I’ve been cooking up a storm!
Our local IGA had whole chickens on sale for $0.88 a pound last week, so Saturday I roasted two chickens. After we’d eaten, we packaged the leftover meat and the carcasses into separate containers.
Sunday we used leftover chicken breast and some ham to make chef salads. Bonus: We used up the chopped tomatoes and shredded lettuce from taco night earlier in the week.
Monday I roasted a Boston butt in the slow cooker for pulled pork. Since we had umpteen gazillion bread heels in the freezer, I cubed a bunch of them and dried them out to make dressing. While MrH reduced the pork to chunks, I cut up a couple of yellow squash and microwaved them.
Cutting the bread cubes and drying them in a 250-degree oven took a looong time. Then MrH underestimated the amount of time he and our son would be gone on an errand, so the dressing baked way too long and really dried out. It was okay with some of the meat juices on it, but nothing to write home about.
Lesson learned: Next time, prep the bread cubes well ahead of time. Also, don’t overbake the dressing.
Tuesday I put the chicken carcasses in the slow cooker with water to cover and cooked them down to make broth. Like the bread cubes, picking the chicken off the bones took a looong time, but I got a couple of cups of meat for my efforts.
The plan was to have chicken soup, but I was exhausted after working on the chicken and straining the broth, and we hadn’t set aside the vegetables I needed. So I put chicken and broth in the fridge and we ate hot dogs and fries that night.
Today I reheated the broth and added the chicken I’d pulled, plus the little bit we still had left over from the original meal. I thawed some frozen veggies and added those, plus an onion and carrot I’d chopped and cooked. I even cubed a leftover roast potato from the fridge and threw that in.
The result was a hearty chicken soup that was excellent with leftover rice and Monday’s overdone dressing. I’ve never had soup served over dressing, but the combination certainly took care of any dryness!
What’s Coming Up
Tomorrow I’ve got more chickens to roast. Hey, 88 cents a pound is an excellent price! I may freeze the leftover meat this time, because we’ve been eating a lot of chicken.
If there’s enough pork left, I may combine it with some refries and cheese and make enchiladas Friday or Saturday. It may get eaten for lunches instead, which would be okay too.
I’m also looking at doing a hearty pot of lentils and brown rice one night soon. And I’m hankering for a white chicken chili. Goes great with cornbread!
After that, I’ll have to see what the new sales flyer has to offer.
The Good, the Bad, and the Indifferent
I really feel good about what I’ve accomplished in the kitchen this week. We’ve had some great meals, and MrH has been spared the majority of the work. He has done some parts, like cooking rice to go with the chicken or carving the meat, and he did do the hot dogs and fries.
We haven’t had as many last-minute trips to the grocery store, and we haven’t spent extra on convenience foods or eating out.
The downside is that I’ve been spending a lot more time in the kitchen, both cooking and washing extra dishes. While I enjoy cooking, I don’t feel I’ve been as productive at writing as I should have been. (Witness the fact that there was no Monday post.)
The upside to that is that I do need to step away from the computer, and dishwashing is frequently when I mull over ideas and organize my thoughts for things I want to write. So more time in the kitchen might not be a bad thing.
I’m making a special effort to clear out the freezers, partly because stuff needs to get used up and partly because we’ve ordered a frozen food package that will arrive late in the month and I need to make room.
I do feel that my cooking this week has helped us save some money and eat healthy, hot dogs notwithstanding.
And the week has really brought home to me that I need to organize and label my kitchen, especially my spices!
Bonus: Meat in the Slow Cooker
In the comments quite a while ago, Crystal asked how I keep meat from drying out in the slow cooker.
Well…sometimes I don’t! I mean, I do try, but it’s something I struggle with.
One thing I do is try to cook meat with some bone or fat in it, like the Boston butt or bone-in chicken thighs. The fat helps keep the meat from drying out. I don’t know how the bone helps, but it does seem to.
When I cook boneless lean meat like a pork loin or chicken breast, I find it helps to add a liquid or sauce to help retain moisture. Water alone usually won’t do the trick, at least not for me.
One of my unexpected successes was pouring a can of apple pie filling over a boneless pork loin. It cooked up nice and juicy, and the apples gave it an amazing flavor. I’ve also used orange marmelade and barbecue sauce – though not at the same time!
You can also try searing the meat under the broiler or in a skillet to seal it before putting it in the cooker.
Finally, do keep an eye on the temperature and don’t let your meat go too long, like I sometimes do. Some cuts, like the Boston butt, can go a really long time, but leaner cuts like the boneless loin will dry out.
What about you? Has the cooler weather (or anything else) inspired you to cook recently? Let me know what’s cooking at your place in the comments!