Feed An Army With Two Chickens

Okay, maybe not an army…  But I have figured out a way to get a ridiculous number of meals for the family (of five) from TWO CHICKENS.  You can buy 2 chickens from Sam’s Club or Costco very reasonably — or of course buy organic or free range at significantly more.  Honestly we usually do the two-chicken bag at Sam’s.

With two chickens, I can make dinner 3 nights in a row and also have several lunches for myself throughout the week.  Here’s what I do.

For the first night, Chicken!  Wash the chickens and make sure all the giblets are cleaned out.  Some people like to use the neck, etc. if you have them but ugh, they just gross me out.  Then cook the chickens for dinner in whatever way your family enjoys — or however much time you have!  You can…

  • Boil.  Not a lot of time required (1-1.5 hours usually), but not quite as tasty.  I just throw the chickens into my huge stock pot, cover with water, toss in some chunks of onion, celery, and garlic, and cook until the chickens are done.
  • Crockpot.  Put the onions and celery in the bottom and lay the chickens on top (one chicken in each crockpot.  Yes, I have more than one.  Doesn’t everyone?).  Mix up your favorite seasoning (paprika, sage or thyme, garlic, salt, celery salt) and rub into the skin.  Do not add water.  Cook on high 4-5 hours and it will literally fall apart.
  • Roast.  Stuff the chickens with onions, celery, apple and/or lemon.  Melt a little butter and mix with either fresh or dried herbs.  Rub into the skin.  Roast at 400 for 1- 1 1/2 hours.  I believe the original recipe called for 450F but it makes me nervous because the chickens really splatter and smoke in the oven.  This is the tastiest (in my opinion) but takes more babysitting.  It makes a rich, dark, delicious broth.

That Man and the monsters devour the dark meat.  I save at least two breasts from one chicken for later.

Preparation for the next day:  Throw all the scraps and bones (yes, even the ones people ate on, if it doesn’t gross you out — they’ll cook for a long long time!) into a crockpot.  If you did the crockpot method above, you’ve already got one dirty one!  If you boiled the chickens, save all that delicious broth.  You can strain it and use it right away.  You can even throw the veggies into the crockpot too (if you stuffed the cavity with apples or lemons I typically toss them in the garbage).  Splash a little good apple cider vinegar over the bones (to help draw out the minerals) and fill the crockpot with water.  Set it on low and forget about it.  You can easily cook this until dinner the next night (yes, 24 hours is okay).

The second dinner:  Chicken and Noodles.  Strain the incredibly rich and strong broth.  Since it’s been cooking so long, it’s very strong.  You can usually get 3-4 quarts of double-strength broth out of the chickens.  Cool 2 of them in the fridge (leave headroom) and then pop them in the freezer for Thanksgiving noodles!  Use the other quart or so of broth to make dinner.

I make noodles from scratch (usually 4 cups of flour, 4 eggs, 4 tsp salt, and 8 T milk or water).  I dice an onion, lots of carrots and celery, and a couple of potatoes.  Saute the onions in a little butter or olive oil, add in the rest of the veggies, the chicken broth, a quart or two of water (or more if your broth is strong enough), and simmer until the veggies are tender.  Use the reserved chicken breast from yesterday (I only eat white meat), shred, and add to the pot.  Throw in the homemade noodles, being liberal with the flour (it acts as a thickener).  The monsters love to put a scoop of mashed potatoes in the bottom of their bowl and then top with this delicious soup.

Since we definitely eat this soup for the homemade noodles, we usually end up with lots of veggies and chicken in the bottom of the pan and very little noodles in the leftovers.  No problem.  That’s where the next night’s dinner comes into play.

The third dinner:  Chicken and Dumplings.  I make dumplings using Pioneer baking mix.  Yes I could make them from scratch, but the family really likes them this way and they do come out nice and fluffy.  I heat up the leftover chicken soup from the previous night until the broth is boiling.  If needed, I might add more veggies and chicken, but there’s usually plenty left over from the previous night.  (A few precious noodles are a bonus!)  If I have any leftover mashed potatoes, I throw them into the pot to help thicken and stretch the soup.  Then I drop the dumplings into the soup, cover, and let them steam for 10 mins or so.

Leftovers.  Yes, even after eating these two poor chickens for three nights, we usually have a ton of leftovers.  I can eat it for lunch at least a couple of days if not all week.

Bonus:  I usually still have 1-2 qts of broth in the freezer too!

If you need to stretch the chicken meat, you can add dark (if your family will eat it — I personally won’t).  I also keep cooked shredded chicken breast in the freezer, so if I need a little more meat, I can break a hunk off and toss it in.

At the first hint of the sniffles, two chickens are at the top of my list.  After eating homemade broth all week, we’re usually well over any hint of a cold!

Freshly Ground Wheat Success

I’ve been interested in grinding my own whole wheat fresh (especially for bread) for months now.  I wasn’t willing to invest in a NutriMill that *only* grinds wheat — because I just wasn’t sure how likely I’d actually stick with it.  I mean, I adore adore adore homemade bread.  Dangerously adore.

I could eat the whole loaf right out of the pan. No joke.

But after reading about all the nutrients in freshly ground wheat I was determined to try.  That’s one of the reasons I settled on investing in a VitaMix.  With the dry blade, I’m supposed to be able to grind any grain.

Yet after several disappointing attempts (tortillas that were more like frisbees, a brick loaf) I’d kind of given up.  It didn’t taste all that great.  I wasn’t able to get the flour fine enough.  I was sick of wasting all those ingredients!

My SIL gave me a recipe months ago that she swore would make the best whole wheat bread.  She’d taken a class through her church (which I plan to take too, next class!!) and learned all the tricks to getting whole wheat to rise.

Then of course I lost the recipe.

I finally found it last week and set out to try again.  I dragged out the dry blade container and my wheat berries.  This time, I refused to be afraid of burning the VitaMix up.  I’ve watched youtube videos of people grinding for minutes on high without any issue.  So I ground my wheat up really good, going longer than I ever had before.  (Deep down, I think I was afraid of making flour paste or something.)  One small batch was maybe a little too coarse but the rest was fine.

And the bread.  *dies*  It’s soooo good.  Lots of honey make it sweet.  The grains are incredible.  I used coconut oil too, along with an egg to help make it smooth.  It’s not only the best whole wheat bread I’ve ever made…it’s the best BREAD.  Period.  And so healthy!  (Sorry, I don’t have permission to share the recipe online or I would!)

Of course I overate the first loaf (Middle loved it so much she also ate 3 pieces the first day), but I’ve still got half of the second loaf in the fridge.

With that victory, I ground more flour over the weekend and used up all the ripe bananas to make a batch of banana bread and 2 dozen banana chocolate chip muffins for the kids’ lunches.  There’s only 2 left… so I think they went over okay.

Of course it’s a little tricky to count all these whole grains on WW.  I can do the math, sure, but it’s crazy to see the number of points.  Honey is more points than artificial sweetener.  I didn’t want to cut the coconut oil out — but it is pointy.  However I know it’s healthy all the way.  Could I find “cheaper” (less points) diet bread at the store?  Sure.  But I’m not eating that crap with all the preservatives and fillers when I can have freshly ground wheat at my fingertips.

I just have to figure out how to only eat one small piece…

Do you have a favorite whole wheat recipe that I can add to my list?

Recipe: Beef Stew

On a cold winter night, there’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of humble beef stew.  Usually I just throw all the ingredients in the crock pot, but this time I took a few extra steps.  Boy, am I ever glad that I did.  This was hands-down the best stew I’ve ever made.  I usually use a packet of dry onion soup mix and a can of cream of mushroom soup, but this tastes waaaaay better, and you don’t end up with all those questionable chemicals/ingredients in the pre-boxed stuff.  The kids weren’t real thrilled when I set bowls of brown stuff before them for dinner (Princess Monster even commented that it looked “nasty”), but there were no complaints after the tasting began.  In fact everyone had seconds and there almost wasn’t enough for the grown ups to have lunch the next day!

Beef Stew

2-3 lbs stew meat, chopped into 1″ chunks
1/2 c. flour (for dredging, with salt and pepper to taste)
oil to brown the meat
1 onion, chopped (finely for me, because the kids always moan in despair if they get a chunk)
garlic cloves to taste (I think I used 5 – we like garlic!)
1 c. red wine
1 c. beef broth (I made mine with those nasty salty cubes because I didn’t have anything else on hand)
potatoes, carrots, peas, etc.  whatever your family will eat
salt, pepper to taste
bay leaf

Toss the chopped cubes of meat in the seasoned flour and brown in a little oil.  I used butter in my cast-iron skillet.  Keep the meat in a single layer and take the time to turn each piece to get it evenly browned.  The meat doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through.  After they’ve browned, drop the cubes into the waiting crockpot.

Add another T of oil in the same pan (to keep all those yummy fried bits) and cook the onion and garlic until softened and flavorful.  Spoon them into the crockpot and then deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring up the browned bits into the sauce.  Pour over the meat in the crockpot.

Add the chopped veggies and the broth.  You don’t need a lot of liquid since this is cooking in a crockpot (you don’t want the meat to “boil”) so don’t worry if it doesn’t look like “stew” yet.  As the veggies cook down, more flavor and liquids will release into the broth.  You can always add a bit more broth if desired, and if you end up with too much, add some cornstarch at the end.

Cook on low for 8 hours (or longer) or high for 6 hours until the meat is fall-apart tender.  Serve with buttered bread or biscuits. 

Pray you have enough for lunch tomorrow!