When I found myself in a totally empty nest, I also found that cooking for one was a huge change for me. I had to teach myself how to plan ahead for using the extra portions of family sized entrees like pot roast or a whole chicken. I’ve managed, but it has taken a decade! If you don’t plan, you end up with a freezer filled with leftovers that are never used. It was the Covid pandemic that forced me to focus more on being frugal. Empty supermarket shelves and difficulty in obtaining products I loved made me save what I had left. Always a frugal home keeper, this wasn’t a huge change for me. It was a focused change, however.
I cook a whole chicken at least once a month. Sometimes, I split or spatchcock the bird and cook it on the grill. Other times I roast it in the oven, pressure cook it in the instant pot or slow cook it in the crockpot. I love it for the first meal, and I’ve grown to love all the extra things I do with the cooked chicken meat. In fact, I’ve learned to depend on having my little packages of meat in the freezer.
I’ve posted this recipe for Chicken Demidoff previously. You can find it right here. https://dlmsliceofpie.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-russian-house-of-demidov-was-noble.html
It is what I do with leftover roast chicken that I’m showing you today. You can use any roast chicken recipe you’d like. My blog is full of various versions, and you can always Google!
When Miss Phoebe visits, we have lots of fun watching movies and snacking. I always try to have homemade snacks to add to the typical chips and popcorn. Chicken salad (sandwich spread) is one of my favorites and it can be changed with so many flavors.
First, let me tell you one of my most frugal recipes! I never drink an entire gallon of milk before it gets close to expiring. I use the end of the portion to make ricotta or what some call farmer’s cheese. My grandmother made this when I was a kid and hung a bag over her sink to let it drain. I later learned how to do it from an Italian grandmother who had a quicker method. Heat 1 quart of whole milk just to the boiling point. Don’t let it boil. Remove it from the burner and add ¼ cup of lemon juice or white vinegar. Let the milk set until it separates. The curd will float. Then you need to pour it through a fine sieve until the moisture is all gone. This will take a couple hours. You don’t need a cheesecloth bag and you don’t need to drain it overnight. This will give you about a cup and a half of cheese.
To make the shells, boil them … drain them and let them cool under cold running water. This recipe will make about a dozen. To the cheese, add ¼ cup of dried parmesan, 1 teaspoon of sugar, a Tablespoon of chopped parsley and a couple grinds of nutmeg. Combine an egg with all that, and you have a perfect filling for the shells. You’ve saved the cost of ricotta! Here's another recipe for this cheese https://dlmsliceofpie.blogspot.com/2020/06/oak-leaf-kale.html
Use what you have in the pantry for this recipe. If you have a jar of pasta sauce, use it. If not, use a can of stewed tomatoes. That’s what I did this time, and I actually prefer that because there is already lots of flavor in the roasted chicken and I enjoy the simple celery and onion in the stewed tomatoes.
Pour some of the sauce (or juice from the can of tomatoes) in the bottom of a baking dish. That will keep the shells from sticking. Add the stuffed shells and place the portion of chicken in the dish beside the shells. Cover all of it with the stewed tomatoes and remaining sauce (or more pasta sauce) and bake it at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. You can add mozzarella cheese to the top. For these, I tucked a mozzarella pearl into each shell … because I had some that needed to be used.
When I roast a chicken, I also save a couple portions of the broth from the bottom of the roasting pan. I just let it cool, skim off the fat and store it in freezer bags.
For this recipe, I used 2 cups of broth. I didn’t thaw it. I just dropped in in a sauce pan over low heat and brought it to a simmer. If you don’t think it will have enough flavor, add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon. To thicken the broth, stir a Tablespoon of corn starch into a cup of cold water and add it to the broth. Whisk it until it thickens. Over a low heat, add a can of mixed vegetables. Include the juice for more flavor. Add one or two cups of chopped chicken meat, a dash of salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon of poultry seasoning or rubbed sage. You probably have all those ingredients in your pantry.
This is a perfect late night snack and so easy. I used mini corn tortillas for these. I always have grated cheese, salsa and fresh vegetables in the fridge. This time I had beautiful artisan tomatoes that had great summertime flavor in a wintertime month! You can top your tostadas with shredded lettuce, sour cream, olives or any of the things you love in tacos.
I made these in the air fryer oven and it took about 20 minutes from beginning to end.
Place the tacos on an air fryer baking sheet. Top with chopped chicken. Sprinkle with taco seasoning. Bake this for ten minutes at 350 degrees in the air fryer. Remove and top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato and chunky salsa. That’s it. All done, and so much fun.
You’ve probably used all your chicken meat if you’ve made these recipes. If not, there are hundreds of things you can do. Make your favorite tuna casserole, replacing the tuna with chicken. Add chopped chicken to a green salad. If you have strawberries, toss those in. Pecans make it better. Add chicken to your favorite pasta sauce … red or white. Use the meat and some of that frozen broth to start chicken noodle soup. The possibilities are endless. Have fun and save money!