New Life from Old Meals

Okay, I don’t know about many of you, but we here in Gareth Hall (heh heh, don’t tell Fe I named the homestead after myself!) are not too keen on leftovers.  This becomes burdensome given the fact that I have difficulty cooking for small numbers.  Sure, we might have last night’s dinner for lunch the next day, but we’re kinda done after that.

Well, in this economy, no one can afford to throw food away, so I’ve gone old school.  I’m dialing things back a notch to what some of our parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents did to get the most out of every morsel.  I looked in my refrigerator and saw all the plastic containers with leftover beef stew, some chicken chili, kielbasa with kidney beans, and immediately knew what to do.

I took out left over chicken parts that I keep in the freezer, to thaw out.  I had two separate bags, one for cooked parts (mostly chicken backs and wing tips saved from roasted chicken meals) and the other uncooked from meals where I cut up the chicken.  I took out a ham hock (I purchase them at the supermarket then bag them separately before freezing) and half a pound of dried gandules (pigeon peas).    While I had the meats defrosting overnight, the beans soaked in my Dutch oven, covered with at least two inches of water.  Yep, I would make chicken stock and my own version of arroz con gandules (an awesome Puerto Rican rice dish that is filled with flavor).

There was a lot of rice, so I froze most of it for later meals.  I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I wasn’t thinking about publishing this until my good friend, Lois C. suggested it (see her blog when you have a chance… her recipes are, as we NY natives say, to DIE for!)


Prior to beginning the stock, I roasted the uncooked chicken parts with a little olive oil at 400 degrees for about half an hour.  This is not necessary, you can used raw chicken, but I’ve found that I get a richer stock when the chicken is roasted.  I did NOT add salt or any seasonings.  I add salt when using stock in recipes as needed

7-15 lbs chicken parts

3 – 5 stalks of celery, quartered (large chunks)

3 – 5 carrots cut in thirds or quarters (large chunks)

1 – 2 medium onions quartered

1 head of garlic cut in half across the middle (you should see all the garlic in each half)

1 – 2 tablespoons of peppercorns

  1. Throw everything into a large stock pot.  Cover it with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil.  DO NOT COVER.
  2. Reduce heat and skim the fat off the top.
  3. Allow to simmer for about 4 hours, skimming off the fat.
  4. When done, strain the liquid to remove the solids using cheesecloth or paper towels through a strainer.  I prefer paper towels as it tends to block out more fat than the cheesecloth.


1 ham hock

½ lb pigeon peas (gandules) that have soaked overnight, and drained.

2 tbls Sofrito (I used this recipe (, but you can purchase it in the Latin Freezer section of your supermarket).

2 – 3 tablespoons of vegetable or corn oil

1 cup of chopped ham or chorizo (Latin sausage)

1 medium or large diced onion

2 cloves of chopped garlic.

1 quart of chicken stock

1 packet of sazon

¼ tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Any leftover stews or meat dishes in sauce you may have, preferably made with some form of tomato sauce.  This may be omitted, just at an 8 oz can of tomato sauce.

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Pour the oil in the Dutch oven or any medium to large pot, so that it leaves a thin coating on the entire base.
  2. Brown the ham or chorizo in the oil, then remove the meat.  You will add it back later.
  3. Sauté the chopped onion until translucent, then add the garlic.
  4. Add the drained beans to the pot, the ham hock, and cover all with water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Allow the beans to get soft, you may need to add water, but the beans must cook.  This can take over an hour.  Check on them and continue to add water as needed.
  6. Add chicken stock and any stews you may have.
  7. Add the ham or chorizo back to the pot, along with the cumin, sazon and sofrito.
  8. Add rice to the pot.  I am sorry, but I don’t have exact measurements as this depends on the amount of liquid you have in the pot.
  9. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low for a minimum of 30 minutes.  DO NOT UNCOVER until you are ready to eat.

One comment

  1. I really have no words for this! First, thanks for the shout out! Second, I have no desire to keep those bones from the chicken in my refrigerator!!! Just kidding. No seriously! Well maybe one day I’ll be as GREAT as you and make my own stock! You’re a great dad to do all the cooking and be frugal with it also! Fe must be very happy to come home to these great meals! Just want you to know my mom reads your blog also!

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