Four years ago when I had to make drastic changes to my diet, I started trying to figure out how I could simplify my eating. Part of the problem was that I discovered that whenever I needed something quick, I hardly had any options. My issue was that I was trying to eat healthy AND be frugal at the same time. Healthy by cooking at home, which helped me to keep certain ingredients out that I didn’t want or couldn’t eat. Frugal, because I was saving money by cooking at home instead of buying precooked and packaged food. One of the things I discovered was that if I marinade, cook, freeze my chicken, it would be so much easier to pull out one piece of protein and add it to my salad for lunch.
Proper Food Handling Guidelines
Cooking fresh chicken, then freezing the leftovers for later use is not hard. The important thing to remember is that, if you are planing on freezing any food make sure you are handling the leftovers with care, such as avoiding leaving it out too long, freezing and thawing properly. See USDA’s guidelines on food safety. Cooked and frozen food stores well in the freezer up to 3-4 months. My recommendation is not to freeze anymore than you can consume within couple of months. By doing so the food will keep fresh and you won’t forget about it. There is nothing more frustrating than putting forth all the time, effort and money to simplify life in the kitchen, only to have the food go to waste.
Choices and Tips
- I like to freeze at least 4 lbs at a time. This gives me enough for several lunches or if I want I can use it for another dish, such as a casserole for a later time.
- This marinade may not seem simple due to all its ingredients, but the flavor is mild and hardly any salt. The mild flavor makes it very versatile and yet real yummy for a simple salads.
- It is not unusual for me to marinade and cook 8 lbs, and serve some of it with rice and a side salad for dinner that day and then freeze the remaining 6 lbs.
- Feel free to use either chicken breast or any boneless dark meat. I personally love the skinless, boneless chicken thigh. I feel it is juicier and has a little bit more flavor, but that is my personal preference.
- The coconut teriyaki and coconut aminos sauce I use her, can be substituted with regular soy and teriyaki sauce. I would just cut the amounts to a bit less than what the recipe calls for. I personally can’t have soy and these products are amazing in flavor and do the job beautiful. Regular soy products are more salty and this is why I recommend using less.
- I use rice vinegar in my marinades which helps to add some acid. Acid helps with tenderizing the meat. I like the sweetness of rice vinegar here, but feel free to substitute with white vinegar. Each different type of vinegar is going to change the flavor just minimal, therefore feel free to experiment.
- Like all cooking for me, it is all about daring to experiment with flavors. There is no right and wrong in any kitchen. It is about what you personally prefer and can eat. Sometimes it’s about budget as well.
Maria’s Chicken Marinade
Yield: Enough For 4 Lbs of Chicken Prep Time: 5 min. Cook Time: 1 Hr
1/4 Cup Oil
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut milk
1 Tablespoon Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoon Coconut Amino
2 Tablespoon Coconut Amino Teriyaki Sauce
1 Tablespoon Parsley or Cilantro Flakes
1/2 Tablespoon Garlic Powder (or 3-4 pressed garlic cloves)
1/2 Tablespoon Onion Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Tablespoon (Mild) Chili
Alternative is, that you whisk together the marinade separately and then add it to you chicken – I am just always trying to simplify my work 😉
Mix or toss the chicken until it is completely covered with the marinade.
At this point you can either cook it right away, or you can let the marinade soak in better and allow the chicken to get tenderized for couple of hours in the refrigerator.
Once ready to cook, place the chicken pieces in an oven safe greased pan or with parchment paper and bake it on 425 F/225 C for approximately an hour.
Check your pieces after 45 minutes, they may be done. If they are not ready place the tray back in the oven and keep baking for additional 10-15 min. You want to make sure the internal temperature is 165 F.
Pull it out and either serve or prepare to freeze.
Make sure you follow the proper guidelines in cooling your chicken down in preparation for freezer (simple and easy https://www.statefoodsafety.com/Resources/article/category/Resources/article/two-stage-cooling-process-poster ). Place your cooled chicken pieces on a tray lined with parchment paper. Keep them separated for single individual freezing. Stick the tray in the freezer for about an hour or so. Allow the pieces to freeze enough that they will not stick to each other. Pull the tray out and place the chicken pieces in a freezer bag. I like to use heavy duty freezer bags because they store much better and I can easily press all the air out. Make sure all air has been pressed out. Air is usually what causes freezer burn. Stick the bag(s) back in the freezer. If you want you can pull the bag out after few hours and just gently toss the chicken around making sure they have not stuck to each other. And then quickly back into the freezer. This bag of marinaded-cooked chicken will now be good in your freezer for few months.
Thaw and Use
This is the exciting part, when you discover how easy it is to have a small salad with a home cooked, natural and healthy piece of chicken . Pull the frozen bag out with the chicken pieces in it and pull out desired amount. Make sure you reseal the bag with the remaining pieces properly and press all the air out after each time and stick it back into the freezer. Now you can place your chicken on a platter and pop it in to your microwave for few seconds and it’s ready for your salad. REMEMBER! You want to always reheat your chicken in the microwave or the oven before you eat it. These are general guidelines for food safety reasons. Also, make sure only to reheat the amount you will be enjoying that day. It is generally not recommended to reheat a third time.
Now go ahead make a yummy salad! You can also make a curry sauce and serve it with your chicken. You can heat up the chicken, cut it up to pieces and toss it into your choice of cooked pasta or noodles and serve it with some kind of marinara sauce. Use your cooking imagination and start simplifying your life in your kitchen. Don’t forget to…