Leftover Makeovers: Creamed Chicken with Vegetables and Egg Noodles, Roasted Vegetable Soup

IMG_4266So, if you roasted two chickens, and your family is like mine, you have a lot of breast meat left over. Breast meat tends to become very dry when warmed up as is, but it’s great for shredding and saucing up, as I did here.

IMG_4253Seriously, this is all there is to it. Boil a pound of egg noodles, shred up all that chicken breast (if your family actually likes the breast from a roasted chicken, you can shred up some thigh meat to make up the difference), it’s about 4 cups, but this is not brain surgery, it’s dinner, so put in whatever meat you have. Yes, that is a 1-pound bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Frozen vegetables can be a busy cook’s best friend, especially when not much is in season. They are picked and frozen at their peak, in season, and are just as nutritious as fresh ones. They are usually less expensive than out-of-season fresh vegetables, too. Pick the ones your family likes. There is no sense in spending precious energy cooking something you KNOW your family isn’t going to eat. I can hear some dissension; I’ll come back to this topic.

IMG_4258Here’s a Bechamel sauce in progress, in a large pan, like a 12-inch skillet, about 2 inches deep, over medium heat. Use 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons of flour, and 4 cups of milk (I had half-and-half that needed used up, so I substituted it for some of the milk. You can do this too, if you are in a similar situation), adding 1 cup of liquid at a time, allowing the sauce to bubble and thicken a bit between additions. Whisk each addition of liquid very well.

IMG_4261Once you’ve whisked in the last cup of liquid, and it has started to bubble again, add in about 2/3 of your noodles, all your chicken, and the whole bag of frozen vegetables.

IMG_4263These are the noodles I had left over. You can serve them as a side dish with butter and parsley on another night. You probably still have more leftover chicken, if you roasted two, and your family is small. So make a salad, or warm up a can of green beans, and there’s dinner #3. Bonus.

Gently stir it all together, and allow to warm through and bubble a bit. Taste it, and add salt and pepper to your liking. Taste it again, and add more if it needs it, to your liking. If you’re feeling fancy, and have some on hand, some freshly minced parsley and a dribble of lemon juice are lovely additions to the mix, but it’s also delicious just as it is. It’s not fancy, but that’s not the point. You’re cooking for your family, not a competition or a world-famous chef. You’re not cooking to impress anyone. That’s more suited to the weekend. Which brings me back to cooking what your family likes vs. getting them to try new things. Again, that’s better to try on the weekend. It’s less stressful, and let’s be honest, stress is really what keeps many people out of the kitchen. A weeknight piled high with obligations is not the time to worry about whether your family will ever enjoy eating baked kale chips or beet and gorgonzola salad with candied walnuts. Just feed them what they like. They’ve had a tough day too.

If you’re feeling ambitious, and have roasted vegetables left over, put them in a saucepan with water to cover, bring them to a boil, and simmer until they are completely tender and can be mashed with a potato masher. How do you know this will taste good? If all these vegetables tasted good together in your mouth, they will taste good in your soup. It really is as simple as that.

IMG_4260Mash them with a potato masher, then use an immersion blender, if you have one (you want one), or pour the mixture into your blender and process until smooth. Pour back into the pot, add water if you need to thin it a bit, salt and pepper to your taste, and some more freshly minced parsley and lemon juice if you have them. You now have Roasted Vegetable Soup.

IMG_4265That’s it, really, and don’t look now, but you have just prepared your family another homecooked meal. Yes, leftovers count. Nobody ever told you that, probably, but they do. So I count three homecooked meals so far, and there’s probably enough in this meal for leftovers as well. So that’s four homecooked meals this week. Drop the mic, and walk away.

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