Thursday, January 7, 2010

Dueling Chickens: $10, 2 chickens, and 7 dinners!

When you are feeding kids and trying to stay on a budget you can't beat a whole chicken. Even when they are not on sale buying a whole chicken is one of the most common things I read in the "how to save money on groceries" articles. The price mark up on the cut pieces is unbelievable, especially the good parts like the breast. While you as an adult women who may or may not be watching their weight may prefer the breast meat. The dark meat is only 1 gram of fat more and many children prefer it. Besides, young children need some fat, it's good for their brain! We try to buy one whole chicken per grocery trip, but when they're on sale, I have been known to buy 2 or 3 and freeze them.

Now I know many people are intimidated with cooking a whole chicken. Me, I am intimated by cutting it in to parts and freezing it separately! Roasting is actually very easy! You can be as simple as spreading some oil or butter on the skin and salt and pepper in and out. Here is a very simple recipe, with pictures on how to tie it up at Everyday Food (note: despite my constant references and links back to this magazine I am in no way compensated by them, I even pay for my own subsection! It's just a really great resource for fast, easy recipes without a lot of ingredients. So they're perfect for busy families!).

The other confusing or intimidating part might be the difference in chickens. Grocery stores basically sell two different chickens, fryers and roasters. Essentially the difference is size and age of the bird. Fryers are smaller younger birds and roasters are bigger older birds.

So here is more motivation to get you to try roasting chicken for dinner. One of our local grocery stores had Purdue (which makes HUGE birds- must be the marigolds!) roasters on sale for $0.88/pound which is great! Lately I had been getting fryers for $0.99/lb so this was a great deal! Of course they were out when I went and I had to get a rain check but that turned out even better because we were able to get bigger birds (since they weren't on sale there was more to choose from!). We got two birds, about 5-6lbs each, so we paid (rounding up b/c I don't have my receipt) so we paid about $10 and got meat for 7 (SEVEN) dinners with leftovers for several lunches!

So here is our menu of 7 dinners with recipes. So that this post doesn't get to long and overwhelming I've made the recipes separate posts with links. The (leftovers) following the name means that there was enough for us to either do a second dinner with the leftovers or that we used the leftovers for lunch. Also, we did not eat these dinners 7 days in a row, one can only take so much chicken!

Dinner 1: Roast Chicken

The first dinner was of course to roast the chickens. Now generally this is my job in the house. it's one of the few meats that I am not intimidated to cook and I do it really well. However, I don't have two roasting pans and we had to fit both chickens in our oven. So after some Tetris like playing around with some raw chickens (we kept them wrapped!) we decided that the picture you see above of boxing chickens would be the best method. We used the John Kass' Beer Can Chicken recipe (warning it's not a typical list recipe, but it's in there in the article, I promise!) and hubby cooked it.

So the first dinner was the roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable (probably frozen) that I don't remember.

Dinner 2: Pot Pie (leftovers)

Dinner number two was the chicken pot pie I gushed about over here. Only I still don't have a recipe! It's not on their website (shame on you Martha!) and for some reason which I am sure has noting to do with my housekeeping or my husband/children I cannot find my October issue, but I will! In the meantime, it's delicious, my kids love it and it's on page 98 of the October 2009 issue!

After dinner number two we had two chicken carcass and about 6 cups (give or take it filled a larger freezer bag) of shredded chicken. We kept 2 of those cups of chicken out to make soup and put the rest in the freezer. Now soup and broth are my husbands thing and he is one of those annoying (at least to me) cooks that can walk in a kitchen with out a recipe and with barely any ingredients and make a fabulous dinner. I know, I am so lucky!

You can find his (humorous) recipe for broth here.

Dinner 3: Chicken Soup (leftovers for lunches)
Chicken soup is apparently a very personal thing, I am guessing if you Google it you will find thousands of recipes. According to my husband you just throw things in a pot. His recipe for it is here.

Dinner 5: Cesar Salad

Next up Salad topper! We were having an antipasto New Years eve and needed a little something to dress up our Cesar salads. Normally we would grill a chicken breast but those suckers are like $8 a package these days! Talk about blowing a budget! So we grabbed a chunk of our frozen shredded chicken, heated it up in a skillet with some Italian dressing on it and viola! A restaurant worthy salad! Speaking of dressings, our favorite is Girard's it looks super fancy in the bottle but it tastes like restaurant quality! We use the Italian all the time as a marinade for cooking, it's superb! (again, not a paid endorsement! I buy them myself!) We can usually find them at our local grocer's, they are usually on the bottom shelf.

Dinner 6: Risotto
Our next dinner was Risotto. If you have never had risotto, it's a slow cooked cheese rice from Italy (in simplest terms) think of it as a fancy sort of "helper" meal. It takes a little time to make, although we have made quick oven versions. However it's pretty kid friendly and a great early food because it's so soft and mushy. Both my kids ate it as babies, you know before they learned "I don't like" and started eating with their eyes! But I digress!

Our favorite source for risotto recipes is an out of print Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library (affiliated link) book, simply called Risotto. It has basic instructions and tons of recipes in it. We made Chicken Risotto (link to recipe) with peas and even Picky Peanut ate some, so we call that a success.

Dinner 7: Risotto Pancakes
I don't advocate lying to your children, much. However when it comes to food sometimes it's helpful when they are little (1-4) to not tell the whole truth. This is one of the cases when we do that. We tell them we are having dinner pancakes which can be anything from risotto pancakes to potato pancakes. They love it because it's called pancakes and since we call it dinner pancakes they don't expect syrup and sweets. Surprisingly, these leftover usually go down better then the originally risotto!

Again the recipe (found at link) is from our Risotto Cook book and we usually serve it with a salad (which both my kids have started eating! If you do something enough the will copy you!) and some warm crusty bread. Picky peanut of course only took the required one bite and ate bread and lettuce.

We still has some chicken left so hubby had made chicken salad (his "recipe" can be found at the link) and had that for 3 days worth of lunches!

Hopefully I have helped some of you get over your fear of roasting and given you at least a few ideas for dinners. Bon Appetit!


Unknown said...

Visiting from SITS : ) What a great post, and an inspired idea. I have to admit, cooking is not one of my strongest suits, though I am always on a quest for new ideas. I love the risotto pancakes- we may have to try it!

CalgaryDaddy said...

Great Tips! We actually just got 4 of them last week and threw them in the freezer. Last time, my wife cooked in the slow cooker.


Helene said...

I finally learned to do this awhile back when trying to be more frugal. Whenever whole chickens are on sale at the grocery store, I try to stock up on them. I usually cook mine in the crockpot and then use the leftover meat in other recipes like you do. I can't believe how far just one chicken can go!!

I didn't know the difference between roasters and fryers...thanks for sharing that!

Unknown said...

Visiting again from SITS. I forgot all about Risotto for that extra chicken. Thanks for reminding me. Off I run.

Unknown said...

Stopping by from SITS! What great recipes!

Christy said...

My family is a bit bigger than yours (9 at home) but I can still get quite a few meals out of a whole chicken - somebody somewhere called it a rubber chicken! Great ideas on how to use the meat!

Otter Thomas said...

Good tips, and the picture of those chickens is hilarious. I can never resist the temptation of flapping a chicken wing around and making a stupid joke when whole chickens are involved.

Unknown said...

Hi, I'm visiting from SITS! I have never cooked a whole chicken before. Thanks for the how-to. I'd love to stay but the baby is crying... gotta go, but I'd love to have you stop by my blog sometime!

Unknown said...

Man, you are one organized gal. :) Love the meal ideas. :)

Holly @ Domestic Dork said...

I'm a fan of dark meat myself. :)

We're loving all the turkey leftovers we froze from Christmas. Stick those in the crockpot with various sauces and some veggies, serve over rice, and BAM, there's a meal.

Christina said...

I have never roasted a chicken before, I guess it just seems like a lot of food for my husband and myself. However, I love that you were able to get 7 meals out of it! Thanks for the tips!