Quick to prepare, easy to cook and fast to clean up, chicken dinner made in foil packets puts breathing room back into your busy schedule. Assemble the packets yourself or turn dinner prep into a family activity where kids and grown-ups put together their own meals with a touch of personal flair. Fun packaging and the combination of protein, vegetables and healthy ingredients make a nutritious meal an event the whole family can enjoy.
Preparing the Chicken
A small skinless, boneless chicken breast is just the right size for a single foil packet dinner. For kid-friendly servings, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. If you like the robust flavor of dark meat, use chicken thighs cut into slender strips. Thoroughly thaw frozen chicken before adding it to your foil packet and use kitchen scissors to make cutting the meat a snap. Make sure everyone who touches the raw chicken washes hands and utensils in hot, soapy water to prevent contamination.
Adding the Vegetables
Colorful vegetables make the chicken dinner a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Chop carrots and summer squash into rounds, break bright red and green bell peppers into pieces and cut potatoes in thin slices before you pile them on top of the chicken. A few tomato wedges, whole green beans, sugar snap pea pods and diced yams give the meal festive appeal. Sprinkle a spoonful of quick-cooking rice over the vegetables to absorb cooking juices and add texture. For extra zip, top the selected vegetables with a slice of onion, broken into rings, and a touch of minced garlic.
Seasoning and Flavorful Combinations
Sprinkle a pinch of salt and fresh-ground black pepper over the vegetables and chicken, then drizzle a spoonful of olive oil over it all before closing the packets to make a simple meal starring natural flavors. Give the chicken a savory boost by adding a shake of spicy ranch dry seasoning to the food. Prepare an Asian-style meal by combining pineapple chunks, a splash of soy sauce and a handful of stir-fry vegetables with the chicken. For a kid-pleasing version, spoon salsa or pizza sauce over the chicken and veggies, then top the cooked food with grated cheese just before serving.
Folding the Packets
Assemble the chicken and other components in the center of an 18-inch square piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. To keep from overfilling, measure about 2 cups total of chicken and additional ingredients per packet. Fold one side of the foil over the contents, then fold the opposite side over to form a rectangle. Roll both of the open ends up toward the chicken and vegetables to seal the packet.
Cooking and Serving
Pop the sealed foil packets into an oven set at 350 degrees. Bake packets with whole pieces of chicken for an hour. Dinners with the chicken cut up into pieces should be done in 45 minutes. If your family designs their own meal combinations, write each chef's name on the packet with a black marker before cooking. Outdoors, you may cook the packets on a grill or campfire; just wrap each packet with a second layer foil before you do. Handle the hot foil packets with oven mitts or tongs when you set them on plates and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before unwrapping to reveal the tasty meals.