As I mentioned in a previous post, one of my recent cooking ventures was to attempt to make freezer meals to pull out for dinner on busy nights. I read a lot of Once-A-Month-Cooking websites, a lot of freezer-meal websites and came up with a collection of meals. It wasn’t a giant collection, as many of the recipes were impossible to make dairy/soy free, but a good number of recipes nonetheless. I made a grocery list and headed to the store. In addition to the meats and veggies and spices, I purchased two boxes of freezer friendly gallon size ziptop bags. (I like to double bag my freezer stuff in case a leak should happen). Then when I got a 2 hour window of time I set it all up:
1. A meat chopping station
2. A veggie chopping station
3. Lots of measuring cups and spoons (every set I had)
4. My recipes all printed and laid out in order of assembly- I tried to do all chicken ones in a row so I could chop all the chicken at one time.
I assembled five recipes in about an hour and tucked them into the freezer. We’ve eaten most of the meals now and some of our recipes were total flops. A few were good with some additional spices. The best by far was Honey Sesame Chicken.
I found the recipe Honey Sesame Chicken on Damn Delicious where the recipe had been adapted from The Comfort of Cooking. It originally contained soy sauce, but I swapped it out for coconut aminos and added some salt to the recipe. My coconut aminos is much sweeter than soy sauce and lacks the salt that soy brings to the party. Add a little salt to the recipe and my family never misses soy sauce. I wasn’t sure about the ketchup in the recipe when I read it, but when we ate it we couldn’t pick out that flavor at all. Seems crazy but don’t skip it! Lastly, my kiddos can’t handle any heat/spiciness in food so we left out the red pepper flakes. Red pepper usually just adds a great background flavor and I love it, but it always seems like my most heat sensitive child ends up with the flakes in her food and then refuses to eat any more. So we left that out of our batch.
The recipe was super easy to prepare. To make it for the freezer, I set a freezer friendly gallon zip top bag in a large bowl to keep it from falling over. I dumped in the diced onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, ketchup, oil, chicken, salt and pepper. I pushed the air out of the bag, sealed it, double bagged it in another ziptop bag, labeled it and froze it flat in our freezer.
I defrosted the meal still in the bag. and in the fridge, the night before I cooked it in the slow cooker. I do want to note that I’ve started cheating in this part of the freezer meal recipes. Most freezer meal recipes say to defrost in the fridge starting the night before. Well, I often don’t have my act together that far in advance. After cleaning up a dinner, getting two tired kids through the bath and bedtime routine and finding an hour to regain my sanity, I rarely think ahead about dinner the next day. (Gotta work on this, I really do.) So since I usually wake up and think, “Oh no! Forgot about the freezer meal again!” I’ve started defrosting a double-bagged freezer meal in a sink half full of water with the tap dripping slightly. (The dripping breaks up the cold water around the frozen item.) In an hour most of my meals are completely defrosted and ready to dump into the slow cooker. This procrastinator-friendly strategy is a time saver, but if you try it for any recipes make sure your meat is fully defrosted so it cooks evenly and fully.
My family ate this meal over rice. This recipe calls for cooking the chicken for 3 and a half hours and then removing the chicken to cool and shred it. When I took the chicken out I immediately started a pot of rice on the stove. The recipe for the chicken says to cook an additional 30 minutes with the shredded chicken added back into the slow cooker, so my rice and chicken were ready right about the same time. My family loves jasmine rice. Check it out if you’ve never tried it.
Honey Sesame Chicken
1 small onion diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup honey
½ cup coconut aminos
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish for serving day (optional)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
sesame seeds, for garnish
For Freezer Meal Preparation:
In a heavy-duty gallon sized ziptop bag, combine the onion, garlic, honey, coconut aminos, salt, ketchup, oil, and red pepper flake (optional). Place chicken thighs inside the bag. Seal bag tightly. Gently squish/massage bag to combine the ingredients. Place inside another ziptop bag, label and freeze flat.
When ready to make the meal: Defrost. Add to slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 ½ hours. Remove chicken from the slow cooker and shred with forks. Return chicken to the juices in the slow cooker. Cover and keep warm fro 30 minutes. Great served over jasmine rice.