Tula Mae Homestead

More Bang for Your Buck–Why Whole Chickens are My Favorite!

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Whole chickens have got to be one of my favorite things to cook.  They’re easy to season in a number of different ways, they can be cooked a number of different ways, and the leftovers help stretch a meal over the week.  The best chickens I have ever tasted are the ones we raise ourselves (post on that coming soon!)  I’m always looking for ways to save money, especially on food.  It seems like every year groceries get more expensive.  Growing and raising our own food has definitely helped, but not everyone has that option.  Whole chickens are a great way to cook once and get a ton of leftovers!

Meal One

We had one chicken left from the 12 we raised last year.  This was the biggest one we kept–7.2 pounds!  Most of the time, I roast them in the oven.  However, a bird that big would’ve taken for.ev.er. to roast, so I threw it in the Crock Pot.

As you can see, this behemoth didn’t even fit!  Thanks to Dr. Google, I found you can cover the Crock Pot with aluminum foil (did y’all know that??)  I threw the top on to give me peace of mind, turned it on low, and cooked it for about 9 hours.  I did turn it on high when I got home from work, so technically it was on low for 6 hours and high for 3…but that’s only because the bird was still a wee bit frozen when I put it in.  One reason I adore cooking whole chickens in the Crock Pot is because the meat gets fall off the bone tender.  Chicken kinda weirds me out…I tend to over cook it because there’s nothing worse than biting into a piece of chicken, chewing on rubber, and realizing it’s under cooked!  I’m getting the heebie jeebies just thinking about it.

Meal Two

After we’d all had our fill for supper, I picked the chicken from the bones.  I left the juices in the Crock Pot, threw in the bones, added a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and filled it with water.  The apple cider vinegar helps draw out more nutrients from the bones.  I ALWAYS make bone broth from whole chickens because it is so easy.  Turn the Crock Pot on low and let it cook for at least 18 hours.  I haven’t bought chicken broth in forever and it’s amazingly restorative when cold season comes rolling around.

Just look at that gorgeous golden color!  I got about 12 cups of broth from this.  Bone broth is so much richer than the stuff in a box because it has all the nutrients from the chicken bones.  Collagen, vitamins, minerals–all stuff that help my family bounce back when we’re not at 100%  While this may not count as a meal to some, I have spent many a day on my couch surviving off of  bone broth when I am under the weather.

Meal 3…and 4

I ended up using some of the meat in salads for my lunch.  I made three salads with a good amount of chicken in each.  One of our dinners this week was planned with leftover chicken in mind.   About a year ago, I found an amazing recipe that combines some of my family’s favorite things:  pesto, pasta, and chicken.  The Foodie and the Fix blog is an amazing resource for recipes!  Here is our favorite recipe!  I have subbed different veggies for the zucchini and it’s always amazing.  This was also lunch for myself and hubs the next day.

Meal 5…and 6

Hubs LOOOOOOVES stuffed peppers.  I didn’t grow up with them, so hadn’t made them until he and I started dating.  I had all the ingredients for it…and a ton of leftover chicken, still.  One thing I love doing with leftover meat is to make a batch of burritos and stick them in the freezer for lunches.  I try to make enough dinner so there are leftovers, but it doesn’t always work out.

The stuffing for the peppers and the burritos are the same–I’m all about keeping it as easy as possible.  I mix it up each time I make burritos depending on what I have in the house.  If I had been thinking ahead, I would’ve taken another “cast of characters” picture to start this off.  This was an on a whim recipe, so I just went with it!

Stuffing/Filling/Whatever You Call It

I started off by sauteing a diced onion and two shredded carrots over medium heat in some olive oil.  I cooked them until they were soft.  Shredded carrots are a way I can sneak in veggies and they lend a sweetness to the recipe.

I threw in a can of rinsed pinto beans and a shredded zucchini.  Like I said before, most of my burrito fillings aren’t planned out until I see what I have on hand.

I personally do not like chunks of beans in my burritos–I kind of like everything to be a homogeneous mixture.  Bust out your potato masher and mash those beans up!  Or just break them lightly…whatever your texture preference is!

I cooked the mixture for another couple of minutes to sweat out the zucchini.

This is, again, where I wish I had the forethought to write this blog post, instead of deciding I wanted to after I started.  This combination is a cup of cooked quinoa (cooked in my bone broth!) 2 cups of shredded chicken, and a couple diced tomatoes.  Toss this combination into the mixture and stir it together.

I choose to make my own taco seasoning instead of purchasing it at the store.  Some of the store-bought version’s ingredients give me the creeps.  The preservatives, anti-caking stuff, and sodium are all a huge turn-off for me.  I’ve been making this recipe for years and adore it.  I added about 5 tablespoons into the mixture since I really wanted a WOW taco taste.  I also added about 1/3 cup of water–same concept as when you add taco seasoning to ground beef.

Stir everything together and add in 1/4 cup of shredded cheese–I’ve used Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Colby Jack, Havarti…pretty much anything with good flavor that I have in the fridge.  Stir it all to combine and get those cheesy goodness strings running through the filling.  And you’re done!  I wanted to add in corn, but hubs forgot to buy some (wahhhh!)  At this point, I let it cool a bit on the stove and then put it in the fridge to cool.  It’s much easier to work with cooler filling, rather than piping hot!

Stuffed Peppers

 

Clearly, you will need bell peppers for stuffed peppers.  Slice off the top and rip all the “guts” out.  When you’re buying the peppers, do a check and make sure they can stand up.  There’s nothing more infuriating than getting a wobbly pepper.  We only do 4 at a time because it’s just hubs and I who eat them.

Once they’re all gutted and in your dish, start stuffing!  I use a regular spoon and fill it in.  Be sure to pack it down with the back of the spoon to get the most in there!  Add a half-inch of water to the bottom of the pan and put into a 375* oven for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the pan and place some shredded cheese on top of the peppers (if you want!)  Place back in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and enjoy!  We put plain Greek yogurt (great sour cream substitute) and avocado on ours.

Freezer Burritos

Freezer burritos are one of my favorite things to make ahead.  They’re a cinch to make and keep really well.

Start with a plain ole’ burrito sized tortilla.  Using a spoon, scoop about 1/3 cup of filling onto the tortilla.  Sometimes I use a measuring cup, but I’m pretty sure it was dirty and I was too lazy to do dishes.

 

I am going to attempt to explain how to roll a burrito.  Start by rolling the closest side over the filling and roll it back a bit to condense it.  Next, tuck both sides in.  Continue to roll the burrito until you’re at the end.  Ta da!!

Keep doing this and line them up on a cookie sheet to freeze.  I freeze them overnight and then pack them away in a freezer bag.  You can either pop them in the microwave to eat, or toss them on a cookie sheet in a 400* oven until browned.

Whew!

That was quite a bit!  Because there are so many ingredients I used, the filling really stretches itself to multiple meals.  I prefer making a big batch and taking a little extra time to put food aside.  This way, when I am in a time crunch I know I have options (or when hubs asks “What can I take for lunch?”)  These are just some of the ways I use up whole chicken leftovers.  There are a TON of different ideas out there, some of which I’m sure I will share as we move into cooler weather.  If you’ve been turned off by whole chickens due to roasting time, try it in the Crock Pot!  The skin won’t be crispy, but the fall of the bone meat MORE than makes up for it!

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