Roasted Chicken to the Rescue

I didn’t make a meal plan this week.  In part, because of the chaos of the holiday weekend, but also some distraction on my part.  I was working hard to complete my 40 bags challenge before Lent was over.  And work in the yard, and…and…and.  So I must confess at the end of last week I started changing things from my plan, and then I didn’t even write one this week.  And yesterday, with all shame, because of a lack of planning on my part, I had to throw out some organic chicken that I bought.  Simply because I was off my game and I didn’t throw it in the freezer.  Because I didn’t have a plan.  I didn’t know what was coming.

This week I’ve been doing my best to eat everything in the fridge and get it all organized so that I am ready to have my game plan together for next week.  I’m also reading through some freezer meal recipes to replenish my stockpile of ready made meals.  The only saving grace this week was the almost whole ham we took home from Easter dinner and the 2 chickens I roasted over the weekend to warm the kitchen while I was baking bread.  (Which I will have to post, because take two on the soaked bread was AAAH-WSOME!)
Almost every week I roast 2 chickens.  I just choose a day when I know I will be home and get them defrosted and then roast them up.  Not for dinner, just because.  When they cool I pull the meat off the bones, use the bones for stock, the pan juice for gravy, the fat that rises to the top of the pan juice to cook veggies in, and the meat for whatever I need it for.  It makes meals so quick, like: Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Quesidillas, Casserole, Chicken Salad, Chicken Pot Pie…the options are endless.  Sometimes in the summer, I will do the same with chicken Andy grills or smokes for me.

Simple Way to Roast Chicken

It doesn’t take a lot of work, just a lot of time.  You’ll need:
2 Chickens
Sea Salt
Poultry Seasoning or other all purpose seasoning.  This is my favorite.
Lemon or Orange (optional-I don’t notice a lot of difference, but if you have one that’s about to go bad, use it!)
Deep Roasting or Casserole Pan (I prefer ceramic like this one)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove gizzards and neck (reserve for stock).  Rinse Chicken.  Place in pan breast side down.  Squeeze citrus over chicken if using.  Salt generously.  Sprinkle with Poultry seasoning.  Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temp. to 350 degrees.  Cook for an additional 40-60 minutes until temperature in deepest part of the thigh reads 165.  Remove and let rest.  Enjoy the skin and pull the meat for later use.  Or eat all of it for dinner.
I’ve tried on a rack and I am a fan of without, it keeps the white meat (which I put down) very moist.  When we are eating the chicken right away we will pour out some of the pan gravy and bring it to the table.  It’s messy, but so so worth it!
So I guess even though I didn’t do a game plan for the week, some of my obsessive planning still got through to make the week work for me.  I never regret the things I cook when I’m not trying to get a meal on the table.  They always come in handy later.

One of My Favorite Things

I’ve become super addicted to Cobb Salads.  It started at Publix one day when I was getting some sandwiches to head to the park and I saw it there in the case.  I fell in love.  Avocado, blue cheese, turkey, bacon…and not turkey bacon!  This salad is the real deal!!  I love salad so much, but I hate to get them out, because all salad dressing contains soybean oil.  This drives me crazy!  On the other hand, it is hard to make a good salad at home, because it means you have to have so much stuff on hand.

So I’ve resolved to keep some homemade ranch dressing in the fridge.  I know this means we will all eat more veggies.  My kids eat salad well, better than most kids I would wager to say, but seriously what isn’t good soaked in ranch dressing??  My ranch packs a one-two punch of probiotics and healthy fats and even protein.
Here’s the recipe (Yeilds 16 oz)
1 Cup of Raw Kefir (buttermilk would work also)
2 TBS. of Ranch Powder
Mix all ingredients well.  Let sit 2 hours or overnight.  Enjoy!
To make the Ranch Powder Mix:
7 tablespoons of dried parsley
5 tablespoons of dried minced onions
4 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
Add to a jar, shake well.  Use 2 heaping TBS in any recipe that calls for that Ranch packet.
Finally, make sure when you eat salad you add as much fat as possible.  Fat will help your body absorb the nutrients in all of the veggies.  Real dressing (not that fat-free junk) is a good start, but don’t shy away from avocado, real bacon, and cheese.  This will turn your salad into a meal that will keep you full and happy, not ready to raid the pantry for any sign of food an hour later!

Real Mayonnaise Can Never Come From a Store

I have never been a fan of mayonnaise, but I did spend all of my life eating some low fat or fat free version of it.  I still would only use it for potato salad or tuna and would usually opt for some oil and vinegar type of dressing.  When we adopted a traditional diet and I started reading Nourishing Traditions I found one of the main culprits in some of the health problems my family was having was soy.  I cleaned house, nothing with soy could come in the doors..and along with that my husband’s jar of Hellmans.  Oh, did I mention that Andy LOVES mayonnaise….loves!  Luckily along with the demise of that white goo, I found a recipe for real mayo that is not only a spread that will make every sandwich taste worlds better, but will nourish your body.

First, you need good eggs…really good eggs.  From a farmer.  A person you look in the eye.  A person you chat with, shake hands with, a person who knows the names of your kids.  My eggs came from a man named Larry.  A sweet grandpa who one day even went out to the coop to get eggs for me.  Hand washed them, while my kids chased his chickens.  A man who hand washes every milk jar in front of a sunny window to make sure each customer big and small gets the freshest safest glass of milk.  I love this man!  I trust these eggs, I eat them raw.  And yes, real mayo contains raw eggs…per say.  Technically, in the traditional recipe for mayo and other things like key lime pie, the eggs are added to an acidic substance which “cooks” the eggs.

On top of good eggs and good oil, this mayo is lacto-fermented with whey. So you get a probiotic punch on top of a moist sandwich or perfect chicken salad.  This recipe has changed my perspective on mayo, just like when I switched from light “buttery” spread to real butter.  And well judging my the name of my blog, you can guess my opinion on butter!  You can slather this stuff up, make salad dressings, salads, whatever and never even consider ordering “light mayo” again.

Here is the recipe from Nourishing Traditions:  (I ususally do it 4-5x depending on how many eggs and oil I have, it will keep up to 2 months in the fridge)

1 whole egg, at room temperature
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of whey
3/4-1 cup of extra virgin olive oil or expeller-pressed sunflower oil or a combination (you need to do this part to taste, I have landed on 1/2 evoo 1/2 sunflower oil)a generous pinch of salt

In a food processor add all of the ingredients, except the oil.  Process for 30 seconds.  Drizzle oil through top while motor is still running.  Drizzle until a thickened consistency is achieved.  (It will not be quite as thick as mayo from the store yet, but not runny either)  Taste it, add salt or lemon juice to taste (It isn’t quite as bland as mayo, but trust me you will really enjoy this stuff!).  Once you are happy with the taste, jar the stuff up and let sit on the counter for 7 hours before refrigerating.  (It will thicken over this time.)  I know this sounds weird, but trust me…trust the farmer who you bought the eggs from.  Your taste buds and body will thank you for this stuff!

Chicken Pot Pie

As a child I grew up on those little individual pot pies.  They were so good, flaky crust, warm gravy inside.  But as an adult I shudder at the list of ingredients almost too long for that tiny box.  In years past, my “healthy version” of pot pie involved skim milk and baking mix, sometimes canned soup.  I again gag at the amount of unknown, unpronounceable ingredients I was putting in my family.  And if I am totally truthful, they lacked any sort of good taste, so it wasn’t really something I made all that often anyway.

Now that I know saturated fat is good for me and that full fat dairy will actually help me lose weight (and it has!), I am going to give pot pie another try.  It is the perfect meal for a cold dreary day, and that is about all we are having right now.
Ingredients:
The Crust:
2 1/2 cups soft wheat flour, or unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup or 2 sticks of butter cold from the fridge (I use salted butter, but if you use unsalted, add 1tsp of salt)
The Filling:
2 cups of frozen or fresh veggies diced (or a combo, try to get some celery in there if you have it)
1 onion diced
2 cups of chopped chicken or turkey (great use of left overs)
3 cups of Homemade Chicken Stock or Bone Broth
1 cup of Raw cream (always grass-fed if available) or heavy whipping cream
1 tbs. salt or to taste depending on your stock
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (salt-free, organic)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 tbs. unbleached all purpose flour
Directions:
To make the pie crust add the butter to the food processor and break it up, you may need to help it along with a spatula, when in several pieces add the flour and continue to process, when fully combined (it has a large grainy texture), drizzle a tablespoon of ice water at a time through the top until the dough forms a ball.  Remove the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and put into the fridge.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium sauce pan heat stock or bone broth on med. hi.  Meanwhile, in a 9×13 baking dish add veggies, onion, and meat.  Stir to evenly dispersed.  When stock comes to a rolling simmer, add 1 TBS of flour and whisk until combined, repeat twice with remaining flour.  Remove from heat and add cream.  Pour into baking dish, fold to combine evenly.
Cover your counter with a long piece of plastic wrap (about 2 ft. long).  Flour a rolling pin and roll dough out into a rectangle.  You want it slightly wider and slightly longer than your pan (let’s say 11×15), but it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Getting under the plastic wrap center your crust and flip it onto your baking dish.  Fold the edges however you see fit an poke some holes in the top of your crust.  Here’s your chance to be an artist!  Make it a lovely display of perfection or a rustic creation, your choice.
Pop it in the oven for 1 full hour.  Remove and let it set at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.  Enjoy with a tossed salad or your favorite light side.

Homemade Stock

There is nothing quite as nourishing to the stomach, or soul, as homemade Chicken Soup. The best Chicken soup starts with real homemade, simmer all day, Chicken Stock. It is much simpler than you think, doesn’t require much work, just a little planning ahead. I started making my own stock about 4 years ago when I read “Food to Live By” which is a cookbook written by the owner of Earthbound Farms–Myra Goodman. I’ve made it a million different ways since then, only making significant changes when I found the Weston Price Foundations and embraced theTraditional cooking methods of bones. In traditional cooking the addition of an acidic liquid purges the minerals from the bones and makes the readily available for you to absorb. These include real, naturalgelatin and you will see the difference in the gelatinous texture when cooled. Without access to Chicken feet, which I don’t think the average person has, this is the most nutrition-packed recipe I could concoct. Once you taste the real stuff you will never buy another can on Swanson! I have included three versions, these all make amazing stock you can use for much more than soup.

Chicken Stock With Meat

Ingredients

1 whole organic or pastured Chicken with Gizzards if possible
5 carrots, ends cut off
1 large yellow or Vidalia Onion, peel removed, cut in half
2 Garlic Cloves (more if you love Garlic)
The center part of Celery (the part with the skinny stalks and leaves)
Any other extra veggies you have lying around*
1 TBS of Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar

Optional: Fresh herbs if available–Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, or Parsley
if not:
1 TBS of Italian Seasoning
1 tsp of ground Sage dried

Get the largest pot you have. If you are lucky enough to have one with a pasta insert, this will save you a lot of time at the end. Add all of the ingredients, then cover with cold water. (Very important that it is COLD!) Leave room at the top for foaming. Bring to a boil on high, removing foam as it appears on top, and then cover and reduce to 2 settings higher than low (3 on my stove). Let simmer as long as possible, but no less than 3 hours, all day if possible. Maintain the stove setting so it does not boil over. If you need to be away from the house and don’t want to leave your stove on, you can do all of the above with a Crock Pot, use the high setting for an hour or two if possible and then cut back. In the Crock, it will need to simmer all day, if possible as long as 24 hours. I don’t like to use the Crock when I am making stock from a whole chicken, because sometimes the meat is soggy and can’t be used for chicken salad. But when making stock from only bones (next recipe), the crock is fine.

When done simmering, pull all ingredients out. This is where you will be thankful if you have a pasta insert. Discard all veggies except the carrots, and all gizzards except the liver. With a potato masher, or your fingers, mash the carrots and liver into a pulp and add back to the liquid. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the chicken and reserve for soup, casserole, or chicken salad. If you let the meat get cold or store with the bones in, in the fridge, it will be very hard to pull off the bone later. You can store stock in the fridge for 3-4 days, and freeze extra after that. I am experimenting with ideas to freeze different portions of stock…blog post to come later.

Here’s another option:

Chicken Stock with Bones–Roasted or Smoked

During the cold months, my favorite thing is to Roast Chicken. In the summer, I send all my whole chickens to my husband and his smoker. This leaves me with a lot of flavorful bones. The stock that comes from that rich flavor of Chicken that has been roasted or smoked is not to be missed. Save the bones by freezing them if you don’t roast enough Chicken in one week. You can also use bones from Chicken you have Grilled.**

Ingredients and Directions same as above, substitute the bones of 2 or more chickens or equivalent parts for 1 whole Chicken in the recipe above. If using Smoked Chicken only add onion, the smokey flavor will not allow any of the veggies to come through.**

Benefits of Homemade Stock

1. Using something you would normally throw away.
2. The addition of vinegar breaks down the Calcium and Phosphorous in the Bones making it readily available for your absorption.
3. Good Stock will do most of the work for you in a recipe. Rice, Quinoa, or Polenta cooked in homemade stock will rival anything you can order at a restaurant.

*I know this part isn’t specific, but anything you don’t think you will eat before it spoils, throw it in..broccoli is the only thing I’ve put in that I was disappointed with. Bell Peppers, Beets, Green Beans, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes…all of these will add dimension and flavor to your stock without overpowering it.

**Grilled Chicken won’t change the flavor that much unless there is a considerable amount of charred meat or bones. Smoked Chicken makes a stock very unique to itself. My favorite way to use Smoked Stock is to cook beans or greens in it, add it to my barbecue sauce, or use it to supplement the smoky flavor of a dish I am putting Bacon or ham in.