To devise recipe plans for 3 consecutive, healthy meals (each serving 4), under $30.00 total cost, spending less than 30 minutes active prep time per recipe to make each meal.
Last week a reader requested more week-day recipes that were fast, healthy, seasonal and easy on the purse strings. That works for me since I’ve been using that criteria for planning meals since I was old enough to wield a chef knife. I decided to use the versatile rotisserie chicken, local, seasonal vegetables, and whole grains to construct my meals.
Although the premise of this 3-day plan is using leftovers from the first night’s meal, no one will be the wiser. Tonight’s menu is Roasted Chicken with Roasted Autumn Vegetables. The extra chicken and vegetables will be used for tomorrow’s Chicken, Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad. The following evening you will be puréeing the vegetables and simmering the purée with chopped apples in homemade chicken stock for a savory Roasted Vegetable Soup with Apples.
You can certainly roast the chickens at home, but one of the challenges of this menu is to keep the prep work to a minimum. When I don’t have the time to roast chicken, I do have several rules of thumb for selecting rotisserie chicken. Most delis pay close attention to the schedule and length of time rotisserie chickens are left under warming lights. Ask a deli clerk what time of day they generally put the chickens under the heat lamps. Try to purchase your chicken as close to that time as possible; the chicken incrementally dries out the longer it sits.
When I purchase a rotisserie chicken, I select plain instead of flavored. Although most of the flavoring is concentrated on the skin, it does permeate the meat and accumulated chicken juices interfering with the flavor profile of my stock and leftover meals. I also, obviously, select the biggest chicken I can find. I don’t mean to boast, but I can stretch a chicken from Alabama to Alaska. As you will discover, not a thing on that bird goes to waste.
Pull the chicken from the bone as soon as you get home, you should have 7-9 cups of chicken. Reserve 4-5 cups for tonight’s dinner. It’s easier to separate while warm, saves room in the fridge, and you can start dinner without delay. Dump the carcass, skin and accumulated juices into a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then refrigerate. You will be using the 5 cups total stock for Tuesday’s Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Chicken and Wednesday’s Roasted Vegetable Soup with Apples.