Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fast and Easy Freezer Meals (Freezer Meals part 2)

So. Freezer meals.  A very popular trend, it seems.  My last post on freezer meals had about TEN TIMES the number of views than any other post I've written.

And here's why:  Freezer meals make you happy.  It's true.  Think about it.  For the little effort it takes to throw these together and toss in the freezer, you get out of it healthy, home-cooked meals.  Nothing from a box, no bazillion-calorie expensive restaurant meals, and dinner is put together with a minimum of effort and time.  No wonder it's ten times more popular to do this than to make bagels. (Although making your own bagels can be a wonderful thing.)   I know freezer meals make me happy. 

So, as promised, more freezer meals.  If you haven't already, check out my first post on freezer meals, for a walk-through of how I like to handle doing freezer meals, with a nifty tip involving a drink
pitcher.  Click HERE for that post.

I use ziplocs for these meals, and when the meat comes home from the grocery store, I throw it in the ziploc bag with a few other ingredients and toss in the freezer.  That's it.  Then I'm ready to go when I need a meal with no fuss.  The meat marinates as it thaws.

With the exception of the crockpot meals, which are obviously put in the slow cooker earlier, I pretty much just throw the meat in the oven at dinnertime and steam some veggies or make a salad.

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. (A million meaningless bonus points if you know where that phrase originates without using Google.  Uh-huh, you're about to go Google it, aren't you?)

The five meals I have for you today are:  Crockpot French Dip, Chicken Marbella, Apricot-Soy Pork Chops,  Apple Bacon Chicken, and Chili Maple Pork Chops.   All are husband-approved and none take more than a couple of minutes to prep before freezing.  


The Recipes

Chicken Marbella 

Adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook

8-12 pieces of chicken (I like thighs and legs better than breasts for this recipe)
3/4 cup prunes (Ukraine friends: do NOT use regular чернослив that have the smoked flavor - use the kind that say they are "California" prunes - meaning not smoked.)
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
6 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup green olives
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt (sea salt if you've got it)
2 teaspoons pepper
1 cup white wine
1 cup brown sugar

Put all ingredients in a freezer bag.  Squish out the air and seal.  Freeze flat.

The night before or the morning of your meal, pull the bag out of the freezer to thaw.  Once thawed, arrange the chicken pieces in a baking pan (9x13 or thereabouts), and pour the juices over the top.  

Bake 350F (175C) for 50 to 60 minutes.  Remove the chicken to a serving platter and spoon some of the juice over the top.  


Chili-Maple Pork Chops   

Adapted from blog When The Dinner Bell Rings

4-6 pork chops (or pieces of chicken if you prefer)
4 Tablespoons of water
2 teaspoons salt
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons chili powder

Put all ingredients in a freezer bag.  Press the air out and seal.  Freeze flat.

The night before or morning of the meal, pull the bag out of the freezer to thaw.  Once thawed, discard the marinade and cook the meat using your favorite method:  Baking in the oven at 350F (175C), cooking in a frying pan on the stove, in the crockpot (keep the liquid in that case), or grilling.

Cook to desired doneness.


Bacon-Apple Chicken

4-6 chicken breasts
1 apple, peeled and sliced
2-3 cups of barbeque sauce*
16-24 slices of bacon (4 slices per chicken breast)

First, wrap each chicken breast tightly in 4 slices of bacon, overlapping as you go, like so:

Then, carefully place wrapped chicken into a freezer bag.  Add apple slices and barbeque sauce.  Seal the bag and lay flat to freeze. 

The night before or morning of the meal, pull the bag out of the freezer to thaw. Once thawed, arrange the chicken in a baking pan (line with foil for easier clean-up) and pour the sauce from the freezer bag on top.  Bake 375F (190C) for 25-35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

*My recipe for BBQ sauce:  Mix together 300 grams ketchup (about 1 1/3 cups), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup orange juice, 1 teaspoon red pepper, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, 2 Tablepsoons mustard.  Mix in a saucepan, cook and stir about 15-20 minutes.


Crockpot French Dip

1 beef tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 or 2 beef bullion cubes
2 bay leaves

If desired, cut the beef in chunks that will fit in your crockpot better and thaw faster.  Put all ingredients in a ziploc freezer bag.  Press the air out, freeze flat.

The night before, pull the bag out of the freezer to thaw.  The next morning, dump all contents into the crockpot and add enough WATER to completely cover the meat.  Cook on LOW for 7-8 hours. (If the meat is still frozen, start on HIGH and turn down to LOW halfway through).

Slice the meat, and serve on buttered, toasted rolls.  Strain the juice and use for dipping.

Apricot-Soy Pork Chops

4-6 Pork chops or chicken pieces
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup apricot jam
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic

Place all ingredients in ziploc freezer bag, press out the air and seal.  Freeze flat.

The night before or morning of, pull the bag out of the freezer to thaw.  Place thawed meat in a baking pan for the oven (9x13 or so). Line with foil for easier clean-up.  

Bake at 350F (175F) for 25-45 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of your meat.  Check often for desired doneness.