Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kitchen tip: Freezing chicken (and other meat)

In my previous post, I talked about saving money by getting things in larger quantities and stocking up when there's a good sale on something you use all the time. On my last shopping trip, there was a good sale on chicken breasts. I only really use chicken breasts for one recipe (chicken peanut butter pasta... I'll share the recipe at the end of this post), but I make that recipe a lot. It's really cheap, we all love it and I almost always have all the ingredients in the house. Even if we're out of other ingredients, we always have peanut butter and I'm pretty good at improvising.

Anyways. I wanted to stock up on the chicken breasts that were on sale, but unfortunately there was only one package left when I got there. Still, it was more chicken than I was going to use at once, so I froze it to use later.

If I'm going to freeze something, I want it to be convenient to get it out of the freezer and use it. Chicken peanut butter pasta calls for the chicken to be cut up into bite-sized pieces before cooking it. So I cut it up before I freeze it (just ignore the makeshift cutting board, my cutting boards are still in a box somewhere).

I put a ziploc bag over a cup so I could drop in the pieces of chicken without getting the outside all covered in chicken juice. Then I put in enough chicken for one meal.

Once there was enough in the bag, I closed it, squeezing out as much air as possible... and then squished it to flatten it out.

When all the chicken was cut up, I put the bags in a larger freezer bag because the sandwich bags aren't meant for the freezer... and now I have a bunch of chicken ready to go. I can thaw it in the fridge if I think of it in time, but if I don't I can put it in the sink under running water while I prep the rest of the meal and it will be thawed in no time because it's so thin. I've never done this with anything but chicken, but I'm sure it would work just as well for other meats.

Oh, and here's that recipe I promised, with some suggested alternative ingredients in case you're missing a few:
Chicken Peanut Butter Pasta 
1-2 lbs chicken, cut into 1/2" pieces
vegetable oil (or olive oil or vegetable shortening or margarine)
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable broth or water)
2 tbsp honey (or corn syrup)
1tsp soy sauce (or teriyaki sauce or marinade or worchestershire sauce)
1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1tbsp cornstarch (or flour, might need more and will change the taste)
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (or more... I normally at least double this)
2 green onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, squished
veggies (whatever you want... or none, if you prefer)
Pasta (I prefer fettucini, but any pasta will work) 
1. Put on a pot to cook the pasta while you cook the chicken and make the sauce. Just make sure to keep stirring it and drain it when the pasta's done (I've forgotten about it a few times...)
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Toss in the chicken, garlic, green onions and veggies. Cook until the chicken's not pink anymore. Remove from the pan.
3. Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. It's easier if the broth is hot.
4. Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and pour in the sauce from the bowl. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
5. Add the chicken and veggies back into the pan and cook a few minutes longer.
6. Combine the sauce and pasta and serve.
If you put in as much hot pepper as I normally do, make sure there's milk handy! I'll try and remember to snap some pictures for you all next time I make it.

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