Meal Prep For People Who Hate Boring Meals: The Chicken Edition
Chicken breast is the go-to lean protein for meal prep meals because it’s cheap and easy to prepare. Often baked or poached, it actually doesn’t reheat very well in those little Tupperware containers and by mid-week you’ve got dry, mealy chicken that you’re choking down while you gaze longingly at your co-workers burger, cursing yourself for trying to save money and be healthy.
In part two of this anti-meal prep series, we’ll tackle chicken in a way that will get you excited about eating it meal after meal. I promise, there’s no sad-looking steamed broccoli here! (I could write an essay on delicious ways to prepare broccoli that do not involve steaming it.)
Chicken is Australia’s favourite meat, but we rely too heavily on pre-portioned breasts and thighs when the whole bird cooked as one really is the way to go. After all, the salty, slightly crisp skin on a roast chook really is the best part of chicken.
While you could skip my recipe below and pop out for a supermarket rotisserie chicken, I promise you the extra effort is worth it as I’ve cut all the fuss and made something that takes minimal prep and results in a juicy little bird worth your Sunday night dinner… and lunch for at least a few days afterwards. (Big eater? Roast a second bird mid week – they rarely take more than an hour total in the oven.)
Don’t be shy in filling your roasting tray with lots of veggies, as you can (and should) use these throughout the week to bulk out the various ways you can transform leftovers.
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1 whole chicken, patted dry with paper towels
1 lemon, quartered
Olive oil spray
6–8 cloves garlic, left whole and in their skins
1–2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3–4 potatoes, cut into chunks (peeling optional)
½ pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
2 red onions, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
While the leftovers from this recipe will make fantastic sandwiches, there are so many more interesting things you can do with them. Here’s a few of my favourites.
Hit the streets of Vietnam
Toss shredded chicken with fresh mint, coriander leaves, sliced spring onion, shredded cabbage and carrot. Whisk up equal parts fish sauce and lime juice and add a small amount of brown sugar to balance. Sprinkle with roasted peanuts. Need carbs? Toss it all into a Vietnamese roll with some mayo and chilli and you’ve got a bahn mi or wrap the veggies and chicken in rice paper rolls and dip in the dressing.
Chicken, pesto and pasta is a classic combination. Make your own basil pesto or buy a jar and toss it through cooked spaghetti with shredded chicken, feta, sundried tomatoes and lots of black pepper. Zest over some lemon rind and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to finish. Use short pasta and a dab of mayo to transform this into a pasta salad.
Amp up your chicken soup
Why make standard chicken noodle soup when you can make tortilla soup? Use your chicken carcass to make stock (recipe here), which you can freeze for future use… or turn it into this Tex Mex classic. Sautée a diced onion in oil, add paprika, cumin and coriander and cook until fragrant. Toss in a tin of tomatoes, a cup of your chicken stock, a tin of kidney beans (rinsed – always rinse your beans), a handful of frozen corn and your shredded chicken. Simmer until it begins to thicken. Serve with toasted, sliced tortillas, sour cream, fresh lime and a little hot sauce.
Warning: The following recipe is not very healthy and is super addictive.
When I was a kid, my mum made the best ever chicken sandwiches, but only on special occasions. My sister and I used to fight over the crusts (which would be removed for presentation, but always had a little chicken on them) because they were that good. She won’t share her exact recipe (not even secretly with me) but from my own memory: mix equal parts sour cream and whole-egg mayo. Add a little powdered chicken stock, salt, pepper and lots of chopped parsley and chives. Stir through shredded, cooked chicken. Slather two slices of bread with butter and top with a generous amount of the chicken/mayo mix. If you want a little extra texture, add roasted, slivered almonds, diced celery or diced carrot – but honestly it doesn’t need it.
Georgia is a writer and pastry chef. As a low-income earner, she’s become a dab hand at creating delicious, budget-friendly recipes that satisfy her need for bold flavours and meals worth getting excited about.