Saturday, August 1, 2009

Use It All Up!

Ever hear your mother's voice from the past (or maybe the present) say, "Don't waste that! Use it all" or "you've got enough!"? Some of our mothers have lived through some economic lean times, and their experiences are ones that we can draw from as we are learning to manage our resources that really effects our budgets.

I have said in other venues to use it all up in referring to the tiny bits of things like salad dressings and other condiments in the fridge instead of throwing them away with the "empty" bottle. The idea is to use it all, totally which isn't actually my own idea, but a frugal guru of the past who said she used jelly from the almost totally scraped out jelly jar to add to milk for a tasty treat for her children or in other dishes/drinks where the additional flavor was helpful. I began practicing this years ago and often I utilize many of these items in things likes soups or stews for a special added "secret" ingredient that no one really guesses because it melds into the other good flavors. I realize this sounds icky or extreme, but try it~you will be surprised how good it can be! We like ranch flavored salad dressing and this is wonderful added to homemade dumpling recipe mixtures:
Here's what I do:

2 cups self rising flour
2-3 tablespoons of water into the empty dressing bottle, return the lid and shake really hard
add to the flour
enough milk to further moisten to a "spoon drop" consistency
black pepper and other spices if you desire like salt. I don't salt.

To make some "to die for" chicken and dumplings like your grandma or mama did, here's how I get the stock (and it didn't come in a can either), so because I need the chicken to begin with, I have saved some money by just a little more time. I am thinking all that time that the adage "time is money" is so very true!
Chose a nice fryer for the best price possible at the grocery. I like to catch them on sale! Watch the sales papers for a great price and then stock what you can store and use in a reasonable time. Food unused in a deep freeze or taking up precious fridge is a waste, so plan carefully what you want to store!
Bring home your chicken and wash well. It amazes me how awful they are packaged sometimes with "fins and feathers" still intact (no fins~my 'bad' humor!); you get the idea! Clean the chicken inside the body cavity and out. This is a dumb statement for anyone who cooks, but don't use soap! Just in case someone was thinking that cleaning meant this~not! I am referring to cold tap and washing over the inside and outside of the bird, under the wings, in the crevices and inside out. Set your chicken freshly washed into the 4-6 qt boiling pot you plan to use. If you have filtered or distilled water fill the pot to cover your bird. Season with spices you enjoy. I don't as I have said before use salt, but love black pepper and garlic which are healthful, so in they go! I use quite a bit but not so much it adds heat to the brew. Put a tight lid on and boil your chicken until he is tender and just almost the meat falling from the bone. You will find if you don't boil chicken for stock yourself, that you will start out on higher heat having to reduce it as it will over spill the lids and make an irritating mess on the stove to be clean up later~go fast then slow in temperature or slow all the way with that tight lid. As juices are made from the meat, the sides of the pot catch them; be sure to spoon those back into the broth. They add so much flavor!

When your chicken is done, meaning all juices run clear~the way to access this is to insert a knife or fork into the thickest are of breast to see if the juice is clear and not red or pink tinged. If clear, then it's done and safe to eat.

Remove the chicken from the stock into a colander with a bowl to catch the juices as it drains. You will want to save these and add them back in as it's all so good! Let the chicken cool enough you can handle it without burning your fingers. This can occur as your work with your dumpling mixture.

While your chicken cooked, you made up the dumpling dough, so now is the time to use it.
Return the stock to a rolling boil. This is very important.
As it boils, spoon in about a tablespoon of dough mixture into the boiling liquid, but to avoid them from sticking together and making a huge lumpy dumpling, place the dough in different areas of the pot; as the dough hits the broth it will swell and seal itself into a nice fat fluffy dumpling without attaching itself to another! Go slow and keep them in different areas until the ones in the pot are outside firm; meaning they are a solid dumpling mass and unaffected by your adding more dough into the pot. Eventually you will find little room to add more, but that's ok, because the ones in already are solid enough to sustain being around the new ones! Once the dough is all into the pot, lower the temp and cover with your tight lid. Cook~checking frequently, stirring the bottom to prevent scorching and sticking as the whole pot's mixture will become thickened. When all your dumplings are fat and fluffy, almost like a mini odd shaped biscuit, then you are ready to turn off the heat and keep the lid on while you work with the chicken meat.

Skin your chicken and discard for health reasons if you will. If you like the skin, then by all means use it, but it's not an attractive addition, but definitely doesn't hurt the flavor, just health. I like it, but don't serve it to my family because it's unattractive unless minced fine which you can do, and only ads fat. But after I skin, then I take the meat from the legs, thighs, wings and back off the bones and chop into small pieces into the pot. I like to chop it so I can actually use my chicken for more than one meal this way, and the meat in smaller pieces goes further in flavor. I stir this meat into my dumplings, get my ladel out and head to the table calling my family who have smelled the process and are ready for a delicious meal. I serve in bowls because there is yummy thickened broth along with the dumplings, and it all needs to be eaten.

Now I can use the breast and other meat for other dishes such as chicken salad, or even just sliced chicken sandwhiches, chicken burritos or whatever I want for another meal for four adult eaters.

An option for this chicken and dumplings recipe would be less dough and use veggies like celery, carrots and onions chopped very small into the cooking chicken stock so they almost fall apart and are unseen, just adding flavor. I do this if I have wilting veggies I need to use too! Another variation is to just use veggies and no dough dumplings. I don't chop the veggies so little and if I have them will add potatoes.

You may not think this is a good idea, but it can add so much flavor to foods. There are many varieties for different things. I use catchup and bbq for speghetti or Italian flavored dishes. I only use them though IF I am about the throw away the bottle and need to USE IT ALL UP! This way, my condiments are available for other foods that we like them on first. It's really a case of using up what I have that depends on what I have that needs to be used UP so that sometihng is not wasted. Right now I have some hamburger buns that are NOT moldy ( I will toss these!) but before they go there, I am going to USE THEM UP in something~hmmm... what about some garlic bread to go with that left over soup from yesterday or freeze them for dressing later on or even some bread pudding. Ever had that? Your children may love it!

"Waste not~Want not!" is a good quote to go along with Use It Up!
And to take care of my money so it doesn't leave me~I'm learning to do both! AND head to the kitchen looking to see what I have that I need to use it all up!

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