Friday, July 3, 2015

Housekeeping Trick One: One Chicken, 3 Meals

I don't have many tricks up my sleeve for homemaking or housekeeping. I'm always on Pinterest looking for more, in fact. But I do have one that may or may not help with those that don't like cooking a lot. There is still cooking involved, but... well, you'll see if you keep reading.

So, I get a frozen whole chicken. They aren't very big, and they are oddly enough frozen into bricks. Makes for easy storage in my freezer, though. Anyhow, when I have a big week coming up, I pull one out and create a menu plan for it. It defrosts inside my refrigerator in about 2 days, but lasts for a week. For the two of us and Eleanor, it makes a hearty 3 meals.

Meal One: Just throw it in a large crockpot with vegetables, any kinds. I cook it on high for 6 hours, because then the meat falls off the bones and I don't have to do any carving or too much bone picking (more on that later). I usually throw in some potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and apples, and only peel the onions and carrots (though if you scrubbed them pretty well, you probably don't have to peel the carrots). I cut everything into quarters. The apples end up somewhat mushy, the potatoes stay pretty firm. Don't add water unless you want some extra chicken stock. Just season however you would like, I use lemon pepper seasoning, which includes salt, onion, and garlic powders (so don't also add salt if you're going to use a lemon pepper seasoning). I've experimented with adding oranges or lemons to this mix, but the rinds leave a slightly bitter taste (more the longer it cooks), so peel them first. I'm used to cooking whole oranges and lemons in turkey, but mixing it with a slow cooker doesn't work well. After 4-6 hours of it stewing, it's ready! You can keep it on warm without any bad side effects, or cook it on low for 8 hours if you're going to be out of the house all day (won't fall off the bones though).
At the end of the day, pick apart the chicken after it's cooled down. I throw everything into the same bowl, but feel free to set the veggies aside.

Meal Two: I mix up half of what's leftover into a chicken based meal. In the winter,  I made it into chicken noodle soup, which is always so delicious. Maybe if you're more adventurous, you can see if you can can this up for the days when you want soup, but I just put it on the menu. You can do so much with this chicken. This week, I'm making it into buffalo chicken mac and cheese. I'll post the recipe on Saturday, along with pictures to see if it turns out.
When I make chicken noodle soup, I like to use wide egg noodles, make extra chicken broth for meal one, and throw in some fresh vegetables instead of the already mashed veggies (by the end of meal 2, they would be pretty soggy). I'll generally just add in a bag of frozen mixed veggies, maybe some cream or milk if I want it creamy, maybe some white wine if I want a little kick to it.
I don't currently have a lot of chicken based meals in my repertoire, but if you do, just add it to the comments! If you have a meal that you enjoy that calls for shredded chicken, this chicken will do! I'm replicating a restaurant meal that my husband and I had during our honeymoon at a restaurant called Macs, where they make a million different kinds of amazing macaroni and cheeses.

Meal Three: ok, this isn't a dinner, but a lunch. You can use chicken in so many ways for lunches, or light dinners. I put it (cold) into salads, chicken salad sandwiches, tortillas, or use it as snacks. I'm into a non-traditional chicken salad:
Slice 1-2 handfuls of grapes into quarters. Mix up chicken bits, grapes, and a dab of mayo (just enough to cover everything). Place in sandwich with whatever cheese you have on hand. Quick and easy. You don't have to make it a sandwich, you can put it on crackers for hors d'oeuvres, you can add veggies to it, you can add hot sauce or ranch instead of the mayo, in fact I've added light sour cream and greek yogurt to get the same "tang".
I also add it to ramen chicken and make a quick chicken noodle soup that way. Boil ramen noodles and seasoning for 2 minutes. Add diced carrots, celery, chicken, and anything else that sounds good, keep boiling for another minute or two. Then I like to add cream before I serve it.

Hopefully these tips help another person who also gets carried away with weeks when it looks like getting dinner ready will be a challenge.