Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quick and Easy Chicken Stock and Soup Recipes

This recipe goes out to my gal Regina.  Here you go!

To make chicken stock, here's what you do:
Take the carcass and pick off any of the edible meat that is left.  Store that in the fridge til you are ready to make soup.

Put the carcass in a large pot and fill the pot with water until the chicken is nearly covered in the water (it can poke above the water a little).  Add 1-2 celery stalks, 1/2-1 onion chopped, some carrots.  You don't need to worry about cutting the veggies up in little bits because you will be discarding most of it at the end anyway.

Boil the chicken with the veggies for 2-4 hours on med-low heat covered.  Whatever you prefer.  Then strain everything keeping only the liquid.  Add salt to taste and you're done!

To make a soup out of it add whatever you like.  Chopped carrots, celery, onion, rice, etc.

Here's how I make it:
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 cup basmati rice (white or brown)
leftover chicken pieces, chopped
1 cup kale or spinach, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2-1 cup onion, diced
thyme to taste
pepper and salt to taste

I usually use all my stock for this recipe which is probably 1/2 gallon of water, maybe more.  I put the wild rice in the stock first and boil it for 20 minutes (my wild rice usually takes 40 minutes to cook).  Then I add the other rice and boil for another 10 minutes.  Then add all the other ingredients, except the chicken pieces and boil another 10 minutes until the rice is cooked.  Add the chicken and more thyme, salt and pepper if necessary.  You've got yourself a hearty chicken soup.  One thing to note is the rice will absorb ALOT of the liquid and especially if you don't eat it all in one day the rice gets all puffed up.  But it still tastes good!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Have You Seen Chef Academy On The Bravo Channel Yet?

I still have some pie recipes coming your way from my Thanksgiving meal (the pumpkin pie was to DIE FOR!), but first I have to tell you about "Chef Academy" on Bravo.  It's similar to "Top Chef" but it's more like a reality cooking school of talented, but not necessarily professional chefs.   And, you can actually get some of the recipes off the website, which I did and made Grandma Louise's Homemade Tomato Sauce.  Chef Novelli is the main attraction of the show and is quite entertaining in his own French-Italian kinda way.

Anyway, so I made the tomato sauce today and it was....different.  I have never made sauce completely from scratch.  I always cheat a little using one large can of diced tomatoes(if you can find a medium can use that but I never seem to be able to), one medium can of pure, organic tomato sauce and 1-2 tablespoons of pesto (the refrigerated kind not the jarred kind).  I also use several cloves of garlic-pressed, occasionally fresh chopped basil if I have it in the house, 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and about 1/2 cup spinach or kale (whichever I have) chopped. I combine all the ingredients into a large pot and bring it to a slow boil on the stove.  It's best to let it simmer on low heat for at least 30 minutes before using, but if you want true flavor, let it simmer on low heat for up to an hour and then let it sit on the stove for a couple of hours (or you can refrigerate it overnight), heat it up and serve.  This gives the sauce time to embrace all the flavors and evaporate some excess moisture.

Chef Novelli's recipe is quite different than mine.  He uses whole tomatoes (6lbs! I did half that and made enough sauce for two healthy servings), star anise (I had no clue what this even was!), vanilla bean--yep, not vanilla extract or vanilla flavoring, the actual bean.  These things cost an arm and a leg too so just get one,-- thyme (although if you go and watch his video he doesn't say anything about it but it's on the ingredient list),  garlic, olive oil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and sugar.

First, you take the tomatoes and cut them in half, cutting out the core/top--I was lucky and got some really nice tomatoes from the farmer's market at half price.  Even got a big heirloom.  Then put them all face down in a large heavy pan that has been preheated.  Add some salt and pepper as well as a bit  of sugar although I'm not a fan of sugar, but to each one's own.  Let them boil for a few minutes and then reduce heat, mash with a masher, and add the star anise (I used two of the stars and it was quite a powerful flavor).  Add the vanilla bean as well but first cut it down the center and scrape out the inside and put in the pan along with the shell of the bean.  Trust me, at almost $5 a bean you don't want to waste it!  I only used half of one since I was doing half the recipe and it was very strong. Throw in a bay leaf for good measure and a pinch or two of Thyme.  I added a pinch early and then another pinch toward the end (the thyme should be finely chopped).

Now let it simmer uncovered for about an hour or two until it's not so watery from the tomato juices.  For the finale, add 2-3 sprigs of the basil whole--just throw it all in!  Chef Novelli taught a cool way to prepare garlic cloves.  You put the cloves of garlic on a cutting board, take your kitchen knife (the big wide one) and rest it on it's side on top of an unsuspecting clove.  Then mash it hard!  It splits the garlic and makes it easier to peel the skin off.  Then you just throw 'em in as is!  Here's where you add the olive oil too, but make sure to do it slowly while stirring so it will blend well.  Let cook until the basil is softened and voila! I think I cooked it another 20 minutes and mashed the garlic a bit more with a wooden spoon while it was cooking.  Cook up a bit of pasta with some baked chicken breast, a side of sautéed Swiss chard with lemon, garlic and sesame oil and a fine glass of chianti and you've got yourself a nice dish!

There are more recipes on Bravo too.  I'm going to try the risotto next.  But I still have to tell you about my pies...mmmm...wish I had some right now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to Court a Turkey

I realized after our Thanksgiving feast I don't think I've ever cooked a turkey before. They are so....big.  And...leggy.  They're definitely not like chickens. The setting is much more intimate with a turkey, it's large body all naked and splayed out in the roasting pan looking vulnerable. And you spend alot of time getting to know it throughout the day.  First, you unwrap it from its case and remove the neck and any innards that are lurking inside. Then you clean it with cold water. After that the relationship ensues with the brining.  For a 14lb turkey like, um...let's call her Janice, you need 1 gallon of vegetable broth, 1 cup kosher salt or sea salt (the crystal kind), 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1 gallon of water.  Put the water, sugar and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove.  This will dissolve the salt and sugar. Once cool, add the mix with the vegetable broth and put it in a large container or brining bag with the turkey, er, I mean, Janice inside. Brine her for 6-8 hours in the refrigerator or a large cooler.  The reason for brining is it makes the turkey moist when cooking.  It doesn't taste salty either.

While Janice is brining prepare the stuffing and sweet potatoes (see my previous post on Rosemary Chicken with Stuffing--double the stuffing recipe though). Once the brining is done take her out of the container or bag and rinse her inside and out.  Then place her on your roasting pan.   Now here's where you get to know Janice quite intimately. Fill her deep cavernous insides with stuffing and slather her pimply skin with butter and rosemary (cut slits in the skin and slide the rosemary sprigs inside). To keep her nice and cozy make sure to tie her legs together (we did not have any string, although our guests told us that we could've used dental floss, but we used kabob skewers.  It was a little tricky on the removal but we were able to avoid any splinters.).  Add about 1/4 inch water to the bottom of the pan and gently prop her sides up with plenty of sweet potatoes and oranges.

Before Janice goes into the oven make sure it has been preheated at 500 degrees.  Yeah, that's right.  Janice likes it hot!  To keep her skin from burning give her a little protection with some aluminum foil covering only two sides, leaving room for her to breathe a bit.  Once she's been in the oven for about 30 minutes you can reduce the heat to 325 and take the aluminum foil off after 30 minutes.  But you can't just leave her in there for the next 3 hours by herself!  You've got to check on her every half hour or so and baste her skin so it stays moist. With all this one on one attention you're sure to have a beautiful bird!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Countdown to T-Day: Rosemary Chicken with Stuffing

Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks, eating ridiculous amounts of food and watching really bad movies.  I'm already ahead of the game watching "Sphere" with Dustin Hoffman, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson.  It's gotta be the worst movie ever.  An alien named, "Jerry" is communicating with them via their DOS computer system and they are being killed by alien jellyfish.

I can't believe there's only 5 days left 'til T-Day and I've got so much to do.  I remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer so it will be thawed just in time.

I'm testing out a gluten free apple pie as I write and the aroma smells awesome!  Just tasted it.  It's pretty good, but it needs some fine tuning.  More sugar, more butter and more cinnamon.  Guess I'll have to bake another one.

Well, here's my recipe for cooking a whole chicken along with my gluten free stuffing recipe.  There's actually two ways, one type for those of you who are more "savory" in your tastes and one for those of you who are more "sweet".

Rosemary Chicken: the savory way
1 whole chicken (organic preferrably)
2-4 sprigs rosemary
2-4 tablespoons butter or alternative spread
several sweet potatoes cut in half (depending on their size) with skins still on--really as many as you can fit in your roasting pan--you won't regret it!
2 oranges cut in wedges
*4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped and mixed with a small amount of olive oil (this is optional if you like garlic)

Clean the chicken thoroughly with water, or better yet, have someone else clean it for you.  Stuff the bird (see my stuffing recipe below). Place it in the roasting pan breast side up.  Cut small slits in the skin and use your finger or a dull knife to loosen the skin. Take the rosemary sprigs and stick them under the skin.  The rosemary tends to be pretty strong so really only one sprig per breast is all that is needed, but if you love rosemary go for more.  *Take the garlic and oil mixture and spoon into the slits in the skin as well pouring the remaining mix on top of the bird.

Place the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the pan around the base of the bird.  You can use them to help prop the bird up, i.e. under the wings, etc. Mix the orange wedges in with the sweet potatoes.

Spread the butter all over the top and sides of the bird.  Add a small amount of water to the bottom of the pan (about 2-3 tablespoons).  Bake in the oven at about 375 degrees (lower to 350 after the 1st hour)  for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Make sure to baste the bird intermittently after the first 30 minutes.  I highly recommend buying a turkey baster if you do not have one.  I never had one until this last bird I cooked and it was GREAT!  It even came with this injector so you could suck up the juice in the bottom of the pan and then inject the bird with it.  It's crazy!  I accidentally basted the stove top with it.  There was chicken juice everywhere!

Here is another alternative for preparing a whole chicken for anyone who prefers a sweeter tasting bird...

Citrus Chicken: the sweet way
1 whole chicken
1-2 two oranges sliced thin
2-3 tablespoons butter or alternative
Several sweet potatoes

Prepare the chicken as above except instead of using rosemary use the orange slices under the skin of the bird.  Put them wherever they will fit, along the breast, along the thigh, anywhere.  Cook the same amount of time.

Here's my stuffing recipe for either bird.  Again, if you don't like rosemary don't add it to the stuffing.

The BEST Stuffing Recipe:
1/2 loaf brown rice bread (I get mine from Trader Joe's.  It's the kind that is about the same weight and size as a brick.  You could probably use it as a weapon if need be. It's that dense.)
1 small onion, finely chopped (yellow or red is best)
4-6 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt (add more if you feel like)
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary (optional)
1-2 tablespoons pesto

Chop the bread into small cubes and place in large mixing bowl.  Then add the celery, onion and walnuts.  In another bowl beat the eggs with the salt, pesto, rosemary and some crushed pepper.  Then add the egg mixture in with the bread mix.  This is where things get messy so make sure your bird is ready nearby to be stuffed.  Use your hands to mix all the stuffing ingredients very well.  It should all be damp (not wet).  If it doesn't feel damp enough you can add some olive oil to it and mix well.

Take small fist fulls of the stuffing and jam it into the bird.  Continue to stuff as much of it as you can into the bird.  If you can't fit it all, mold the remaining amount to the entrance of the bird.  That is my favorite part of the stuffing because it gets crispy...mmmm....crispy stuffing.

That's it!  The surprise is the sweet potatoes.  They come out amazingly sweet from all the juices, especially from the oranges.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Countdown to T-Day: 10

2009 will be the first year in 11 years (or more) that I will be cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving. So, it's been a while. This past year was the first in 10 since I started eating meat again. Prior to that I was an "ovo-lacto-pesco vegetarian". Try saying that three times fast. Basically I ate dairy, eggs, fish and vegetables. No birds or hooved mammals. I had read the book, "Diet for a New America" by John Robbins, the heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire. I believe he was a vegan (no animal foods at all). The stories he told about the atrocities of factory farming made my skin crawl and my stomach churn. Then soon after, I began a career in animal training which even furthered my reverence for animals and distaste in eating them.

Eating meat was a hard decision to make. For me, the only way I could truly bring myself back to health was to eat meat, but I can still do it with a conscience. So, I eat only organic, cage free, hormone and pesticide free animals--the happy animals. I told a friend that I only ate happy animals and she said, "Why would you want to do that? Shouldn't you be eating the animals who are suffering? Eat them and put them out of their misery." She was joking of course but she was on to something in a backwards sort of way. If we only eat plants and animals that have been well cared for and treated with respect, just think of how that would effect our bodies. It all comes down to energy. Negative energy makes us feel like crap. Positive energy makes us feel good. You know that feeling you get when you walk into a room and you can "feel the tension in the air"? That's negative energy. Or the feeling you get meeting with a dear friend whom you haven't seen in a while? That's positive energy. What we eat has the same effect.

And I digress, but isn't that what blogging is all about?

With 10 days left until Thanksgiving I wanted to focus on foods that are almost always on everybody's plate on T-Day. The main character of the evening being the turkey. But since I haven't cooked a turkey in so long I thought I'd go with my whole chicken recipe instead. I've cooked plenty of those (almost every week it seems) and I always make my favorite sides to go with it. So, stay tuned for my next post on Rosemary Garlic Chicken with Stuffing. Until's to eating healthy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Chicken and Beets with Wild Rice Recipe

Okay, so I just discovered that things I have been calling "Pilaf" aren't accurate. According to Wikipedia pilaf is, "a dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is browned in oil, and then cooked in a seasoned broth. The English term pilaf is borrowed directly from Turkish..." Hence my name change from pilaf to wild rice.

Without further ado, here is the recipe. I should warn you that I only made this once so I consider it to still be in its test phase and not all the ingredient amounts may be that accurate. I go by the old,"less is more" approach 'cause you can always add more but you can't take away less.

Oh, and I attempt to use local, organic ingredients whenever possible to avoid all the pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, yada, yada...

Here you go:
two uncooked chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1-2 cups cooked beets, chopped into bite size pieces (see previous post on how to properly cook beets)
1/2 cup wild rice (the dark hearty stuff)
1/2 cup basmati rice (brown or white)
1 cup beet greens, chopped
1 medium zucchini chopped however you like
6-8 cloves of garlic (you can never have too much garlic)
1/2 cup chopped onion OR a large handful of shallots, cut in halves
Thyme (I used dried but I bet it would be better with fresh stuff)
Curry powder
Tamari sauce
Sesame oil
Salt and pepper

Cook the rice according to package directions. With mine I cook the wild rice first for 20 mins then add the basmati to it and cook it all for another 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking prepare the chicken by marinading it in Tamari sauce (tamari sauce is basically soy sauce but with no gluten in it).

Chop or press (with a garlic press--I love those things) 3-4 cloves of garlic into a large frying pan (I like to us my big ol' iron skillet) and add about a tablespoon of sesame oil (sesame oil is an ideal cooking oil for high temperatures as it doesn't break down like olive oil which can release free radicals which basically cause cancer so there you have it, go out and get yourself some sesame oil).

Add the beet greens and half of your onion/shallots to the garlic and oil into the pan and cook it at med/high until the greens start to get a little limp (only a few minutes). Add a dash of tamari sauce (just enough to lightly cover everything but not too much to drench it--I'd guess about 1-2 tablespoons).

Then add the chicken and zucchini. Cook until the chicken is done, add some thyme to taste, a bit more onion (but not all of it), the remaining garlic, about 1/2 teaspoon of curry and some salt and pepper (careful on the salt since tamari sauce is already pretty salty).

Once the rice is done, drain the excess water and then cook on low heat while adding the remaining onion, some sesame oil (about 1/2 tablespoon), a dash of thyme and salt. This will slightly brown the rice. Only cook for a minute or two so as not to burn the rice.

Plate up the rice and add the chicken and zucchini mix on top. Add the beets on top of this. I made the mistake of adding the beets to the chicken and zucchini mixture and got red everything! So it's best to keep them separate and add them to the final dish.

Beets are fantastic vegetables and are beneficial in preventing certain types of cancers, protect against heart disease and decrease inflammation. If you want more information on the health benefits of beets go to:


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Brussel Sprouts Anyone?

I remember as a child sitting at the dinner table with my sister Sally. We were the only ones left at the table staring at semi barren plates that still held several small orange disks of flavorless mush--cooked carrots. Sally, being the sneaky-Pete that she was, took the carrots and placed them inside her paper napkin making sure to glare at me as if to say, "If you tell I'll make your life a living hell." I didn't say a word as I watched her get up from the table and happily carry her empty plate into the kitchen to show our mother how she had "eaten" all of her carrots.

As I choked down the subtly sweet pucks that molded onto the roof of my mouth I hoped that somehow Sally would be discovered and I could revel in all my glory as the conquerer of carrots for the night. But alas, that night would never come. I would have to wait several more years until Sally entered her teens and discovered that her vision was lacking. She had to wear bifocals. Could it have been due to all those missed carrot devouring opportunities? We'll never know for sure.

As a child there were so many things that I didn't like and half the time I think I didn't like them because my sisters didn't like them. I just followed in their distaste for certain things, except for maybe, cream cheese. My sisters loved it and I couldn't stand it. Oh, and eggs too. I still am not a fan of eggs but am learning how to make them surprisingly flavorful and not so "eggy".

This is what my blog is all about--rediscovering foods that we at one point in our lives, usually during childhood, decided we did not like and then learning how to like, or perhaps even love them. This, along with interesting tidbits about WHAT makes some whole foods so special. I mean, who really wants to eat brussel sprouts? They're weird looking, they smell funny, and their taste is...well I'll let you be the judge cause I'm still having trouble with it.

I came to rediscover several whole foods just within this past year. It wasn't by choice either. A few years ago my body had succumbed to so much stress that it gave out. The day after my husband and I finished moving into our new house, I crashed. I literally could not get out of bed. It felt like I had run a marathon. This feeling continued for weeks until I finally got the strength up to go to the Dr. where she told me, "You're depressed." Well, duh, I could've told you that. Who wouldn't be depressed in that state? The problem was, she was diagnosing depression as the cause of the symptoms when in actuality the symptoms were the cause of the depression.

I left the Dr.'s office refusing a prescription for anti-depressants and on a mission to heal myself. Four long years later I am rejuvenated and constantly learning about the importance of eating healthy whole foods, most of which, are lacking in the typical American diet.

I want to share with you my recipes which may contain some of those foods you too once hid inside a paper napkin, but are quite tasty and so good for you. An example is beets. I thought I hated beets. Come to find out I really did! Because the only beets I had ever eaten were cold and from a can. Tonight I ate beets for the first time since god knows when. My husband got them at our local farmer's market. I was not thrilled. They are dark, dirty and had HUGE stalks on them. But he cut the stalks and the roots off, put them in a baking pan with about 1/2 inch of water. Covered them and put them in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes. He poked them with a knife (I would've used a toothpick but to each one's own) to make sure they were soft all the way through. Pulled them out of the oven and then he rinsed them in cold water and peeled the skins off.

They were delicious! I was so shocked! They weren't too mushy and oh so sweet! I never thought beets were sweet! And THEN, he took the stalks (or leaves) and cooked them! I suggested he saute them with garlic, sesame oil, salt and then drizzle some lemon juice on top once cooked. They were great!

Later I made what I call, "Chicken and Beet Pilaf" for dinner. It was really good. I'll post the recipe soon. In the meantime, take a bit longer in the produce aisle next time you're grocery shopping. Try something you haven't eaten in years and see if your taste buds decide to embrace that long forgotten asparagus spear, or broccoli bud. Better yet, try something you never in a million years would think to eat. You might be pleasantly surprised.