Have you ever stood in front of a packed-full pantry and still wondered what in the world you are going to make for dinner? When we started eating more natural, whole foods, the thing I missed most was how simple and convenient it is to have packaged/pre-cooked things on hand. When we have a day where we are exhausted and short on time, and all we have are raw meat and other basic ingredients, it is easy to want to give up and hit the drive thru.
I have worked to combat this problem by large batch cooking and keeping some basic things prepped, so we always have some quick meals ready to throw together.
Large batch cooking just involves making extra of the meals we already make and love. For example, when I make chili, I triple or quadruple the amount we would typically make for one dinner. Then, we use one portion for dinner, put one portion in the fridge to have another lunch or dinner in the next few days, and put one or two portions in the freezer for a night when we are short on time and need a quick meal. The portions in the freezer can be reheated in a pot on the stove, or in the crockpot. I don’t even worry about thawing it ahead.
Keeping staples prepped involves cooking a couple basic ingredients that can be used to make quick meals. We cook up large batches of things like chicken, sweet potatoes, winter vegetables, Brussels sprouts, roast beef, taco meat, or turkey. Having these things already cooked makes it easy to throw together meals like sandwiches, nachos, wraps, salads, tacos, and many others. I cook one or two staples each week, depending on what I have that I need to use up, what is on sale, and what things I am already planning to make for my meal plan that week.
Of all these options, the staple recipe I make almost every single week (and the whole family is actually excited about it) is oven-baked chicken and sweet potato fries. I alternate between baking split chicken breasts or chicken thighs, depending on which one is on sale. Bone-in chicken and sweet potatoes are both very inexpensive and healthy, and they are absolutely delicious cooked with the method below. The chicken can be cut up and used for salads and so many simple dishes.
The best part about these two staple items is they can both go in the oven together at the same temperature, for about the same amount of time! They do take some prep, and about 40-45 minutes to cook in the oven, but when they are done, you have a large batch of two different things to eat throughout the week.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash and chop 4 large sweet potatoes into wedges or long strips. (You could also chop them into chunks if you want roasted potatoes instead of fries).
- Coat potatoes lightly in olive oil by tossing together in a large bowl.
3. Place potatoes on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with seasoning of choice. (I LOVE to use this DIY seasoning salt blend, which includes sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, sage, and curry powder).
4. Coat about 8 lbs of split chicken breasts or thighs in olive oil, then sprinkle with seasoning of choice. I use the same seasoning salt blend as above, and add a little extra sage.
5. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a pan, and brown the chicken for two minutes on each side on medium-high. This step is very important and really locks in the flavor and moisture of the chicken!
6. Place the chicken on a cookie sheet.
7. Place both cookie sheets in the oven, with the chicken on top and potatoes in the center of the oven. Bake on high for 40-45 minutes.
8. The fries are done when they are cooked through and tender. They will start to brown a little on the edges as well.
9. To check the chicken, place a meat thermometer in the center of the largest piece of chicken. It is done when the temperature reaches 162 degrees. The internal temperature of the chicken will actually continue to rise a few degrees after removing from the oven, so stopping it at 162 will mean the temperature should actually reach 165. This is the recommended safe temperature for chicken, and if you let it go much higher than this, the chicken will begin to dry out.
We usually eat chicken, fries, and salad the night this is cooked, because it is SO wonderful straight out of the oven. Then, you can save the leftover chicken to make your other delicious recipes that week. You could also chop up the meat and freeze it to use later.
Let me know what you think! I’d also love to hear what your favorite staple recipes are in your house.