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Welcome to the Lazy Mom’s Guide to using chicken that somebody else cooked for you to make a meal that tastes as if you put in lots of effort.
I do not meal plan well. I try and try but almost every night of every week, I open up my fridge hoping and praying that someone bought ingredients to make a delicious dinner that all members of my family can enjoy. In case you were wondering if this is a real possibility, my husband hasn’t been in the grocery store in maybe a year, and my four kids are 8 and under. I’m the only person doing the shopping, folks, so the chance of my fridge suddenly containing meal ingredients that I did not think ahead for and purchase is pretty darn low. When I’m shopping I focus on the dinner that night, and maybe the next day but beyond that I am hopeless. While I usually have plenty of side dish ingredients on hand, I have learned that once a cut of meat goes into my freezer it is probably going to stay there until our next PCS.
However, one thing I usually manage to do for my future self is to buy a rotisserie chicken, and voila! Suddenly there is a quick, easy meal to be had the day after the grocery shopping is done, right about the time I’m wondering what on earth I bought the day before. We don’t eat a rotisserie chicken just as is, though I’m sure it’s delicious that way. Instead, I buy it with the specific intention of creating a whole meal out of it (or two, really it stretches so much further when it’s not served as the main dish).
Here are five of my favorite ways to put that bird to work for your family:
White Chicken Chili
This meal is so easy, and it’s a crowd-pleaser at my house. Also, if you have a bunch of family members who don’t care for the flavor of dark meat, it’s easy to disguise it in the chili (unless the picky person is also the person making the meal, like in my house).
Olive oil, garlic (or garlic powder), cumin, a can or two of white beans, pulled chicken, a can of Rotel or green chilies, and a couple of cups of chicken stock. If I have a can of corn I’ll usually drain it and put it in, too, but only if I’m feeling extra fancy. When you serve it, top with cheese, sour cream/plain greek yogurt, avocado/guacamole, black olives, and tortilla chips.
Whether you do soft or crispy, fry your own shells or use a box, this meal comes together quickly and can easily be customized for little kids who might not like food spicy. I serve my kids tacos with the meat just as is after it’s heated a bit; for anyone else who might like it spicier, just mix together a quick seasoning of chili powder, cumin, garlic, ground oregano, and salt. Add your pulled chicken to a pan, sprinkle on the seasoning, add a good drizzle of olive oil or butter, and a splash of stock to cook it all through before filling up your taco shells.
I also highly recommend the bags of dehydrated refried beans (my fave is Santa Fe Bean Company found on Amazon) to keep in the back of your pantry as a quick side to go with this. They taste like Taco Bell beans but without the risk of food poisoning.
I grew up making chicken salad with mayo, mustard, hard-boiled eggs, and lots of pickles. A friend of mine said she’d never heard of such a thing and has hers with just sliced up grapes, mayo, and nuts. There are lots of variations, but no matter which one you want to do, rotisserie-style chicken lends itself perfectly. If you feel like actually using the bag of salad you bought instead of letting it wither away in the bottom of your crisper drawer, put a scoop of chicken salad on top and feel healthy-ish.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Using rotisserie chicken to make chicken noodle soup gives the illusion of a long-simmering meal but can easily be done in a half an hour. Chop up some carrots and celery (I never peel my carrots anymore, just wash them well and it gives it a more “rustic” look) and sautee until soft in butter, olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Toss in the pulled rotisserie chicken and some stock or broth, and let it simmer while you boil up noodles in another pot. I prefer to do it this way so that the noodles stay firmer, and I can easily choose to give my kids a few more noodles than I like in my bowl.
I hear tales that some people like to make their noodles from scratch for chicken noodle soup. If you are one of those people, know that I consider you a culinary master just shy of a Michelin star chef based on that information alone.
Risotto with Chicken and Broccoli
I think risotto is something that gets a rap for being tricky but is actually pretty easy once you’ve made it. Follow the directions on the side of the container but when you add the last cup of stock, add in chopped rotisserie chicken and broccoli that you already steamed in one of those microwave-friendly bags. Or add whatever veggie your family likes. I tried peas once and I thought it was delicious but my kids acted like it was poison. So we’re sticking with broc for awhile. I like to mix in lemon juice as well for a little kick, and then top with Parmesan cheese when serving.