Two Things to Do on the Weekend to Make Your Week Easier

May 30th, 2013 · 27 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Organizing, Strategizing, Planning

This salad saved me last week. I’m not sure I really need to go into detail about how many miles we put on the Mazda getting kids to their various weeknight commitments, but put it this way: If our night was an instagram it would’ve read #uniforminwrongcar #again #firstgoalever! #ittakesavillage  #i’msorryenvironment

And finally:

#makeahead

Ever since discovering this chicken-based salad, I’ve gotten in the habit of roasting chicken on the weekend to have as a dinner insurance plan for nights that spiral into chaos. (Beautiful, messy, chaos-I’ll-someday-miss, but chaos nonetheless.) Prepping chicken this way takes about sixty seconds of hands-on time (45 minutes hands-off) and once I have a few breasts sitting in the fridge, I find all kinds of possibilities open up. (And not necessarily just for dinner, but for lunch boxes, too. Lately, Abby has been into chicken wraps — chicken rolled in a tortilla with a smear of mayo, a piece of lettuce, and a strip of bacon if I’m feeling big-hearted.) You can add your cooked chicken to soups and pot pies or chop up for Andy’s chicken salad, but my favorite use this time of year has to be the way you see above: Tossed with fresh greens, dried cherries, blue cheese, candied walnuts and a homemade vinaigrette that was also prepped on the weekend, so all I had to at 8:00 (8:00!) when we all collapsed into our dinner chairs was toss and serve. #genius

Step No. 1: On the weekend, make this vinaigrette.

In an old jam jar shake the following ingredients:

heaping 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Now add:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Shake again. If you are using this entire bottle of vinaigrette that night add herbs, like chives, parsley, or thyme. Otherwise, save the herbs to toss directly into your salad. That way they don’t get all wilty and black and depressing a few days later.

Step No. 2: On the weekend, roast some chicken.

Roast 2-3 split chicken breasts or boneless chicken breasts at 375°F  on a rimmed baking sheet along with 1/4 cup of water and tent with foil for 40 minutes. The bone-in split breasts are good for shredding, the breasts are good for slicing on the bias. (That’s what I did above.)

Step No. 3: On your busiest weeknight, make this: Greens with Chicken, Cherries, Blue Cheese & Candied Walnuts

In a large bowl, toss all of the following:

3 medium sized cooked chicken breasts (see above), sliced as shown
Four generous handfuls fresh greens
handful of tart dried cherries
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (or to taste)
handful candied walnuts*
snipped chives (or scallions)
cider vinaigrette (above, or your favorite mild vinaigrette)

*You can use storebought or homemade if you’re man enough. I was not.

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27 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Liz // May 30, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I cook “dinner for 1″ – but it is still a love story! No children and I work from a home office (full time) so also no commute or wardrobe complexity but I make everything from scratch and I live rurally so cannot just pop out to pick up a missed ingredient. The way I manage that is a lot of weekend prep. Granted, my office is about 3 steps away from the kitchen and I can get things going, but now matter how many or how few at the dinner table, I firmly believe that some organized prep is key to getting a healthy meal(s) on the table especially when the day goes awry. Even a one person/two pet/work from home household can have a chaotic day on occasion, though I am positive it is nothing like the day-to-day with children and sports. I have to believe that it also sets a great example for the kids. I am able to make my work from home situation work partly because of this kind of time management/think ahead mentality I saw my own parents do.

  • 2 Phaedra // May 30, 2013 at 10:51 am

    awesome! Just what I needed (For the same reasons..we run around like crazy on weeknights from activity to activity) for tonight and I have everything but the vinaigrette. *I always prep chicken on the weekend because I know it will be a great component for a variety of meals. It was my ah-ha moment.

  • 3 Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks // May 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Vinaigrettes are a cook’s best friend and a great component to make ahead. I love your instagram description of your evening :)

  • 4 Cherylfnh // May 30, 2013 at 11:28 am

    Love the salad idea, I’ll try it soon. I put a whole chicken in the crockpot for 4 – 6 hours, cool, pick & shred the meat, lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze. When frozen put in a zip lock bag to be used for the great ideas mentioned above as well as quesedillas, chicken club sandwiches, chicken salad. Yum!

  • 5 Joanna // May 30, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Love this!

    What else do Phoebe & Abby like to take for lunch? We’re just getting started with the packed lunch circuit and I’d love some ideas.

    Also, how’s it going with your Vitamix? Would love to hear some of your favorite uses! We’re big fans of apple pancakes and spinach lemon sorbet.

    Thanks!
    Joanna

  • 6 mandy // May 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I thought cooked chicken was only good for 1-2 days after cooking?

  • 7 Melissa@Julia's Bookbag // May 30, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    yummy yummy yummy! love this idea.

  • 8 Melissa // May 30, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I was just thinking last night that I should make enough vinaigrette for the week instead whisking one together every single night. Because what gets dropped from the menu if I can’t summon the energy for dressing? Yup, the salad.

    I’m also thinking that I’ll need this sort of prep-ahead strategy even more over the summer, when our routines are upside down and (I hope) we’re still hanging out at the pool at 7 p.m.

  • 9 Jan @ Family Bites // May 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Great looking salad!

    On Thursday nights two of us eat dinner on the road as we drive nearly 60 minutes for an archery lesson. I call this meal a dashboard dinner as it has to be something that can be downed in the car. Tonight we’re having homemade sausage rolls and salad (in a mason jar). Basically it’s like a picnic, minus the green grass and beautiful scenery!

  • 10 Maria Tadic // May 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I love prep on the weekends. Sometimes i dont feel like doing it…and i SO regret it. Makes life so much easier! Good tips!

  • 11 Zelda // May 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Jenny, I wonder why you favour chicken breasts over a whole bird? You can roast a whole chicken just as easily, freeze any surplus, it yields dark and white meat, the carcass can be used for soup/broth/stock, and it is possible to tell the quality of a bird if you buy it whole. Otherwise, I agree that cold roast chicken and vinaigrette are great stand-by ingredients to have in the fridge.

  • 12 Zelda // May 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    @mandy: freshly roasted chicken will be OK for up to 4-5 days in the fridge, in my experience.

  • 13 jenny // May 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    @zelda, I have absolutely nothing against a whole bird, and while it is a relatively easy task, it’s not NEARLY as easy as dumping three pieces of chicken on a cookie sheet with salt and pepper which you can do pretty much while you are unpacking groceries. A whole chicken feels like a little bit more of a production. In my book, I’ve gone into great detail on my love affair with whole roasted chicken…and stock. The chapter is ACTUALLY called “Love is Homemade Stock.”

  • 14 Zelda // May 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Here’s a simple roast chicken recipe from one of my favourite food bloggers, mum-of-six Mimi Thorisson:
    http://mimithorisson.com/2013/05/20/the-winemakers-lunch/

  • 15 A Life From Scratch // May 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Love these ideas! In the winter I’m all about making a big pot of soup or chili on Sunday for the week but am always looking for new ‘summer’ ideas. I often have your dressing on hand…it’s delicious!

  • 16 Kendra // May 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I really need to do that vinaigrette thing because I HATE making vinaigrette under pressure.

  • 17 Tracy // May 30, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    Are the boneless breasts skinless too? I know that boneless, skinless breasts are not as tasty as other options, but it’s always what I have in the kitchen. (Whole chicken – well, even bone-in pieces – is a page turner for me.) Thanks!

  • 18 christyb // May 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    thank you so much! now, why, oh why didn’t I read this post this morning before I went to T.J.’s??

  • 19 Zelda // May 31, 2013 at 4:53 am

    @Tracy: You’re right about boneless, skinless chicken breasts being less tasty. So why are they so often the default option when it comes to meat? Yes, they may cook faster than a whole chicken, but this post is about weekend prepping, so time is not an issue here, and roasting is passive cooking anyway. Also, as I’ve already mentioned, it is much more economical to roast a whole bird (unless you buy those huge, spongey watery chicken breasts that have no taste other than a strange fishiness), surely it makes sense to consider this if your family regularly consumes chicken?

  • 20 Unitel, Inc. // May 31, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I’ve doing this lately, well everything accept roasting the chicken but i buy pre cooked chicken. its great. Esp trying out new dressings

  • 21 TITLE Boxing Club Danvers // May 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    This is a great idea. It will be a good week.

  • 22 Sally // May 31, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but one of the things I don’t miss is driving my kids to their various lessons, practices, games and so on. Or, I miss it like you miss a broken bone! However, both of mine were involved in marching band and I was a band parent. It’s been 13 years since my youngest graduated high school and every August I feel like there’s something I should be doing.

    I’m an at home single like Liz above, and I agree that pre-planning helps the dinner (or lunch) hour much more manageable. I always have homemade soup in the fridge as well as other things prepped and ready-to-go.

    By the way, I think 8:00 PM is a perfectly reasonable time to eat dinner. I usually don’t eat until at least 8:00, occasionally a little later.

  • 23 Gayle // Jun 2, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Can you give a little more detail on how you cook the chicken? Oil? Salt and pepper? Covered loosely with foil? With the water, it sounds somewhere between poaching and roasting and I’m having a hard time picturing it.

  • 24 Allie // Jun 3, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Will your kids eat this salad as dinner? We are years away from that (my girls eat chicken, but salad as dinner isn’t something they go for…)

  • 25 Lynn // Jun 4, 2013 at 12:18 am

    Made this salad tonight. It was delicious! Loved the vinaigrette. Yum. I did not have candied walnuts so decided to try to make them. It was really easy to do on the stovetop. One cup walnut halves, one third cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a non-stick sauce pan over medium heat. Stir constantly. It took about 5 minutes for the sugar to melt and brown. Then pour onto sheet of parchment paper to cool, and break up with a fork.

  • 26 Christine // Jun 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Loved this salad! I have brought it all week to work. Will try making candied walnuts next because those babies are expensive!

  • 27 Sarah F. // Jun 10, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I’ll do you one even better, we just buy the pre-roasted chicken from the store! One usually can stretch for two meals. Some of my easy, favorites: shredded chicken in a noodle stir fry; shredded chicken in a pita with steamed broccoli, mozzarella and balsamic (with cous cous on the side); or we make this easy Asian Chicken Noodle soup.

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