If you want to make the most of your time, being efficient in the kitchen will be most beneficial. For example, instead of cooking a new meal each night, make extra on the nights you do cook and use the ingredients to make another dish. Our friend, Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef, cites rotisserie chicken as one of her favorite ingredients to stretch the budget and make one meal into three.
Day 1: Rotisserie Chicken with roasted or mashed potatoes and salad or a vegetable. Amy suggests picking up a rotisserie chicken at your local market — it can’t get more convenient than that!
Mom Tip: Offer salad to your kids when they are young and make it part of your meal 4-5 nights a week. Yes, that means you have to eat salad, too.
Chef Tip: While the chicken is still hot, remove the meat from the bones. This will save you time later in the week. Save the carcass (see below). When you are done, use lemon juice to help cut the grease on your hands.
Day 2: Chicken tacos, Hearty chicken stew or Chicken pesto pasta (we use brown rice pasta); save some chicken for soup the next day.
Mom Tip: Don’t get hung up if some of your family likes certain things and does not like others. At the end of the day, keep this in mind; as long as your little ones are eating healthy and you aren’t becoming a short order cook, it’s ok if you keep some pasta aside without the pesto or if you don’t add salsa to the chicken tacos. Just make sure you aren’t making three different dishes.
Chef Tip: Around 2:00pm, place the chicken in a large stock pot. Cover with water, add 2 teaspoons of sea or Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper, 1 onion cut into 1/4’s, 2 peeled carrots cut into 1/3’s (or 8 baby carrots) and 1 stalk of celery cut into 1/4’s. Optionally add a bay leaf, too. Boil uncovered for 2-3 hours. Strain, cool and place in fridge. This stock is your base for soup this week or, if frozen, any time. If you work, do the same as above except place in your crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.
Day 3: Chicken noodle soup with veggies
Mom Tip: Give your child leftover soup in their thermos for lunch. Just remember to pack a spoon!
Chef Tip: Soup is your best friend when it comes to an easy meal. Even if you don’t have homemade broth, simply heat broth to boiling, add pasta and cook 8-10 minutes. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the chicken and some regular or frozen veggies like broccoli, peas or corn. Cook until veggies are soft and chicken is hot.
Quick Chicken Stew (gluten-free and easy to make dairy-free)
3 cups gluten-free (GF) chicken broth
2 cup milk or milk of choice (GF, plain and unsweetened)
Slurry: 1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon dried sage or poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
2 cups mixed frozen vegetables like a combination of peas, corn and carrots, thawed slightly
- Place chicken broth, milk and seasonings in a medium to large soup pot over medium heat. Slowly heat broth and milk, being careful not to heat too quickly; otherwise the milk might “break” or curdle.
- Meanwhile, make the slurry in a small bowl or cup. When you see little bubbles on the edges of the broth-milk mixture, slowly whisk in the slurry. Simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. If stew is not thick enough, add more slurry, make more slurry using a ratio of 1:1 cornstarch to water. If the stew is too thick, add more milk or broth. Make sure to stir the bottom and sides of the pot.
- Add chicken and vegetables. Simmer about 5 minutes or until all ingredients are hot. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, sage and thyme.
Chef Amy Fothergill, owner of The Family Chef, is a cooking instructor, consultant and blogger in the Bay Area. She teaches classes at upscale markets as well as at private and corporate events, and helps families by providing consultations. Her philosophy is anyone can be “the family chef”. You just need good recipes and techniques! On her blog, she shares her best recipes with you for quick and easy dishes with an emphasis on gluten-free.