recipes

Whole Herb Roasted Chicken

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

Ingredients

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

Directions:

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.

recipes

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to bearing the cold. I’m the girl in the gloves and scarf when the temperature drops to 50 degrees. And once we get near freezing and if precipitation is involved, I may not even leave the house (read: icepocalypse 2011). I’m perfectly content on the couch with anything warm — soup, tea, flannel PJs, a comfy blanket and some good company – be it a person, book or TV show.

On Sunday I made a big pot of chicken soup for the week. It’s simple. It’s warm. And the best part is it’s in the fridge, ready and waiting to warmed up for dinner.

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

What you need:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 qt chicken stock
2 chicken breasts (about 1 lb)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 large carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 tsp thyme
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

What you do:

In a large pot, pour 1/2 cup chicken broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add chicken and poach 4 min per side until opaque. Remove chicken and broth from pot and shred chicken, set aside. In the same pot, heat olive oil over medium heat, add onions and garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and saute 7-8 minutes. Add carrots and celery. Pour in remaining broth and stir. Cover and allow to simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. When vegetables are tender, return chicken to pot. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste. If you want to make it a bit heartier, add some cooked brown rice. Enjoy now or store in the fridge to warm up later (it’s always better the next day).

Stay warm!

recipes

Crustless Chicken Pot Pie

snow. Snow. SNOW! It’s still coming down out there. Dallas is covered in white right now. It’s no 60 or however many inches the DC area has gotten at this point.  But to us it might as well be. I’m snowed in (well, pretending to be). It’s 6 p.m. and I’m still in my PJs working from the home office (i.e. our kitchen table). I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got some left over chicken pot pie in the fridge – the perfect meal on a night like this!

I made it on Tuesday based on this recipe from Whole Foods. You can make it gluten free if you use rice flour for the thickening agent. I just used the spelt flour I had on hand. In place of crust, you make a rice mixture (pictured bottom left) and put that on top. When you bake the thing it gets nice and crispy (pictured bottom right).

It’s a little different take on the classic, but has that same cozy, warm and fuzzy effect.

Here’s what you need:

1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for greasing
1 tablespoon butter
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 pound sliced button mushrooms
2 teaspoons chopped thyme, divided
1 small yellow onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium gluten-free chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked brown rice or brown and wild rice blend
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 cup frozen vegetable mix (peas, carrots, green beans….)

What you do:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie dish with oil; set aside.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, onions, salt and pepper and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add broth and milk, stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine rice, cheese, paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.

Stir vegetables into chicken mixture then season with salt and pepper and transfer to prepared dish. Scatter rice mixture evenly over the top then arrange dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until bubbly and crust is crisp, about 30 minutes.

(recipe adapted from Whole Food’s Chicken Pot Pie with Rice)