Years ago I was asked by a family member (who shall remain nameless) if I would teach her how to grocery shop and plan meals for the week. She asked me this because she noticed that every time she came to my house my fridge appeared to be almost empty and yet I always had food for everyone. She also noticed that her fridge was constantly stuffed to the gills and that much of the food was going bad. I see a similar thing with many of my clients. They will be tired and overwhelmed after a long day and when they get home they find that they don’t have the creative energy to figure out what they can make with the (many!!) ingredients that are sitting in their fridge. So, instead, they choose to order food or make a box of macaroni and cheese. I get it. I really do! It is hard to come up with new ideas every. single. night. It is also hard start from scratch each night and feel motivated to do that over, and over, and over again. And this leads to a vicious and wasteful cycle where we don’t use the food that we have bought and then it starts to look unappetizing to us, so then we go out and buy more food.
So here is one of my techniques that helps to keep me sane: I cook once and then I repurpose numerous times in ways that require little or no cooking. Last week I did this with chicken. Here’s what it looked like:
On Sunday I made Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk (this could also be done with a simple roast chicken or a slow cooker roast chicken) and served it with quinoa and broccoli. Sunday night, after dinner, I pulled the leftover chicken off the bone and stored it in a container in the fridge and then wrapped up the bones to put them in the freezer to use when I make chicken stock.
On Monday, my husband took leftovers to work for lunch. On Monday evening I made a chicken pot pie for dinner (see below for recipe), which I served with salad. Now I know that the idea of cooking a chicken pot pie on a Monday evening may sound completely insane, but here are some tricks that could make it not only doable, but simple! 1) Prep the veggies on Sunday afternoon while you are already in the kitchen cooking for Sunday night. 2) Either make the pastry Sunday while cooking (which everyone can do! It is incredibly simple) or buy pre-made pastry dough.
On Tuesday, my husband took leftovers to work for lunch. On Tuesday evening, there were enough leftovers of the pot pie that we had leftovers for dinner, again with a salad. (Yes, my husband did eat the pot pie for three meals in two days- he loved it that much).
On Wednesday, my husband brought some leftover pot pie filling and rice to work for lunch. For dinner, I pulled some black beans out of the freezer in the morning and then that evening made black bean, chicken, corn, and spinach quesadillas.
So that makes a total of SEVEN meals with one chicken, and that’s not counting all of the meals that I will use the chicken stock in! And I only really had to do major cooking for two of those meals. Pretty awesome.
There are so many reasons I love doing things like this: 1) It actually saves me time. 2) It saves money. 3) If I am going to eat meat it needs to be humanely raised and slaughtered (preferably local) and I want to make sure that I use every last bit. 4) It is delicious. And 5) I end up feeling like a badass.
I’d also like to say that this approach to cooking is not restricted to meat! In coming weeks I will do a similar post that is entirely vegetarian. What this is really about is making enough to start with so that it will last you a couple of days and planning ahead, just a bit.
What do you think? Can you do this? Have you done it? What are your favorite recipes to do this approach to cooking with?
- Ingredients for the filling:
- ½ to ¾ lb of diced cooked chicken (from previous meal)
- 6 tbl butter
- 2 carrots, pealed and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 small potatoes, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 to 1½ cup frozen peas
- 3 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbl dried parsley
- Salt & Pepper
- Ingredients for the crust:
- 2 cups flour (either all all-purpose or half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
- 1 stick cold butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 egg
- To make the crust, mix butter into flour either with your hands or in the food processor until the butter lumps are about pea-sized. Beat the egg in a ½ cup measure and then add ice-cold water to fill the measuring cup. Add the egg and water mixture, starting with about ½ of it and adding and mixing until you get a nice, smooth ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for at least half and hour, but can be longer if you make it ahead of time.
- To make the filling, preheat the oven to 375. In a small pot, with a small amount of water, bring the potatoes to a boil and cook until just tender. Set aside. Melt three tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan. Add the carrots, onions, and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are soft (but not mushy). Add three more tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Stir until it is smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Let it simmer until the sauce has thickened. Add frozen peas, cooked chicken, parsley and thyme. Stir and check to see if it needs more salt and pepper.
- To build your pot pie, take your pastry dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out a circle big enough to cover the entirety of the bottom of your pie pan, all the way up to the top of the edges. Place gently into the pie pan. Put the potatoes on the bottom and then fill it with your sauce. Form a ball with the rest of your pie dough and roll it out into a circle to put on top. Pinch closed. Pierce the top of the pie crust a few times so there are places for the steam to escape. Place the pot pie on a cookie sheet and put it into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden. Take out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- If you have extra filling, save it! It is delicious over rice or pasta.
- If you like a glossy pie crust, you can brush the crust with a mixture of a beaten egg and a tablespoon of water.
- If you don’t have a pie pan, this can also be made in a 9x13 pan, but without a bottom crust, just a top one.