Remember the other day when we were talking about taking short cuts? Well for the entire BUSY month of December this freezer case in Sam’s Club was my friend. I purchased all of those sandwiches- twice. Then I thought, if I made the extra time to make these myself, could I? I mean, I am sacrificing my family’s health for a few conveniences, so I think I should at least make their wellness a priority around here and replace the factory produced sandwiches with tastier and healthier ones from home.
Could I also do it more cost effectively than Sam’s Club? In this case I am more concerned with giving my children a preservative-free, tasty, homemade, hot lunch than worrying over a few pennies but it is still an interesting thought.
Here’s what I did…
I purchased a package of soft hoagie rolls (yaddah, yaddah- I am Suzy homemaker but I draw the line at making my own hoagie rolls- you can find healthy ones!), sliced them open and cut them in half to a portion size my children would eat. This gave me 12 sandwiches total. Then I placed the rolls on a tray to freeze. What I noticed about the factory-made sandwiches is that everything seemed to be frozen separately then assembled into a sandwich.
Then I oven-fried some chicken thighs. The package touts all white meat chicken but I find that these have been so “injected” to retain moisture that I opted for the chicken thighs, which will retain their moisture and texture naturally after a quick reheat in the microwave better than a breast any day. I placed these on a tray to freeze as well.
Here is my Chicken Recipe…
In a Zip-top bag or bowl, mix:
5 egg yolks
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, excess fat removed
In another Zip-top Bag, mix:
1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp garlic salt
Preheat oven to 450°. When the oven has reached it’s proper temperature, place 4 T. butter and 4 T. olive oil in a large jelly-roll pan with sides and place in oven and heat until butter is melted and browned, the mixture should be bubbling, do not burn! Meanwhile, place the chicken pieces, a few at a time, into the bread crumb bag and shake until each piece is coated well. Remove hot dish of oil/butter mixture and place chicken in a single layer into the dish, it will be tight. Bake for 9 minutes and turn chicken over then bake another 9 minutes. This will come out juicy, crispy and tender! Makes 12 pieces.
Once the chicken and bread were frozen, about one hour later, I assembled the sandwiches being sure to add a yummy slice of cheese to each sandwich since my kids love cheese! Each sandwich was then wrapped in wax paper and secured with a small piece of masking tape and placed in a zip top freezer bag and placed in the freezer until my kids are ready to pack their lunches.
Note- Healthier foods do not have to cost more than convenience foods. The only cost may be a bit more time in the kitchen! I thought my cost would be more than Sam’s and was pleased to see that I matched their price per ounce and that my food was not filled with a long list of preservatives.
TASTE COMPARISON: Robin Sue wins in this category. This was a delicious sandwich. To reheat, I place it wrapped in the microwave and heated it for 30 seconds on high, then removed it from the wrapper and heated it for another 30 seconds. Microwave times may vary. Oh and you know what? It is not being reheated in a cellophane wrapper which I find scary.
TIME COMPARISON: Sam’s Club’s sandwiches of course are very convenient to purchase while mine took some prep, bake, and freezing time. I did do this in bits as I wrote and picked up the house so it did not feel too labor intensive, but if my time were limited this would be a problem.
In doing this little experiment, it brought to the forefront of my mind how stores offer so many conveniences and how easy it has become to pop these things in our grocery carts. Like most of you, I work and found it a blessing to be able to purchase goods from Costco and Sam’s Club to make my life easier. I know I am sacrificing not only taste, but the wellness of my family in that most of these convenience foods are filled with preservatives and fillers such as salt and sugar. Do I really want that? I struggle with the balance of convenience versus health. Sometimes I fail and sometimes I prevail. What I do know is that my Homemade Frozen Chicken Sandwiches are way better than the factory version and if I get up a little earlier or turn off the television, I can offer my family healthier dishes at a fair price- my time.
How do you find balance between convenience and health?
PS- I updated my Blogs of the Month page. Have a look.