Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stretching A Chicken

I am a leftover kind of girl.  I love leftovers.  Because I am lazy.  I hate cooking.  Always have, and probably always will.  Which is not to say that I can't cook, or that I'm a bad cook.  I just don't like to cook.  If I were rich and famous I would hire a personal chef.  Since I'm not rich and famous, I have invested a lot of time and energy into training the junior chefs who abide here.
As a result, I'm pretty sure that #1 won't starve when he leaves home.  He can prepare a passable meal.  I think he might be lazy, like his mother though.  #2 is quite impressive.  I'm not sure if it's just that he likes to eat, or if he actually enjoys cooking.  #4 loves food, and has been butting in, stirring pots, mixing things and taste testing for quite some time.  He isn't supposed to become junior chef until he turns 8 in March, but is already a better chef than #3. 
#3 is where we are at in the junior chef training. He doesn't cook.  After a year and a half in the kitchen, I can still barely leave him unattended for simple tasks, like peeling potatoes, let alone to prepare an entire meal.  I promised myself I would rectify this situation this winter.  Through the summer we eat a lot of quick throw together meals late at night after a hard days work.  We didn't have much patience for training then, although it would have been really nice to have him trained at the time.  Coming in to a meal on the table would be especially nice after a hard days' work.
At any rate, I was recently discussing using up leftovers with some other people.  It seems a common complaint after holiday meals, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, that there's so much turkey leftover, and everyone is tired of eating the same thing over and over and over again.  Not for me.  I love leftovers.  I used to have a system of cooking, that I would start with a big meal on Sunday, and serve leftovers throughout the week.  It made cooking simple, quick and easy, and contrary to popular opinion, it was never boring.  I actually like some of my leftover meals better than the originals.
And then the children grew.  And kept growing.  And they're still growing.  They eat practically everything in sight.  They clear the table routinely, and then look around for more.  Then they claim they're hungry again half an hour after meals.  They eat toast, cereal, eggs, oatmeal or fruit breads for breakfast.  They munch on apples, carrots, and whatever odd fruit we happen to have, all day long.  They eat 2 sandwiches and 4 cookies each for lunch.  They steal leftovers that I was planning to serve for supper.  Not literally stealing, but I open the fridge, and "What happened to the ..."  And the supper plan goes out the window.
I cooked a chicken yesterday.  And for the first time in a long time, they didn't inhale the whole thing in one meal.  It's one of the best parts of home grown chickens- they are so much bigger than store bought.  So I am going to attempt to teach #3 the art of stretching a chicken, or using up leftovers this week.
  • Day One- Roast Chicken.  Stuffing, a huge pot of mashed potatoes, gravy, home made bread, asparagus.
  • Day Two- Hot chicken sandwiches.  I put leftover chicken, stuffing, potatoes and veggies into a glass baking pan covered in tinfoil.  Warm in oven @ 300°F
    about an hour.  Reheat gravy in a saucepan with extra water.  Serve chicken on fresh bread.  (We didn't have enough leftovers for this step)
  • Day Three- Chicken Rice Casserole. Chop leftover chicken up finely. Chop broccoli finely. Combine in a glass baking pan with 4 cups of parboiled rice. Add chicken broth- up to 8 cups worth to be absorbed by the rice. I like it a little less chickeny, so I only add about 4 cups chicken broth, and 4 cups of water.  Bake covered with tinfoil about 2 hours @ 350°F.
  • Day Four- Chicken rice soup. Pour a few cups of leftover chicken rice casserole into a stock pot.  Add more chicken broth and water.  Add chopped carrots, celery, onions, garlic.  Allow to simmer a few hours before supper.  Potato Salad- leftover potatoes are mixed in a large bowl with 4-6 hard boiled eggs, about 2 cups of mayonaise, 2 Tbsp sugar, and a drizzle of pickle or hot pepper juice.
  • Day Five- Chicken Fajitas.  Soak a pot of beans overnight, and cook them through the day.  About two hours before supper, add the rest of the chicken rice casserole, and fajita seasonings.  Mix well.  Serve rolled into soft tortilla shells with lettuce and cheese if desired.
 Without enough leftovers for day two, we moved on to day three today.  Everything went off without a hitch today, and the simple directions were easy for #3 to follow.
Of course, some of the tricks to easy home cooked meals, is having some other ingredients in the pantry or freezer.  If I were low on chicken broth, for example, I would back up another step.
  • Home Made Chicken Broth. 
    Put all bones, skin, and odd bits left after carving into a stock pot.  Add water to cover.  Add chopped celery, onion, garlic, carrots, parsley, pepper, broccoli, green beans, or whatever vegetables you have on hand.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Allow to simmer uncovered for several hours.  The longer you simmer, the more concentrated your broth becomes.  You can then freeze it in ice cube trays, or canning jars. 
  • Baked Beans.
  • Soak 1 pound beans overnight in 1 quart cold water.
  • The next morning, cover, heat to boiling.  Simmer 30 minutes.
  • Mix onion slices, 1/2 Tbsp salt, 2 tsp cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp mustard, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 cup molasses, 1/2 cup catsup, and a pinch of black pepper in the bottom of a roasting pot. Add beans and enough hot water to cover. Arrange 1/2 lb sliced bacon on top. Cover and bake @ 250°F for seven hours. After 4 hours, remove 1 cup of beans and mash. Return to pan and stir in. Add water as needed to keep beans covered.
I have no idea why it keeps changing the font there like that.  Weird.  And it won't change back.  Hmmm...
Tommorrow I will bake a large pot of beans through the day, so they'll be ready for the day after.
How do you stretch your chicken, or use up your leftovers? 


  1. looks like a great idea for chicken!!! just hopping by like your blog

  2. I don't stretch it at all, except to keep myself from just grazing all day long. Two chicken breasts can last me 5-6 days unless I am just really hungry for meat one day. I love to cook and can eat the same chicken meal everyday. Leftovers are good for not having to cook every day and just plain good. If I like the meal the first day, why would I not like it the That said, I may run out of part of the meal and substitute something else as, say, a vegetable. Or, if dressing is gone, just put the chicken on a bed of greens for a salad.

    Wendy, do you write out a cookbook with instructions like the ones you gave in your post? It seems that would be helpful for the guys.

    I cannot imagine feeding four boys! My one son was a bottomless pit!

  3. How do you make one chicken stretch so far? How big are they???

    I have a family of 4 and its rare that can get more than roast chicken, a casserole, and maybe a sandwich from one store bird. I guess I could boil the carcass and get a few more bits for soup, but that wouldn't be enough meat to realy count.

    We did recently get 8 natural, free run chickens from hubby's co-worker (his first time raising them) and they were between 4-5lb each. I could have squeaked a 3rd meal out of the first one, but it was just so tasty that we pigged out. I'm going to try to be more frugal the next time I cook one.

    ps - I like to cook. But I don't like the clean up!

  4. Thanks, Rebecca!

    PP- No, for things like that I figure practice makes perfect. Or leads to creativity. Or disaster, lol. I do keep my regular cookbook- mostly baking recipes, or new stuff that I need to look up for awhile, in my printer program. If they want a copy when they're ready to leave home I can print one off. Or maybe give it as a house warming present. Maybe I should add the old stand bys to it as well. I need to write a post about the pickled beet fiasco...

    Sandra- I did skip day 2, because this was a smaller bird, and the amount of chicken in the final stages does get pretty skimpy. The chicken rice casserole started with about a pound and a half of chicken, so the soup and fajitas have much less. I prefer to raise anything other than the white rocks or cornish cross chickens that are mass produced for fast food and grocery stores. Letting them grow up will provide nice 7-8 pound birds. Even my laying hens- rhode island reds- when they're done their laying careers will provide at least 6 pounds.