Inexpensive, packed with protein and blessedly mild in flavor, chicken rules the roost when it comes to meal planning for family dinner. Similarly, stews are packed with nutritious vegetables, don't require a lot of fussy prep and only take one pot to prepare. The only thing better than a stew, then, would be a stew with chicken in it. Or perhaps five different chicken stew ideas to choose from.
Chicken and Dumplings
This old-fashioned favorite defines "comfort food." Many recipes use shortcuts such as prepared biscuit dough or condensed soup, but you can prepare the dish from scratch almost as easily. Two shortcuts you can use, though: drop the biscuits rather than roll them out, making for an ideal way to use leftover cooked chicken. If you don't have cooked chicken on hand, brown chunks of boneless, skinless chicken thigh in a large soup pot or dutch oven and set aside. Saute chopped onions, carrots and celery until soft. Add chicken stock, the reserved chicken and some frozen peas, plus fresh or dried thyme or poultry seasoning if you like. Bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, prepare your favorite biscuit dough recipe. Take a tablespoon and drop dollops of the dough into the simmering stew. Cover and cook until the dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken pot pie is essentially a creamy chicken stew with a crust. The only tricky part is handling the pastry lid. In this case, substitute frozen puff pastry squares. Kids especially enjoy it when you make individual pot pies in oven-safe ramekins. Prepare the pie filling much as for chicken and dumplings -- saute chopped onion, celery and carrot until soft, then add chicken stock, cooked shredded chicken and frozen peas, plus tarragon and thyme to season. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and divide the filling into four oven-safe ramekins. Cut a thawed sheet of puff pastry into four squares large enough to cover the ramekin. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden. Brush the pastry with butter for a prettier burnished look. You can also use oven-safe mugs for a casual twist your kids will enjoy.
Peanut Butter Stew
If your child loves peanut butter, you must give this recipe a try. Peanut butter stew comes from West Africa, where peanuts are known as groundnuts and this dish is known as groundnut stew. This dish usually includes generous helpings of vitamin-packed vegetables such as sweet potatoes and collard greens or kale in addition to its base ingredients of peanut butter, chicken and tomato. Serve it with rice. To prepare, brown chunks of boneless, skinless chicken thighs in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. (In Africa, this would be served bone-in, but removing the bones makes it more kid-friendly.) Set aside the chicken and saute chopped onion plus minced garlic and ginger in the pot. Add chunks of sweet potato, chicken and a can of whole peeled tomatoes cut into chunks, plus their juice. Stir in peanut butter and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sweet potatoes are almost tender, then add sliced collard greens or kale. Cook until the greens have wilted. Add more peanut butter to finish. Serve over rice.
White Chicken Chili
This may be a nontraditional chili but that's part of what makes it a hit with kids -- it's milder in flavor than other versions. You'll like it thanks to the healthy dose of vegetables and beans it provides. Use canned white beans as a shortcut if you don't want to cook a batch from scratch. Also, choose a mild chili powder for sensitive palates. Saute chunks of chicken breast until cooked through and set aside (or use leftover cooked chicken). In the same pot, saute onions and bell peppers until soft. Add flour to thicken and cook for a few minutes. Add equal parts broth and whole milk and bring to a simmer. Add chili powder, cooked beans, frozen corn kernels and chicken to the pot and heat through. Finish with a squirt or two of lime juice and garnish with Monterey Jack cheese and sour cream. Serve with cornbread.
Kid-Friendly Chicken Curry
Curry doesn't have to be spicy. Choose a mild curry powder and you're home free. A kid-friendly chicken curry will have a smooth and comforting sauce plus some tasty vegetables to round out the meal. To prepare, saute onions and garlic until soft. Add chunks of chicken breast and saute until browned. Add curry powder, then add your vegetables of choice -- chopped spinach, cauliflower or even diced apple. Add broth and/or coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Serve over rice.