This posting is more practical than poetic.
The economy is in the tank, and, for the time being, at least, we're down to one income. Oh yeah, and I have a much different allotment of time to devote to cooking since Jasper's arrival. That means a shift in my meal prep habits -- instead of spending an hour after work on dinner, I now have 10 to 15-minute blocks throughout the day that I can spend doing little bits of prep. I also have to be mindful of when I can afford to leave something on the stovetop or in the oven, and when I can't.
So, in an attempt to feed my family well on a budget and with little time, I resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the home cook's book: the roast chicken. I did roast my own, just gave him a healthy dose of salt, pepper and olive oil and put him in the oven until he hit 150 degrees (poultry should be cooked to 160, so remove your bird at 150 and let it rest for 15 or so minutes under some foil, and it'll hit the right temp). Then, after the chicken cooled, I removed all the meat and into a plastic container it went. My mom recently told me she roasts a whole chicken in her slow cooker. Haven't tried it yet, but I will next time.
Of course, there's no shame in picking up one of the roasted chickens they sell in the grocery store. It cuts down on your time in the kitchen, and they are pretty affordable.
So what's next? Well, you could serve a perfectly acceptable Sunday dinner of roast chicken, a starch and a veg. Then use your leftovers later in the week. Here's what I did with mine. I got three dinners out of the bird, plus a lunch or two of the dinner leftovers. Not bad for $5 worth of chicken. Aside from the chickens, each of these meals basically has one other main ingredient: noodles, flour or rice. Notice these are all pantry staples. And for the list of veggies that go with each meal, it's pretty easy to simply substitute with whatever you've got on hand.
Peanut noodles topped with sliced red peppers, carrot ribbons, green onions, chicken and black sesame seeds
This dish is easily made in stages, and since it's best served room temp, it's ready whenever you are. The sauce for the noodles sounds complicated, but if you've got a food processor, it's actually very easy. There are lots of recipes out there, but click here for the one I use. Boil the noodles to al dente and let them soak up the sauce for a couple of hours for best results. Spend five minutes slicing the veggies, and then come dinner time it's just a quick assembly.
Chicken Pot Pie
This is a favorite of mine. A quick roux turns into a white sauce to create the heart of this dish. A quick steam of carrots and potatoes gives them a jump start on cooking. To the sauce, add the steamed carrots, potatoes, corn and peas (I use frozen for both of these). Then add diced chicken. Pour into a baking dish and refrigerate if not cooking immediately. Make a biscuit dough and cut out thin rounds. I then freeze my biscuits as you get the best rise and layers from super cold butter. Use store bought biscuit dough if you prefer. Bake the filling until warmed through and bubbling. Remove from oven, top with unbaked biscuits and return to oven to bake biscuits. Leave any leftover biscuit rounds in the freezer for breakfast.
Southwest Chicken Bowl
This recipe is from Mike. He made it for us on a trip to the coast a few years ago. It's basically a rice bowl with corn, black beans, onion, red pepper, lime, avocado and chicken. It's quite good and easy to make. It, too, can be made in stages and refrigerated. It is great served room temp or warm. If you have it on hand, add cilantro and sour cream for garnish.