Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Six Chicken Freezer Crockpot Meals

Being a mom is hectic. Living with a chronic illness is exhausting. When you combine the two, sometimes the idea of getting dinner on the table in the evening feels monumental. Those are the days where I've grown to love my deep freezer and my crockpot. On a day when I am feeling decent and have a bit of extra energy, I'll prepare and freeze a batch of meals. Then, on days when I'm short on energy or need a break from cooking, all I have to do is pop the meal in the crockpot and dinner is ready!

If you haven't tried freezer/crockpot cooking yet, I highly recommend it and I can offer you a simple starting point. A good friend of mine is about to have her second baby, but since we live in different states I couldn't help her prep food before the baby's arrival. Instead, I wrote up this shopping list and instructions to make it as easy as humanly possible to get six different chicken crockpot meals prepared and frozen. Now my friend will have these meals on hand for after her baby is born!

While these meals do require you to prepare rice or noodles and possibly a steamed veggie on the day you serve it, that is a lot less effort than preparing a whole meal! And the glorious part of this particular batch cook is that it is really simple and streamlined - after I got all the ingredients it took me less than 40 minutes to prep six different meals, despite arthritis hands during chopping! I thought some of you might also be interested in trying it, so I'm sharing the shopping list and instructions below.  You could always double it and end up with 12 meals too! 

Also (and here's an organized nerd alert here, guys!) I keep a list of what I currently have in my freezer on my phone - so that anytime I'm trying to figure out what to do for dinner I can just check the list. Otherwise stuff would get lost in the freezer forever - especially the chest freezer! I like to include cooking time and serving suggestions right on the list, so I always know how much effort my choice will take in advance.

Six Chicken Freezer Crockpot Meals

Shopping List:

-       12-18 boneless skinless chicken breasts (since 2 big breasts is generally enough to feed my family, the six-pack of chicken breasts they carry at Costco was perfect for this batch cook!)

-       cream cheese (8 oz)

-       2 red bell peppers
-       1 orange bell pepper
-       2 sweet onions
-       1 zucchini
-       baby carrots (2 cups)
-       2 cloves of garlic
-       lemon juice

Baking Goods:
-       cornstarch (1-2 tbsp)
-       white sugar (1/4 cup)

Canned & Jar Goods:
-       1 can large pineapple chunks in pineapple juice
-       1 jar spaghetti sauce
-       1 can cream of chicken soup
-       orange juice concentrate (8 oz)

Oils & Condiments:
-       ketchup (1/4 cup)
-       olive oil (1/2 cup)
-       white vinegar (1/2 cup)
-       honey (1 cup)
-       soy sauce (10 tbsp)

Spices & Seasonings:
-       1 packet dry Italian Seasoning
-       Black pepper
-       Garlic powder
-       Red pepper flakes
-       Salt


(1)  Get six gallon-sized freezer bags.
(2)  Label each bag with recipe name (and, if you want, cooking instructions).
(3)  Trim any fat off chicken breasts and place 2-3 in each gallon-sized freezer bag.
(4)  Chop/dice produce (zucchini, bell peppers, onions, garlic).
(5)  Place listed ingredients into labeled gallon-sized freezer bag.
(6)  Get out as much air as you can before you seal the bag.
(7)  Lay flat to freeze to save space in freezer (but make sure the outside of the bags are dry, otherwise they will stick to each other, tear, and then leak).
(8)  When ready to use, thaw in the fridge overnight (place in bowl or crock pot to avoid any issues with leaking as it thaws).
(9)  Individual cooking times and serving suggestions in each recipe.

Recipe 1: Chicken Cacciatore:

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       all of the chopped zucchini
-       half of the chopped red bell pepper
-       half of the chopped onion
-       1 jar spaghetti sauce

-       On low for 6-8 hours

Serving ideas:
-       Over spaghetti noodles
-       Over baked spaghetti squash
-       Over quinoa
-       Over couscous

Recipe 2: Creamy Italian Chicken:

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       Mix: 8 oz softened cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, dry packet of Italian seasonings in bowl; then pour over chicken in bag

-       On low for 4-6 hours

Serving ideas:
-       Over rice
-       Over quinoa
-       With broccoli, cauliflower, or other steamed vegetable

Recipe 3: Hawaiian Chicken

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       all of the chopped orange bell pepper
-       the rest of the chopped red bell pepper
-       half of the remaining chopped onion (leave some for the next recipe)
-       ½ can large pineapple chunks
-       ½ cup pineapple juice
-       ¼ cup white sugar
-       ½ cup white vinegar
-       1 tsp garlic powder
-       2 tbsp soy sauce

-       On low for 4 hours

Serving ideas:
-       Over rice
-       With broccoli or other steamed vegetable

Recipe 4: Honey Bourbon Chicken

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       the rest of the diced onion
-       all the minced garlic
-       1 cup of honey
-       ½ cup of soy sauce
-       ¼ cup of ketchup
-       2 tbsp olive oil
-       1/3 tsp red pepper flakes
-       salt and pepper

-       On low for 3-4 hours
-       When finished cooking, remove chicken from crock pot and slice into strips.
-       In a small bowl, combine 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1 tbsp water and pour into the sauce remaining into the crock pot to thicken. Repeat if not thick enough.
-       Place the chicken back in the sauce and stir to re-coat.

Serving ideas:
-       Over rice
-       Sprinkle sesame seeds on top

Recipe 5: Lemon Pepper Chicken

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       ¼ cup olive oil
-       3 tbsp lemon juice
-       salt and pepper

-       On low 3-6 hours

Serving ideas:
-       With asparagus
-       With rice pilaf
-       With couscous
-       With qunioa

Recipe 6: Orange Chicken

In freezer bag:
-       2-3 chicken breasts
-       2 cups baby carrots
-       1 tsp garlic powder
-       8 oz orange juice concentrate
-       salt and pepper

-       On low 3-4 hours

Serving ideas:
-       Over rice
-       With frozen sugar snap peas

Advice from A Sexual Counselor For Chronic Patients

Although life with a chronic illness can present challenges when it comes to sexual health, there are things that patients can do to improve their situations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer: Conversations and Care” at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

It only takes one negative experience to alienate someone from healthcare, which is a real problem for individuals with chronic health conditions.

Friday, January 8, 2016

ChronicPainDisorders.com's Best Arthritis Blogs for 2016

I am very honored to be included on ChronicPainDisorders.com's list of The Best Arthritis Blogs for 2016! The list includes some of my very favorite RA bloggers - many of whom I have had the great pleasure to meet in person - so make sure you check it out!

I must admit that I'm having a pretty good giggle over the fact that the list describes me as "very active on Twitter." I have been on "The Twitter" almost exactly one year, but I guess I did jump in with both feet! And I guess I'm faking it like I know what I'm doing pretty well! ~;o)

Thank you for recognizing my blog!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

“Sexual Issues in Rheumatology: Assessment and Intervention” at the American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting

From body image to side effects from treatments to physical pain, maintaining something remotely resembling a healthy sex life can be a real challenge with RA.