Have you ever wished one chicken could feed your family for 3 days? Well, maybe you should have, because with a little planning, it can be done -- and your family won't even know they're eating leftovers. With one whole roasting hen, I can feed my family of six a different dinner for 3 nights straight. There will also be leftovers for lunches, unless my family happens to be particularly ravenous. Here's how I do it:
How to Stretch a Chicken
DAY ONE: Roast Chicken Day -- I'm assuming you have a whole roasting hen hanging out in your freezer. I always try to keep a few back because they are great to throw into the crockpot when you won't have time to cook. If not, acquire a whole chicken.
I would recommend thawing it first, but I routinely forget to pull it out of the freezer the night before. If you forget, too, just pop it into the crockpot frozen and don't tell all the people who have issues with that. Of course, the gizzards, etc. will still be in there. Just pull them out before you serve. (The chicken I buy does not put the gizzard and organs into a bag. They just stuff the gizzard in the cavity, so I have no issues with strange things leaching out into my food. You might want to check yours for anything plastic or weird first.)
Pop your bird into the crockpot, add your seasonings (salt, pepper, paprika, basil, and garlic are all nice. I usually drizzle a little lemon juice in there, too.) and turn on either high or low depending on how much time you have. If my chicken is still frozen, I put in on high in the late morning and she's done by dinner time. If my bird is thawed, I will put it on low. If I forget to put the chicken on until after lunch, I put it on high. There is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the length of cook time.
There is no need to add water. The juices from the chicken will be enough. If you choose to roast your chicken in the oven, you will need to add water and only cook for a couple hours. That's it. Throw a salad together and add some potatoes or bread and you have Dinner. Pat yourself on the back. You have managed to feed the hungry horde for Day One.
Save all the juices and leftovers for tomorrow.
DAY TWO: Casserole Day -- Pick the chicken meat off the carcass. You don't have to pick it completely clean. Just get the bigger pieces until you have 2 cups or so. If your family picked it totally clean on Day One, then you need to cook two chickens next time. You either have a large family or a very, very hungry one. If that happens, all is not lost. You won't have enough for all three meals, but you can still skip to Day Three.
Don't toss that chicken carcass yet. You will need it for Day Three. Also, save any juices leftover from day one. My crockpot has a removable insert, so I just dump the picked carcass back in there and stick it all back in the fridge.
Now that you have some cooked chicken meat, you get to pick a casserole-type dish. My family isn't super big on casseroles, so I make things like enchiladas, or gourmet chicken salad. The ideas are pretty limitless, but if you're stuck on what to do with a couple cups of cooked chicken, try searching on Allrecipes.com.
If you work from home or you have a busy day ahead of you, you can whip your casserole together in the morning and cook it when you get home. Pair it with the appropriate sides and dinner is served. You can serve leftovers for lunch tomorrow. You have fed your family for another day. Congratulate yourself on another job well done.
DAY THREE: Frame Soup Day --
Frame soup is incredibly nutritious. Basically, you are going to create an old-fashioned bone broth the easy way. First thing in the morning, take your nearly empty chicken frame and juices and dump it all in the crockpot. If you put the crockpot insert in the fridge like I do, then you will just pull that out of the fridge, add a quart or two of water, put it back in the crockpot and turn it on low. Go about your day.
By cooking the bones low and long, you are pulling all the gelatin and nutrition out of the bones. It will make a far more nutrient-rich broth than anything you can get at the store. Maybe that's why Grandma's Chicken Noodle Soup was renowned for it's healing virtues. The long, slow cook time will also loosen any remaining chicken bits that are sticking to the bones.
In the evening, strain off the broth. By this time the carcass will just be a pile of bones, chicken meat and skin. Pick through it and salvage as much meat as you can. Now you are ready to make soup. If you have a favorite soup recipe, by all means, use it. If you don't, you can try this:
Old Fashioned Chicken-Rice Soup
Adapted from Sue Gregg's Cookbooks (which I highly recommend if you want to learn healthy traditional cooking methods.)
Makes 6 servings
Combine the following ingredients in a stock pot, bring to nearly boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
1 quart bone broth
1/2-1 cup brown rice (Use 1 cup if you don't use the wild rice)
1/2 wild rice (optional)
Add the following ingredients and continue to simmer for another 10-25 minutes or until rice is done and veggies are tender.
1 sliced carrot
1 chopped onion
1 Tbsp Seasoned Salt (make sure it has no msg, or mix your own)
Whatever chicken meat you were able to salvage
In a bowl, mix:
6 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk (you can substitute low-fat milk if you are afraid of fat. Just remember that it's the fat that helps you assimilate the vitamins in milk. Just saying.)
Stir the flour mixture into the soup, continuing to stir until slightly thickened. About 5 minutes before serving, add:
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 Tbsp dried parsley or 2 TBSP fresh, chopped parsley
It shouldn't need more salt, but if it does, add sea salt to taste.
That's it. Serve your soup with a salad and a yummy homemade bread. You can pack leftovers for lunches tomorrow. Your family has been well-nourished for three days on one hard-working bird. And I bet your family didn't even know they were eating leftovers.
Have a great day!
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