Tuesday, November 3, 2009



OK - I admit it -- I love roast chicken.  I mean I really love roast chicken and during these economically trying times there's almost nothing that goes further, cheaper.

The other day I was in one of my many roast chicken 'moods' so, knowing I'd do the cooking while the Yankee World Series game was on, Richard had brought home two roast chickens (one to freeze) that he'd found on sale at our local Von's super market (Mayfair in some other cities)... each was less than 4 bucks.

Meal One:  That night I bathed the bird with EVOO and fresh lemon juice, sprinkled garlic powder and herbs on top, stuffed the cavity with the rest of that lemon and a small onion and put it in the oven for 1-1/2 hours at 400 degrees.  Delicious and juicy with fairly crisp skin (I know, I know - we shouldn't be eating the skin, but I can't resist).  I steamed some asparagus, added a little lemon juice and butter and dinner was complete.  Well, there was that cheap bottle of Trader Joe's Blue Fin chardonnary that Richard buys me for three dollars and change...

Meal Two:  Another Yankee game was on  last night so I cooked again.  Richard cut off most of the leftover chicken from the legs and wings and, along with the leftover breast meat, I made a version of my leftover salmon pasta dish. Whole wheat pasta, chicken, EVOO, garlic, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, peas and parmesan cheese.  Healthful leftover heaven and barely a nickel spent.

Meal Three:  Today I made chicken soup from the chicken carcass and bones... I found some leftover lemon grass (again with the leftovers) from our halibut dinner and tossed it into the pot.  I save veggie trimmings in the freezer ie: the ends of asparagus stalks, the tips of string beans, broccoli stalks... you get the picture... so I took them out and added them to the pot along with fresh parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme, and whatever else Simon & Garfunkel sang about that was still growing in our herb garden...  Couldn't find any onions in our pantry, so I cut up a shallot - then cut up a carrot and threw them in as well...  Covered the whole mess with water -- added salt and fresh ground pepper, brought it to a boil then turned it down to simmer...  It's still simmering and the house smells great. 

After the broth was done, drained and put into another pot it sat til later this evening when I added some fresh veggies, sauteed a red onion I found at the bottom of the veggie drawer and some chicken won tons we had 'left over' (of course they're left over) in the freezer from Trader Joe's and, at the last minute, a spritz of balsamic.  Of course, once the soup was served, I grated some fresh parmesan over everything.. and voila - gourmet chicken soup! 

To make this 'leftover' meal perfect, Richard promised to bake some homemade southern buttermilk biscuits (recipe on-line # 26110 at recipezaar), the only ingredient we needed to buy was the buttermilk.  We did.  Buttermilk biscuits and homemade soup... Yum!

So why am I telling you all this?  Most of you have your own recipes for chicken soup and all are delicious... The reason, I guess, is that it always amazes me how truly inexpensively we can eat if we think about it, but sometimes we just need a little reminder. Cheap doesn't have to mean bringing home fast food.  It's about buying wholesome food - especially when it's on sale, and being smart about how we cook it all.  Buy more than one of a sale item and freeze if it's fresh meat, fish or poultry.  Save leftovers and throw them in a pasta or soup or an omelet - that meal becomes almost 'free.' 

And if you want to splurge and make your cheap supper a fine dining experience, light a couple of candles, have a glass of wine or a cosmopolitan.  Hell, have a micro beer.

My three chicken meals started with a less-than-a-4-buck chicken, some pasta that cost pennies a meal, and leftovers...  You do the math.  Now I think I'll go out and buy a new outfit.  On sale, of course.


Richard said...

Make sure the outfit is REALLY on sale or no more biscuits for you! :)
Deelish soup!
I must add that this is the third or fourth time I've tried to recreate my mother's biscuits and this was the closest I've ever come. Light and flaky... and would you believe, made with a food processor. Go figure.

saucyredhead said...

I am totally in awe of what you can do with leftover roast chicken. Maybe this will inspire me to use my leftovers more creatively, LOL.

gayle said...

It does take all kinds in this world. Ilona
can stretch her chicken for 5 days. And, by day 5, she and Richard were still enjoying the last supper of the original chicken. I know Ilona well enough (I think) to say that this is a recipe for her life as well. In stretching the chicken, you must look at the individual delicious dinners, with cool photos. Each one is innovative, creative, spontaneous, and fun. aIlona decided to take on a challenge because she likes to eat well and cheap. Everyone should try this
for fun. I would fail. I don't have a fridge filled with leftovers, but I could. I am not eating as well as I did, when full trolleys at Whole Foods were the norm. Thinking it would be only temporary, we fell into bad habits, convincing ourselves that, for now, we're just not eating healthfully. The "for now" has gone on a while now. During the summer, we had access to tomatoes and zuccini, and I didn't feel deprived. I now realize you cannot surrender good
food because you can't afford it. With some basics
in my fridge, maybe I could get 3 days. It's far
better than meals which you know aren't good for you, while you're eating. I always notice that Illona
and Richard add something special every night. Perhaps, it's a slightly more expensive wine, freshly baked bread or biscuits, a dessert, a cheese
they've yearned for, exotic fruit, or a plain fruit cooked and basted with a liqueur. They do food great. But back to our little chicken who wouldn't quit. And neither would Ilona! I think we would all benefit from testing our spirit and creativity in honor of Ilona's achievement.
Yes, we can all eat the crispy skin, and not feel guilty. I'd love to come back here and see if any-
one out there tries this, and hear their results. You might just surprise yourself.

ilona saari said...

As I eat some left over bicuits for breakfast (2 meals from one batch - yay!), I thought about what you wrote, Gayle. So many people are facing hard times financially and sometimes we feel we just can't cope. Everyone has their little tricks on how to deal... for me it's to make our life 'pretty' for less than a penny - whether we're eating prime rib or bologna sandwiches for dinner (and I love bologna sandwiches for dinner -- fried - hey it's the same meat as a hot dog, right? -- w/ mayo and iceberg lettuce on white bread - yum -- but I digress)- I always, always, always light candles on whatever table we're dining at - the coffee table in front of the the tv watching the world series or the dining room catching up on our day's writings (besides, as I age I look better in candle light ;o)- My mom always lit candles at dinner for my dad and us kids & I've carried on that tradition. It's a cheap way to feel 'special' -- life always looks more promising in a candle's glow. And wait til you read all the meals I'm gonna get out of a Costco 'honey-baked' ham after Christmas. ;o)

gayle said...

I had a ton of fun with your chicken. and I was
educated about my food choices, especially now, when I need the best to eat, and on the cheap. Thanks!

Richard said...

Now that I've almost mastered the art of southern biscuits, it looks like we'll be having those more frequently. Still not as flaky as my mom's. Or as flaky AS my mom was. :) Maybe because she used lard. Can't get my head around that word, though. Lard. The sound of the word sits there in your stomach. May try with crisco next. But this batch was made with butter, and as Julia says, butter, butter, butter. Or was it buerre, buerre, buerre?

Norrth said...

That table is beautifully set. I've convinced myself that I'm going to start setting the table again, even if it's just to make every day meals feel special. Can't wait to try your recipes.

ilona saari said...

Hey, Norrth -- glad you like the tables -- I hate leaving my 'good' stuff packed away somewhere waiting to come out for a 'special' occasion. I think we can use all the 'prettiness' we can everyday so I love setting the table -- albeit sometimes for dinner parties it's way more elaborate when it's just the two of us... but a nice table and candles mellows us out and we can sit for minute, talk and unwind even if we're just having pizza.