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Perfect comfort food

Finally, the heat has broken. Finally I got my electric bill this month and surprise above surprise, I won’t have to take out a loan to pay it.

I attribute that to my wise use of staying out of the kitchen during the extreme heat. Now, the weather is cooling off and if you are not out on the patio grilling, it’s a great time for all those oven dishes you have put off all summer.

We are big chicken fans at our house. When my daughter was very young she told my mother that we were going to open a chicken restaurant.

When Mom asked here why she though we were going to go into serving chicken to the whole community, my daughter responded, “My mom knows how to cook chicken 30 ways.”

Well, that might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but I do know how to stretch a chicken into many different meals.

When both children were home, we would buy three whole chickens at one time and divide them into something like this: The thighs were skinned and boned and frozen for Chicken Roll-Ups; the breasts were skinned and boned and frozen for two meals – Cashew Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken; the wings were frozen until there were enough to make Buffalo Chicken Wings; the legs were used for fried chicken; and the scraps went to a container in the freezer for later use in chicken and dumplings. So, those three chickens made six meals for a family of four.

Of course there were obvious variations. Sometimes we fried the whole chicken, sometimes we baked the whole chicken.

Needless to say, my children ate a lot of chicken.

These days, I usually just put a chicken in the slow cooker when I leave for work and that evening, my husband and I have baked chicken, stuffing, a vegetable and (his all-time favorite) cranberry sauce.

Now that leaves a lot of chicken left for the rest of the week and we have become quite creative in using it so we don’t get bored with it.

Two of our favorite ways to use the leftover chicken is Chicken Salad and Chicken Pot Pie.

I’m rather proud of both recipes, but the Chicken Pot Pie is a more hearty meal. I don’t know if anyone else has ever made their pot pies this way. I stumbled upon it accidentally when I discovered some leftover Phyllo dough in the freezer.

I used to buy Phyllo dough only once a year and that was at Christmas to make baklava. Now I make sure I always have a package in my freezer.

Phyllo dough is a pastry dough made in very thin sheets and is packaged with two tubes inside the box. They are cut into the perfect size for an 8X17 inch baking dish.

One word of caution to those who have never used Phyllo dough. It is very thin and fragile. You must handle it very carefully and always keep the pieces you are not working with covered with a damp cloth so they do not dry out. Phyllo dough becomes very crumbly when dried out or if it is re-frozen.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 cup cubed chicken (white meat is best)

1/2 cup sliced baby carrots

1 onion, diced finely

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup frozen lima beans

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 stick butter (not margarine)

1 tube Phyllo dough (thaw in refrigerator 24 hours before use.

In bowl, mix together chicken and vegetables.

Spray baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and begin placing sheets of Phyllo into dish one at a time, spreading melted butter over each piece. When you have 10 pieces in dish, mix in chicken and vegetables. Scoop soup from cans and spread and mix as well as possible. Then cover by repeating the layering of Phyllo dough and butter.

Cut slashes across the top to allow for steam to escape and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.

When cool, cut into squares and serve. Makes enough to feed four hungry people.

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