Five Fast Chicken Dinners for a Family of Four: Prep Sunday

by Kirke on July 17, 2014

Five Fast Chicken Dinners

A demonstration of the time consuming tasks that you can prepare on a Sunday, allowing for five chicken dinners, using healthy, whole food, to be easily prepared in 30-45 minutes each night for a family of four.

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If you have visited Chefnurtured.com previously, you’ve read how I am consistently proselytizing on the virtues of a diet of whole foods, ideally consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables. I often annoyingly point out how simple I believe it is to achieve such a diet. Now I’d like to put the food where my mouth is, so to speak.

Many people would love to feed their families healthy meals made from whole foods every day. For most it’s hard to find the time to do so, with both spouses working fulltime, and offspring busy with a multitude of activities. The food industry is happy to make large profits providing easy access to processed foods, making it too easy to default to feeding your family delivered pizza, microwavable meals, or buckets of greasy, yet irresistible crispy deep-fried chicken parts.

The fact is, with a little forethought and simple planning, fresh healthy homemade dinners can re-appear on your table, meals that will fill your loved one’s bellies with wholesome, nutritious, veggie ladened, aroma-luscious food. Let me nurture you and yours back to great home cooked meals with these quick, simple recipes.

Let’s start with a basic roasted chicken. This is a model of how you can plan your family meals on the weekend, executing most of the time-consuming work when you have the time, leaving only 30 to 45 minutes of preparation for the days when your time is more limited. One week’s menus can be chicken based, one week you can prepare variations of braised beef, on the following week the family might indulge in pork. Vegetarian meals can be planned to intersperse, or even be the mainstay. Those of you who like to cook should feel free to improvise, substituting any ingredients, switching vegetables or sauces to ones you prefer. The key is thinking ahead, as all chefs must. And just about everybody loves thinking about what they are going to eat next!

The following recipes will be utilized in five dinner recipes to appear here in the next few days.

Prep Sunday

Brining the Chicken
Brining the Chicken
Brining the Chicken

Brining and Roasting Chicken

For the Brine:

4 quarts    cold water
3/4 cup     sea salt
1/2 cup     granulated sugar
1/2 cup     honey

Bring 1 quart of the water to a boil.
Add the sea salt, sugar and honey.
Stir until mostly dissolved, about a minute.
Let the brine cool for 5- 10 minutes.
Add the remaining 3 quarts of cold water to the cooling brine base.
If the brine isn’t cool to the touch, add 3-4 ice cubes.

For the Chicken:

Purchase chicken as 4 leg-thigh sections and 6 half breasts, both bone-in and skin-on.
Total weight should be about 7.5 lbs.
This amounts to two whole birds minus the wings and back bone.
The yield after cooking and removing the bones should equal around 5.5 lbs.

Immerse the chicken in the brine. Let in soak for 1 hour at room temperature, giving a stir once or twice. While you’re waiting, prep the vegetables for future meals.

 

Roasting the Chicken
Roasting the Chicken
Roasting the Chicken

 

After 45 minutes of soaking the chicken in the brine, preheat the oven to 450°F.
Set up a baking tray large enough to hold all the chicken comfortably, or use two trays.
If you own a baking rack, line the tray with aluminum foil and insert the racks.

It’s important to dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels.

Place the chicken skin side up and grind a generous amount of black pepper all over the chicken.
Remember, you won’t need to salt the chicken; it will pick up enough to season the birds well from the brine.
Cook the chicken at 450°F for 20 minutes.
Then turn the tray(s) once and reduce the oven to 400°F.
Cook at that temperature for about 35 minutes. Each person’s oven is different, so use a cooking thermometer to check that the chicken has reached at least 160°F to 165°F.
The chicken will cook a little more after leaving the oven.
Plus, all the recipes coming with this collection will require additional heating, so reaching proper interior temperature will not be a problem.
Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, cut all the meat off the bone using a sharp boning knife or paring knife.
Cool the cooked chicken rapidly by spreading the meat flat on a tray or plates and placing them in the refrigerator.
Once it has cooled completely, place the chicken in airtight containers for storage.

 

Cooking the Beans
Cooking the Beans
Cooking the Beans

Cooking Dried Flageolet Beans (makes about 3 cups)

Place 1 cup dried flageolet beans in a bowl.
Cover with cold water plus 3 inches.
Cover the bowl with a plate or paper towel.
Leave overnight (about 18 hours).

To cook:

Drain with a strainer and rinse the beans.
Place in a sauce pan with 3 cups of cold water and 1/2 tsp. of sea salt.
Cover and bring to a bowl.
Lower the heat to a simmer, stirring once or twice.
Cook until tender, stirring again once or twice during cooking, about 17 minutes.
Rinse with cold water until the beans are thoroughly cool.
Cover and refrigerate.

Cooked beans will last about 4 days before spoiling. You can soak beans for less time; I have provided exact times for the sake of this recipe. Some disagree with adding salt during cooking. Feel free to add it afterwards, but you might need to increase the amount of salt in the final preparation.

 

Caramelizing the Onions
Caramelizing the Onions
Caramelizing the Onions

 

Caramelized Onion Marmalade (makes about 1 cup)

Ingredients:

1 lb./2     large yellow onions, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup  pure olive oil
2 tsp.       balsamic vinegar
3 tsp.       whole grain mustard
2 tsp.       extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp.   sea salt
1/8 tsp.   freshly ground black pepper
pinch        ground cayenne (optional)

 

Heat the pure olive oil in a large sauté pan or iron skillet over a medium high heat.
Add the sliced onions.
Let the onions sit and pick up color before stirring, stir occasionally.
Once the onions are nice and brown, add 1/2 cup of cold water and the balsamic vinegar.
Turn the heat very low and let simmer until almost dry.
Place in a mixing bowl and let cool a few minutes.
Add the grain mustard, virgin olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and cayenne if you like.

Store the marmalade in the refrigerator in an air tight container. It keeps for a couple of weeks.

 

Roasting the Potatoes
Roasting the Potatoes
Roasting the Potatoes

Roasting Potatoes and Rutabaga

Ingredients:

1 lb.        creamer size potatoes, red, Yukon, or fingerlings
1               medium rutabaga
2 Tbs.     pure olive oil
1/8 tsp.  sea salt
2-3 grinds of black pepper

Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cool water for a few minutes. Clean each potato carefully, being sure to remove any dirt particles. Dry thoroughly with a towel.
Wash the rutabaga and then peel it, cutting off the stem end.
Cut the rutabaga in 1 inch wedges, rinse and dry well.
Toss the potatoes and rutabaga wedges with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
Lay them flat on a baking sheet pan or sauté pan.
Cook on the upper rack of the oven for 45 minutes, stirring twice, turning each over at least once.
Place on a plate or cookie sheet to cool.
Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

Roasting the Root Vegetables
Roasting the Root Vegetables
Roasting the Root Vegetables

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

2 each     medium carrots, peeled, cut in 1-2 inch chunks
1                medium kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1 inch wedges
1                small fennel bulb, cleaned and cut into 1 inch wedges
1                large, or 2 small onions, cut into 1 inch wedges
2                small leeks, 1-2 diameter, cut down to white sections, quartered with stem attached, washed thoroughly
2                small beets with tops, 2-3 inches in diameter, see instructions below
2 Tbs.      pure olive oil
1/8 tsp.  sea salt
2-3 grinds of freshly ground pepper

The root vegetables in this recipe may be freely substituted for root vegetables favored by you and your family. The directions vary according to which vegetables you choose. Substitute with root veggies such as parsnips, turnips, celery root, sweet potato, or any member of the onion family, like shallots or garlic. And remember, there is no such thing as root vegetable police, so feel free to add a favorite green vegetable like peppers, green beans or cauliflower.

Preheat the oven to 450°F

For the beets, I prefer to use baby beets, no more than 3 inches in diameter. Cut the greens off, leaving an inch of leaf stem attached, and if they are in good shape, reserve the tops for later use. Wash and scrub them clean with a brush or scratchy sponge. Leaving them wet, wrap them in a single layer in aluminum foil as air tight as you can.
Bake them for 45 minutes. Leave them wrapped until cool enough to handle. Peel them under cold running water by rubbing off the skin.

All the vegetables should be washed thoroughly, especially the leeks. Rinse well after cutting, folding the leaves back to ensure all the dirt is washed out. Soaking the cut leeks first helps the process. Dry all the veggies with a towel.

Put all the remaining root vegetables in a large bowl and mix with olive oil and salt and black pepper.

Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Place the pan in the upper rack and cook for 15 minutes (saving the lower rack for the chicken). Stir well, turning each vegetable for even browning. Cook for 10-15 more minutes.
Remove the vegetables to a large plate or cookie sheet, spreading in a single layer to cool.
Place in an air tight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

 

Par-cooking the Mirepoix
Par-cooking the Mirepoix
Par-cooking the Mirepoix

 

Par-cooking the Mirepoix (cooked mixed vegetables, makes a heaping cup)

Ingredients:

1                 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 1 heaping cup)
1/2 cup   celery, diced (one stalk)
3/4 cup   carrots, quarter inch dice, (one large carrot)
1 each       garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 Tbs.        pure olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.
Add the onions, celery and carrots.
Cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir for one more minute.
Spread the mixture flat on a plate or cookie sheet.
Let cool for a minute or two and then refrigerate uncovered until completely cool.
Store in an air tight container and refrigerate

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheryl February 25, 2016 at 12:29 am

Hi,
Dr. Jesse Dohemann gave me your site today. He was enthusiastic about your 1000 c. Shake. I’m currently struggling to eat and keep weight on due to numerous, extensive medical issues. I can’t wait to learn from you.
Thank you,
Cheryl

Reply

Kirke February 26, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Hi Cheryl, thanks for taking a look at my site. My heart is with you, struggling with issues regarding medical problems and trying to keep up your intake of calories. It is difficult, to say the least. I hope you find my recipe for a 1000 calorie fresh fruit smoothie helpful.

Reply

Leslie July 20, 2014 at 11:16 am

Looks delicious! Loved the pictures.

Reply

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