Real food fast

Carmen stopped by today and we were talking about the challenges of eating real food when all the adults in the home are working.

Then: I don’t think I ever mastered it or even managed it well but one tip I learned way back was to double or triple recipes that were easy to prepare and freeze. Hearty soups and chili are the obvious examples. Most don’t take fussy dicing or a lot of prep work. Carmen taught me to label everything that goes into the freezer with its name and date. I keep a Sharpie and a roll of masking tape in a kitchen drawer just for that.

Now: If we know we have a busy week coming up, I have a Costco rotisserie chicken routine that I can do by heart.

When we get home, the chicken is warm and tastes amazing. We take one of the breasts, slice it across the short side and serve it up with some vegetables and cooked quinoa. Sometimes I quickly steam some baby potatoes and we’ll pour a Paleo gravy over it all with some canned green beans or something. It’s fast but tastes like someone was in the kitchen for a while.

The other chicken breast gets diced and set aside to use in jambalaya. It does mean I buy jarred red peppers from Costco and some chicken sausages. We always keep onions and celery.

I pick the dark meat off the legs and thighs. This meat goes into a Paleo BBQ sauce I got from which is just another open and dump recipe. You can use any BBQ or sloppy Joe type sauce you like. I simmer it with the meat added for about 15 minutes.

Last all the left over bones and carcass go into a stock pot right then. I make bone broth to use with the jambalaya. My recipe gives me several quarts of the soup so usually one goes into the freezer. I can get 4 meals out of that one chicken and the meals come together quickly. If I spend an hour prepping, they can go into the fridge an hour or two later.

More Now: I like having some super simple recipes that I can throw together that still make us feel fed and nourished. I had Adam (Connor’s daddy) time me once. I had two thin chicken breasts in the fridge and some fresh broccoli. I started heating a heavy saute pan and set about an inch of water to boil. The chicken breasts went into the saute pan with some butter. I quickly cut the florets off, tossed them in the water and covered the pan. The breasts got turned over and sprinkled with Tony Chacheree’s seasoning to give a little zip and color. Exactly 9 minutes later, he and Connor were eating. They loved it. It wasn’t a huge dinner but it worked better (and faster) than going out for fast food on a busy night. I think everyone would agree that the real trick isn’t cooking a quick meal – it’s the shopping and planning that take some time.

Going back to my first “Now” – that’s why I like to have a weekly plan that I have done enough times I can memorize it. There are lots of ways to vary that plan but for me, the one I wrote out works with the things I always keep on hand. I think that’s part of the trick.

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