It’s been a long day, you've had four classes back-to-back, and all you want to do is go home, have a nice simple dinner, cuddle up with Netflix and go to bed. You get home and find nothing but quintessential college-kid foods lying around the shelves of your fridge, like some culinary battleground.
You were dreading the day you would have to go out to the grocery store and spend the last of the lonely dollars sitting in your bank account, but today is the day. Mustering up the courage to go out and start adult-ing, you head to the closest supermarket.
Everyone there is a parent with a mission. They know where everything is and want you to get out of the way so they can make it home in time to feed the kids. The supermarket is an intimidating place: trust me, I know. There are so many items, made by different brands, in different sizes, at different prices.
My solution for this is to go as little as I possibly can. I frequently encounter the above-mentioned situation and solve it by making use of one of my favorite proteins—chicken. I am going to walk you through a week of meals based on one rotisserie chicken.
Monday: Roast Chicken with Vegetables
I cook dinner for my boyfriend and myself most nights, but sometimes we are too busy. So, what I like to do is buy a rotisserie chicken from the local supermarket. That night, we cut off the pieces we want for dinner and heat up some frozen vegetables or any other side dishes we want.
Maybe a quick mashed potato or even some boxed mac and cheese—they will bring Boston Market comfort to your table on a busy Monday night.
When dinner is done, I take off all of the remaining meat from the chicken bones and put that in a plastic container (I usually shred it with my hands, but you can totally cube it if you want).
#SpoonTip: do not, I repeat, DO NOT throw out the chicken bones. That is where the flavor sits and you’re going to need it later in the week.
Now you have a whole bunch of chicken meat that is fair game for the week.
Tuesday: Salad with Shredded Chicken
On Tuesday, I put shredded chicken on top of a green salad, along with any vegetables I find in my fridge—bell peppers, carrots, leftover veggies from the night before. I think that no salad is complete without a hard-boiled egg, so unless you have a problem eating chicken and eggs at the same time in the same bowl, go for it.Any salad dressing you have would work, or you can make your own—anything from the classic Russian dressing (equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup) to a sophisticated balsamic, dijon, and olive oil combo. Any of these recipes work great.
And boom, dinner number two knocked out.
Wednesday: Barbecue Chicken Quesadillas
The next night, make barbecue chicken quesadillas, which is another great to use up random items in your fridge. Use more of those gorgeous bell peppers, some onions or that last bit of the barbecue sauce in a bottle that has been almost empty for weeks now.
You will definitely need some of the shredded cheddar you’ve been telling yourself to make eggs with one morning, but instead run out of the house every day with your stomach grumbling hard enough for the kid three rows in front of you in your Stat class to hear it.
Mix your shredded chicken with barbecue sauce, cheese, and whatever else you've found in your fridge, throw it in some tortillas, and cook it on the stove-top for the quickest Wednesday night dinner ever.
Thursday: Chicken Noodle Soup
Dinner number four takes a little bit more time than the others, but it is well worth it. Remember those chicken bones? Take them out of the fridge and refer to this is easy step-by-step recipe for chicken broth, using the vegetables listed or whatever other scraps you have on hand.
Now the fun part! If you have leftover pasta, throw it in. Otherwise, bring your freshly-made chicken stock to a boil and pour in some dried pasta, cooking for about 8 minutes. Add some shredded chicken and maybe some chopped vegetables for homemade chicken noodle soup.
The best part about this soup is that not only is dinner number four done, but if you have leftovers like I did, you can save a tupperware container of the broth in the fridge and freeze the rest in Ziplock freezer bags.
When everyone on campus is passing around a cold and you start missing the nights when mom would take care of you, all you have to do is open up the freezer and reheat some almost-as-good-as-mom’s homemade chicken noodle soup. Guaranteed, you’ll be the only one on campus soothing your sore throat and stuffy nose with your own chicken soup.
Friday: Chicken Pot Pie
By the end of the week you have a handful of shredded chicken left, a container of leftover broth, and an empty stomach that wants something nice and rich—worthy of a Friday night dinner.
My grandmother is from New Orleans and she always tells me, “first, you make a roux.” These are the first words that come out of her mouth every time you ask her how to make something. It sounds French and chef-y and super complicated, but it’s literally just some sort of fat and flour. Refer to these instructions to start.
Once your roux becomes a brown-ish tan color, add your refrigerated broth and a couple splashes of that milk you’ve probably only used for cereal. You’ll end up with a thick, creamy chicken gravy that is the basis for a super quick chicken potpie. Throw in the rest of your shredded chicken, extra carrot or celery from the soup, peas or pearl onions, or anything else you'd like.
In my opinion, the best part of this recipe is the next step. I always have frozen biscuits in my freezer, but if you don’t, just pick up one of those air-tight containers of biscuits or crescent rolls at the supermarket. Or, if you're feeling ambitious, make your own.
For this recipe bake them exactly how the box tells you to, but instead of on a regular sheet pan, plop them right on top of your pot pie filling in a baking pan. Once they have puffed up and are golden-brown, sitting on top of that thick, bubbling filling, dinner is ready. This chicken pot pie biscuit dinner number five is done. *drops mic*
Five meals, one chicken and only one real trip to the intimidating and overwhelming grocery store. You've made it through the week eating delicious, homemade meals by ridding your fridge of leftovers. Now you can really enjoy your weekend on a full stomach and a fully-earned adulting badge. Thanks, rotisserie chicken.