I used to say I could be a vegetarian simply to avoid ever having to handle raw meat. I had no problem eating it, but I didn't like to touch it. Ick! So I mostly stuck with vegetables. And crudites became my comfort zone. Now, I am a little more mature and can handle touching a chicken breast. But there are plenty of other things about the meat we buy and eat that deserve an "Ick." There's the close quarters, poor conditions and cruel treatment to the animals... the questionable feed, antibiotics, hormones and additives. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new here, but if I am, read up so you can make informed choices about the meat that you do purchase.
The good news is there are more options available now beyond conventional - organic, free range, cage free, pasture raised... but some of these terms are pretty loosely defined and can be interpreted all sorts of ways. When buying chicken, opt for organic or pasture raised. Organic means the chickens were given no antibiotics, no hormones and only organic feed, but it doesn't necessarily tell you anything about the animals' living conditions. Pasture raised means the birds spend their waking hours on pasture and are only housed at night or in severe weather conditions. They're free to forage for grass, grub and crawlers -- as nature intended -- but their diet may also be supplemented with grain. Remember though, pasture-raised does not mean organic and vice versa.
Like all things, you get what you pay for and higher quality meats are more expensive - sometimes twice as much as conventional. Go for quality over quantity. This is the protein and fat that's used to rebuild your muscles. It's no place to be cheap. But if you're eating meat three times a day, that can add up fast. The thought hurts my debit card... and colon. Eating that much meat can be extremely taxing on your digestive system, especially if not accompanied by lots of fiber-rich vegetables to keep things moving along, if you know what I mean.
With some planning though, you can actually save money and make up for the added cost of organic. Like my shopping math? But really, with a little economical thinking, you can get more for your money. For starters, try buying the whole bird. It's seriously about the same price I used to pay for two organic chicken breasts. And you get a whole chicken. I wondered why no one had told me this before? And why had I only been eating chicken breast?? How blah.
What I once relied on Eatzi's to feed me, I now make for myself. And holy chicken thighs! This is so much better. Cheaper. And healthier. I'll buy a pasture-raised or organic whole chicken and either roast or boil it; then use the meat throughout the week, adding it to stir fried veggies, soups and salads. I use whatever herbs I have on hand (or that came in the poultry herb mix) - rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage - for the outside seasoning. And on the inside, I stuff it with aromatics like onion, garlic and lemon. The end result is one tender, juicy, delicious whole chicken. Cut it up, remove the meat and have it ready to add to your favorite vegetable dishes.
If roasting a whole bird isn't old-school domestic enough for you, wait till I tell you about what you can do with the bones... That'll be another post. For now, I give you the best herb roasted chicken you will ever put in your mouth. Mmmmmm.
Whole Herb-Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 yellow onion
1-2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lemon, halved
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash and dry chicken well and place in roasting pan. Combine chopped herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil and mix well. Stuff the inside of the chicken with onion, garlic and lemon. Rub the outside of the chicken with the herb mixture covering the top, bottom and all sides. Place roasting pan with chicken in oven and bake 45 min - 1 hour. Chicken is done when the crust is golden brown. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. When it's done it should reach 180 degrees.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.