In my home, food preparation and menu planning are responsibilities I take on for my family. I make time to cook. A lot. I don’t mind. First, I enjoy cooking. I like being able to take separate food items and turn them into a meal. Second, dinner is the time I have both my husband and son’s undivided attention. It is a time that we use to catch up and check in with one another. Finally, although I enjoy going out to eat, I believe that home cooked food is healthier. And, I want to give my family the best nourishment possible.
Of course, creating meals for a family is not simple. It requires multiple steps: planning, gathering, preparing, and finally, consuming. It’s almost enough to make someone throw their hands up in desperation and just order a pizza.
A good way to make it work for a busy family, it is crucial to take the time to plan . But, I have found that one of the most important things I can do to make meals workable is to build in two or three quick meals.
So… How do I make my weekly cooking easier?
Rotisserie chicken. I love rotisserie chicken. It is the little black dress of food. Versatile. It can be used for anything and everything. Here’s a top five list of my favorite ways to turn a rotisserie chicken into a family meal:
Chicken caesar salad;
Chicken and rice casserole;
Chicken pastas; and,
Chicken pot pie.
My goal with a rotisserie chicken meal is to have dinner on the table in thirty minutes or less. To increase my overall efficiency, I debone the chicken within one hour of getting home from grocery shopping. It is not likely to be used for a few days. But, when needed, the chicken processing has been completed and I can devote all of my time to the preparation of the actual meal.
Chicken Caesar Salad
This of course is the easiest of all meals to prep with the rotisserie chicken. Your ingredients will include a bag of Caesar salad and the rotisserie chicken you shredded. To be more hands-on, consider buying Romain lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a bottle of your favorite Caesar dressing. Throw all your ingredients together and enjoy your meal. A word to the wise, make certain that your chicken is properly chilled. Hot chicken will wilt your romaine. There is nothing worse than a wilted lettuce-based Caesar salad.
I recognize that these are four separate meal ideas that could be used. However, the basic ingredients are similar and I’m putting them together for ease of discussion.
Shredded lettuce (I like to finely chop a head of romaine since most bagged shredded lettuce is iceberg which has little nutritional value.)
Cheese &/or Sour Cream
All of these toppings can be used in each of these meals. Additionally, I like that these meals force you to add fresh vegetables to your meal. This is how I distinguish between these items:
Corn tortilla = taco
Flour tortilla = burrito
Tortilla dipped in a sauce = enchilada
Tortilla chips topped with food = Nachos
With the exception of the enchiladas, all of these meals should take 30 minutes or less to prepare. Enchiladas take longer because there are baking requirements.
Chicken and rice casserole
This is another quick and easy meal that benefits from a precooked chicken. Another way I make this an easier meal is by using minute rice.
The majority of time spent to prepare this meal is used in the baking process. You mix a cream based soup (chicken or mushroom) and a half a can of water with the chicken and rice and bake it in the oven until the rice is fluffy and the soup is properly absorbed.
You can add some cheese to the top of your casserole if you choose. However, I would wait until it’s baked for 30 minutes before adding the cheese top. It will get to crunchy otherwise. This meal will take approximately 1 hour from start to finish. But don’t worry most of that time is spent on baking. You can expect a bake time of 40-50 minutes.
Chicken based pastas are so wonderful to make because of the variety of pastas and sauces available.
I am a big fan of butoni stuffed pastas, raviolis and tortellini, add a wonderful addition of flavor. Add a pre-made pasta sauce and you are all set.
Chicken pot pie
Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite things to make. It is not only delicious but it feels like someone really took the time to care for you when you eat chicken pot pie. This is not a hard meal, it just tastes like it. I simplify by using store-bought pie crust.
To create the chicken filling for your pie, sauté carrots and onions in a pan. Next, add 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and 2 teaspoons of Wondra flour. Next, add half a cup to 2/3 cup of chicken broth. Once you have created a light sauce, add your diced chicken.
While you are sautéing, pre-bake your pie crust for about 10-20 minutes. The goal is to make sure that it’s started cooking before you add the wet ingredients to it. This will make for more delicious, not soggy, bottom crust.
When you are done with the sautéed items, place them in the piecrust. Add a top layer of crust then return to the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to make an extra special chicken pot pie, replace the top piecrust with puff pastry. Your pot pie will be to die for!