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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Menu Monday #3: Meals made for the day


What a crazy couple of days, cooking up a storm! Typically I tend to utilize the "dump recipes" when I do freezer sessions, b/c I find heat and eat freezer meals to be lacking in taste and texture. And honestly all those cream of whatever soups mixed with a protein of some sort, shredded cheddar or mozzerella cheese & starch I believe to be bland, overly salty, & boring PLUS I can't stand all those chemical laden, cream of whatever soup, based casseroles and the lack of culinary skills involved with those types of "stereo-typical" freezer meals.

But with dump meals you loose the taste that you get when you sear the protein and loose the flavor you get when you deglaze the pan and pick up all the flavorful brown bits. I could still accomplish this even by using the dump ingredients as a marinade as the protein thaws in fridge, then blot dry and continue on.....but with major abdominal surgery looming near the horizon I don't know how I will feel and if I can handle heat anywhere near my stomach.

Enter in my combination meal plan, I am doing some SANe meals, Heat and Eat, Dump, Crock pot Meal Kits. I really like the SANe meals, bc you can sear the meat, deglaze the pan and freeze at that point, then you thaw and reheat in the oven or stove top like you finish anyways if you were cooking fresh, so I don't feel I loose taste or texture. I was going to par-boil the pasta and have a "Meal Kit" the pasta would cook as I re-heat the dinner, but I really don't like the gummy texture. Plus I am HOPING to make some fresh pasta and freeze it so I would cook in minutes anyways.

So far I have made:
  • 3 "Heat and Eat"- Chicken Enchiladas, 
  • 2 "Heat and Eat"- Refried Black Beans and Cheese Enchiladas 
 Both made with homemade tortillas, enchiladas sauce, & Chicken filling-it really turned out YUMMY! I didn't use the cream of chicken soup, I just couldn't stomach that gooey fake taste, so I did something I have read about;  infusing flavor with the crock pot.

I threw quartered onions and smashed garlic cloves on the bottom of the crock pot and thought that was going to be the end of the "infusing flavor experiment"... But I looked at the lime I squeezed the juice from with it's peel I zested & though normally that would have been the end of that lime,  I decided this time to infuse more flavor into the dish and threw the lime on top of the chicken breasts that was seasoned with kosher salt, pepper, and adobo seasoning. Along with the lime I added green onions, crushed cilantro, jalapeno and pepperoncini peppers {left whole just smashed slightly, I don't like the texture of peppers} plus 1 C chicken stock, 2 C pepperoncini brine and a splash of jalapeno brine. Man was that good and the cooking liquid was outstanding, much better than cream of chicken would have tasted. So I pulled out the lime, cilantro threads, green onion and I threw in a tad more s&p plus adobo seasoning thickened with arrowroot flipped the control to high for 1/2 hour and it was just right. Gotta remember that one!

I made SANe Meals of:
3 "Chicken Scalopinne"
3 "Chicken Picatta"
3 "Chicken Scampi"

Wow, were these meals insanely good! I slightly undercooked the chicken pieces with the understanding of finishing either on the stove top after thawing or oven so I hope the texture of each dish will not be compromised and will taste as good upon reheating as it did today.

The Scalopinne reminds me of TGIF Friday's Chicken Bruschetta, with a rich balsamic reduction and delicately sage rubbed chicken breast with caramelized onions and mushrooms....lip smacking deliciousness! My husband LOVES this and I just forgot about this fabulous dish I have in my arsenal.

The Picatta is just incredible, the lemon, butter, wine sauce with the briney capers and the perfectly seasoned, lightly pounded breasts balanced with a touch of heat from cayenne pepper, is out of this world! I have bought this heat and eat meal from a buyers club store in the past and it costs $25 for 2 meals, in the resturant it would cost me $15-18/person, so when I found this recipe on all recipes I knew I had to try it out. (Incidentally it cost me about $2.25/person!!!)  I was finishing this as my husband came home and he had to have some NOW! It was as excellent as it smelled, hopefully reheating will do it justice.

Hands down my pick, is the Chicken Scampi...all that you love about shrimp scampi, clarified, nutty, rich butter sauce, infused with garlic and lemon juice with its zest- finished with a light, crisp white wine & homemade chicken stock, mmm..... I need a napkin now, how about you? Yeah it's that GOOD! Really the clarified butter butter is what sets the stage for this stellar stand out dish, I used a Grass Feed Ghee, and the complexity and nutty richness this imparted in the dish is irreplaceable. It tastes like you would get at fancy restaurant. Thought similar to the Picatta, the Scampi dish is heavy on the garlic (I used granulated garlic to season the chicken breasts along with s & p) and with the slight heat of the breasts in the Picatta they differ enough to be able to tell the difference.

All in all a successful freezer session! I am doing this in mini sessions as to not overwhelm me or the kids, I can't stand them playing in a room without me! Tomorrow I will finish my SANe meal kits by making the Chicken Parm and Greek Stuffed Chicken Breasts & these both are seared and finished later without a difficult sauce. I will make a Chicken Velouté Sauce for the Greek Stuffed Chix that I will place in a separate qt sized freezer bag to be reheated & placed on top of chicken after it finishes either stove top or oven. 

I will give more details later, but this should go fairly fast and hopefully not take up the whole day! Then I can do the quick 21 other chicken dishes bc they are "Crock Pot Kits", you just mix ingredients together and pour of chicken and freeze. You don't have to thaw chicken breasts if they are frozen that would create a horrible texture issue.

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