How I Killed Two Birds With… a Chicken?

Remember how my 3-year old used to call the “kitchen” a “chicken?” What in the world – that kid turned 17 this week. He doesn’t get his words mixed up much anymore, though at times he makes up his own words (I have no idea where he gets that). I find him to be more endearing than ever. Rest assured, he’s got the kitchen-chicken thing figured out by now.

justus31

As you all know, I enjoy the occasional opportunity to focus on chicken. (See also: God is Bigger Than a Free Range Chicken and How to Fend Off Mean Roosters.) So here I am finally with a new post about poultry.

I didn’t actually kill the two birds I’m writing about today, as the dearly beloved had already found themselves beheaded and plucked and stashed safely in the back of my freezer. The point of this post is actually to share how cooking a couple chickens to make broth ended up saving me a significant amount of time and made about six full meals for my family. Thus, I feel like I killed two birds with one stone; but what I actually did was knock out a lot of pending work with the effort I put into cooking two birds.

You see now where I got the title for this article. It’s easy to see that being clever is what I do second best after securing my family’s need for sustenance. So back to the chickens…

chicken week 1

I had two smallish birds in the freezer, so I pulled them both out and put them directly into a large pot of hot water with a bunch of vegetables. (Note: I’ve found that there is no need to thaw the chickens before making the broth. It’s all part of keeping life simple, being efficient, and killing two birds with one…well. You get it.)

The chickens and veggies and water all worked their magic for several hours on my stove until they turned into the liquid gold I’d been hoping to create. At this point I pulled all the chicken off the bones. Then I blended the mushy vegetables until they were smooth, and stirred them right back into the broth that had been created. I then tossed all the chicken bones right back into the pot with a fresh batch of water and vegetables to make another round of broth. (We call this getting the most out of your chicken bones, or rather, killing more, or perhaps fewer, birds with two birds. Try to keep up.)

When all was said and done, I had three gallons of rich chicken broth, which, if I do it right, will make 5-6 meals for my family or to share with others as the needs arise. In addition, I had a 9×13 dish full of cooked chicken to use in those meals or in others.

chicken week 3

I guess we could say I killed more than 2 birds with my birds, seeing as I had more than 2 meal options available to me after my broth making efforts.

A couple days later I cooked rice directly in some of the broth (to give it great nourishment and flavor!) and stirred together a big dish of Cheesy Chicken and Rice. I used the remaining cooked chicken to make a pot of Shredded BBQ Chicken (which is seriously as easy as dumping bbq sauce into the cooked chicken and stirring it – let’s not make life hard).

potato_soup

With the rest of the broth, I will make batches of Potato Soup, Chicken Soup with a Kick, and 20-Minute Taco Soup.

So cook yourself a couple of chickens to make broth, then use the broth and chicken to make a handful of other great dishes for your family. You, too, can kill a lot of work with a couple of birds and have a whole lot of meals to enjoy with your family.

At this point I’m wondering why I don’t have an entire category on my site dedicated entirely to Chicken. (See also: On Thursday I Killed the Chicken and Chickens and Cowboys.)

cowboys

This was taken six years ago when Malachi was only six
and I was still in my 30’s. What in the world?

What are your favorite dishes to make with broth and chicken?

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Easy Chicken With Cream Cheese Sauce

I have a wonderful chicken recipe to share with you. But first, a story.

Cream Cheese Chicken

Once upon a time, I was dating my husband. I mean, my boyfriend. I mean, we weren’t married yet when we were dating but then we did get married and all of that barely has anything to do with this recipe.

But back in the days of our dating, engagement, and early marriage we drove an hour away from our college town each Sunday morning to a small church with a sweet youth group. Matt was their youth leader, teaching Bible classes and forming relationships with the teens. These dear ones became our church family, worshiping with us, throwing us a wedding shower, celebrating our marriage, being a part of our first pregnancy, and welcoming Baby #1 into the world with us.

Some of our fondest memories of those years are looking back to the Sunday afternoons in the homes of various church family members. They took turns signing up to feed us after church. Those meals!!! Talk about a church full of good cooks. The fellowship was precious and I can remember in detail many of the ladies’ specialties. We were very well taken care of, that is for sure.

Well, one of these ladies frequently made chicken that was slathered in the most delicious cream sauce. When we knew Carlene had signed up to feed us, I’d always say to Matt, “Ooooh, I hope she made that chicken this time!” Anytime she did make it and we sat there gushing over the meal, she’d always shake her head at us and say, “Oh. It’s just food.”

Right. Just food. Just the best chicken I’ve ever eaten!!!

Since that time, I’ve always regretted that I never got her recipe. I’m not even kidding you that 20 years later I still get hungry for that meal. Finally about a month ago I thought to myself, “Laura, are you or are you not the lady who invents recipes? For Pete’s sake, woman. Go to the kitchen and figure out how to make Carlene’s chicken.”

You’d think I would have considered this option before.

Well, my friends. I now present to you Not-Quite-Carlene’s Chicken with Cream Cheese Sauce. Make this.

Easy Chicken with Cream Cheese SauceYum

Easy Chicken With Cream Cheese Sauce
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat flour
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup palm shortening or other oil for frying
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, salt, and pepper.
  2. Dip chicken in egg, then coat in flour mixture.
  3. Fry in oil for just a few minutes on each side. (Do not over cook or the chicken will become dry.)
  4. Remove chicken from pan.
  5. Pour chicken broth into the pan, scraping up the chicken drippings.
  6. Add softened cream cheese, stirring until smooth.
  7. Place cooked chicken back into the pan, coating on both sides with sauce.
  8. Serve with rice or pasta.

Make-Ahead Instructions

Prepare and fry meat as directed. Allow it to cool, then cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two days. Prepare sauce as directed and stir in the chicken, heating through.

Freezer Instructions

Prepare and fry meat as directed. Allow it to cool. Freeze in a well-sealed freezer bag for up to three months. To serve, thaw cooked meat. Prepare sauce as directed and stir in the chicken, heating through.

Easy Chicken with Cream Cheese Sauce Recipe

I can’t think of a brilliant way to end this post. Go make this chicken! There. That oughta do it.

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make Six Meals

How to Stretch a Chicken to Make 6 Meals

When I mentioned that I can stretch a chicken to last us six meals, many of you thought I was kidding. I can’t believe you thought I was kidding. I’m always so serious about everything I say around here. Just kidding.  About being serious. I’m not kidding about the chicken though.

(eh?)

There are six of us in our family and we all enjoy our food. That’s my polite way of saying, “Good grief, my boys can put away a lot of groceries in a short amount of time and then come back in an hour asking for more.”  That said, if I roast a nice chicken for dinner and serve it as the main dish, there won’t be much left of said chicken at the end of the meal. Just enough to pull a few scraps of meat together for a small casserole, then the bones are used to make broth. So, worst case chicken scenario at my house:  One Chicken, Two and a Half Meals.

But if I cook a chicken to make broth, and then use the meat from the chicken to make several different meals…now that is the best way to get the most out of a chicken!  It’s cost effective, it saves loads of time and it’s easy.

The chickens I buy are from a farm nearby and they are big (between 4-6 pounds) and nice and meaty. I pay good money for them (around $15), which sounds like a lot…but if I get SIX meals from one bird? That’s only $2.50 worth of excellent protein per meal (42¢ per serving)…for my family of six!

Okay, so let’s say I cook a chicken all day to make broth and to have cooked chicken meat ready for meals.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to do ever when it comes to cooking nutrient rich and inexpensive meals for your family, by the way. To stretch the chicken to last our family six meals, here is an example of what I might do over the course of a week or week and a half (freezing the broth and/or chicken after a few days to pull out as needed):

1. Use one batch of broth and a little bit of chicken to make Chicken Tortilla Soup. Because I’m using the rich broth, I don’t feel the need to use much chicken (if any) in this soup.

chickentortillasoupsm.JPG

2. Use the other batch of broth to make Chicken Noodle Soup. Again, I would use very little chicken to make this as there is so much goodness in the broth. And if you recall, sometimes I forget the chicken altogether, much like I forget to put the bananas in my banana bread. You’ve got to love my “duh” moments.

3. Next, I’d throw some chicken in Homemade Alfredo Sauce with pasta. I just use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked chicken for this as the sauce and noodles make up the bulk of the meal. (Add steamed veggies and a salad and you’re good to go!)

4. For a tasty lunch later in the week I’d make Black Bean Taco Salad. Because there are black beans and cheese in this salad, it doesn’t require a lot of chicken to complete the meal. Yum – this salad is so good!!

5. Not out of chicken yet, I can now make Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta. Again, the pasta and cheese and milk are so filling, not a lot of chicken is needed. Plus, the cheese helps add protein to this meal.

garlicchickenpastasm

6.  Last, I’d use whatever chicken is left to make Chicken Veggie Quesadillas. With all the veggies to fill these quesadillas, the small bits of chicken add just a little bit of protein to complete the meal!

veggiequesadilla1sm.JPG

Now, I feel very strongly that our family needs good, healthy protein at each meal, so I’m not usually parked in the “skimp on meat” camp. We eat lots of eggs and nuts and beef and other meat. But getting a lot of goodness out of one chicken is a great way to cut down on time in the kitchen and save money too!

The moral of the chicken stretching story is:  If you don’t use the chicken as the main part of the meal, but just as a supplementary part…you too can stretch a chicken for all it’s worth.

What is your favorite way to stretch a chicken? As in…what are your favorite meals to eat with leftover, cooked chicken?

Disclaimer:  No chickens were actually stretched during the writing of this post.

This post was originally published on January 23, 2011.

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken – A Family Favorite Freezer Meal

I don’t think it would matter how much I of this Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken I made – my family would keep asking, “Can I have another piece of chicken?”  I definitely never can make enough.

Ah bacon and cream cheese…two of life’s happiest ingredients. Today, I made a batch of this chicken – serving half for lunch and freezing half for another day. It’s a super easy freezer meal to make, and great to pull out and cook quickly. You can even cook it from its frozen state – so having it on hand can save your neck if you forgot to thaw anything for dinner.

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken

What a great way to finish out this week’s freezer cooking challenge! I served this at lunch today with peas and smoothies (full of spinach, strawberries, peaches, and mango). It was a super easy lunch, packed with nourishment for my family. I’m excited to have more of this chicken in my freezer for another meal soon.

Have you made this chicken dish yet?  You’ll find this recipe in our {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (which is currently part of a package deal you can get for just $5). The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

As a reminder, here are the other posts from this week’s challenge:

If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great! You can get started here.

Coming up next week, we’ll be filling the freezer with breakfast items. I’m so excited about this, as having quick, easy, and healthy breakfast foods on hands is such a life-saver for me!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos – A Last Minute Meal

Where does the time go? My kids are not babies anymore, I’ve been married for almost 20 years, and just last week, I realized that it was almost lunchtime and I had forgotten to put the chicken into the crockpot. Yes, time flies after breakfast. And when you’re happily married, raising kids, and all that.

I have no advice on keeping time from moving so quickly. I can, however, give you an idea for a quick meal for when you haven’t managed to prepare anything in advance. It all starts with frozen chicken. This is because not only did you not start lunch or dinner on time, you also forgot to thaw the chicken. For all of you perpetually prepared people out there, don’t worry – thawed chicken will also work in this recipe. For the rest of us, we rejoice in the fact that frozen chicken and a cold crock pot does not prevent us from putting a great meal on the table in a short amount of time.

This recipe is a result of me realizing at 11:30 one whirlwind morning that while I had been planning to serve Chicken Tacos for lunch that day, not only was the chicken still frozen, I didn’t have any tortillas prepared or purchased. Without thinking too hard, I chucked the frozen chicken into a saucepan on the stove, dumped on salsa, and hoped for the best. I covered the pan and turned the heat on low. Within an hour, my chicken thawed, cooked in delicious salsa flavors, and was ready for lunch – which we had with chips instead of tortillas. It turned out so delicious, I decided we would make it this way again and again. This recipe turned out to be a “six out of six” which means that all six of our family members loved this.   A brainless, effortless, healthy recipe that we all liked? Score!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

Black Bean Chicken NachosYum

Black Bean Chicken Nachos - A Last Minute Meal
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 cups cooked black beans (or one can of prepared beans, if you've - you know - not remembered to soak and cook them ahead of time while you were busy not thawing your chicken...)
  • tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, and other nacho toppings of your choice
Instructions
  1. Place chicken and salsa in a medium-sized saucepan.
  2. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes (if chicken is thawed) or 45-50 minutes (if chicken is frozen).
  3. Use a fork and knife to shred chicken and stir it back into the salsa.
  4. Stir in black beans, and continue cooking until beans are hot - about five minutes more.
  5. Serve with shredded cheese and other nacho toppings of your choice.
  6. Scoop up Black Bean Chicken nachos with tortilla chips and congratulate yourself for throwing together such a wonderful meal with such minimal effort.

Then, before you forget, get out the meat for tomorrow’s meals so it can be thawed and ready to use. Not being prepared certainly worked for this recipe, but let’s not push it.

Homemaking Hints: Chicken Recipes Found at Heavenly Homemakers

Welcome to the first edition of “Homemaking Hints at Heavenly Homemakers”. This feature will run the first Friday of each month, giving you an opportunity to share any of your wonderful homemaking hints with the rest of us.

As we wrap up the Week of the Chicken, I decided to simply share as my “Homemaking Hint” this week all of the Chicken Recipes to be found on my site. Have chicken? Here are some ideas for what you can do with it:

Feel free to share kitchen tips, cleaning solutions, recipe ideas, cooking short-cuts, household money-saving suggestions, decorating ideas, gardening tips, or anything else you feel fits this category. (No product reviews or giveaways – thanks!)  As always, when linking your blog post, please post a link back to this blog so that your readers will know where to find more Homemaking Hints.

Freezer Cooking During the Week of the Chicken

If you had any doubts that this truly was the Week of the Chicken, after this post, you will know for sure and for certain that I have encountered chicken madness at my house. I kind of had a hard time letting go of the fact that the chicken was such a good price at the store. Thus I kind of had a hard time not going back to the store multiple times to buy more chicken. Which means that I kind of had a big chicken party in my kitchen for several days in a row, working up some chicken recipes for the freezer.

In the meantime, we’ve been eating a lot of chicken too. So chicken crazed have I been, that when for lunch one day this week I actually fed my family something with leftover hamburger meat in it, my husband – supportive guy that he is – paused before taking a bite and said, “Wait! It’s the Week of the Chicken! Are you sure we’re allowed to eat beef this week?”

Ha! I love living with comedians.

Speaking of comedy…Why did the chicken cross the road?

I can’t even finish it. That joke is totally over-used and not at all funny. Oh, but my family made this one up a couple of years ago:  What do you get when you cross a brick with a chicken?

Bricken Nuggets!!!!

Okay, I’m done now.  I’m sure I’ve got you all completely worried that I’ve lost my head this week while cooking and prepping pounds and pounds of chicken for the freezer, but truly, you can relax. I’m fine. I promise. And also, I’m out of chicken. It’s all socked away in the freezer. Now I’m planning to move on to asparagus!

Yes, next week will be the Week of the Asparagus.

Except for not really. ;)

Okay…chicken. I’m here to tell you about my Week of the Chicken.

Right after getting back home with my first round of chicken packages, I made loads of Chicken Nuggets. I cooked some up for lunch…

But more importantly, I put together oodles of pre-made chicken nuggets for the freezer. See – here’s my chicken-nugget-assembly-line. I filled cookie sheets with nuggets, froze them, then baggied them up to pull out in the future.

The following isn’t very exciting, but the next day, I cut chicken into bites, cooked it in olive oil, and baggied it up for salads.

Day Three:  Chicken cooked in bbq sauce. That will be great for sandwiches next week.

I grabbed one more round of chicken from the store (about 9 more packages), and put together several pounds of Crunchy Ranch Chicken. This is probably our favorite way to eat chicken. The recipe is not featured here on the site, but it is in the What To Do With the Chicken in Your Kitchen ebook – which can still be purchased for $1.50 if you hurry.

I am now officially ready to chicken out. What I mean is…I’m tired of chicken. I don’t want to look at chicken again for a long time.

Or at least until tomorrow.

Hey, leave a comment on this post for another chance to win one of our Week of the Chicken $10 Heavenly Homemakers Gift Certificates!

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and Rice

Hey, check it out!  This is a chicken recipe AND a crock pot recipe!  It’s as if the best of both worlds just came together for a lovely party, don’t you think? I mean, there is not much more exciting than combining the Week of the Chicken with a Crock Pot Recipes post, I’m pretty sure.  (This makes it clearly obvious that I don’t get out much.)

And guess what else? Many of you have asked that I try to experiment and come up with some healthy alternatives to boxes of Rice-a-Roni – and I think this recipe might just meet that need for some of you.  When it was all said and done, I thought this dish kind of looked and tasted rice-a-roni-ish.  Try it and see what you think.

If you haven’t tried making my homemade Onion Soup Mix, I recommend throwing it together to use for this recipe.  Store bought onion soup mixes typically have not-so-good for you ingredients in them that I avoid.  The homemade mix is super easy and very inexpensive.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and RiceYum

2 cups brown rice (uncooked)
Sea salt
3 cups water or chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 Tablespoons Onion Soup Mix

Place rice in the bottom of a crock pot, and sprinkle it generously with salt. Pour water or broth and cream over the rice. Cut chicken breasts into serving sized portions and place on top of the rice and liquid. Sprinkle Onion Soup Mix over the top.

Cook on a low setting for 4-5 hours.  Serves 6-8.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken and Rice

Teriyaki Chicken and Veggies

 I think I’d make this dish every other day if my family would let me get away with it. It is the perfect combination of flavors and I LOVE IT. It’s great because you can use leftover chicken if you have it, any veggies you have on hand…and if you have fresh pineapple? Well, be still my heart.

I don’t have an exact recipe for this dish. It’s more of a “throw food together” kind of dish, depending on what you have on hand. Then, make some brown rice and whip up some Teriyaki Sauce to pour on and you’ve got a great meal! So, forgive me for not putting exact measurements on this “recipe”. Just make enough for your family!

Here’s what you need:

Here’s what to do:

Get your brown rice cooking. (I have easy directions for cooking brown rice here.)  Mix up Teriyaki Sauce and have it ready to go when chicken and veggies are done.

Chop up your veggies and stir them around in a skillet over medium heat with olive oil until they are tender. If your chicken needs to be cooked, throw that in too. (See what a fancy cook I am?)  :)  If you want, you can season your veggies and chicken with garlic.

Toss pineapple into the veggies to cook for just a few minutes.

Serve rice, veggies, pineapple and chicken with Teriyaki Sauce poured over the top!

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables

What veggies would you throw in to create this meal?  I know my menu plan said something different, but I think I’m making this tonight anyway. :)

Excuse Me Ma’am…Are Those Your Handcuffs?

That’s the question the Whole Foods employee asked me as we were leaving the store Friday night. “Ma’am…are those your handcuffs?”

It’s a routine grocery store question, isn’t it? “Would you like paper or plastic?”  “Did you find everything you were looking for?”  “Do all of those boys belong to you?”  “Are those your handcuffs?”

Or maybe that’s  just me.  Eh, I have four boys…questions like this have been typical for the past thirteen years.

Our youngest, Malachi, is very into playing “policeman”. Or “cowboy”. Or “Cowboy-Policeman-Ninja-Superhero”. Yes, he’s quite well rounded…we’re very proud

His grandparents got him some handcuffs with a real key and everything at Christmas time. He couldn’t be more excited. The handcuffs round out his Policeman-Cowboy-Ninja-Superhero outfit very well. He loves them and has them attached to his belt loop (right beside his holster and pistol) at all times – except for when we insist that he take them off…like at bath time or for Bible class. 

Friday night, somehow the handcuffs made their way into the grocery store with us. I was busy trying to find the best deals on chicken and fish…leaving the police work to my six year old. Somewhere between the dairy section and aisle five, the handcuffs got hooked onto the handle of the grocery cart. Then, the Policeman-Cowboy-Ninja-Superhero became distracted with the huge selection of cereal. Said handcuffs were forgotten as puffs of sugared peanut butter in boxes decorated with brightly colored panda bears became much more interesting.

We were through the line and ready to head out the door when a nice grocery bagger near the exit noticed the handcuffs and hollered,  “Excuse me Ma’am…are those your handcuffs?”

More than a few customers looked up from picking out the prettiest apples to see what in the world the gal meant and who pray tell she was talking to.

What? That question isn’t a typical produce section question they’re used to hearing? 

The key to the handcuffs was (of course) nowhere to be found…but if you’re smarter than a six year old (or at least as smart as a Policeman-Cowboy-Ninja-Superhero), you know how to use the little “handcuff-release-gear-thingy” to open them up. Incidentally, it only took me two weeks to figure out that the cuffs had such a feature, after finding them hooked onto kitchen drawers and dining room chairs a few too many times for my liking. By the way, speaking as a common criminal at my house, I can attest to the fact that it is not easy to type with  handcuffs on. Nor is it easy to reach the “handcuff-release-gear-thingy” on the left hand with a cuffed right hand. 

Anyhoo…it didn’t take long for the other Whole Foods customers to figure out to whom the handcuffs on the cart belonged:  The woman with a big grin and four handsome boys following her out the door.

It’s a good thing the rubber snake didn’t fall out of my purse right at that moment. Now THAT might have created a scene.

In case you’re interested…we had a delightful time at Whole Foods, using a few free gift cards we had earned through Shop it to Me  referrals! Thank you so much to all of you who signed up. I hope you not only signed up, but also have been referring your family and friends so that you can earn free gift cards too!!

We were able to get chicken and tilapia and yogurt and butter and cheese (and some snack bars that got eaten on our way home!) for just over $20 out of pocket by using some in store coupons and our Shop it to Me gift cards. We were heading to Omaha anyway for Asa’s basketball game, so we were excited to make a Whole Foods run! I can not wait to eat that Tilapia!! (It was half price that day!)