Make Your Meals Do the Work: Cook Once, Eat for Days

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Just how many meals can you get from one recipe? No, this is not a Food Network challenge but a real life, “how am I going to make it through the week and provide my family with some healthy, fast, and flavorful meals?” scenario. I am a working mother to three and wife who fits daily exercise into her life. I strive to, at some point over the weekend, make a one dish meal and turn it into two or three meals for the early part of the week or for “fall back freezer meals.”

Today let's take a look at one recipe, my Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, then see how this versatile, healthy and filling dish can be stretched for a few meals. The soup itself makes 12 servings, plus an extra quart of broth, so there are plenty of possibilities!

Stock the Freezer: One batch of chicken soup will yield an additional quart of chicken broth. Cool and freeze as is, or for freezer storage space, reduce the one quart to one pint by simmering on the stove over moderate low heat for 40-50 minutes. When ready to use, add back one pint of water.

Make Ahead Meals: Add a second 3-pound chicken to the stock pot. Prepare recipe as is, but do not add the meat from the second chicken to the chicken soup. Divide meat in half and use in the following recipes:

  • Use as a topping day on a salad to add essential protein. Try adding some seasonal fruit to the salad as well: try pears, apples or blueberries. (Use 3 ounces of chicken per serving.)

  • Substitute chicken for beef in a black bean chili, make white chili or use it for chicken enchiladas (or my Enchilada Stacker).

  • Use leftover meat to make Chicken and Vegetable Casserole.

  • Top a whole wheat pizza with chicken, chopped tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese.

  • Make a grilled chicken sandwich using whole-wheat bread,jarred pesto or sun dried tomatoes and leafy greens.

  • Freeze the chicken for emergency dinners on your busiest nights.

    Keep Those Meals Interesting
    Eating the same thing for several meals can seem downright boring to some people. Here are some tips for recycling ingredients and keeping your taste buds interested.
    • Change up the second recipe as much as possible and switch the flavors. For example, I would suggest reformatting the poached chicken into an Asian or Southwest recipe instead of another savory thyme-based chicken recipe. The goal is to make everyone think you made from scratch a whole new recipe--only you will know the difference. (For example, you could make my Thai Chicken Coconut Soup)

    • Utilize the reworked item for a different meal. If the main ingredient was part of supper, use the reworked item in a lunch box or as a breakfast item--and don’t forget snacks.

    • Remember that flavors can heighten or become subdued once cooled. Taste the main reworked ingredient before you start to add new flavors or spices.

    Do you have any tips for using leftover chicken? How do you stretch one meal into many? Check out the rest of my recipes by clicking here.