I like to cook neat stuff. Most of the recipes I share here and most of my food pics on Instagram are dinner-type meals. Something a little nicer that takes a bit more effort. But if you think I’m preparing gourmet breakfasts or fancy lunches, you’d be wrong. I don’t have the time or inclination to cook nice food before 5 pm, so I have to get creative in finding stuff I want to eat that’s fast, easy, and healthful. I call them the “in between” meals. Here are my favorite utility meals that keep my body functioning throughout the day.
You could do this with any type of chicken, but I prefer tenders because they’re fast to cook, easy to measure if you are using a scale, and easy to store. Plus, sometimes I put them on bamboo skewers just for fun.
Place raw chicken in a bowl. Season to taste. I like to use various things like coconut aminos, salt, ground ginger, a drizzle of sesame oil, whatever floats your boat. My spouse likes his with Frank’s Red Hot. You could also do basil, oregano, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or perhaps some crushed red pepper, chili powder, and a wee bit of bbq sauce. Like I said, flavor them however you like.
Put some parchment paper on a baking sheet. I like to put a cooling rack on top of that, like a mini grill. I place the tenders on the rack, toss them into the oven at 350, and eyeball it until they are done. It doesn’t take long because the tenders are small and cook quickly, and the hot air circulates on all sides because of the rack.
If you don’t have a cooling rack, don’t fret. Just bake them on the parchment.
Store your cooked tenders in a container in the fridge. Eat them as-is, or use them in salads, sandwiches, etc. I make these once or twice a week and keep them on hand at all times. You need a protein at every meal, and if you are like me, you are thoroughly sick of eggs. This is a nice change.
Speaking of eggs…
I have just about run out of ways to make eggs taste good. This is the only way I can eat them on a daily basis.
Keep a bottle of pickled banana peppers and 1-2 bunches of green onions in your fridge at all times. Drizzle some olive oil into a small skillet, snip off some of the green onions, throw in a few banana peppers, some garlic, spinach, whatever you like, and saute for a minute. Crack your eggs into the hot skillet, season to taste. That’s breakfast. Every. Goddamn. Day. My spouse likes to keep some bell peppers diced in a container so he can just sprinkle them into his eggs. Do whatever you like. Get some go-to ingredients you can live with. If you fry the eggs right and don’t try to stir or flip them until they are almost done, you will get crispy edges. The crispies are the best part.
Serve with a handful of berries, a bit cut-up pineapple, or whatever else you like to use to get the taste of eggs out of your mouth.
When you cook yourself a delicious dinner, double the recipe. Just make it a habit. Double everything, and put the leftovers away for healthy lunches. You will be so glad to have something besides eggs, trust me. You can portion them out properly, store in the fridge, and you have a great lunch just waiting for you.
The value of good leftovers cannot be overstated. I love having a piece of salmon, a bowl of chicken stew, tomato zucchini chicken, or leftover flank steak for lunch. Pair with a salad, fruit, veggies, whatever. And if you forget to make extra, you’ll always have your chicken tenders, right?
Like the tenders, pulled chicken is something to keep on hand at all times. It can be used in stew, soup, fajitas or tacos, salads, and basically everything else. It’s great.
There’s an easy way and a hard way to do this. I prefer the hard way because I am a glutton for punishment, and also because I like chicken stock.
Easy: Buy some whole roaster chickens at the supermarket deli. Bring them home. Remove the skin, pull the meat off, shred in a bowl, store in the fridge, throw the carcass in the trash.
Hard: Buy some whole raw chickens at the supermarket. Bring them home. Remove and discard the giblets. Season to taste. I like to stuff the cavity with celery, onion, carrot, thyme, rosemary, etc. Shove some herbs up under the skin if you want. Slice up an onion and place on the bottom of your crock pot. Place the raw chicken on top of the bed of onions. Fill with enough water to cover the chicken. Salt liberally. Slow cook until the chicken is done. Remove the skin, pull the meat off, shred in a bowl, store in the fridge.
But wait, there’s more! Crush the carcass to break a lot of the bones up, and return it to the slow-cooker and continue to stew for another hour or so. Drain and reserve the liquid, skimming off the fat. Pour liquid into freezer containers, label the date, and store them in the freezer. Congrats, you just made chicken stock.
Homemade isn’t always better, and your time is valuable. There’s really no single way to do this, just go with the method you prefer.
I always keep several cans of salmon and tuna in my cupboard. You never know when you’ll need them, they keep almost forever, and they are pretty inexpensive.
If you need a quick protein fix and you’re sick of eggs and chicken, grab a can of tuna and put it on a salad, make a sandwich, get fancy with a Nicoise salad, or just eat it straight out of the can.
I like to use canned salmon to make salmon patties. It’s a nice backup meal for when you forget to take something out of the freezer and you have nothing to cook for dinner. I have prevented a lot of pizza delivery just by having canned salmon on hand.
If I think of more fast, easy lunchtime proteins, I’ll add them to this list. I hope this is helpful to others who are working out and need some reliable ideas for meeting their protein goals. Hit me up in the comments if you have something to add! Happy New Year, and good luck with your health resolutions!