Mama Math: How 2 Chicken Breasts Became 5 Meals!
There's something about the time when the kids are going back to school that signals a change in mindset and behaviors in parents that is like putting on a comfy pair of jeans. It's like...you forget you had jeans because you haven't worn them all summer, and then once they're on...you forgot you ever wore shorts!
While I do always make note of the first time I wear jeans again after summer, I'm referring to my own tendency to start cooking more once I feel the looming of "real life" and routines. The sting of seeing my baby drive off on the school bus has lessened a bit and I feel the giddiness of knowing that I have some uninterrupted time to get things accomplished!
I regained this renewed energy for cooking last week once I had recovered a bit from planning menus and cooking pretty much every day of the summer! I went down to my favorite butcher shop and got 2 healthy-looking skinless and boneless chicken breasts. I didn't know what I would do with them, but I had some ideas.
When I prepare meat from a raw state, the first step for me is to clean it of some of the yucky bacteria. I clean my chicken with salt and lemon juice and let it sit in a bowl for 5 minutes and then I wash it off and pat it dry with paper towels.
Next, I season it with salt and pepper because any meal I make - no matter what the cuisine - meat always needs salt and pepper, in my humble estimation.
I cut the breasts into strips and took out a few to start my first meal and put the bowl with the rest of the chicken in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf to avoid cross-contamination by inadvertent dripping onto other foods.
Chicken Breasts 5 Ways!
1) Sauteed Chicken with Mushrooms and Broccoli. The first meal I did was a simple skillet preparation of mushrooms and broccoli sauteed in butter and then added the chicken once the mushrooms let out some liquid and the color of the broccoli was a deeper green. You can use whatever vegetables you prefer, and/or whatever you have in your refrigerator!
Once the outside of the chicken started cooking, I lowered the heat a bit and covered the pan and let it cook the inside for about 5-7 minutes. When your chicken's "juices" run clear and/or the inside temperature of the meat is 165 degrees Fahrenheit, it's done! Get yourself a food thermometer takes the guesswork out of how long to cook!
2) Baked Chicken Tenders. The second incarnation my chicken was made into was baked chicken tenders. I took out 4 strips and set up a bowl and a plate for the easy preparation. The bowl was for an egg that I beat for coating the chicken, and the plate was for the bread crumbs to dredge the chicken in once it took an egg bath!
I then laid a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and put those tenders on it and put them in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees, and turn them once after 8 minutes.
3) Chicken Tikka Masala. My girl's favorite Indian dish is surprisingly easy to make. It's so creamy and satisfying over rice that there is no reason not to make it at home. (Don't make the reason be because you don't have garam masala spice mix at home! Get it from your local store in the spice section!)
You will need heavy cream or half and half for this dish, so it's not necessarily diet food! Here's the recipe here, and it was a very quick dish to make! Put your rice in the rice cooker before you start the chicken and they'll be done at the same time! Some steamed broccoli or carrots would pair well to make this a well-rounded meal! Here's the recipe!
4) Chicken Pot Pie. I had all of the ingredients for this dish and it would have been silly not to make it! It turned out to be a bit of a longer process than I expected, but if you use frozen vegetables it will go much quicker!
I had 1 pie crust left from my quiches the weekend before and since pot pies call for 2 crusts, I decided to use cookie cutters to cut out rounds of dough and make them in a muffin pan instead! They were fun to make and my girl enjoyed cutting and placing the dough in the pan! Here's the recipe!
5) Chicken Salad. This summer, I learned that my girl likes chicken salad! Who knew! She went out to lunch with my mom - who loves chicken salad - and my girl wanted to have a taste of her lunch, and apparently she had quite a bit of my mom's chicken salad!!
So, this recipe was a cinch and a no-brainer to round out the end of my chicken breasts! My girl isn't a fan of crunchy things in her chicken salad, so this really couldn't be simpler to make!
You can either bake the chicken on a sheet pan with parchment for about 15 minutes (turning once) at 375 degrees or put the chicken in a medium pot and cover with chicken broth and cook it for about 20 minutes. and then cut it in squares when it cools.
Once it's cooled, then toss in your favorite mayonnaise, you can add crunchy celery, onions, hard-boiled eggs, whatever you want! Then put that stuff on some bread and call it a meal!
What's your favorite ways to prepare chicken breasts? Which of these recipes do you think you might try at your house?