Having a trusty fast food strategy is the busy person's key to eating well. When I'm swamped with work, travel, kids' activities (or whatever), I quite simply cannot be trusted to choose the healthy meal over the quick one.
Unless, that is, the healthy one is the quick one. Over the years, I have developed a repertoire of healthier fast food options, dinners I can get on the table in minutes. A standby is, of course, the supermarket rotisserie chicken. Pick up one of those, add a quick spinach salad (by which I mean spinach with red wine vinegar and olive oil sprinkled on it with a handful of almonds and a quick chop of scallions on top), and my family is eating before anyone even has time to ask what's for dinner.
I also always buy two rotisserie chickens (or roast two chickens when I'm bothering to heat up the house with the oven), so I have leftover chicken seasoned and ready to go for another meal a day or two later.
This week's chicken and black bean stew is a meal inspired by one of those weeks. The ingredients are all basic, simple stuff that I have on hand most of the time (and if not, I can find something to substitute). I use canned chipotles in adobo sauce for tons of flavor and some warm heat (buy it canned, then store it in a freezer bag and just lop off a hunk for recipes as you need it).
Don't have or like chipotles? You also can use tomato paste and chili powder or whatever other warm spicy item you have in your cupboard (Sriracha? Red pepper flakes? Chipotle powder? All great!). The secret to this quick stew is that the chicken already has so much flavor that adding just a little spice and a little acid (the lime juice) makes the flavors taste far more complex than the quick and healthy little dinner gem that this dish is.
Quick and spicy rotisserie chicken and black bean stew
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (or more) chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped, sauce included (or tomato paste if no spice is desired)
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, hot
1 1/2 cups water, hot
15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups shredded chicken from a rotisserie chicken
2 tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 large avocado, cubed
1 medium tomato, cubed, seeds removed, or tomato salsa
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
Lime wedges, to garnish
In a large, heavy pot over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook until starting to get tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chipotles, then stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the stock, water, beans, corn and chicken and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the lime juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into 4 serving bowl, then top with avocado, tomato or salsa, and cilantro, and offer lime wedges on the side.
Nutrition information per serving: 320 calories; 90 calories from fat (28 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 50 mg cholesterol; 480 mg sodium; 37 g carbohydrate; 12 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 22 g protein.