A New Way to Meal Planning + Recipe for Dig Inn Charred Chicken
I’m so excited to start this new meal planning series! Meal prep is something I do every week, and has become such a big part of my life. Some of you may know that E & I were on the Whole30 program last month. For the entire month I planned all our meals - breakfast, lunch, dinner PLUS snacks and sweets.
Post-Whole30, we continue to eat the same way, home cooked food for almost all of our weekday meals, and only reintroducing wheat, dairy and some sugar when we dine out on the weekends. We didn't see any extreme reaction to certain types of food, but have cut down greatly on pulses and sugar without feeling like we're making a huge sacrifice. We find this to be the healthiest and cost effective way to eat and it even allows me to test out recipes!
I get it, it's hard to plan ahead what exactly you're going to eat in a place like New York City - there's always that last minute show ticket or spontaneous girls night out, or even worse, the occasional mood swing that kills every ounce of desire to cook. During whole30, I consulted a lot of "tip lists" on the internet, and one tip I can't agree more is that meal planning is king. However, If there's one thing I learnt from my own Whole30 experience, it's to plan for flexibility.
Since I'm not the most organized person out there, my meal planning adopts a mix and match approach, a lot like Dig Inn, my favourite weeknight takeout in NYC. The basic formula is 1 part protein + 2 part vegetables + 2 part carbs (Refer to portions here). Depending on how tolerant you are with repeating meals, adjust the number of options for each categories. E can eat the same thing 5 days a week, but that would drive me crazy. So between E & I, I make an average of 2-3 proteins, 1-2 carb sides and 3-4 vegetable sides. On top of that, our meals need to fulfill all the criteria below:
- Easy to put together
- Diverse in flavours and texture
- Keeps well for at least 3-5 days
- Options for Asian and Western meals (yes we need our Asian fixings at least once a week)
This is what a sample weekly menu looks like:
1. Roasted chicken thigh with mustard seed & fennel seed
2. Pan-fried Greek-style chicken breast
3. Asian sweet chili basil steak
A. Carrot zucchini sliders
B. Shallot roasted brussels sprout
C. Kale with caramelized onion and garlic
D. Cauliflower rice
i. Sweet potatoes
ii. Fingerling potatoes
Now to the cooking part! To start off this series, I'm sharing one of my go-to recipes - a copycat version of Dig Inn's charred chicken. It's packed with flavour from lemon, mustard seeds and fennel seeds, but less greasy and salty than the store-bought version. I love marinating a big batch, grilling half it and freezing the rest for the next weeks.
[Copycat] Dig Inn Charred Chicken
Serves 4-6 as a main. Can be halved, doubled or quadrupled.
6 chicken thighs
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
peel & juice of 1 meyer lemon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon walnut oil
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil, for roasting
- Prep the chicken thighs. Take out the chicken thighs from the fridge and dry the surface with a piece of paper tower. Cut the thigh meat into bite sized pieces and set aside.
- Make the marinade. In a small frying pan and over low-medium heat, toast the fennel seeds and mustard seeds until fragrant, around 3 minutes. There is no need to use oil. Remove from the pan and let cool slightly. Pour the cooled spices, salt and pepper in a spice grinder and whiz until it becomes a course powder. If you don't have a spice grinder, place the seasonings in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Pour the spice mix into a gallon ziplock bag, grate over lemon peel, and add in the minced garlic, lemon juice and walnut oil.
- Marinade the chicken thigh. Mix the contents of the ziplock bag together and add in your chicken thigh pieces. Allow to marinade for 20-30 minutes.
- Roast the chicken. Heat a cast iron frying pan over high heat and let it rise to temperature for around 8-10 minutes. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil in the cast iron pan and swirl around. Add the chicken pieces and roast until golden and charred, 5-6 minutes. You may have to do this in batches, just don't overcrowd the pan or the chicken will start steaming and won't be crisp on the outside. Using kitchen tongs, flip the chicken pieces and cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until juices run clear.
- Serve immediately with a salad and some sweet potatoes for a healthy and delicious dinner, and pack the rest for the next day's lunch! Marinated chicken can be frozen for future use, simply thaw in the refrigerator and roast as directed.