Easy, Healthy Recipes to Celebrate the Bird's Versatility
If ever there was a food that could be called "a busy mom's best friend," it's probably chicken. It's relatively inexpensive, it's impressively versatile, and even your pickiest eaters will usually devour it quite happily. Even better, it's a naturally lean and low-calorie meal option. These six recipes represent a wide range of flavors and cooking methods, but all six are easy for weeknights and low in calories.
1. Lemon Chicken in a Skillet
This is a one-pan meal if you already have leftover cooked potatoes; otherwise, it takes just two. Sear pounded chicken breasts in a large skillet, and finish them in the oven for a few minutes while you dice the cooked potatoes and slice some mushrooms. When the breasts are done, remove them from the pan long enough to saute some mushrooms and make the sauce. Add the potatoes and cooked breasts back to the pan, simmer until they're heated through, and dinner is ready!
2. Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Tomato sauce packs a ton of flavor for relatively few calories, which makes it a perfect vehicle for your chicken dinner. It's easiest when prepared in a slow cooker—just brown the chicken pieces, smother them in tomato sauce and leave them to simmer for hours. If you're in a real hurry, go ahead and use ready-made tomato sauce from a jar. Serve the finished dish over your kids' favorite pasta or over polenta as a "company" dish.
3. Grilled Whole Butterflied Chicken
This is quicker than roasting a whole chicken—and tastier, too. Marinate the chicken ahead of time, if you wish, with herbs or a traditional buttermilk marinade. Cut out the bird's backbone with a knife or kitchen shears, and flatten it. Heat one side of your grill but not the other. Place the chicken over the unheated side and cook with the lid down for about an hour, or until the chicken tests as done—165F on your instant-read thermometer—and its skin is crisp. Serve with your choice of sides.
4. Mustard-Citrus Chicken Thighs
Orange and lemon are front and center flavors in this recipe, so even your picky eaters will probably enjoy it. Start by marinating the chicken pieces in a lemon-garlic marinade, then brown them and simmer them in a sauce based on orange juice and chicken broth. A dollop of Dijon mustard at the end complements the tang of the citrus, making a sauce that works beautifully with grain-based side dishes or baby potatoes.
5. Herbed Chicken Breast Cutlets
Allow one chicken breast per person, or divide one breast between two small people. Pound the breasts to an even 1/4-inch thickness—a task the kids will gleefully help with—and give them 15 minutes in a marinade of fresh herbs, olive oil and garlic. Grill, broil or pan-sear the breasts until they're cooked through, only about 2 or 3 minutes per side. Serve intact or in slices, with rice or a side salad.
6. Baked or Crock-Pot Teriyaki Chicken
Teriyaki sauce is tasty stuff, but commercial versions can pack an unwelcome number of calories and grams of sodium. Sidestep that issue by making your own with soy sauce, sake and rice vinegar. Once the sauce is cooked up and syrupy, smother the chicken pieces with it and then cook the whole mixture in your oven or a slow cooker until the chicken is tender and fully cooked.
- Cooking Light: Weeknight Lemon Chicken Skillet Dinner
- Delish: Tangy Chicken Cacciatore
- Fine Cooking: How to Prepare an Indirect Grill Fire
- My Recipes: Grilled Split Chicken with Rosemary and Garlic
- My Recipes: Chicken Thighs with Mustard-Citrus Sauce
- AllRecipes: Chicken Paillard
- AllRecipes: Baked Teriyaki Chicken
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.