Remember the old, classic food pyramid we were taught in grade school – the one with a huge loaf of bread at the base and donuts at the top? That iconic image has always stuck with me. Only now, I’m rearranging things a bit in order to stretch meals and make the best use of time in the kitchen.
If you turn the pyramid upside down, you’ll find the point at the bottom. This point can be a protein, a vegetable, a grain…but it’s really a starting point from which several other meals are based. Here’s an example:
Prepare not one, but two Roasted Chickens. Part of one bird will provide a wonderful dinner for your family that evening. The following day, fold the leftovers into a hearty Chinese Chicken Salad, or Chinese Fried Rice. Give your family a day’s break from poultry, then turn the rest into Chicken and Rice Soup, simple Wraps or Chicken Tortilla Soup.
I firmly believe that if you’re going to heat up an oven, a stove or a slow-cooker, you should get at least two or even three meals out of it. I’m not talking about the leftovers that some of us survived in our childhood, like the tuna casserole that began to smell like cat food on day three. What I’m talking about is culinary repurposing.
Pasta provides another starting point. Leftover rice pasta is one of my family’s favorites. I make the whole package and sometimes two. (Try Tinkyada brand which can be purchased at most health food stores and Whole Foods). Mix a portion with Quick Pesto for a tasty dinner. Two days later, reheat the leftover pasta in a skillet with a bit of olive oil and a tablespoon of water and it will plump right up. Spoon Meat Sauce over the top or keep it vegetarian with a jar of simple marinara sauce. Sauteed broccoli and a salad on the side make it a meal in minutes.
Working with one basic ingredient then parlaying it into new meals my family will enjoy throughout the week makes sense on every level. But have you noticed the real heart of this topsy-turvy pyramid? All the meals are naturally gluten, casein and soy-free (GFCFSF), so that you cook only one dinner for everyone in your family. With a little planning, food preparation can be an act of love, instead of an act of loathing that some of us are familiar with. So find your starting point and pay it forward. You’ll learn to love leftovers and that’s just the tip of the pyramid.
Amy Waczek writes a gluten-free, casein and soy optional blog featuring a recipe index and resource guide at www.amysglutenfreepantry.com.
Amy’s No Fail Roasted Chicken
Watch and work in real time with Amy
Prep time: 5 minutes per bird
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: Serves 4 with lots and lots of leftovers
Special tools: kitchen string
2 young fryers, about 4–5 lbs. each (Costco sells organic, two in a package)
4 lemons, quartered length-wise
4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove any innards from the cavity and rinse birds inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Into each cavity, add1 tsp. salt and 2 quartered lemons.
- Lay chickens breast up on a roasting pan with sides. To truss, fold wings back in the opposite direction and tuck under bird. Tie legs together with kitchen string.
- Sprinkle pepper and remaining salt onto bird and roast for 1 hr 15 minutes. To make sure the chicken is cooked through, pierce the thigh at the thickest part. If juices run clear, it’s done. If you want to use an internal thermometer, the meat should register 165 degrees at the thickest part of the thigh.
- To serve, remove legs, cutting just below the joint. Cut down each side of the breast cartilage and around each breast. Once removed, cut each breast into 3 slices. Pull wings off, leaving drummettes intact. Cut off each drummette at the joint and turn bird over. Pressing your thumbs into the flesh on either side of the backbone, remove each thigh.
Each bird serves 4–6.