauce bag. Prep two more sauce bags and set aside.
  6. Place 1 tsp cornstarch in a quart bag. Seal and mark.
  7. Place a bag of sauce, a bag of chicken, a bag of pineapple/peppers, and a bag of cornstarch into a gallon size bag. Place one of the printed cooking instructions in the gallon bag. Freeze.

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Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack

 

Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack - from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack

I had just finished washing and prepping some strawberries to eat. And I was left with that empty plastic clamshell that the strawberries come in.

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack -from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Don’t you hate that thing? Sure, it does a fine job of holding strawberries. But once it’s empty, it’s just one more plastic item to add to the landfill.

Then I read this post from thekitchn.com about how to keep lettuce and salad greens fresh. We Tried 3 Ways to Store Salad Greens .

The post details ways to store lettuce in plastic bags and plastic containers with paper towels. These methods keep lettuce fresh and ready to eat for over a week.

And as I stared at the empty strawberry clamshell container, it hit me: Why not use the empty strawberry container for lettuce storage?

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack

 

So I washed the lettuce and dried it carefully. I layered the lettuce in the clamshell container with paper towels, and refrigerated the container.

And it worked!

Looking back, it seems like a no-brainer. After all, you can buy delicate greens and spinach in plastic clamshells.

 

I’m sure that if you wanted to be a super recycler, you could wrap the lettuce in a clean dish towel. Either way, I’ll be sure to save my strawberry containers this spring!

What disposable items have you given a new life in your kitchen? Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hackThis post was featured on:

 

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Bountiful Baskets — Is it worth it?

boutiful baskets-title

 

This is the first in a series of articles where I’ll examine common cost cutting methods and see how they stack up.

The setup: Bountiful Baskets is a non-profit cooperative available in 24 states, mostly in the West and the South. At the beginning of the week, you order a basket for $15 (plus $2.50 handling fee) — an assortment of fruits and vegetables that Bountiful Baskets selects for you. You select a pickup location and on Saturday, pick up the produce (bring your own box). The produce is not strictly local, like a CSA. You can pay extra for an organic basket, as well as add-on specialty items. For more information, see www.bountifulbaskets.org .

I had heard about Bountiful Baskets for a while. People kept telling me how much they save with participating with Bountiful Baskets.

I was skeptical. “Really?” I thought. “There’s no way that a single cooperative could beat my produce prices.” I tend to shop a number of stores, and buy my produce during peak season to save the most money.

But I figured I’d give it a shot. I ordered a basket, brought it home, weighed, and counted the produce. Then I compared the produce to the prices I usually pay. First I figured the lowest price that I like to pay for my fruits and vegetables. Next I wrote down the price of the produce that I found in the stores for that week.

Here are my totals:

 

Bountiful Baskets Price Comparison
Produce Quantity Bountiful Baskets Grocery Sale Price Grocery Average Price
green grapes 2 lbs .99/lb 1.99/lb
pineapple 2 lbs .75/lb 1.25/lb
apricots 4.2 lbs free 1.99/lb
baby watermelon 3 lbs .25/lb .75/lb
plums 2.3 lbs 1.49/lb 1.99/lb
bananas 2lb 10oz lbs .33/lb .50/lb
potatoes 5 lbs .99/lb .99/lb
romaine 1 head .88/lb 1.25/lb
spaghetti squash 1 lb 8.4oz .99/lb 1.49/lb
mushrooms 8 oz 1.49/lb 2.50/lb
cucumbers 2 3/1 .79
Total 17.50 28.67 35.25

 

Wow. As you can see, there’s quite a difference between the cost of the basket and the individual prices of the items — even when I buy them at the lowest sales price that I can get.

The nice thing about Bountiful Baskets is that, unlike a CSA, you are not committed to purchasing a basket each week. During the summer months, when our garden is producing more than we can eat in a week, we don’t participate as often.

Bountiful Baskets may not be for everyone, however. You won’t find Bountiful Baskets an excellent deal if:

  • You don’t eat a lot of vegetables – Well, of course, if you are not willing to prepare and eat the fruits and vegetables, you’ll waste a lot of produce.
  • You must have perfect vegetables – I haven’t had a big problem with the quality of produce, but because it’s packed and distributed by volunteers, some items may not be as picture perfect as found in the supermarket. Be sure to inspect your basket when you receive it.
  • You are uncomfortable with trying new items – We’ve found lots of interesting vegetables in our box, such as: multi-colored carrots, fennel, chayote, and parsnips. I’ve had to Google items a few times to figure out how to prepare and cook an odd fruit or vegetables.

Fortunately, Bountiful Baskets also has a great Pinterest board where participants post recipes. I’ll also post a weekly menu plan using your basket items, so you can figure out what to do with all that produce!

What’s your experience with Bountiful Baskets?

Bountiful Baskets did not pay or reimburse me for this post, and the links are not affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

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7 ways to use old citrus

7 ways to use old citrus

 

It happens to all of us. Maybe you vowed that this was the year that you’d eat half a grapefruit for breakfast every day. Maybe you saw that gorgeous stack of oranges at the grocery store and had to have some.

So you end up with surplus citrus. And sometimes you might end up with an orange or lime that’s a little bit old. Not moldy or gross, mind you. But just a little. . . sad. When we have fruit that starts to look this way, everyone in the family shuns it.

But there’s still a way to salvage it. Here are seven ways to use up your old citrus:

Marinades

Juice your citrus. Then toss chicken breasts in a freezer bag and the squeezed juice. Freeze for later thawing and grilling. Some flavor combinations that I love:

  • Grapefruit juice, a few sprigs of rosemary, and a garlic clove
  • Lime juice, sliced onion, chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon juice, lemon zest, and thyme

Freezer meals

But why limit the juice to marinades? You can make some great freezer meals from fresh-squeezed juice.

Try either the Orange Ginger Chicken or Lemon Pepper Chicken from New Leaf Wellness:

6 Crockpot Freezer Chicken Meals

Fresh-squeezed orange juice tends to be sweeter than concentrate, so if you make this yummy recipe from Freezer Meals For Us, taste the orange sauce before adding the brown sugar and adjust to taste.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Drink spritzes

You can’t get more than a half-cup of juice from most citrus, making it tough to get a good fresh-squeezed glass of OJ from one orange. However, you can use a splash of squeezed juice to freshen up a drink. Freeze the juice in ice-cube trays. When frozen, you can drop a cube in plain water. The juice cubes can add zing to other drinks too. I once put a blood tangerine cube in a Diet Coke. . .ah heaven!
Beats Diet Coke and lime any day.

Smoothies

This works best with oranges, of course. Peel the oranges and lay the segments on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze and pop the frozen segments into  a freezer bag for use. These make the freshest tasting Orange Julius!

Green cleaner

You can also take citrus peels and steep them in vinegar. Strain the liquid after a few weeks and pour it into a clean spray bottle. There are lots of how-tos on the Internet, such as this one from  the Shabby Creek  Cottage. Just remember, you can use more than orange peels. Lemons, limes, and grapefruit peels also make a nice natural cleaner.

Sometimes the citrus is just too far gone to be edible. Don’t worry. You can still squeeze some life out of it before tossing.

Air freshener

Cut up your citrus and toss the pieces into a slow cooker or pot of simmering water. You can also add aromatic herbs and spices, like rosemary and cinnamon sticks. It’s especially great to get rid of those musty late-winter house odors.

Disposal cleaner

Finally you can always use it as a disposal cleaner. Cut up the citrus and toss a few slices in the disposal along with a few ice cubes. Grind them up. This is a great way to clean the disposal and keep it fresh. I know that many people like to freeze slices in chunks like hockey pucks, but I’d rather keep my freezer free for other things.

What’s your favorite way to deal with old citrus?

 

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5 Minute, No-Measure Crockpot Soup

5 Minute No Measure Crockpot Soup leftovers

Crockpot soups are soooo nice to come home to. They’re warm, comforting, and easy.
But trying to follow a recipe at seven in the morning is a little too much effort for me.
I know, I know. You can put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before and refrigerate the crockpot until morning.
But that involves planning. And some days, that’s more planning than I want to deal with.

For those days when mornings are hectic, I rely upon the 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup.

You can throw together this soup in five minutes, plug in the crockpot, and leave it to simmer. Come back — instant dinner.

Carl Weathers Baby you got a stew going on

Carl Weathers would approve

To make 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup, just follow the chart below. Start with a liquid, like chicken broth, add a few vegetables from column A, protein from column B, add some spices. And baby, you got a soup going on!

I’m serious about the no measuring. . .you just eyeball everything. And this recipe scales — you can make it in a small 4 quart crockpot enough for two with leftovers, or feed the block with an 8 quart crockpot. Just follow the ratios: 1/2 liquid, 1/4 vegetables, 1/4 protein.

Crockpot soup is very forgiving. Here are the details:
broth

Liquids – Pick the flavor you want and fill the crockpot up half way. Spaghetti sauce is good for minestrone type soups, milk for chowders, and clear broths for almost anything. If using milk, be sure to use skim or 2% milk. Higher-fat milks tend to curdle.

 

tomatoVegetables – You can fill the crockpot 1/4 full with bite size chopped vegetables. Frozen vegetables work great, as well as leftover vegetables from the night before. Limit it to three kinds of vegetables to avoid weird combinations.

 

meat

Meats and other proteins – I always have a few bags of precooked chicken or hamburger stashed in the freezer. Cans of beans are even easier to add to your soup.  Just dump your protein in, filling up the crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches headspace.

 

spicesYou can be a lot less exact with spices than other types of cooking. Toss in a chopped onion, some minced garlic, and some celery. Feel free to leave out the onion or garlic if you don’t like. Toss in the other spices, a good pinch, depending upon how you want the soup to turn out. I just grab a small spoon from the silverware drawer and use it to add the spices.

I like to salt the soup just before eating. It’s lots easier to adjust salt and heat at the end of the cooking time.

 

cheeseThese are the finishing touches that really makes the soup. Add them just before serving. You can stir them in or top your soup with them.

 

And finally, give your soup a good stir before leaving it unattended. I confess, I tend to forget this last step. Often I’ve come home and lifted the lid to view an island of dried out vegetables and meat in a pool of liquid.

 

Here’s your handy chart:

crockpot, leftover magic, soups, freezer cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey! I’m at the Works for Me Wednesday link party at the giving up on perfect blog. Come join us!

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