Food & Drink

Prepare time- and money-saving meals with rotisserie chicken

We all look for meals that are easy, quick and nutritious to prepare at the end of a hectic day. One solution to the dinner dilemma is to pick up an already cooked, hot rotisserie chicken from your local supermarket. Add a couple easy side dishes and “boom” dinner is on the table.

In addition to being convenient and delicious, a rotisserie chicken is an excellent source of protein, and when the skin is removed, is low in fat and calories. Juicy, succulent rotisserie chickens are amazingly versatile; simply pull the meat off the bones and combine it with other fresh ingredients to create several tasty meals. One average chicken will yield three to four cups of sliced or shredded meat.

Choosing a chicken

When picking out a rotisserie chicken, keep these helpful hints in mind. Look for a large, full-breasted chicken. It will have more meat and is less likely to dry out under the heat lamp. If you are not serving the whole roasted chicken as a meal then remove the skin and pull the meat from the bone as soon as you get home. It is easier to separate the meat from the bone while it is still warm. Shred or cube any excess meat and refrigerate or freeze it in portions for future use.

Here are a few ideas to help you get the most out of a rotisserie chicken.

Use the carcass to make a chicken stock. I break up the bones, place them in a stockpot and barely cover them with water. Add a handful of sliced baby carrots, celery and one small to medium chopped onion, then season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the stock to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for an hour or so (the longer the better). When done, strain out the bones and vegetables from the liquid and voila. This stock makes a delicious homemade chicken noodle soup or chicken and dumplings (add some of the leftover rotisserie chicken meat and cut up fresh veggies). Keep small containers of stock in your freezer so that it is ready at a moment’s notice. For perfectly measured small amounts, freeze the stock in ice cube trays and then when frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic freezer bag.

Add rotisserie chicken to mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, shredded carrots and sliced red onions. Toss with your favorite low-fat or fat free dressing.

Make chicken salad with crunchy celery and apple. Use plain, low-fat yogurt and a hint of curry powder or cumin for the dressing. Stuff the salad into a whole-wheat pita or spoon into the center of a whole-wheat tortilla wrap and roll up.

Top a pizza crust with 1/2-cup pizza, barbecue or Alfredo sauce or slather the crust with store bought pesto, add 1 cup of chopped rotisserie chicken, vegetables and top with 1 cup reduced-fat cheese. Bake for 10 minutes in a 450-degree oven.

Use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of ground beef or turkey in your favorite pasta dish. You can add the chicken to a red sauce and pour over spaghetti (or pasta of your choice), or you can add it to an Alfredo sauce and toss in some diced ham and sweet peas.

Add 1-1/2 cups of chopped rotisserie chicken to sautéed onion, mushrooms, broccoli and flavored rice (use chicken broth for liquid). Sprinkle with Parmesan before serving.

Shred the chicken and follow the directions on a package of taco seasoning for a great alternative to ground-beef taco filling. Serve with shredded lettuce, grated cheese, diced tomatoes and other taco favorites.

Make a chicken potpie by adding chopped rotisserie chicken, sliced mushrooms and frozen mixed vegetables to low-fat, reduced-sodium condensed chicken or mushroom soup. Top with a biscuit topping or pre-packaged pastry dough.

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

One 6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix

1 medium onion, chipped (1/2 cup)

1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons butter

One 10.5 or 10.75 ounce can condensed chicken with white and wild rice soup or cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup sour cream

1/3 cup dry white wine or chicken broth

2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (or turkey)

1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Prepare rice mix according to package directions.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, cook onion and celery in hot butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in the soup, sour cream, wine and basil. Stir in the cooked rice and chicken.

Transfer mixture to an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake uncovered about 35 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 4 servings.

Texas Taco Bake

1-1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken

1 can cream of roasted chicken soup with savory herbs

2/3 cup warm water

1 package shredded Mexican-style cheese blend (about 2 cups), divided (8 ounces)

3 cups slightly crushed corn tortilla chips, divided

1 cup mild or medium salsa

1/2 cup black ripe olive slices

2 cups whole corn tortilla chips

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup avocado slivers

1/2 cup diced tomato

In large mixing bowl, combine soup and warm water. Add chicken, 1 cup cheese and 2 cups crushed tortilla chips. Mix together and place in 7 x 9 or 9 x 9-inch greased baking dish.

Spread salsa evenly over chicken mixture; top with remaining crushed tortilla chips and cheese.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 20 to 25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

To serve, place a row of whole tortilla chips down center or around edges of casserole and garnish with remaining ingredients (black olives, sour cream, avocado and tomato).

Source: Purdue

Cranberry Chicken Wraps

1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast

1 cup chopped apple

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons fat-free Miracle whip, divided

1/4 cup dried cranberries

3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 whole wheat tortillas (8-inch), room temperature

1/2 cup fresh baby spinach

In a small bowl, combine the chicken, apple, 1/4 cup Miracle Whip, cranberries, feta cheese, rosemary and pepper.

Spread remaining Miracle Whip over tortillas.

Top with chicken mixture and spinach.

Roll up and secure with toothpicks.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: Taste of Home/Healthy Cooking

Bistro Chicken Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked penne pasta

1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes

1 package (4 ounce) crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup prepared Good Seasons Italian Dressing Mix or Fat Free Dressing

1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil, cut into strips

1/4 cup chopped red onions

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)

1-1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into strips

Combine all ingredients except chicken. When ready to serve, top with chicken.

To make ahead — prepare as directed. Refrigerate several hours or until chilled.

Source: Kraft

Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly, can be e-mailed at downhomecook@gmail.com.

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