When late summer starts to turn to fall, our nesting instincts tend to kick in.
We get back in the swing of things with school, work and our social calendars. As the schedule fills up, it’s good to have shortcuts stocked away in the fridge or freezer. Maybe that’s pizza dough, pie crust, veggie burgers, tamales or — a recent crutch — breaded chicken cutlets that I like as much as my kids do.
If you don’t want to rely on the grocery store shortcuts, you can fill up that freezer yourself by par-cooking base ingredients that are stored in one-meal or one-serving increments. That’s the idea behind Better Homes and Gardens’ new book, “Better Homes and Gardens Make-Ahead Meals: 150+ Recipes to Enjoy Every Day of the Week” by Better Homes and Gardens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99).
The theory is that if you roast and shred chicken ahead of time to put in your freezer, you won’t be tempted to buy the more expensive heat-and-eat shredded chicken sold at grocery stores. When it’s time to make dinner, you can flip to the chicken chapter and find a dozen recipes for inspiration with what to do with that chicken you thought ahead to make.
The book includes base recipes for ground beef, sausage, tomato sauce, shredded pork, shredded chicken and a grain, bean and lentil mix that can easily cut weeknight cooking time in half. While we’re holed up inside because of this heat, we might as well make use of the time and get a jump start on dinner for the next three months.
Make-Ahead Shredded Roasted Chicken
7 1/2 to 8 lb. bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line two 15-inch-by-10-inch baking pans with foil. Place chicken thighs in the prepared baking pans. Drizzle with lemon juice and oil. In a small bowl stir together salt, thyme, paprika and pepper. Sprinkle seasoning blend over chicken.
Roast, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink (180 degrees). Remove from oven. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones; discard bones. Using two forks, pull chicken apart into shreds.
To store, place shredded chicken in 1-cup portions in airtight containers or freezer containers. Cover and store in the refrigerator up to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.
Asian Chicken and Noodle Bowl
2 cups water
1 3-oz. package ramen noodles
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups torn fresh spinach
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 tsp. sriracha or other hot sauce
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to boiling. If desired, break up noodles; drop noodles into the boiling water. Reserve flavor packet for another use. Return to boiling; boil for 2 to 3 minutes or just until noodles are tender but firm, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles.
Pour oil into a wok or large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat. Stir-fry ginger and garlic in hot oil for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and soy sauce. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and stir shredded chicken base into broth mixture. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through.
Add noodles, spinach, carrots, cilantro and sriracha sauce to mixture in wok; toss to combine. Ladle into soup bowls. If desired, sprinkle with peanuts. Serves 2.
— From “Better Homes and Gardens Make-Ahead Meals: 150+ Recipes to Enjoy Every Day of the Week” by Better Homes and Gardens (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99)