Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Chicken Dinners

I'm doing my best to stretch a dollar these days, as I'm sure we all are, and one of my favorite ways to get a boo koo bang for my grocery buck is to purchase a rotisserie chicken, shred the meat and use it for at least two meals. And that is precisely what I've done for the following two recipes, one of which (the pesto pasta) is actually my husband's favorite meal at home. The other thing I do with the chicken is make my own chicken stock. It's cheap and tastes so much better than the stuff in a can or box. It's also super-easy. Here's how:

Homemade Chicken Stock
1 chicken carcass
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, chopped into 2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Additional spices are optional (I like to use a bay leaf, 1 spring rosemary and 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning)

1. After removing all of the meat from your chicken, place the carcass, skin and any drippings in a dutch oven.
2. Add your veggies and spices.
3. Fill the pot with water until the bird is covered by at least 1 inch of water.
4. Bring water just to a boil then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 4 hours.
5. Strain broth into air-tight containers. Refrigerate up to 3 days and freeze up to 3 months.

FYI, my favorite use of homemade stock is Ina Garten's Butternut Squash Risotto. It's amazing! And, once you've made it with homemade stock, it's almost not worth making without it.


Now on to the main events: Chicken Pesto Pasta and Chicken-Cabbage Stir-Fry. You may notice that these recipes have numerous ingredients, which usually drives the price of dinner up, but, bear in mind that I usually have most of the ingredients for these two recipes in my pantry or freezer, including the basil pesto. In fact, I highly recommend making the pesto ahead of time. It makes the pasta recipe come together in--no kidding--15 minutes. If you do make the pesto ahead, though, hold off on adding the Parmesan cheese. Mix it in right before using it.

Chicken Pesto Pasta
Courtesy Me!

1/2 lb. penne or other short-cut pasta
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 large onion (yellow or red), chopped
1/2 of a shredded chicken (about 2 cups)
2/3 cup basil pesto (I suppose you could use the jarred stuff but I'm a pesto snob now so I don't recommend it)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paremsan cheese for dusting

Note: Basil Pesto Recipe can be found here.

1. Heat water for pasta and cook pasta until al dente.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add chicken to skillet and season with salt and pepper.
3. Mix pesto into drained pasta. (Otherwise the shredded chicken with absorb the pesto before it's distributed to all of the pasta.) Add sauced pasta to skillet with chicken and onion then toss to combine.
4. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan.


Chicken & Cabbage Stir-Fry with Noodles
Courtesy Parents Magazine

8 oz. fresh or dried Asian egg noodles
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
2 Tbs. peanut or other neutral oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
1 head Napa or savoy cabbage, shredded (5 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 Tbs. oyster sauce
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. mirin or honey
1 to 1-1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles until just tender but not soft, about 3 to 4 minutes; drain the noodles, toss with the sesame oil to keep them from sticking together, and set aside.
2. Heat the peanut oil in a 12-inch skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and carrots, and toss to coat them in the oil; cook until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.
3. While the vegetables cook, in a small bowl combine the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and mirin and mix well. When the vegetables are soft, add the chicken and noodles and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until just warmed through. Then add the sauce and toss well to coat everything and serve.

Nutritional facts
Calories 298, Total Fat (g) 15, Saturated Fat (g) 3, Monounsaturated Fat (g) 5, Polyunsaturated Fat (g) 4, Cholesterol (mg) 87, Sodium (mg) 883, Carbohydrate (g) 26, Total Sugar (g) 4, Fiber (g) 3, Protein (g) 16, Vitamin C (DV%) 46, Calcium (DV%) 11, Iron (DV%) 12

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