Monday, October 15, 2018

Keepers: Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup Part 3

We are half-way through his month-long series on FAST from-scratch meals with minimal clean up!  This week I thought we could talk chicken.

Fast and chicken, in my mind, most often go together when cut up and added to other dishes.  Roasting chicken, whether de-boned or bone-in, can easily take in the neighborhood of an hour.  I do like throwing chicken in a roasting dish and popping it in the oven for a no-fuss meal prep night.  However, this would not fall into our "Quick" category so I have not included those recipes here.

*Cutting Chicken Quick Tip You can mass-cut chicken when you first bring it home from the grocery store and freeze for quicker and less messy prep time.  Spending 30 - 45 minutes once every grocery shopping period doing a meat pre-cut will save you loads of time throughout the month during meal prep.  Remember, it isn't just the time butchering which you are consolidating, it is also the clean up of your cutting board, knife and work area.  Cut once, clean once! 

Whether cutting breast meat or thigh meat, I cut it into bite size pieces and then measure the pieces into a Ziploc bag by estimating about 1 handful of meat per person (if you have small hands you might consider 1 1/2 handfuls per person).  Lay bags flat in freezer for easier thawing.

With our quick-cutting tips in mind, I will proceed to the following recipes assuming this stage is done.  Choose breast or thigh meat according to your personal choice.  If you do NOT pre-cut your meat, tack approximately 5-10 minutes onto your prep time and an additional 5 minutes on clean-up with cutting board and knife.

Chicken Salad
I don't mean the shredded kind with mayo and sandwich bread!  Nope, literally, chicken and salad.  This is my go-to dish for summer time but if you like salad it can be good any time.  I put a few splashes of Olive Oil (or whatever oil you typically use) into my pan and begin cooking my chicken pieces on medium-high heat.  While chicken cooks I put on my multi-tasking hat and prepare my salad.  As with ground beef, when chicken appears about half-way done, I begin adding my seasoning.  
 Variations as follows:

Greek Style: Store bought Greek Seasoning OR about 1tsp each of onion powder, garlic, dill, oregano and a dash of salt and pepper.  Serve over green salad with cucumbers and tomato and a side of Cucumber Dressing.

Italian Style: Season with Italian Dressing OR about 1tsp each onion powder, garlic, oregano and basil.  Serve over green salad with tomato, green peppers, olives and fresh Parmesan cheese and a side of Italian or Caesar Dressing

Ranch Style: Dash on about 1 tsp each onion and garlic powders, dried celery leaves, a few shakes of Paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.  Pile on top of green salad with tomato, red onion, radishes, and grated carrot, Colby-jack cheese, bacon bits and topped with Ranch Dressing.

Southwest Style: Season chicken with the usual onion and garlic powders and add in about 1tsp each of cumin, chili powder, cilantro and dash on some salt and pepper.  When chicken is almost done cooking, pour in about 1/4 cup salsa per approx. pound of meat.  While chicken cooks you can heat up some black beans.  Thinly slice lettuce greens and add in chopped tomatoes and green onions.  Finish with Monterey-Jack Cheese and top with Ranch Dressing OR salsa, sour cream and avocado or guacamole.

For the first 3 salads you can make the meal more filling by serving with a side of pita bread, toasted garlic bread, bread sticks or rolls.  For the Southwest Style serve with tortillas or tortilla chips.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (+ saucepan and spoon for Southwest Salad with Black Beans), cutting board and knife, possible bowl for holding salad

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

Other cut chicken meals
Chicken salads are about as easy as it gets.  The following recipes require a few more dishes but with relatively similar cook times.
This picture is a variation of the recipe below

Stove-top Chicken, Broccoli and/or Cauliflower: This dish can be made with Broccoli OR Cauliflower OR Both!  I like to buy frozen veggies and steam.  While veggies steam, cook chicken in butter and season with onion and garlic, at least 1 tsp each, and a dash of salt and pepper.  Once chicken is cooked, reduce heat to medium low, drain veggies and incorporate into pan with chicken.  Top generously with one of three cheeses:
  • Just cheddar 
  • Cheddar and Parmesan (fresh or powdered)
  • Cheddar, Parmesan and feta 
Lightly incorporate the cheese and place a lid on the pan.  Let rest on low heat for a few minutes while cheese melts.  Serve and enjoy!

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, Steamer pot, basket and lid, measuring cup

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

In this picture the chicken is shredded, however, you can cut into small pieces or long strips.
Chicken Tacos/burritos: Cook chicken as the SW Chicken Salad recipe above calls for.  Once it is done, stuff into hard or soft taco shells with lettuce, tomato and cheese OR Line a tortilla with cheese, chicken and beans (black, pinto or refried).  Roll up and serve or warm in 375० oven for 5 minutes and serve with a side salad.

Dishes: Frying pan, spatula, (pan and spoon for beans if cooking them, baking sheet if warming in oven), cutting board and knife

Cook time: approx. 20-30 minutes (add 5 minutes if using fresh onion and garlic)

Of all the chicken meals I cook, these are the quickest and least messy!  Can you suggest any chicken meals which take 30 minutes or less and don't require many dishes though still hold the benefits of from-scratch?

If you would like to see the first two articles in this series, click on Links in text to visit Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.  Next week we will be talking Slow Cookers.  These meals may not be "quick" but they are extremely time-efficient and low clean up which is why I love them!

Speaking of slow cookers, I finally got the next give-away assembled and it has been inspired by this month's Quick Easy Meals thread (as well as by autumn and Thanksgiving!):

The cookbook pictured here is mine, I used it for the image but the "New Revised" plastic comb bound edition is what will be sent to whomever wins!  The leaf place-mat is not included (it is old and ragged, you don't want it!!)  The details:
  • Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook
  • Coffee/cocoa mug
  • Cinnamon Spice scented candles
  • 2 metal turkey candle holders
  • Decorative hand-painted brick (double sided for TWO seasons!)
Drawing will be held October 31st.  Scroll down to see how to sign up.

That's it for this week's edition of Extremely FAST From-scratch Meals With Minimal Cleanup, I pray your kitchen adventures are blessed with good food, good times and good company!


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