Don’t Be Afraid of a Raw Naked Chicken! {20 uses for a whole chicken}

image: salsachica (stock.xchng)

I can actually remember the first time I bought a “whole roasting chicken” at the grocery store. It only took 28 years of my life to build up the courage. I felt so mature and culinary, scooching the whole thing in a plastic bag in front of everybody. The part I remember, though, happened later in my kitchen while on the phone with my mom. I was staring at it plopped raw in the sink.

me: Do I rinse it off? Do I put it right in the pan? What do I do with the juice? (Couldn’t bring myself to say “blood.” I was going to try to eat this thing later, after all.)

mom: You can rinse if you want. But you’ll have to reach in there and take out the gizzards. Usually they wrap the gizzards up in the cavity.

(long pause)

me: the what? I have to do what?

That was when I was officially a grown-up, the day I fished plastic-sealed gizzards out of a raw chicken. I had arrived. {ps. WHY do they include shrink-wrapped gizzards in chickens??? Raise your hand if you ever in your life plan on using them. Hmmm. That’s what I thought!!!}

But hang on, I’m not doing such a good job selling you on the whole start-buying-a-whole-chicken thing, am I? Let me start over.

While dealing with the “whole roaster” does have about 3.5 minutes of definite grossness, It Is Well Worth It.

It impresses. It makes the house smell incredible. It’s frugal. It is a blank slate for a million dinners and just as many leftover lunches. And, it is super, super easy (minus the gizzard issue, but we’ll get to that.)

You see, if you make the simple Roasted Chicken in the Crockpot, you not only have one delicious meal, you also have:

  1. delicious leftover chicken for another recipe, and…
  2. a chicken carcass. Which you may be tempted to toss in the trash. For the love of everything good, DON’T!!!! A chicken carcass is a goose that lays the golden eggs! (Weird analogy, Jessica. Just odd.) But it is though! It’s the gift that keeps on giving! (?) Because….You can make homemade chicken broth!!

Doesn’t that just look delicious? It is so easy-cheesy, too. Homemade chicken broth saves you $10+ a month, is lower-sodium, with no-MSG or weird ingredients. Here’s how you make chicken broth.

ingredients. not pictured: chicken carcass. (you’re welcome.)

  • Take all the meat off the whole chicken. Put everything else back in a huge pot. Bones, skin –  everything. Fill the really big pot up with water. Then, add a few carrots, celery, and a large onion, all roughly chopped. Add a bay leaf, a good amount of salt, ground pepper, dried thyme, and some cloves of garlic, roughly chopped. Do you love how my instructions are so incredibly specific?
  • Bring your pot to a boil. Then, lower to a simmer and let it just hang out for 1-2 hours.
  • Take the pan off the heat and let it cool off a while. When it’s warm but not hot, put a strainer on top of a giant bowl and pour your broth over. And ta-da, CHICKEN BROTH! I store mine in containers like these:

I usually end up with about 4 containers of these of broth. Soooo, from just one little chicken, you now have one delicious dinner, leftover chicken meat, chicken broth, and so many possibilities! (super-obvious note: Not saying you can make 20 meals from one chicken. Here are your 20 meal ideas for chicken meat and/or broth! If there is a favorite recipe I use, I linked to it.

  1. Your roasted rotisserie chicken dinner. Of course, you could also cook your whole chicken in the oven, in which case you would want to use this recipe. But the thing is, no matter how wonderful a cook the Barefoot Contessa is, she is not standing in your kitchen with you, and thus, cannot help you determine if the poultry is fully cooked. I will leave it at that, and not tell you about the time I hosted my sister and brother-in-law to serve them roast chicken. I just won’t tell you about that time. So I recommend the crockpot method. It is literally foolproof. As long as you don’t forget to turn the crockpot on in the morning. (Who would do that?? Hmmm.) All you have to do is open the chicken plastic, take out the you-know-whats, plop the chicken in the crockpot, cover with spices, cook for 8 hours. Viola. Rotisserie Chicken. I recommend serving this with some homemade mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and a spinach salad. Or french fries and biscuits. You choose. So now here are 20 more recipes to use up your chicken broth and/or leftover chicken!
  2. chicken enchiladas
  3. white chicken chili
  4. roasted chicken paninis (ask my cousin Molly for a recipe, and I bet she got it from Giada deLaurentis.)
  5. buffalo chicken pizza
  6. Chicken, avocado, bacon, tomato, lettuce, and lime mayonnaise sandwiches (I made that up. Very tricky. Just add all the ingredients I just listed.)
  7. chicken pot pie  – the world’s most perfect comfort food
  8. chicken enchilada soup
  9. chicken mexican casserole (surprisingly really good, even without the cheese)
  10. chicken fried rice (no one in the whole world makes it as good as my sister Julie. Recipe, Julie??)
  11. Baked Chicken Taquitos
  12. Carmelized Onion and Chicken Tostadas
  13. Black Bean soup
  14. Risotto
  15. French Onion soup
  16. Ham and Bean soup
  17. Potato Corn Chowder (thanks to my friend Katie for this suggestion)
  18. Katie’s Mexican Stew (hey, thanks for that one, too, Kate!)
  19. Southwestern Chicken Salad with cilantro vinegarette
  20. Simple, sweet, and spicy chicken wraps

Whew! I am chickened out! You’re welcome!! 🙂


top ten fall soups

Top Ten Fall Soups

  1. Caribbean Sweet Potato Chili – This soup has a few strikes…Weird flavor combos (sweet potatoes ? caribbean? soup?)  But trust me here, folks…YUMMY.
  2. my mom’s Chicken and Dumplings (recipe coming…but I’ll give you a hint. We use Biscuick. I know, I know… How could we?? 🙂 )
  3. Black Bean Soup
  4. Pasta Fagioli – Olive Garden, anyone? Now if I could only have the breadsticks…
  5. Tortilla Soup – Okay this is more of a summer recipe. But hey, avocadoes are still on sale. This is a great recipe.
  6. Ham and Bean Soup – don’t hate. It’s awesome.
  7. French Onion Soup (love this recipe…uses Balsamic Vinegar instead of wine!)
  8. Roasted Vegetable Minestrone – I have not actually made this version of minestrone! Sorry…but it actually looks better than the one I made, so I will be trying it soon.
  9. White Bean and Chicken Chili – I get cravings for this once a month. Odd. Yet, not? :)
  10. Old Timey Beef Stew (it’s what a man wants.)


dairy-free homemade cream of mushroom soup

Listen, I’m not saying I’m not a little disgusted by the plopped out cold Campbell’s cream of mushroom. Would I ever eat it alone? NEVER. however, it unfortunately pops in a few rather yummy-sounding (to casserole-loving me anyway) recipes. And then comes the dilemma. Because, of course, cream of mushroom has three strikes in our household. One, it has MSG. Gross. me. out. Two, it has enough sodium for two days. If I were going to eat that much salt,  HELLO, I’d have a big mac. And three, of course, it has milk. So I usually just find a new recipe. But the other day I was craving pork chops, and I was craving SMOTHERED pork chops. With cream of mushroom soup. So I invented a homemade, dairy-free one! Thought it might be useful for anyone else who either doesn’t like the commercial cream-of-mushroom or needs it allergy-friendly. It was great!

{See below for mushroom-topped pork chop recipe.}


  • a carton of fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • one onion, sliced thinly (or diced, if you prefer)
  • rice milk 1-2 cups
  • 1 T flour or cornstarch, whichever you’d prefer
  • olive oil
  • dried thyme, oregano, and garlic
  • 2 T dairy-free butter
  • 1/2 c. organic chicken broth
  • salt and pepper


  • thoroughly wash mushrooms
  • drizzle olive oil in pan and heat until shimmering
  • saute mushrooms and onions with salt and pepper. They should be cooked until very soft.
  • Add 1/2 t dried thyme, oregano, and garlic.
  • Add butter to middle of pan. When melted, mix in flour. Use wisk to mix it in.
  • Add chicken broth and rice milk. Cook for 8 minutes or so until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe suggestion: I browned my pork chops for five minutes on each side in olive oil, covered in foil, prepared my mushroom sauce and poured on top. We all enjoyed it!


Recipe Review: Ina Garten’s White Bean Soup

This week I made this recipe from Ina Garten. My little guy loved it, and so did my landlords (also known as my parents). I served it with La Brea organic wheat bread and a delicious salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette(see below for recipe). Note: I used canned beans. I used four cans of them, and only 4 cups of chicken stock. Also, SOO much easier with an immersion blender. I am almost tempted to ask for one for my birthday.


  • 1 pound dried white cannellini beans
  • 4 cups sliced yellow onions (3 onions)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary (6 to 7 inches)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


In a medium bowl, cover the beans with water by at least 1-inch and leave them in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.


In a large stockpot over low to medium heat, saute the onions with the olive oil until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook over low heat for 3 more minutes. Add the drained white beans, rosemary, chicken stock, and bay leaf. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are very soft. Remove the rosemary branch and the bay leaf. Pass the soup through the coarsest blade of a food mill, or place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until coarsely pureed. Return the soup to the pot to reheat and add salt and pepper, to taste. Serve hot.

Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Mix equal parts good olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup (the real, expensive kind :) . Add salt and pepper to taste. Yum!

Recipe Review: Giada’s Lentil Soup

You are not alone if the words “lentil soup” don’t exactly make you start salivating. Honestly, I decided make Giada’s Lentil soup because every magazine I’ve picked up in the last month has had some feature on the stupid things and how they revolutionize your health. So I felt obligated. Giada’s recipe had over 500 RAVE reviews, which made me a little more hopeful. And honestly, it was delicious. Not “delicious,” like, healthy/delicious. Reeeally, good! I am happy to pass this along. A few notes. She calls for “a pound bag, or 1 1/4 c cup of lentils.” Well I don’t know if bags are sized differently in Italy or California or wherever Giada is making up her lentils, but here in NC a pound bag is more like THREE 1/4 cup lentils. I only used 1 1/4 c. and it was PLENTY of lentils. I soaked them overnight. One of the reviews said to make sure you give the tomatoes plenty of time to “break down.”  I did this. Anyway, I highly recommend this recipe!

Giada’s Lentil Soup


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
  • 11 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2/3 cup dried elbow pasta
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan (I omited)


Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juices. Simmer until the juices evaporate a little and the tomatoes break down, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the broth and stir. Add the thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Katie’s Mexican stew

My friend Kate made this for me a week after I had a baby. I devoured it. I am very impressed with the flavors and wholesome yumminess in every bite!
– 1 lb chicken – I boil it and pull it apart (shredded)
– Cooked rice (start with 3/4 c uncooked) and 1.25 c water – I use less than normal so it doesn’t get too mushy when you add it to the soup – I prefer brown rice, but I’m sure either would be good
– can of black beans – rinsed
– can of corn – rinsed
– can of diced tomatoes – rinsed
– a few cups of chicken broth – however much you like, I guess depending on your preferred consistency
– lime juice (usually do about 1 lime’s worth)
– about 1 T of chili powder (again can vary based on preference here)
– about 1/2 T of cumin
– salt and pepper
– a bay leaf or two – kinda weird, but I feel like it really does make a difference
– a little garlic or garlic powder
I just mix it all together and let it simmer for a bit.
– chopped cilantro
– chopped avocado
– slices of lime
– tortilla chips
– (shredded cheese)
– (sour cream)

recipe review: black bean soup

Is it weird that I LOVE black bean soup? I was really excited when I saw a recipe on my favorite cooking website, For the Love of Cooking. It is really, really good. Very flavorful. It had such a nice creaminess it was hard to believe there was no dairy. I don’t own an immersion blender, so I scooped out as much as I could into my regular blender. I actually enjoyed that there were a few hearty bites of vegetables remaining.

Black Bean Soup, courtesy For the Love of Cooking website

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 5 cups of chicken stock OR vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 14 oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained, (divided)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp corn starch (combined with a bit of cold stock – mixed thoroughly) (optional)

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot add onion, bell pepper and carrots, saute until slightly tender. Add garlic and stir frequently for 45 seconds. Add stock, seasonings and half of the beans. Cook over medium low heat for 1-2 hours. Remove bay leaf, and blend using an immersion blender. Add the remainder of the beans and corn starch slurry if you desire a thicker soup (make sure the soup is boiling when adding the corn starch). Taste and re-season if necessary.

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Cotija cheese, shredded (optional … I substituted avocado.)

Garnish the soup with toppings. Enjoy.