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The Chicken Solution

I am sharing with you my absolute bestest time-saving idea in the kitchen. Cook once and eat multiple times. It’s the way I get in and out of the kitchen on those busy days.

I make one main protein and then use it for many recipes all week long. Typically, Sunday afternoon is my cooking time. I also have my vacuum food sealer; using it ensures if I don’t get back to the protein during that week, I don’t have to worry about freezer burn.

Since it’s spring, I am thinking chicken—spring chicken. So here’s how I start. I cook up chicken in a BIG pot with vegetables. To save time, I use boneless, skinless breasts and thighs. I really prefer thigh meat, as it’s much more moist and nutrient-filled. I also find the more intense chicken flavor allows me to use less. There are advantages to breasts—they are lower in fat—but I find the dryness is not worth the fat savings.

While the chicken is cooking, I make rice. I have invested in a fantastic rice cooker that makes it perfectly every time. But you can make it on the stovetop or in the microwave, if you’d like.

I fill a large stockpot with the chicken and a slew of vegetables. Sauté a batch of carrots, onions, celery, garlic, etc. (Oh, and this is a great way to use the vegetables that are a bit softer in the fridge.) I poach the chicken in the water bath with three bay leaves, a little salt and pepper, and the veggies. After the chicken is cooked (20 minutes or so at a nice simmer), pull the meat out and cool. I also skim the liquid and use it as stock for our soup later this week. (Once the liquid is really chilled, the fat from the chicken will harden and I just lift it off to reduce the fat in the soup.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, I dice, bag, seal and label it. Problem solved. Solution found. I do the same with the rice. I cool it, put it in a freezer bag and lay it flat in the freezer. Later, stand on end to save space, and simply place on the counter when you’re ready to use. Frozen rice: It’s one of my busy weeknight solutions.

Now, when you need a quick and simple meal, pull the chicken and rice out and defrost, and your meal is ready in minutes. What can you make with this? The varieties are endless: chicken tacos, enchiladas, stew, chili, noodle soup, divan casserole, tetrazzini, stroganoff-style chicken, broccoli and rice casserole, and on and on.

This Chicken Noodle Soup recipe is fast, easy and delicious. If you need to go gluten free, just swap your egg noodles for a GF variety.

The Chicken Enchilada Casserole is made with corn tortillas. Those can be GF, too. And they have half the calories of flour tortillas, and a fraction of the fat. Corn tortillas average about 1 gram of fat while flour ones weigh in at 3.5 grams. To make it easy, you can use canned enchilada sauce, jarred salsa and pre-shredded cheese. Just watch and make sure they’re not loaded in sodium. There are lower sodium varieties on the market.

And, finally, I’m sharing a recipe for a quick and easy Chicken and Broccoli Rice dish. It’s much like the oven version, except you don’t have to wait for the oven to heat up. It’s perfect for those evenings when the kids are nipping at your heels clamoring for dinner.

Click to view recipe.

Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.

Photo Above: © Patryk Kosmider | Dreamstime.com

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