Tag Archives: frugal cooking

Taking stock of making stock

Now that it’s a week past Thanksgiving the leftovers should be gone by now if for no other reason than in the interest of your health and safety.  I finished off the turkey leftovers by making green chile turkey enchiladas last Sunday, but yesterday I had one more leftover to contend with.  The turkey’s carcass was in the freezer waiting for me.

Saving the carcass of turkey or chicken is, in my mind, the ultimate in frugal cooking.  When I learned a few years ago that you could take the bones that most everyone throws away and make a rich and delicious homemade stock, it was a true revelation.  Not only could I save money that I would normally spend buying stock, I could completely control what went into it — especially sodium.

Making your own stock couldn’t be simpler.  Take the carcass of your chicken or turkey and put it in a big pot with a rib or two of celery (or better yet a handful of leaves that you probably wouldn’t eat anyhow), a large carrot cut into 3 or 4 big chunks, a medium onion cut into quarters (no need to peel it), half a dozen peppercorns, a bay leaf if you have them, and a few sprigs of parsley.  I add about 16 cups of water– basically enough to cover everything in the pot, pop the lid on and bring it to a boil then knock the heat back to low and let it simmer for a couple of hours with the lid slightly off center to let some steam escape.


After a couple of hours, take the pot off the heat, let it cool for a few minutes then pour the liquid in the pot through a strainer into a two liter/quart container.  Get the veggies in the strainer to and press on them with a wooden spoon to extract a little more liquid if you want.  Add whatever salt you want at this point.  I usually add about a teaspoon at a time and taste it as I go.  You can keep the container in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze it for a few months.   Once you put it in the fridge the fat will come to the top and form a solid layer on top of the stock.  Don’t freak out.  Just skim it off and all is well.  Also, if your stock is particularly rich and reduced like mine is below, it could get somewhat gelatinous when it cools.  I had never seen this happen before until I made pork stock and I sort of flipped out and thought I’d done something wrong.  I hadn’t– it’s totally normal. The stock liquifies again when you heat it.

You might also want to divide the stock into several 16 oz (500 ml) containers to freeze that way it’s generally the same size as a can of stock.

I wound up with 6 cups of stock this time because I let it simmer and reduce longer. Its going to be really rich and delicious!

I wound up with 6 cups of stock this time because I let it simmer and reduce longer. It's going to be really rich and delicious!

Excuses about not having time don’t wash with me.  It takes all of four minutes to put everything in the pot and you can do laundry, pay bills, watch TV, whatever while the stock cooks.  When all is said and done you have the equivalent of about 4 cans of stock (or 2 large boxes for Australia), which would normally cost you $4-$5.  Not only that, I also like to think of it as responsible and ethical use of the bird since I’ve taken everything from it that I possibly can.

Swanson’s has nothing on me.

Not quite loaves and fishes…

… but, darn it, I can make a lot of meals out of three chicken breasts.  Thirteen to be exact.  That’s right. 13. One-three.  

This post kicks off a new category on frugal cooking that I’ll do from time to time.  Money’s getting tighter for everyone, and having been a one income household for more than three years, I’ve already figured out ways to eat pretty well for less, especially when chicken breasts run about $10/kg ($5/lb) here.  Of course, whole chickens are much cheaper, but when chicken breasts are on sale I’ll grab them.  First, let me start by saying these were large chicken breasts and here in Australia they also leave the tender attached, so they weighed about 1 kg (2.2 lbs.).  Secondly, I did have to use other ingredients to compose those meals. 

Before I go any further, I’m going to get this over with now and out myself.  What I am about to admit could cost me any credibility I may have had with certain people who are obsessed with food.  In fact, it could even prevent me from getting a job at certain publications and websites that espouse a brand of culinary Luddism.  Here goes.  Some of the ingredients I used in these meals included Campbell’s Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom Soup.  There.  I said it.  Moving on.

Here’s how I got those 13 meals.  First, I gently poached the chicken breasts then tore them into bite sized pieces.  The first night, I made a casserole from a church cookbook that included, among other things some chicken, sour cream and the aforementioned cream of something soup.  I served it over brown rice with a vegetable and fruit salad.  That made three meals.

The next dish was a tortilla casserole that included chicken, more of the dastardly soup, rotel and cheese.  Served with salad.  Four meals.

Then I made a delicious chicken lasagna– sans the soups (see recipe below)– and served it with brocolli and salad and that lasted four meals.  Tonight, with the remaining half cup or so of chicken I’m making a BBQ chicken pizza, which will feed two of us.  So there you have it. 13 meals on 1 kg. of chicken.  That’s less than 90 g (3 ozs.) per meal, which is not only good for the budget, it’s better for the environment to eat less meat.  And you know what? We didn’t even miss having a big hunk of meat front and center on the plate.

White Lasagna with Chicken, Mushrooms and Spinach
Serves 4-6

2 cups cooked chicken, torn into bite-sized pieces
6 no boil lasagna noodles (or regular noodles cooked to package directions)
12 ozs (300 g) mushrooms, roughly chopped
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
3 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated parmasean cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Freshly ground pepper
8 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz. frozen spinach thawed and drained
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter over medium heat.
3. Add onion and garlic and sautee until softened. Watch the heat to make sure they don’t brown.
4. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir for about 1 minute.
5. Add chicken stock, milk and salt stirring constantly until the mixture starts to thicken a little.
6. Add 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesean and stir until cheese melts.
7. Add basil, oregano and pepper, the cooked chicken and sauteed mushrooms. Remove from heat and stir, just to incorporate the spices, chicken and mushrooms.
8. In a bowl, combine the ricotta and egg. Stir in the spinach.
9. Spray a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray and line it with 2 of the lasagna noodles.
10. Spread 1/3 of the chicken and mushroom mixture over the noodles, followed by 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, and about 1/3 of the remaining mozzarella and parmesean. Lightly sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Repeat with another layer of noodles, 1/3 of the chicken mixture, the rest of the ricotta, 1/3 of the cheeses and more salt and pepper.
11. Put on the final layer of noodles, top with remaining chicken mixture, mozzarella, parmesean and then sprinkle with chopped parsley.
12. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes until bubbly and lightly browned on top.