My Story: My Daughter's "Chicken Little" Party

contributed by Laura


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One cold afternoon my daughter had two friends to visit. About an hour and a half before dinner, she asked if they could stay for a meal. Knowing that I had half of a small chicken leftover in the fridge, I was glad to oblige. I began to plan what would make a well-rounded and festive meal. About ten minutes later, my daughter came in with a sheepish smile and announced that two more friends had shown up and asked if we could please "stretch." "Sure," I said, switching to a hot chicken salad instead of the cold, sliced roast I had planned. Twice more, friends and boyfriends-of-friends showed up on my doorstep that evening and all were included in the dinner plans. I was thrilled, but concerned because I had not shopped in over two weeks and my larder was nearly bare! How do I feed the group of eight teenagers and two adults on less than half of a small roasted chicken? Below are my menu and the recipes I concocted to get us all well fed that night.

A "Chicken Little" Dinner: Chicken Vegetable Stew with Star Biscuits

3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped in 1/2" pieces
2 carrots, cut into strips and diced
1 to 1 1/2 onions, diced
2 medium/large potatoes, diced
1 sweet potato, cut into matchsticks
1-2 stalks of celery, sliced on the diagonal

Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Cook until crisp tender or about 15 minutes. Add one 12- to 16-ounce can of peas or beans (pinto, garbanzo, navy, white, etc.) drained and one small can of corn with the liquid. (This was just about everything I had in the pantry that night!) Heat through. Strain and set aside, covered. Use this broth in the next step.

Put the carcass that is cracked apart, one half of a small onion that is chopped fine, one crushed clove of garlic, a few red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dill or thyme into a pot. Cover with the vegetable water plus enough water to make at least four cups. Slowly boil about 20 to 30 minutes. Strain broth and reserve. Use this broth in next step. (If you don't have a carcass, you can use any broth or just the vegetable water. Season to taste.)

In a large heavy pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter or shortening, add 2 to 3 Tablespoons flour to make a roux. Slowly add the broth (at least 4 cups) you have made from the vegetable and carcass water. Stir until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream. Adjust consistency as needed with more liquid or flour mixed with water.

When thickened, stir in the chicken and vegetables, flavor with any seasoning or combination you like (dill, thyme, parsley, ginger, rosemary, etc.). I have used many different spices over the years. Put on very low heat and cover to keep warm.

Make biscuits with your favorite recipe or use 3 cups biscuit mix (I actually used pancake mix that night, as I had no other flour). Roll out and cut with a 2 to 2 1/2" star shaped cookie cutter. (This is a trick that I learned years ago. The biscuits look larger than they are because of the "points.") Bake after brushing with a little milk or melted butter. Makes 18 to 20 biscuits.

We served this in bowls. We split and buttered the biscuits and ladled the stew over them. It was plenty for all 10 of us!

For dessert, we had "Homemade" Warm Applesauce and Shortbread Cookies as follow:

One very large jar of applesauce
2-4 medium apples and/or pears, pared and coarsely chopped
Raisins (opt.)
Cinnamon or nutmeg to taste

Heat chopped apples/pears (and raisins) in a tiny bit of water in microwave for 60 to 90 seconds on high or until slightly soft and juicy. Add to applesauce and return to microwave until just warmed through. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg. Serve with shortbread or any other crunchy cookie. This is also great over old-fashioned gingerbread.

Shortbread

1 stick of butter, not softened
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a bowl and "squish" with your hands until it will form a ball. Pat into an 8 x 8 pan and bake at 275 degrees F for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until slightly golden. Cool slightly and cut into 1" wide by 2" long pieces. Use a very sharp knife. When almost cool, remove to rack and cool completely. Serve with applesauce or other fruit dessert. Makes 32 pieces.


"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com

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