If you’ve ever doubted your own meal prepping tactics, this will make you feel a whole lot better. Plus, how to make an easy, cat-friendly birthday cake!
There are two (arguably flawed) character traits I am notorious for, and entirely comfortable embracing about myself: I act as though my two cats collaboratively hung the moon and I have absolutely no god-given talent or instinct for meal prepping.
It’s not that I live entirely moment to moment when it comes to grocery shopping and feeding myself, but I have accepted that I will never be the person who dedicates Sundays to strategic batch cooking and making multiple meals along with convenient snacks in advance. I was never destined to be that person who closes the refrigerator door on five lidded, glass containers containing five identical lunches for the work week ahead…I don’t even own five matching containers, nor have I ever. (And between us, it’s not even a significant aspiration for me.) There are so many areas of life where planning ahead comes naturally to me, but I’ve tried and failed with most of the popularly praised meal prep tips.
I know it works for others. Truthfully, I so admire those who make their lives easier with it, but I’ve come to understand that there is something about the meal planning/prepping philosophy that simply does not register with my hard wiring—which has led me to (rationally) stop trying and stop tossing out uneaten batches of roasted vegetables. My fate seemingly lies in stopping by the grocery store every few days to buy two or three items. However, every so often, I accidentally do something that works out to be a completely perfect meal prep move.
Like… throwing a birthday party for my first-adopted—Nibblet, the nub-tailed kitty—for example?
You guessed it, pal!
I didn’t plan on it. I was honestly just looking to make a not-fussy “cake” that my cat could eat in good health, and throw a nice, equally low-labor, spread of snacks out for our guests (i.e. three humans—her cat-sitters, my friends—who Nibblet actually acknowledges with loving recognition). Initially, I opted to see what the Internet had to say about making a cat-friendly cake and found a handful of recipes that involved combining ingredients like canned tuna, cheese, flour, and egg white, forming a cake, and baking it. My immediate mental reaction to these recipes involved thoughts like:
- I don’t want flour and shredded cheese gooping up my birthday princess’s system.
- Canned tuna, though delicious, doesn’t feel like “birthday food.”
- She’s a cat… she has no concept of birthdays. What am I doing with my life?
- Anything that requires me to separate an egg is an over-complication of this kitty birthday cake.
- Who am I kidding? My cat loves chicken more than she loves anyone attending this party.
- Chicken it is.
How to Make an Easy Birthday Cake for Your Cat
Supposing you too have a feline friend whose favorite food is chicken and you aspire to make them a very special birthday surprise, here’s how I made a no-fuss chicken cake that doubled as a launching point for my upcoming week of meals.
I started by purchasing a whole, organic chicken, patting it dry with paper towels, and very lightly salting the exterior of the bird (kitties’ palates are sensitive). Quick side-note: It’s important that you roast your own chicken here instead of grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket deli; it’s going to be tastier, more cost-effective, and less worrisome from a “can I actually feed this to my pet?” standpoint—but also, you’re going to need the schmaltzy chicken juices are released in the roasting process to form your kitty cake.
I proceeded to roast this chicken as I normally would any other—breast up, in a cast-iron skillet, at 450 degrees, basting the bird with its own juices after 45 to 50 minutes, and then allowing it to cook 10 to 15 minutes longer (or until juices run clear when you pierce the chicken with a knife). I allowed my chicken to cool down while I finished throwing together some people-friendly snacks. Once cool enough to comfortable handle, I pulled all of the meat from the bones, setting aside enough white meat to form Little Nib’s cake (about 1/2 of the meat from one breast).
Next, I finely chopped the designated cake meat and placed it in a small bowl, adding a few tablespoons of chicken drippings from the pan to the meat. Using a small rubber spatula, I mixed the chopped poultry and savory juices to create a moistened chicken blend and pressed this mixture into a small, ungreased ramekin. I covered with plastic wrap and popped the ramekin into the fridge until party time.
When Nibblet was ready for cake, I simply ran a knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen, placed a plate on top, and inverted the molded chicken cake onto the plate (much like you would any other cake). I added a few chicken-flavored, tartar-fighting cat treats for a touch of decorative flair, but doing so is hardly necessary… when a cake of pure animal flesh is placed in front of their face, I can promise, your small predatory beast isn’t going to care about crunchy pantry treats or dental hygiene.
(P.S. No, I did not let her eat that whole cake, she got a few bites and we saved the rest for later.)
How Making an Easy Birthday Cake for Your Cat Can Jumpstart Your Meal Prep
At this point, I think the kicker is fairly obvious: I roasted a chicken.
And having a whole chicken’s worth of cooked meat (minus a kitty cake’s worth), already pulled from the carcass and bagged up in the fridge is a good thing. Now, do you necessarily need to make your cat a birthday cake and throw a party in their honor in order to roast a chicken at home and pull some meat? Uh no.
As Cardi B put it, I ain't tellin' y'all to do it, I'm just tellin' my story.
However, I will say, having cat birthday party leftovers—along the lines of a veggie platter with green goddess dip, a boatload of pimiento cheese, plenty of hummus, crackers, etc.—can really open up a lot of doors for your cooked, shredded chicken.
In the hours and days post-party, I used the picked-clean carcass to make a batch of chicken stock to toss in the freezer, and have utilized the supple meat, enhanced solely by my other remaining party snacks, in a variety of quick packed lunches and dinners.
For example, I used leftover endive and other veggies chopped up from my crudite platter to make a colorful tossed salad and topped it off with a handful of chicken and a drizzle of green goddess dip that I thinned out to a looser dressing consistency with a little water. I also made a chicken, prosciutto, and pimiento cheese sandwich with a side of blanched green beans one night. A day later, I stirred the remaining green goddess dressing into a portion of the chicken for a herbaceous twist on chicken salad, which I enjoyed on crackers alongside raw veggies and hummus. Tonight, I’m planning to cube now-stale baguette, and toss it with fresh herbs I have from making green goddess dip, some veggies, chicken, and a simple vinaigrette for panzanella. I think you get the idea… it’s halfway through the week and I’ve yet to stop by the grocery store on the way home from work, and I’m not anticipating a need to for the remainder of the week.
So yes, technically, my meal prep revelation here is that it’s a good idea to have cooked chicken, cut vegetables, and maybe a couple of prepared dips/spreads on hand at the start of the week. I told you, my inherent aptitude for this stuff is not raising any bars. Even still, I suppose I probably could have reached the same conclusion sans feline fiesta… but honestly, that route doesn’t sound nearly as fun.