Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Roast a Chicken, Create Stock, Mash a Rutabaga...

I've wanted to make my own stock for a very long time, even when the only stock I'd have considered making would be veggie.  It's one of those things that seems (is) so easy, but that I just never did. 

I've recently learned that bone broth is a great source of a couple amino acids: proline and glycine.  Apparently, we can make both of them on our own, but it's more efficient if we get them from our diets.  I've always loved really brothy soups, so the thought of sipping my own rich stock as a snack or part of a meal was even more appealing after learning the health benefits of doing so. 

To make chicken stock, I'd need bones and bits.  This meant that my other contemplation of roasting a whole chicken was going to have to happen as well. 

So, first up: Dinner.

Roasted Whole Chicken

I read a lot of recipes for roasting chicken, but they were all pretty fussy.  I decided to keep it simple for my first go-round.  

I bought a 4lb chicken at Whole Foods.  I made my wonderful husband deal with unwrapping it and taking out the envelope of bits.  I put the envelope of bits into a ziplock and into the fridge for their moment the following day.  Next, I asked him to stuff the cavity with a lemon and an onion that I'd quartered, as well as about six garlic cloves.  Next, I brushed a roasting dish with grass-fed butter and once I (he) got the chicken settled, I liberally brushed it with the butter as well.  I followed with a heavy seasoning of salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.  Into the oven- I don't think it could be any easier.
375F for about 80 minutes.  You want to go about 20 minutes per pound, and your meat thermometer should read 165F.  I checked it at 60 minutes, but it needed the full 80.  Make sure you don't hit bone when you take the temperature.  Here's a picture of where you should place the thermometer.

After you have dinner, pick the chicken clean and store the leftovers for soup or chicken salad or for midnight snacks.  This is SO much easier to do when the chicken is warm, so it's worth doing even if you'd rather just put it away and watch a movie.  Leave the carcass in the roasting pan.  Remove the lemons, but you can leave the other aromatics.  Wrap the dish and put in the fridge for the next day.

***Auto-immune friendly if alternate fat was used to brush over chicken.  Bacon fat would be yummy.

Scott did a great job stuffing in all the aromatics!

Golden Brown

When the chicken was about 45 minutes away from being ready, I started the Rutabaga Broccoli mash.  I saw this idea in a cookbook I was perusing at Barnes and Noble, but I cannot remember which one to give credit.  I didn't write down the recipe, so this is what I did with the idea.

Rutabaga Broccoli Mash

1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced into about 1" cubes
chicken or veggie stock (or water)
1-2 cups of steamed brocolli florets, chopped
(2 small crowns, cut into florets and put in a covered pan with a bit of stock or water and salt.  Cook until tender over medium heat)
1 TBSP half and half (had I had a can of coconut milk already opened, I'd have preferred to use that, but I didn't and didn't want to open one for such a small amount)
1 TBSP ghee (you could use grass-fed butter or coconut oil instead)
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 TBSP dried chives
salt and pepper to taste
***Auto-immune friendly if coconut milk and oil are used

Place the diced rutabaga into a small sauce pot and cover with stock or water.  Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender.  Drain and return to pot.  Using a potato masher, mash rutabaga and add in all additional ingredients.  Combine and season to taste.

This turned out so well, totally surpassed my expectations.  This would be good beside any protein, but would also be a hearty addition to a vegetarian plate, or as a base under a lentil dal or bean stew.

Dinner was delicious.  Even more exciting was that I was going to make stock the next day as a result of this awesome meal!

Chicken Stock

I think you could add/omit pretty easily here... I love bay, so I added 3 bay leaves, but if you love thyme, a bunch of thyme would be good too.  And I think any root veggies or squash would work.  I don't think you could do much to mess it up considering you will strain everything out in the end.  

1 chicken carcass and bones
1 envelope of the innards and bits
2 medium carrots, chopped into a few pieces
4 stalks of celery- ideally the leaves from the heart of celery too, chopped into a few pieces
1 medium onion- I had 1/2 of a yellow and 1/2 of a red, so I just used those
5 garlic cloves, or more if you aren't using the ones you roasted with
3 bay leaves
good pinch of salt
Filtered water

Once you get everything into a heavy bottomed dutch oven, (I used a 7qt) cover with the filtered water and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat and simmer for at least 6 hours, uncovering for the last hour.  You can let it go longer if you want.  For like a day or two if you really want to.
When it's done, strain from one pot into another with a mesh strainer.  Discard the bits, or eat some of them as Scott did, and once it's a little cooled, transfer the stock to containers.

The next day, there will be a layer of fat on top of the stock.  That's totally ok, it's super good for you.  Once it warms it will be perfectly smooth and velvety.  I warmed some up in a small coffee cup to sip one day, and on another I warmed it on the stove and added some of the leftover chicken and a couple tablespoons of tiny tiny circle corn pastas to make a soup. I plan to have a little each day, but it could easily be frozen for your next pot of soup.  I couldn't help but think just how rich a smooth butternut squash soup would be with this as the base... and that could happen because after this weekend, I no longer fear roasting whole chickens or making stock- in fact, I have NO idea why I was ever intimidated because both really require so little from the cook. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

AIP Rant and Plantain Crackers

Disclaimer:  I really have to tell you- I sorted out a lot writing this post.  This is the crap I've been thinking about constantly for days and days and getting it down has been incredibly therapeutic.  That said... unless you are going through auto-immune issues, you may cry from boredom.  So, if AIP isn't your thing, just scroll down and take note of the incredible crackers I made.  

I'm so type A.  I'm so black or white, this or that.  I've been like this my whole life, and even though it's been many years since I realized this about myself and am able to (mostly) pinpoint when I might be in a negative zone of this personality trait, it still happens.  Like constantly.

My moving toward an Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP) diet has been no different.  I was cool being 80/20 there for a bit, but once the new year hit, I thought I was ready for the next big step.  And when I wasn't, it really... I guess it hurt my feelings?  I felt like I was failing myself. 

So, then the stress and anxiety over failing set in.  Of course it did.

When it comes to auto-immune symptoms, mine are few compared to many.  I battle with anxiety and depression, but have a generally good handle on it.  (Thank you to my gym addiction and to Rhodiola.)  I have the joint pain thing, but keeping nightshades- tomatoes mainly- out of my diet and Turmeric supplements in my diet seems to be key.  There's my vitiligo... which thankfully has grown slowly over the past 11 years... and it's not super noticeable with my pale skin.

Nothing is out of control, and this is why I wanted so badly to commit to AIP because I don't want it to get out of control.  Through reading, I am learning that many auto-immune women (where are the men?! I know they exist, but they don't write about it.) were like me- until they had children.  And after giving birth, all hell broke loose.  Interesting because it was only after having me that my mom's vitiligo spread like wild fire, although she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 16.  Giving birth doesn't seem to be in my future, but it doesn't mean I couldn't experience more serious symptoms as I age because aging seems to be bringing additional mild symptoms.   

When I realized I just wasn't ready, I spent a lot of time thinking.  I know I'm willful.  I know I can do things I decide to do, so it was perplexing.  I don't have some great reason as to why I felt like I couldn't do it other than I really love some of the foods that aren't included in AIP.  I love cooking and I love to eat.  I love going to great restaurants and having new food experiences.  I love the social aspect of food.  Whatever reason, thinking of giving foods up was stressful and anxiety causing and that's really SO not the goal.  If eating an AIP diet was going to cause me so much issue, wasn't it sort of counter-productive?  I also found the more I read, the more caught up I got, and it just all ended up increasing my anxiety.  I need to pull back a bit. 

Maybe I can take baby steps, though?  Or not.  I don't know, but...  here is a run down of the AIP no-no's that I am finding issue with and my thoughts for improvement.

1.  Corn.  I heart popcorn and tortilla chips and corn tortillas... When you eat gluten free, you get really close with corn. You kinda know it's wrong, but, you just can't help yourself.  Corn is the bad boy you hate to love... 
Fix- Cut out popcorn as a snack on a regular and put in "treat" category.  Cut down on tortilla chips.  I need to go from having a handful a few times a week to having a handful maybe once a week- and more importantly- be sure to only buy non-GMO.  So long Frito Lay Cantina... you will be greatly missed.  Green Mountain Gringo are really good, though. (ok, I'm sort of lying.)

2.  Coffee.  Holy Hell.  I was all on board using coconut creamer and still keeping the coffee for a bit, but cutting down.  Cutting down is going ok... but, eff coconut creamer (see #3).  I can't lie to myself anymore, it's not half and half. Coffee as a morning ritual is also something that's important to me.  Although I love tea and drink it daily, I really love having coffee in the morning. 
Fix- Having one small cup of organic coffee per day with organic grass-fed half and half.  One day a week I get a Starbucks treat- which is just an Americano, light water, with cream... but still.  I know too much coffee whacks out my system.

3.  Dairy.  Half and half, ranch, and sour cream really, really get me.  And cheese to an extent, but I leave it alone more easily than the other three.  Sometimes. 
Fix- Organic and grass fed as much as possible.  My goal is to make my own Mayo and then my own ranch with coconut milk.  That's on the list.  One day.  For now, I buy the cleanest ranch I can find and continue to cut it with homemade balsamic vinaigrette on my salads. 

4.  Nuts.  Larabars, almond milk, almonds on my salads, almond meal and flour in gluten free baking, almond butter... need I go on? And then there are peanuts and cashews on curries...
Fix- I got nothin' on this right now.  Moving on.

5.  Eggs.  I'm skeptical if I really even need to eliminate eggs because eggs make me feel really good when I eat them.  I buy organic, local eggs hatched from free roaming happy hens.  They're fantastic and have almost orange yolks that are delicious.  The downside is that hens, when given the freedom to hatch as they'd like and to do their thing, don't always produce eggs.  This means that sometimes you can't buy them.

6.  Nightshades.  Not a huge issue.  I've cut back substantially when I made the connection to my joint pain and it's not been that hard.  I seem to be okay with nightshades if I just have a few bites here and there. Tomatoes seem to bother me the most... and really hot peppers.
Fix- I've stopped making tomato based food and I don't eat nearly the amount of peppers I used to... 

7.  Alcohol.  I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a drink beside my computer at the moment.  To give myself some credit, it's only because I opened a lovely craft cider (Potter's Sorachi Ace) on Friday, and if I don't finish it, it will go to waste.  It's too expensive (and delicious) to go to waste.
Fix- As a general rule, I am limiting drinks to twice/week and no more than two drinks each time.  This is an improvement, even if that is hard to believe.  I went 10 days without a drink and I will admit- that was really difficult.  Soda water with some lime or pomegranate juice is helpful though.  For some reason, that really does work if it's a Friday night and I don't want to drink but I feel deserving.  (Why do I feel I DESERVE a drink? hmmmm.) 

8.  Chocolate. So, sad, right?  
Fix-Green and Black's Organic 85% Dark Chocolate... it's always been my favorite, so now it should be my only.  (And maybe dipped in organic freshly ground peanut butter occasionally... the horror.)

9.  Beans and Legumes.  Not too much of an issue outside of hummus- also hitting a seed here with the tahini made from sesame seeds.  But, I am not missing beans much and haven't had them in some time- outside of hummus.  But, then there is lentil soup... with bacon and spinach and carrots...

10.  Rice.  I love rice chex.  But, I can go without eating cereal pretty easily.  Just once in awhile... once in awhile, I HAVE to have cereal- and not always with milk. I just like to snack on it.  (I could add in gluten free certified oats/granola to the cereal issue too.) I also use rice chex for breading and binding.  Rice crackers are pretty freaking great too. And I just like rice.
Fix- I don't have any ideas when it comes to just eating rice once in awhile or with cereal, but... I can learn about alternate binders and make my own crackers occasionally... which leads to...

Finally- a recipe!  Thanks for sticking with me.  

thepaleomom is a great site.  She's super smart and has great recipes and ideas.  I need to stop reading her articles on auto-immunity right now, but I am glad to know she is there when I am ready.  I may or may not have wanted to strangle her when she said my body could think coffee is gluten, but, she means well.
These crackers are her recipe and you can find it here.  She also talks at length about plantains in youtube video at the end of the post.  I knew jack about plaintains, so that was helpful for me.
I've wanted to make these for awhile now, but the plantains I bought initially weren't green enough.  So, then I had to let them sit for a week or so, and then I made her plaintain pancakes once they were super ripe.  Each weekend I would look for green plantains, but they were never green enough.

At Whole Foods yesterday, I finally found GREEN plantains! 

Plantain Crackers

2 large GREEN plantains, peeled (see her video if you are like me and clueless about how to go about this.)  It should produce 2 cups once pureed.  I thought mine looked like 2 cups, but I didn't measure it.  She says give or take 1/4 cup and I really felt good about it.
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp salt (I thought, this is it?  What about some garlic?  Chives?  Something?  Nah.  Doesn't need it.  On. Point.)

Place the peeled plantains cut into chunks, along with the melted coconut oil and salt into a food processor.  You will need to process it for a good 2 minutes, but stop it now and again to scrape the sides.  When its enough, it should look like hummus.  Ironically.

Line a large cookie sheet with parchment and pour out the batter.  Use a spatula to patiently spread it out to pretty much fill the sheet.  Once you get it pretty good, you really have to have a light hand to spread it the rest of the way.  It's sort of calming.

You bake it for 10 minutes on 300, then taken it out and score with  pizza cutter. Back in.  She says 50-55 minutes, but also that she's gone up to 70 minutes.  I went a full 70 and then turned my broiler on high for about 3 minutes.  They seemed really oily and I wasn't sure that was ok, but.  They're fine.  I pulled them out and got them onto a cooling rack pretty quickly.

The cooler they get, the crunchier they are.  Crazy good.  Really, you're going to love them and be super excited.

Although they are fabulous just on their own, I should probably let you know how well they pair with Cava Mezze Kalamata Hummus...

one step at a time, indeed. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Break the Fast

For those of you who know me, you know I'm in bed by 7:30-8:00pm and up around 3:45am when Siri so kindly wakes me- or I wake myself, which is more common these days.  This is an odd schedule to most, and I definitely take some slack about my retirement schedule, but it really works for me.  More so than I could have ever imagined.

I actually have Hurricane Irene to thank for all of this.  In August of 2011, we lost power for 6 days.  Neighbors had power (how lovely it was of them to keep their curtains and blinds wide open with every light in their house on and TVs taunting us...) but, our little row of homes did not.  This happened to coincide with the first work week back to school, and showering and getting presentable was necessary.  So, I went to the gym to get ready.  And I figured if I'm going to go to the gym, I might as well do something while I'm there.  And my new routine was born.

I could not believe the energy I had!  Also, knowing my workout was behind me allowed me to feel like I could actually decompress after a day of 5th graders instead of trying to find one less shred of energy for going to the gym.  Since getting our pup, I often come home and walk or run him, giving myself a little light activity at the end of the day without the stress of having to get an awesome workout in.  It's been 2 1/2 years and it's positively the best health change I have made.  And I can't even begin to tell you about the awesome community that exists at the gym at 5 in the morning.  You wouldn't believe that many people could be that happy and that energized so early, but it's true.  On the occasion I have gone at 4:30pm I have found the environment to be much colder, hostile, irritable... and that makes sense.  Everyone just wants to go home, maybe?    

So what do I eat at 4am?  Actually, not much.  I'm still weening off coffee- this really is going to be the hardest for me, I believe... so, right now, coconut milk in my coffee is enough to get my system going.  Once coffee is behind me, I believe I'll have a bite of something, but that's about all I can really handle in the morning.  I've also discovered that- for me- I do better on an empty stomach at the gym.  And it's not like I go and do 30 minutes on the eliptical and leave... I am either in a hard ass tabata spin class or I am on the floor lifting really heavy things and running sprints.  Either way, a fairly empty belly seems to be fine for me.  I've also worked on primal running- tapping into that part of the brain when you ran because you needed to protect yourself or get food- I think that's also easier when your body is gearing up for a meal.  I think being a little hungry helps me to mentally get there when I am on a treadmill, in a gym, with Usher blasting through my headphones...

I actually used to eat a decent sized breakfast- and then once I started to lift heavier I noticed I would get nauseous- which is why I stopped.  Everyone is different.  One guy I lift with has like 6 egg whites and a protein shake and oatmeal before coming in.  Another HUGE guy I lift with only has a banana.  Another has oatmeal, and then staggers protein for a couple of hours starting right after he leaves the gym.  I don't know if there is a right and wrong.  You can find articles that support each option.  I've not had any trouble building muscle (I REALLY want to update my blog photo!!!) and I've put it all on since I've started morning workouts on an empty belly.  So, take that for what it's worth, play around, and see what works best for you and makes you feel good.

Once I am showered and heading to school I am famished and ready to eat.  I usually warm something up on my way to my classroom and am finishing my meal as my kids walk through the door.  Most of the time I just have leftovers, (Mrs. Linham, are you eating GARLIC?!) but sometimes I really just want breakfast food.  Peeking around on Paleo sites hasn't given me the inspiration and excitement I'd hoped for, but I did see a post for beef sausage and decided I could do something with that.  Here it is.

Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties
Makes about 12 patties

1 pound of ground chicken thighs
1 medium apple, small dice
1/4 cup onion, fine dice
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1-2 pinches of salt
1 pinch of black pepper
Coconut Oil

Add about a tsp of coconut oil to a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the apple, onion, 1 pinch of salt, pepper, and thyme.  Cook until soft and fragrant.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more.  Taste, remembering that you are adding a pound of chicken to it.   I always am careful with salt, but add a bit more if needed for your taste.  Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit while you work on taking down Christmas decorations (so depressing). 

Once it's cool enough to work with, add it to a bowl with the chicken, and mix until just combined.

Heat 2 tsp of coconut oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat (maybe just a hair higher).  Form the chicken into patties that are about 2" in diameter and 1/2" thick.  Once the oil is hot, put them down, but don't crowd them.  They take about 4-5 minutes per side.  Be patient, lower the heat if needed- the sugars from the apple will burn easily, so just watch your heat.  Work in batches until cooking is complete.  Add a bit more coconut oil if needed.
When I think they are done- they should be firm as well- I just cut one open to double check and then eat that one first!  I drained mine on a bit of paper towel before packing them away in Pyrex.  When I am ready for one, I will just give it a bit of a saute, or even throw it in the microwave if I'm in a hurry.

My plan is to make a few pounds of this sausage at once and freeze them in individual servings for easy post-gym grub.  I'll take some greens, or maybe just have some celery sticks and olives on the side to round out the meal. Or a banana like I did yesterday. The patties would also be good with a chunk of sweet potato. 

If you think morning workouts are an impossibility, I challenge you to start thinking about it at least...  Go in slowly, give it a few weeks to build up the time you spend there, adjusting your bedtime, etc.  See how it goes.  I know it's not for everyone, but there was a time when I didn't think it could possibly be for me, and I could not have been more wrong.

It's 6:45am on a Saturday morning as I type, and since my 24 hour gym closes overnight on Fridays and Saturdays, I have 15 minutes to get there and walk through the door right as they open...