One Chicken, Three Dinners

Wednesday is when many newspapers put out the food section, and most markets change the weekly special. So I will post something for the frugal foodie.

Finding ways to eat a frugal, healthy, and yet still very tasty diet is a never-ending challenge. Chicken, though thought boring by some, is a wonderful palette on which to layer flavor, and is perennially affordable, even the higher quality birds. I won’t buy the cheapest chicken. Even if it were not so repugnant in its production it is not really the most frugal choice because of the health risks involved in factory farming on that scale. I go for a free range but not organic chicken which I buy on sale when it goes down to 99 cents (or lower) a pound. I buy six at a time and freeze them.

At the beginning of the week I roast or grill one whole or cut up bird. The bones get put in the stockpot. The first night I just serve it plain with garlic roasted potatoes and a green veggie. Two nights later it goes into a stir fry. And finally a few nights after that the remainder becomes a casserole.

The recipes are as follows:

Chicken Stir Fry

Serves Four


2 cloves garlic

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root

1 quarter cup cilantro leaves

1 medium onion

1 carrot

2 scallions

1 half pound mushrooms

1 cup broccoli florets

Three bricks stir fry noodles

2 cups leftover cooked chicken

Peanut oil-enough to just coat pan

A dash of soy sauce

A few drops toasted sesame oil

1 quarter cup shelled peanuts, chopped (optional)

First put on a pot of water to boil the noodles. While the water is boiling, place the garlic, the ginger, and the cilantro on a board and chop fine. Then chop all of the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Slice the mushrooms stems included, though you may want to trim the ends.  Chop the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces. By now the water should be boiling. Cook the stir-fry noodles as directed on package. If there are no directions, about five minutes. There are many different kinds of noodles used in Asian cooking. These should look like ramen noodles and be just as cheap. They come out of the package in square servings (I call them bricks). Do not overcook.

As the noodles cook, heat the oil in a wok or large heavy cast iron pan. First add the cut vegetables and stir them for about five minutes. Then add the herb and spice mix and continue to stir. When the noodles are done, drain and add to the vegetable mixture. Then add the chicken pieces. In few minutes it will all come together. Season to taste with soy and toasted sesame oil, and sprinkle with the nuts, if using.  Serve in large bowls

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Serves Four


1 and ½ cups salsa, homemade, fresh from the deli case, or from a jar if you must.

1 and ½ cups white rice, cooked. Leftover is fine

3 oz. Cheddar cheese, either sharp or medium

2 cloves garlic

½ pound mushrooms

1 medium onion

1 zucchini

1 and ½ cups cooked chicken

2 teaspoons olive oil

If you have no leftover rice start by putting on a pot, one cup dry. Chop the garlic fine. Cut the onion in a medium dice. Slice the zucchini into half moons about ½ inch thick. Put the olive oil in a cast iron pan and sauté the vegetables for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for one more minute. Cut the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces. Grate the cheese with the courser setting of the grater. Get out a 1 and ½ quart casserole and start to layer the casserole, starting with salsa, then rice, then vegetables, then cheese. When the last layer of cheese is added, cover and bake at 400 degrees for one half hour. The top should be bubbling. Serve with a side salad.

If you are cooking for more people, cook two chickens at a time. I am cooking for two, but use these recipes because we eat the same thing again for lunch the next day. There are many more recipes that use leftover chicken, including warming soups in the winter and refreshing summer salads. I will be posting more as the seasons change. And for you vegetarians, I will be posting on vegetarian leftovers cooking in the near future. Though the truth is that just by being a vegetarian you are already taking the more frugal more environmentally sound path.  We should all take the veggie route whenever we can, even if we don’t identify ourselves as vegetarians.


2 Responses

  1. My mom was right in line with you on the chicken train.
    Loved your blog, brought back good memories of her cooking and reminded me where I got my ‘cooking’ skills.

  2. Thanks very much for posting this awesome information! Looking forward to reading more.

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