Stop with the Sterile Shrink Wrap! How to Cook–and Use–a Whole Chicken

basting the chicken

Basting a chicken partway through cooking.

I am working on an article about why we eat so much chicken in the U.S., and in doing so, thought maybe some people could benefit from knowing how to avoid buying the sterile, shrink-wrapped packages of breast meat so sadly prevalent in the modern-day grocery store and kitchen, and opt for a whole chicken instead. It’s really quite easy, I promise!  And it’s worth the little bit of extra effort.

Here’s what I do, and trust me, I am a shortcut cook so this won’t be complicated:

roasted chicken before roasting Aug 2012

Whole chicken tressed, with butter, salt, pepper and sage…ready for the oven!

I start with a whole chicken and roast it for dinner. (You want an easy-to-cook dinner? Roast a chicken!) If you need a recipe, check the Internet and you’ll find lots of choices, from simple to complex. Me? I usually tress it, rub it with butter, and sprinkle it with salt, pepper and stage. Sometimes I stuff it with onions and celery. Then cook it at 350 for as long as it needs (usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours because we usually let our chickens get really big before harvesting!).

roasted chicken

Roasted whole chicken fresh from the oven.

We eat slices of chicken meat as part of our dinner, then I pull off the rest of the meat and chop it into big pieces and put it into freezer bags, usually two or three, so there’s enough chicken meat for a dinner recipe in each bag.

Then I put the carcass and any skin and bones into a soup pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. After that cools, I pull out the carcass and usually find another cup worth of meat on it. I add that meat to the freezer bags I already put together.

I taste the chicken stock and cook it down if it needs to be more concentrated, adding salt as needed. After cooking it down, it goes into the fridge so the fat will solidify on the top. I skim off the fat. Then the chicken stock goes into small containers in the freezer.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken...a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

These chicken enchiladas were made using the chicken leftover from roasting a whole chicken…a much tastier version compared to enchiladas using just breast meat.

Now I have chicken for at least two more dinners, and it’s already skinned and deboned and ready to go. It will get used for soups, pot pies, enchiladas or some kind of crockpot creation. Plus I have home-made chicken stock for cooking other dishes.

In addition to being cheaper this way, you get more flavor because you have both white and dark meat. And you’re ready to make two meals in a jiffy with your frozen, chopped up, already cooked chicken meat.

Doesn’t that sound better than the shrink-wrapped and sterile alternative??

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby for Breakfast

Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

Try this old fashioned recipe for Dutch Baby, for a very simple, very tasty breakfast.

This morning I wanted to have something wholesome for my graveyard working husband to eat when he came home, something nourishing to fill his empty stomach but something a little sweet too to send him off to sleep with. I was thinking on old-fashioned recipes and what might fit the bill…

Then I remembered the Dutch Baby recipe in my “Lost Art of Real Cooking” cookbook. Perfect!

Nothing could be simpler to make than this Dutch Baby breakfast. And it’s a great way to cook up tasty eggs if your hens are getting ahead of you! (Note: You  need a heavy skillet for this old fashioned recipe.)

Old Fashioned Recipes: Dutch Baby Breakfast

  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • syrups, jam, honey to serve

Preheat the oven to 425.

Melt the butter on the stovetop in a heavy skillet, then remove from the heat.

Using a whisk, beat the eggs until well blended. Whisk in the milk, then the sugar and dash of salt, and finally the flour. Mix  well. It will be still be lumpy. That’s fine.

Pour this batter into the melted butter in your heavy skillet. Don’t mix it in with the butter or anything, just pour it in. Then put the skillet in your hot oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

The Dutch Baby will puff waaaaay up and look fabulous, but it will fall shortly after you pull it out of the oven. So if you want to impress someone, make sure they are nearby!!

To serve, slice into wedges. It serves 4 but today it served 2 because I was hungry! It doesn’t need any more butter, but slather it with jam or honey or douse it with syrup.

Try it. I promise you’ll like it. It is that easy and that tasty!

Old Fashioned Christmas Cookies: Poppyseed Thumbprint Cookies

ImageWe are tradition bound in our family, I admit it. I’d be likely to waver on some things, but Emma won’t let me. So every year, I make the same Christmas cookies, and they are for us traditional simply because I’ve always made them.

These poppyseed thumbprint cookies are one of the traditional Christmas cookies I bake. They aren’t technically old-fashioned cookies, because I found the start of this recipe in a local newspaper 25 years ago. But they meet my criteria for an old-fashioned recipe because they are simple and use common ingredients. And I made them a Christmas cookie because they fit that criteria too: They are a little fancier than you’d make for the cookie jar during the rest of the year. They use a fancy ingredient you’d likely only splurge on at Christmas time. And they have orange juice and zest, another Christmas-y flavor. (Plus if you go the Grand Marnier route, they are even fancier!)

I hope you’ll make them and enjoy them and they’ll become an old-fashioned traditional Christmas cookie for your family too!

Poppyseed Thumbprint Cookies
(makes 2 dozen)

  • ½ c salted butter, softened
  • ¼ c sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 T orange juice or Grand Marnier
  • 1 1/3 c flour
  • 2 T poppyseeds
  • 2 t finely grated orange peel
  • ¼ c red currant jelly

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolk and orange juice (or Grand Marnier). Gradually add the flour, and mix until well blended. Add the poppyseeds and orange peel and mix until just blended.

Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. (You should have 24 cookies.) Use your thumb to make an indentation in center of each cookie. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon of red currant jelly into each indentation, making sure the jelly looks pretty because it will stay in that shape.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes after you pull it out of the oven. Then move to rack to cool.

It’s Asparagus Season! Enjoy This Old Fashioned Recipe Using Asparagus!

recipe for asparagus with eggsOK, it’s the tail end of asparagus season, but…for us anyway, we can still get local asparagus at the produce stand and I hope to buy, cook and eat more of it before the season is through. I am challenged right now by lack of husband (deployed) and lack of interest (in a picky, asparagus-hating daughter) making me the only one at the farmhouse willing to eat asparagus. But if the season will go just a little bit longer, I will be making this for sure at least one last time.

This recipe technically doesn’t fall into the old fashioned recipes category other than the fact that I’ve been making it for over 20 years. But I include it here because in a way it does belong. Why? Because it’s based on simple, wholesome and local food ingredients. With all of my cookbooks I turn to for old fashioned recipes, I find a common thread of simplicity. Cooking of the past was based on fresh, local, in season ingredients. They didn’t need fancy recipes and exotic ingredients because they had good food. Nor did they have pizza to order in or fast food on the corner, making dinner at home a necessity every night…which made simple cooking the norm because it goes faster.

So no, this isn’t one of the old fashioned recipes from my old fashioned cookbooks, but I think any cooks of old would approve…and for all I know, a farming wife did make this in the past. 🙂

For you, it’s simple and delicious and highly recommended. We never have leftovers when I make this asparagus recipe, and you only need a handful of ingredients and some really good bread. Give it a try before the asparagus is all gone for the year!

Recipe for Asparagus With Eggs

Note: There aren’t really any quantities for this because you either make more or less depending on how many people you’re feeding. These  quantities worked for dinner for 3, but you can scale up or down, use more asparagus or less, etc.

  • 2 lb asparagus
  • 4 T butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan (or more!)

Preheat the oven to 500.

Next find a pot big enough for the asparagus and get enough water boiling to submerge the asparagus. Cut the tough ends off the asparagus and cook in boiling water for about 4 minutes. You do NOT want them mushy so pull them out early if you need to. You want them tender and soft, yes, mushy, no. Once it’s just tender, drain it into a colander.

In a large skillet, melt 3 T of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the asparagus and stir it all around to coat it and cook it a little more. Now push all the asparagus to the outside of the skillet, to make a border around the outside of the skillet, if you will. Add the 1 T butter to the middle of the skillet. Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup, the kind with a spout, or something else that pours, then pour all the eggs in at once as soon as the butter is melted. Cook over medium heat until the eggs are cooked about two-thirds through. They cook from the bottom up so the bottoms will become opaque while the tops are still transparent. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the eggs and asparagus. Then put the skillet in the hot oven for just a minute or two. You want the whites cooked through but the yokes still kind of runny. Keep an eye on it!

Serve immediately, preferably with really good toast made from really good bread for soaking up the egg yoke and the buttery goodness infused with the taste of fresh local asparagus.

Old Fashioned Recipe for Favorite Oatmeal Cookies

old fashioned recipe for oatmeal cookies

Try this old fashioned recipe for cookies everyone will love!

I have been making these cookies for over 20 years, and they are by far my favorite recipe, plus always a favorite with anyone who tastes them…kids and grownups alike.

Two weeks ago I cooked up a batch for Emma to take to her first high school swim meet, knowing they’d have a lot of time on the bus going to and from the meet. She told me that night I’d better plan on baking up a batch for every swim meet because the cookies were such a hit. Since they’re not super sweet and they do have oatmeal in them, I think they are as healthy a snack as a granola bar, at least! Without all the added chemicals of a storebought granola bar.

This might not be one of the old fashioned recipes you’d find in an old cookbook since I made it up, but it certainly could be, because it’s made up of all wholesome, normal ingredients, just like an old fashioned recipe. The recipe follows…

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c softened butter
  • 1/2 c lard or shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 c old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 375. Cream together the sugars, butter and lard/shortening. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well again. Stir in the oats. Using two hands, shape the cookies into uniformly sized balls about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. The actual size is really up to you. I like smaller cookies, but you can make these bigger. As long as they are all the same size! Put them on ungreased cookie sheets about 2 to 3 inches apart. Use the palm of your hand, or the bottom of a drinking glass, to flatten them slightly. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, maybe a little longer if you made bigger cookies. I cook them for shorter time because I like them kind of chewy. If you want your cookies a little crispier, keep them in the oven a minute or two longer. Remove from oven and immediately put on a rack to cool.

They keep for almost a week in my cookie jar, then they get stale. But the only time I have stale cookies is when everyone else is gone, because otherwise these old fashioned oatmeal cookies are gone in a couple of days!

Try these cookies, and I’m pretty sure you’ll count them among your favorite old fashioned recipes…even if you won’t find them in an old cookbook. 🙂

Old Fashioned Recipe for Devil’s Food Cake: Yum!

old fashioned recipe for devils food cake

Try this old fashioned recipe for Devil’s food cake! Best cake ever!

This shockingly easy–and tasty–old fashioned recipe is from page 114 of the Depression Era recipes cookbook by Patricia R. Wagner. It says shortening or lard, but use lard. Your cake will be even moister and more delicious, promise! I changed the order of the ingredients and the directions just a little:

  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c lard (or shortening, if you must!)
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt (I used a generous pinch)
  • 1/2 c cocoa
  • 1 c sour milk (add 1 t lemon juice to 1 c milk and let sit 15 minutes)
  • 1 t vanilla (optional)
  • 2 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put boiling water in a bowl, add baking soda and dissolve. Add remaining ingredients in order one at a time, stirring after each addition. Grease and flour your baking pans, and pour in the batter. Bake 45 to 50 minutes.

Another Local Food Recipe Favorite: Lemon Blueberry Bread

local food recipe

A blurry photo of the lemon blueberry bread…I am obviously not a food stylist!

Last night I made the blueberry crisp again because it is so tasty and because I want to enjoy blueberries as much as I can while this tasty local food is in season.

My daughter prefers my lemon blueberry bread, so while I was making the crisp (as well as cooking up the chicken and dumplings for dinner!), she pulled out my handwritten recipe book, found this recipe, and left the book open to that page right there on the counter where I couldn’t help but see it.

OK already! I made her lemon blueberry bread too, getting up after going to bed to pull it out of oven when the timer dinged…only to find her standing there in the kitchen in her pajamas putting the glaze on, meaning she got out of bed when she heard the timer too! Think she was a little anxious for her lemon blueberry bread?? She enjoyed two slices this morning for breakfast. I hope you will cook up a batch and enjoy it for breakfast too!

  • 1 lemon
  • 1/3 c melted butter
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ c milk
  • 1 ½ c flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 c blueberries
  • 1/8 to ¼ c sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a zester, get all the peel off the lemon and put into a large mixing bowl.

Next, juice the lemon. Put one tablespoon of the lemon juice into the bowl with the peel, then put the rest of the juice aside. This will be part of your glaze later.

Add the melted butter, sugar, eggs and milk to the lemon juice and peel and mix well. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until just blended. Add the blueberries and gently stir in.

Butter a loaf pan. Pour the batter into the pan. I shake the pan back and forth a little to get the batter flat on top. Bake in the hot oven for an hour.

While baking, measure the lemon juice you have left over and add an equal amount of sugar to it. Mix really well. This is your glaze.

When the bread is done baking, leave it in the pan and slowly pour your glaze of the top of the loaf, covering as much surface as possible.

You have two choices now: You can remove the loaf from the pan or leave it. I leave it because as tasty as this bread is, it is also kind of crumbly and it’s easier to leave it in the pan and cut off slices that way.

My daughter warms up her slice and puts butter on it. I say that’s overkill. Either way, it’s delicious for breakfast with milk or coffee!