For the past several months, I've made time to plan my lunches for the upcoming work week. This has helped me to 1) save money, 2) save time each night trying to throw something together for lunch the next day, and 3) eat healthier. All desirable things!
One of the most efficient ways I've found to get a week's worth of lunch is to cook a large portion of something. Recently I began making a whole poached chicken on the weekend, and it's been a great source of easy meals during the week!
Poaching a whole chicken is low maintenance, so easy, and inexpensive (you can even splurge on an organic chicken). And it leaves me with a ton of healthy meal options for the week and a couple quarts of flavorful chicken stock that can be used for soups, cooking rice/quinoa, or braising veggies.
Once the chicken is cooked, you just pull all of the meat off the bones and store it in an airtight container (I like to scoop a few spoonfuls of the broth over top to keep it moist). There are a lot of things you can do with the shredded chicken:
- Add to a salad of mixed greens and veggies to make it a meal.
- Make a chicken sandwich or wrap (the husband enjoys this). You can dress it up with whatever you like: avocado, mustards, roasted red peppers, arugula, etc.
- Add to a quesadilla or a burrito (so easy to whip up one of these on a griddle!).
- Use in soups or casseroles.
- Mix it with your fav BBQ sauce, heat, and serve on top of a salt/peppered baked potato with a little cilantro sprinkled on top (seriously, this is so good).
- Add to stuffed peppers.
- Add at the very end to a stir-fry or noodle dish.
- Make chicken salad.
I'm sure there are more ideas — share if you have them!
Even though I have a recipe posted below, keep in mind that this is less of a recipe and more of a concept. If you don't have certain ingredients, don't fret! I tend to use what I have on hand. What you really want to be sure to add is things that will impart flavor: aromatics, herbs, spices. And as for the measurements, they are estimates. I tend to just toss stuff in and trust my gut on how much to add.
Whole Poached Chicken (makes about 1 cup shredded chicken per pound)
4-6 lb. whole chicken (preferably free range, organic, or both)
1 tsp. peppercorns (or a good pinch)
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, sliced into thick chunks
1 lemon, sliced
Several stems of parsley, whole
2 slices ginger (adds a lovely fragrance, totally optional)
Rinse your chicken and remove any parts from inside. Trim the skin around the opening of the chicken to reduce the amount of fat in your broth. Place the chicken in a very large stockpot and add all ingredients. Fill the pot with water, about an inch above the surface of the chicken, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 75-90 minutes (on the longer end if your chicken is on the large side).
Then turn off the heat and allow your chicken to mellow in its stock. You want the chicken/stock to cool somewhat so that it's not scorching hot. This may take a couple of hours and is a very important step — it's what keeps the chicken moist and yummy.
Once cool enough to handle, carefully remove the chicken from the stock and place on a cutting board with a well. Remove all of the skin and discard. Pull the chicken off the bones and shred the meat into bite-size pieces.
Place in an airtight container and spoon about 1/2 cup of the stock on top (skim the fat first so you're not adding any to your healthy chicken).
If you plan to use the broth, you can store it in airtight containers. Either skim the fat before storing, or refrigerate the broth and remove the fat that rises to the top once chilled.
Print this recipe!