Home-cooked meals are often just that—meals that mom makes and the average student wouldn’t dare attempt. However, there’s a well-kept secret that everyone should be told: Home cooking at college isn’t hard and it often tastes better than ramen or eating out.
For example, baked chicken. It sounds daunting, as if no normal college student could make it. But the secret is out; a homemade baked chicken is simple to make, lovely to eat and it can be made into about four meals if the bird is good-sized.
One good-sized whole chicken
Two onions, quartered
Chopped celery – good sized chunks from about two stalks
Fresh herbs –Thyme and Rosemary. If you don’t have fresh herbs or if they’re too expensive at the local market, dried herbs work just as well.
Fresh mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes
A 13-by-9-inch baking dish
Instant-read meat thermometer
Preheat the oven to 375-400 degrees. Once the oven is preheating, it’s time to address the chicken. Take the bird out of the packaging. Just like a box of Crackerjacks, the chicken has a prize inside. In most packaged chickens is a giblet bag stuck in the cavity of the bird (the cavity is that big gaping hole at the aft end). Reach in and pull out the giblet package. Since this recipe doesn’t include giblet gravy you can just toss that into the trash.
Now look into the cavity; there shouldn’t be anything else in there. If there is anything suspicious inside the cavity pull it out and toss it. Once you’ve made sure the chicken isn’t hiding anything else inside of it, it must be rinsed. Take that bird and rinse it under cold water, inside and out. Once the chicken is rinsed, place it on dry paper towels and pat the bird dry. It’s important that the bird is fairly dry so it will cook correctly.
Season the cavity with the seasoned salt and pepper, and then stuff it with the chopped celery, onion and herbs. Placing one quartered onion and the celery inside the bird will keep your chicken moist, and a moist chicken is a happy chicken. Now, just let the chicken rest for a bit while you work on the vegetables.
Peel the carrots, rinse the potatoes and mushrooms until you are sure they are free of dirt and cut up all of the vegetables into good-sized pieces. Chop the second onion as well. Place all the vegetables and the onion into the bottom of your baking dish. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and brush the bird with olive oil. Place the chicken into the oven and cook it for one to one-and-a-half hours, or until the meat thermometer placed in the deepest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees.
It is essential to check the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer to make sure it is cooked all the way through. Another way to check is to poke the chicken with a fork. When you pull out the fork, juices from the chicken will run out and when those juices run clear the chicken should be done. Still, the best measure is a meat thermometer, which you can purchase at any supermarket.
Once your chicken is done, carve and serve it with the vegetables and a salad for a meal that is dressed to impress.
After eating as much as you can the first night, there is probably a lot of meat still left on the bird. After all, it was a big bird. The second night you may be looking for something fast but with flavor. These fajitas will have your taste buds doing the salsa.
Bite-sized chicken pieces
Red bell pepper
Green bell pepper
Grated cheddar cheese
To begin, wash the bell peppers. Next you must remove the stems. Much like the chicken, bell peppers have a surprise inside. Attached to the stem is a large collection of seeds. To remove both the stem and seeds, use a small paring knife and cut a large circle around the stem. When the circle is complete, you should be able to lift up and pull both the stem and seeds straight out of the pepper. Most likely some seeds will cling to the inside but a few sharp taps from your hand should make them fall out.
Chop the peppers into strips. Peel and coarsely chop the onion as well.
Add some cooking oil (once around the pan should be enough) to the bottom of your frying pan and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot add the peppers and onion and cook them until they are wilted. Add the chicken and a little of the fajita-flavored marinade. You’re cooking to your taste so add as much or as little of the marinade as you prefer; one tablespoon is a good place to start. Add the juice from half of a lime to the mix. The lime juice will give the mix the extra kick it needs to go over the edge into “Fajitaland.”
While your fajita filling bubbles away in the pan, take as many tortillas as you think you’ll use, place them on a plate and cover them with a paper towel. Microwave the tortillas just until warm, which should take about 30 seconds.
Once your fajita filling is heated all the way through, add it to your tortillas and add a little cheese. Serve the fajitas with refried beans, a simple out-of-the-box Spanish rice and a good Western and you’ll be smiling as you munch on your south-of-the-border-inspired meal.
Most of the chicken has probably been used the first two nights. However big that bird may have been, there may only be the last bits by the third day. For a light and fast lunch that isn’t too heavy on meat, try these simple and sweet salads.
Raspberry Salad Ingredients:
Raspberry salad dressing
Spinach based salad mix – using the already prepared mix will save time.
Cheese – gorgonzola or blue cheese will go well with the raspberry flavors.
Chicken pieces – skin removed
Red Onion diced
Simply combine the chicken and salad mix and top with the raspberries, walnuts, cheese and diced red onion. Pour the dressing over the top and enjoy.
Asian Inspired Salad:
Salad mix – a spinach blend would work well, but if you dislike spinach a spring mix works well
1 can mandarin orange slices, drained
Almonds whole or sliced – sliced are easier to eat
Crispy noodles – you should be able to find these on the international food aisle in your supermarket.
Any Asian style salad dressing
Mix together the salad mix, mandarin orange slices, almonds and chicken pieces until everything is well distributed. Plate your salad and pour the dressing over the top. Do not add the crispy noodles until you are ready to eat, as they get soggy quickly.
Chicken tips and tricks:
If you’re strapped for time, all of these recipes can be reproduced using a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
Wash your hands constantly. Whenever you move from working with the chicken to working with vegetables, take the time to wash your hands with soap and water. Uncooked chicken carries that nasty bug, salmonella, which can lead to a not-so-fun time if it gets into your system. Also disinfect any surface that the chicken comes in contact with: knives, cutting boards, kitchen counters.
Due to the fact that chickens aren’t as large as, say, turkeys, your chicken probably won’t last very long before it’s eaten in its entirety. However, if the chicken does manage to hold out, it can be saved in the refrigerator for up to four days.
It is important that the meat is cooked all the way through to prevent food poisoning. Investing in a meat thermometer is highly recommended when making this roast chicken recipe. Check the temperature of the bird in the deepest part of the thigh. Here is a picture demonstrating the correct placement.
Poultry safety information and cooking tips can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ana Faria at Ana.Faria@colorado.edu.