Works For Me Wednesday – Cook That Chicken!

In my quest to keep meals affordable at our house, I try to buy chicken for less than $1 a pound whenever I can. Occasionally I can find chicken breasts for that price (bone-in), but more often I find whole chickens or 10-lb packets of legs and thighs. I package some thighs up in ziplocks in good amounts for our family. But the rest of the meat I cook before I ever stick it in the freezer.

I get out a big pot and simply boil the whole chickens or chicken parts for an hour or so, till the big pieces of meat are cooked clean through. Then I lay the pieces of meat in a large casserole pan to cool for 20 minutes or so. When it is cool enough to handle, I enlist my little kids to help me pick the meat off the bone. Even a preschooler can pick chicken off the bone– in fact, the littlest kids like the job the best. With a bunch of us working together, the job can be done in 10 minutes.

Once the meat is off the bone, I cut it up into bite-sized pieces and freeze it in ziplocks in 2-cup portions. With the meat already cooked and ready in the freezer, I can whip out a stir-fry, or homemade chicken noodle soup in no time flat. In fact, I usually make chicken noodle soup the very next day, using the broth that I boiled the chicken in as the starter for my soup.

However, here is our very favorite use for cooked chicken. I will often make two or three of these casseroles at once so I’ll have some for the freezer.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Serves: 8


3 cups cooked chopped chicken
12 corn tortillas
4 tsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped (or pureed if kids don’t like onion)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small can tomato paste
1 c water
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 T chili powder
1/2 c black olives, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 c cheddar cheese, grated
1 c Monterey Jack cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF(175ºC). Shred the cooked chicken meat; set aside.

2. Bake the tortillas, turning once, until crisp, about 15 minutes. (skip this step if you’re crunched for time, I usually do.)

3. Heat oil in a sauté pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté until tender. Stir in tomato paste. Stir in water and jalapeño. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Stir in chili powder and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in olives, chicken and green pepper.

4. Coat a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place 4 of the tortillas in the bottom of the casserole dish.

5. Top with 1/2 of the vegetable mixture and then top with 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat this layering (toritillas, meat, cheese) and top with remaining tortillas.

6. Coat the top of the tortillas with a thin layer of the sauce; reserve remaining sauce. Place the casserole dish on a baking sheet and bake at 400ºF(200ºC) for 30 minutes. Remove the casserole from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Works for me!

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  1. Mary,
    You have the greatest recipes. I am going to print this one out and give it a go. I can substitute whole wheat tortillas for my low carb diet. Now I’m suddenly staving.

  2. This is a great one. I like the idea of pre-packaged pieces for stir fry and soups!

  3. That is a great tip! Just knowing that the meat is cooked and waiting in the freezer would make coming home from work easier!

  4. Good tip. I think’s great to sperate the meat and freeze it. It makes the next meal so much easier.


  5. What a great idea. I love how you get the kids involved, too!

  6. Yum!
    So stirfry is still good if you start with cooked chicken? I’m never sure if it will change the taste of it too much. I always start with raw and marinate it awhile before I stirfry so I’ve been hesitant to try it any other way.

  7. I always wondered if you could cook chicken and then freeze it. I guess you answered my question. Does it change the consistency or taste of the chicken after you freeze it? This would make life so much easier b/c I’m all about throwing together a chicken casserole for supper. Awesome! Oh, and any tips on thawing it out before using it in a recipe?

  8. Cooking the chicken and then freezing it is a fabulous idea. (Why didn’t I think of that??) This would make preparing dinner a WHOLE lot easier when I rush in the door from work…


  9. Good for chicken salad too.

  10. We do this from time to time since I hate cutting up whole chickens. I can just never seem to find the joint and end up with sharp bone fragments in the cut up pieces.

    I always wondered why my father cooked the thigh with the leg and you had to take both if you wanted dark meat. It must be genetic.

  11. Thanks for the tip AND recipe! =)

  12. For stirfry, I toss the chicken in a dab of sesame oil, soy sauce, and garlic. Then I add it into the wok after the veggies are partly cooked. Basicallly I am just warming up the chicken, since it is already cooked. It tastes great!


  13. I do pretty much the same thing, just not on as grand a scale as you, since there are only THREE of us… But, I do love freezing the broth in small portions for all the recipes I cook that require it! Tastes much better than canned or boxed broth!

  14. YUM!

    We are still eating your Christmas strata variations. In the fridge right now is one with almond extract, coconut, and pie cherries that I put up last year.