One of my habits picked up from working with a trainer for two years and focusing on “clean eating” (which I know has a few variations of meaning but that’s better left for another post another time) was to prep food for lunches in advance so that I wouldn’t be left scrambling or find myself going through the drive-through yet again. I went through a lot of variations of chicken + green beans + whole grain + spices before I came up with what I call the “chicken bowl.”
I’m a huge fan of the freshly made burritos at places like Moe’s (is regional to Southeast) and Chipotle but when you make your own combinations at home you control so much more. Plus you can freeze most of the parts and heat up later for a super quick, healthy meal! The basic combination is chicken + 1/4 c. whole grain (like quinoa) + 1/4 c. legume (like lentils) + spices (like turmeric, paprika, cayenne) + as many greens as you can stuff in your bowl. I also like to add a pinch of cheese for visual interest and flavor. If you freeze your bowl combo, leave off the greens and add those once the bowl ingredients are hot (usually around 3 minutes in the microwave).
But, phase one is chicken OMG.
This is where I get a whole chicken (or around 3 split breasts), remove excess skin, but I don’t go overboard (as it can be removed once it’s cooked as well). You can do this with boneless, skinless but it is typically far more expensive and you don’t get the same depth of flavor that the bones + skin add to the process. Because all we’re using is the meat once it’s done, you should be able to drain all the fat off you don’t want so I say, let the meat cook in the flavor!
I’m a big fan of being efficiently lazy so my favorite cooking method is slow cooker. I like to get a box of unsalted vegetable stock and pour the whole thing in (maybe less than the whole box if you are not using the whole chicken), then add the chicken, then I get creative with the spices. Honestly, I don’t really have a method but I have noticed, if you didn’t add enough to be able to smell the spices when the cooker really heats up, you likely didn’t add enough. How is that for scientific?
With this batch, I added a big pinch of dried rosemary I harvested from my wee garden back in June. I sprinkled a generous portion of turmeric all over the top of the chicken. I really like the gentle yellow color that develops with turmeric and the flavor isn’t overwhelming. I don’t like adding salt though but you do what you like. For this batch, I had some bottom of the pickle jar jalapenos so tossed those in for variety. I don’t think there were enough for any heat but the more the merrier.
I set the cooker to 6 hours low and then went on with my day. Soon the house was swimming in that divine rosemary smell. You will know when it’s done if the chicken is so tender it falls off when you try to pick it up. This also makes the deboning process much easier! Additionally, I skimmed off the fat while the extra liquid was hot and then saved it and stuck it in the freezer for a later soup experiment I have been thinking about…
Slow cooker for at least 6 hours, low setting
Whole chicken or 3 split breasts, with bone, excess fat removed
Unsalted vegetable stock (or other liquid)
Spices of your choice, I like rosemary and turmeric