Thinkin' Chicken

by Leanne Ely

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If I asked you to close your eyes and picture yourself in a grocery store wheeling a cart down the aisle and putting chicken in your cart, what would your chicken look like? What kind of chicken would you choose?

If you said a plastic 2.5 pound bag filled with frozen, skinless, boneless chicken breasts, you're paying roughly 3.00 or more per pound (unless of course, you took advantage of a buy one/get one free sale). If you bought a whole chicken, that's only .69 per pound. Of course, prices vary from place to place, but the principle is the same: whole chicken vs. chicken packaged any other way is always much cheaper. And compared to the most expensive way of buying chicken, it's a REAL bargain.

But suppose you're not all that kitchen savvy. What do you do with whole chickens? Here's a recipe designed to help you stretch your dollars and your menu at the same time.

RUBBER CHICKEN-How to make one chicken into three meals (From Healthy-Foods: An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well (Champion Press) 2001)

  • 1 chicken, washed and patted dry
  • 1/2 celery rib, cut in pieces
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, cut in 2" pieces
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Day One: Make a roasted chicken. If you don't know how, don't fret, I'll help you. Preheat your oven to 375 and place your clean chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up, with all the veggies placed in the cavity. Season liberally and cook. Baste it if you like. Depending on the size, it will take an hour or two to roast. While the chicken is cooking, use the same veggies and throw the neck in some water to make additional stock for the gravy. Cook it on low.

When the chicken is done, the leg should move easily in the socket. Before you make gravy, remove chicken to a cutting board and pour all the cooking juice out from the roaster into a bowl to cool. Put it in the fridge or freezer to encourage the fat to glob up on to the top. Then you can skim off that nasty fat and throw it away. Return the juice without the fat, to the same pan and deglaze your pan by scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. In a small mixing bowl, take a tablespoon of flour, about 3/4 cup of cool water and make a smooth paste. Heat the cooking juice, add the neck broth (this is really starting to sound gross!) and then add your paste. Using your wire whisk, whisk like a crazy lady over a fairly high heat till your gravy starts to look like gravy. Remove from heat and serve with mashed potatoes and lots of vegetables. Remember you want leftovers.

Day Two: On the menu tonight is-Chicken and Bean Burritos! To make, pick every scrap of chicken off the bones and toss it together in a pan with a can of black beans (or equivalent homemade). Add about 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder and cumin and warm it up. In the meantime, get out your fixin's: shredded cheese, salsa, chopped cilantro, sour cream-whatever you like. Warm your tortillas and serve buffet-style.

Day Three: Take the skeletal remains, and toss it in a pot with a stick of celery, a carrot or two and a big onion. You don't even need to cut the veggies up. Throw a quart or more of cold water over the top and bring it to a boil. Let it simmer for an hour or so-till the veggies are mushy. Strain the whole thing (now you can throw out that chicken with a good conscience!) and make whatever soup your little heart desires. There is a whole bunch of them in here to get you going!

Here's a favorite:

Clean out the Crisper Vegetable Soup

  • Chop what you have and set aside (some good ones are carrots, celery, cabbage, zucchini, turnips etc.)
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot, saute the onion till almost clear. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth you just made and seasoning. Let simmer till vegetables are tender and serve with plenty of bread and butter.

Leanne Ely is a New York Times best selling author of Body Clutter and the popular Saving Dinner cookbook series. According to Woman's Day Magazine, she is the expert on family cooking.

Leanne's syndicated newspaper column, The Dinner Diva can be found in 250 newspapers nationwide and in Canada. Her vast broadcast experience includes media satellite tours, QVC several times as well as guesting on several national television shows, including HGTV's Simple Solutions, ABC Family's Living the Life, Ivanhoe's Smart Woman, Small Talk for Parents and Talk of the Town. She has guest chef-ed on the cooking show, Carolina Cooks and has taught cooking classes all over the country for Bloomingdale's.

In addition, she is a seasoned radio personality. Leanne's own radio show, Heart of A Woman aired during drive time in two major California markets, Los Angeles and San Diego. Her current show, The Dinner Diva is one of the top Blog Talk Radio shows on the Internet.

On the Internet, she pens the Food for Thought column for the immensely popular,, with over half a million readers weekly. She has been featured in Woman's Day magazine, the Chicago Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Orange County Register - to name a few. Additionally, she is a sought after speaker and has spoken all over the country, with keynote addresses to corporate and non-profit entities. Visit Leanne Ely on Google+.

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