Sunday, October 11, 2009

$5 + 25 minutes = 16 meals

While I admittedly am not gifted in most of the arts of homemaking, I do have one talent. I’m efficient in the kitchen. While the title of this entry may be an exaggeration, it's only slight. I can generally have a home-cooked dinner on the table in 15 minutes or less, often in just five minutes. Sometimes it does take me up to a half an hour, but of that half hour, no more than 15 minutes of it is hands-on time.

I am able to accomplish this by investing a relatively small amount of time (approx 25-38 minutes) before I actually need it. That invested time pays off dividends throughout the week, as the base of my meal is already prepared, all I have to do is build on it.

Let me start with a tangent. It will become obvious why later. I know you probably like chicken breast more than dark-meat chicken (I do too!), but for the process I’m about to explain, you have to use dark meat. Chicken breast is dries out very quickly and is not flavorful enough to hold up to the flavors you’re going to be transforming it with throughout the week. Chicken breast is also much more expensive than dark meat, and we’re all trying to cut back on our grocery bills, right? Trust me, dark meat will taste good in these recipes.

To start, get out your slow cooker. Then slice a big onion thinly. Put a layer of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in your Crockpot. (This time I used chicken leg quarters because it is what was on sale, and it worked out just fine, but generally I prefer working with just the thighs.) Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, if desired. (We aren’t going to be using the skin for anything, so the salt and pepper doesn’t really do anything, but sometimes I feel like more of a domestic goddess if I use seasonings.) Put some of the sliced onions on top of your chicken. Continue to layer chicken and onions until you run out of both and your Crockpot is full. Put the lid on and cook on high for 4-5 hours.

You can tell the chicken is cooked when it falls off the bone as you’re taking it out of the Crockpot. Remove and discard the chicken skin, bones, fat, cartilage and anything else that’s gross. (You could also save this stuff, put it back in the crockpot with water and continue to cook to make more broth.) Shred the chicken meat with two forks or your fingers. Divide it equally into four containers. Include any of the strings of cooked onion in your containers too. The onion helps to stretch your meat. Each of these containers holds the base of two meals for two people, or four total servings. They have about 8-9 ounces of meat/onions in them. You should also have a bunch of chicken broth. Save this too. (I freeze it until I have a lot of broth and then make soup.)

So what are you going to do with this now? The meals I make from these containers are: chicken burritos, BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken enchiladas, and a casserole or fried rice. To one container, dump in enough salsa to moisten the chicken. To another container, pour in a good amount of BBQ sauce. In a third, pour in enough enchilada sauce to moisten the meat. (Leave the final one plain for the casserole or fried rice.) See, now you’re marinating. Don’t you feel smug and accomplished?

Slicing the onion and dumping the onion and chicken in the crock pot takes me 5 minutes. Shredding the chicken takes me 20 minutes, though I suspect I’m slower at this than most people. At some point in this process, usually before I shred the chicken, I have prepared a bunch of lettuce for quick salad side dishes. Getting the lettuce ready takes me about 10 minutes.

If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can make six servings (from 1 ½ cups uncooked) of rice. Use 2/3 of it for Spanish rice and save the other 1/3 for fried rice. This should only add about 3 minutes of hands-on time if you put the rice on to cook before you start shredding your chicken. When you’re done shredding the chicken, the rice will be cooked and you can divide it.

Now you have a fridge full of the basics for many, many meals. You will be so happy for the rest of the week as you’re throwing complete meals together in mere minutes.

1 comment:

  1. This looks incredible! I’m always on the lookout for addictive and very easy chicken recipes and this one sounds like just that. I’m really excited to try this gorgeous recipe out!


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