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Whole chicken holy grail of cheap eats

On the quest for the ultimate in cheap eats, I go absolutely nuts over whole chickens because they’re inexpensive, about $1 a pound and each one can stretch into several meals. Of course, this depends on the number of people you’re feeding and the size of their appetites.

We begin by roasting one whole chicken (or double the recipe for two) with potatoes, carrots and onion. The first meal is sliced chicken served with roasted vegetables.

Next, pick every last morsel of meat off the bones, saving the bones. Reserve two cups of chicken to make soup later, then use the rest to make a “round two” meal.

If you’re craving comfort food lately (and who isn’t?) I suggest chicken pot pies using leftover vegetables and refrigerated pie crust. Alternatively, make chicken and rice casserole or chicken fettuccine Alfredo, chicken salad, chicken tacos, burritos or barbecue chicken pizza. You get the idea.

In these unprecedented times, we’re all stretching the budget while spreading the love. We got this.

ROAST CHICKEN AND VEGETABLES

What you’ll need:

6 medium potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 large onion, roughly chopped

6 large carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 whole 4-to-5 pound chicken

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 head garlic, optional

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Chop the vegetables, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken and reserve for another use, if desired. Season the inside of the chicken with salt. Using kitchen twine, tie the legs together and brush the skin with melted butter. Liberally salt and pepper the chicken.

In a roasting pan large enough to accommodate the chicken and the vegetables, arrange the potatoes, carrots and onion, and place the chicken on top. Separate the garlic into cloves and scatter among the vegetables. Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven and bake for 90 minutes, or until the temperature registers 175 F in the thigh.

Remove the chicken, tent it with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with love.

And … drum roll please. Let’s make chicken broth with the bones. The wonderful thing about chicken broth is that is can be made from things you’d normally throw away. You can store chicken bones in the freezer until ready to use. I even save the ends of vegetables (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, herb stems) in the freezer. Talk about frugal and fabulous.

Chicken broth: In a stock pot or slow cooker, add bones from one or more chickens, 1 cup each roughly chopped celery and carrots, 3 cloves of smashed garlic, 1 onion with skin that has been quartered, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and fresh ground pepper to taste. Cover with water by 3 inches. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for a minimum of four hours or up to 24 hours. The longer, the better.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer, reserving the broth. Season to taste. Refrigerate up to a week or freeze for up to three months.

Chicken noodle soup: In a large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sauté one cup each of thinly sliced onion, carrot, celery for about 5 minutes. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic. Add 8 cups of chicken broth, ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add 12 ounces egg noodles; simmer for 10 more minutes. Add 2 cups cooked shredded chicken, heat through and salt to taste. Serves 4.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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