Friday, May 23, 2014

Last Week's Freezer Cooking in Review: Ground Turkey and Chicken

Ground Turkey was on sale for $1.66/lb last week. I look forward to this sale, which seems to happen quarterly, because I have never seen a lower price!  As usual, I bought 9 pounds for $15. Here was the breakdown of how I prepared almost all of it during nap time one day:

Freezer-Friendly Cheddar Turkey Burgers

First, I experimented to create a recipe for Freezer-Friendly Cheddar Turkey Burgers. The three pounds of turkey yielded 16 burgers, or four meals for our family of three. We tried them on Saturday, and if I do say so myself, they're delicious! Recipe to come soon!

Browned Turkey

After I popped the burgers in the freezer to flash-freeze, I measured out four pounds of meat using my handy-dandy kitchen scale, threw it all in my stock pot, put the lid on, and turned the heat to medium-high. I Every few minutes I would stir/break the meat apart with a wooden spoon until it was cooked through. I discovered this method at Heavenly Homemakers and it has revolutionized my freezer cooking. Not kidding!
I don't think there's any way to make raw meat look attractive...
I drained the browned meat and allowed it to cool. Then I divvied it up into 5 quart-sized freezer bags (again, using the kitchen scale because I'm a perfectionist). This gave me the equivalent to roughly .75 pounds turkey (by raw weight) in each bag. This seems to be the perfect amount for our family of three. Making smaller portions stretches my freezer cooking longer, and I discovered that we don't miss the extra meat in our recipes. The thing I really love about freezing meat this way is that it gives me so much flexibility for future meals like Sloppy Joes, Tacos, Lasagna Casserole, Crock Pot Stuffed Pepper Soup, Zucchini Boats, etc.

Turkey Gyros

While that was cooking, I used the last two pounds to make Turkey Gyros. Kiddo loves them, and so do I, so they're on my "nice list" right now. :) After it cooled, I divided the meat into three portions, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and tucked them in a gallon freezer bag.
When we have Gyros for dinner, I will thaw one portion, slice it, and brown the slices on my electric griddle {affiliate link} before serving. They taste wonderful on Naan, pitas, tortillas, or even made into a sandwich on toasted bread. (You know, when you forget to make the Naan...not that I would know anything about that!)

Wrapping for the Freezer:

I drained the browned turkey right after I put the gyros in to bake, took the gyros out of the oven just before Kiddo got up from his nap, and wrapped and bagged everything (including the now-frozen turkey burgers) after dinner.

Since I took a break in between, it's hard to calculate how much time I truly spent on this freezer cooking session, but I'm guessing that the hands-on time, including wrapping/bagging to freeze, totaled between 1-1.5 hours. I'm a slow mover in the kitchen (I find the whole cooking and baking thing relaxing), and I was experimenting, so I definitely could have done things more quickly had I been on a time crunch. Still, making all this in bulk goes a lot faster than making each individually as needed. Freezer cooking is definitely worth it for me!

More Freezer Prep:

In addition to freezing the turkey, we also "took care of" our meat chickens this weekend (meaning that Hubby did the dirty work and I helped once they looked like meat). We wrapped four whole chickens for roasting and pieced out the rest - 10 each of breasts, thighs, drumsticks, and wings, plus the carcasses with plenty of meat still attached to use for soup and stock.
I handled it better than I thought I would. I feel really good about the way our "boys" were raised, fed, and cared for, which makes it easier to see them meet their purpose. Plus, the chicken breasts we grilled were really delicious!

Anyway, other than the obvious fact that we froze chicken, I included this in my freezer cooking post is because before I froze them, I turned two bags of thighs and wings into Freezer Kits by adding half-batches of the sauce for this Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken. The night before we plan to eat it, I'll put it in the fridge to thaw overnight. Then I'll cook it in the crock pot as directed, removing the bones and thickening the sauce as directed before serving.

This is another one of our favorite recipes - Hubby asks for it regularly and Kiddo gobbles it down every time (which is pretty miraculous, because he can certainly be fickle).

The Result:

So, to sum it up, in one week we froze nine ready-to-cook meals, five bags of ground meat for meal starters, and a bunch of chicken to thaw and cook throughout the year. Not bad at all!
I will definitely appreciate these quick-fix meals as we'll be busy with softball games and lots of freezing and preserving from our garden this summer!

More Freezer Cooking Resources:

If you'd like to see more ideas for filling your freezer with healthy and delicious meals and ingredients, check out my Stock Your Freezer Series from last fall:

What's your freezer cooking style? None at all? Once-A-Month or marathon cooking? Sale-by-sale (like me) or as the mood strikes? Any freezer cooking tips to share? I'd love to hear from you!

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