on chicken in a goat cheese sauce.

It has been so long since: 1) I have been able to blog and 2) I have eaten any kind of alfredo.

The first, you can blame on our recent move–although it did happen a while ago, we’re just now setting up internet.
The second, though, you can blame on our attempt to eat paleo-ish, and also on my hubby’s lactose intolerance.
However, we both love alfredo sauce, so I thought I’d try to come up with a substitute that wouldn’t harm us too much. And guess what? It worked! It’s not quite alfredo, since it uses goat cheese, but we found a gouda-style hunk of it at our farmer’s market, red rind and all. So yummy! We also found good-quality grass-fed cream (unfortunately, there’s no raw milk allowed in our state), and that makes a difference, too.
Here’s what you will need to gather to make your own almost-chicken alfredo:
~one whole chicken (pastured, not grain fed)
~a couple of tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
~one stick of not-melted salted butter
~one and a half cups of heavy cream
~one cup or so of shredded Gouda goat cheese (I don’t know how many ounces–I just used the whole hunk)
~a few handfuls of fresh herbs (I used oregano and parsley)
~four garlic cloves (minced)
~two or three zucchini, julienned
Here’s what you will do:
Preheat your oven to 425.
Check our your chicken cavity and make sure there are no guts or bloody stuff hiding in there. If you find any nasties, get all that mess out, then smother the whole bird with some melted unsalted butter. Sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper. Stick in a pan, then in the oven, then turn the oven down to 375 and roast for 20 minutes per pound. I had roughly 2.8 pounds of chicken, and I roasted mine for about an hour. Oh, and you should make sure you tie your little legs together so they don’t get roasted to smithereens.
Then, when your chicken is done (I don’t use a meat thermometer, but ours was perfectly juicy), set it aside to rest. Toss your julienned zucchini in melted butter, salt and pepper, and spread out in a baking dish. Bake until tender, but not mushy–you can it at 375, so keep your oven on.
While the zucchini bakes, melt the salted stick of butter in a saucepan. Add your minced garlic and simmer a bit, then add your cream and herbs. Heat gently until the sauce kind of spits, don’t boil it. When it’s puckering, add the cheese and stir until melted, and salt and pepper to taste.
Carve your chicken, and serve over the zucchini like pasta. Top with the goat cheese sauce, and you’re done.
Happy alfredo-substituting!

on smashed sweet potatoes with chia-seed topping.

My other favorite budget-friendly orange veggie! It’s also packed with beta-carotene, and will last a long time undisturbed in your pantry. Sweet potatoes make a great side dish for dinner, and leftovers are a yummy meatless lunch (paired with some kind of green thing).

I normally make my sweet potatoes like this, and if you do the same you should have about eight servings of orange goodness:

Take four regular-sized raw sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled, and put them in a foil-lined baking dish. Roast at 425 degrees, uncovered, until done. You’ll want to flip them over half way through, and I’d check after about 20 or 25 minutes. They’re done when they’re soft and the skin has separated from the flesh, but you don’t want them to be gross and mushy! 35-45 minutes should do the trick, and less if your potatoes are on the shrimpy side.

After the potatoes have cooled for a bit, peel them and put them in a serving dish with half a stick of real butter, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 cup of honey. Smash them around really good with a fork until all the ingredients have combined, and then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of chia seeds. If you’d prefer, you could sub coconut oil for the butter.

And that’s all! Instead of the brown-sugar-pecan casserole of yore, you can try a figure-friendly sweet potato dish with a chia seed topping that will lend you some fiber and protein, along with a satisfying little crunch.

Happy sweet-potato-smashing!

on coq au vin.

I probably had Joy of Cooking for at least a year before I cracked it open and tried a recipe. (To be honest, I think the guinea pig might have been mulled wine–not my thing, but it sounded good on paper). I’ve never been one for using cookbooks, but there’s a wealth of knowledge in this one, and lately I’ve been reaching for it more and more. A lot of the recipes are easy to tweak for those of us who are trying to be more health-conscious since they don’t call for processed ingredients.

Last night’s dinner is basically a gluten-free version of Coq Au Vin from Joy of Cooking. Here is what I used:

4 1/2 pounds of organic drumsticks. You could use any chicken part(s) you want, but the grocery store we were at had a pretty limited selection of organic meats, so this is what we came home with!

4 oz bacon (make sure it’s nitrite-free! Also, I fried extra to add to my mashed cauliflower).

1 chopped sweet onion

3/4 cup chopped carrots

1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut flour (I might should have used more, but I was wary–I’ve only ever used coconut flour for baking, not thickening sauces)

1 bottle of red wine (I used cab sav, my go-to red)

1 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon marjoram and oregano (each)

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup pearl onions (frozen)

10 oz baby bells, sliced

Fry up the bacon, I used a big skillet, and take it out to drain on paper towels while you brown the drumsticks in the leftover grease. Make sure you salt and pepper your chicken before sticking it in the pan! Also, if you run out of bacon grease, that’s okay–I did too. Just add a tablespoon or so of butter and you’ll be fine (preferably unsalted, as it won’t burn).

When all your chicken has been browned, put it in a big pot, covered, and add your chopped onions and carrots to the skillet (with more butter if needed). Cook those until fairly softened, then add your coconut flour, red wine, chicken broth, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer that until it’s all mixed, then pour your sauce over your chicken in the big pot, add the pearl onions, and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for a half hour or so until the chicken is done.

While the chicken simmers, sauté your baby bellas in a couple of tablespoons of butter until all the liquid has evaporated. If you’ve used some butter to sauté your chicken and veggies, don’t use four tablespoons on ten ounces of mushrooms–you don’t need that much.

When your chicken is finished cooking, fish it and the bay leaves out of the sauce. Toss the leaves, plate the chicken and drape it in foil. Then, turn up the heat and boil your sauce until it’s reduced and sauce-like. Once you’ve got it to the right consistency (make sure you taste-test!), reduce the heat and add the chicken and mushrooms back into the pot. Salt and pepper that bad boy, let everything simmer until it’s warmed the chicken back up, and you’re done! You can top with fresh parsley if you like–I didn’t only because I forgot.

I served my coq au vin with mashed cauliflower (and the leftover bacon) and roasted asparagus.

Happy cooking, and also Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day!

on spaghetti sauce.

I hope you all are having a marvelous start to 2014, but I also hope you haven’t burdened yourselves with New Year’s resolutions that will only bring you guilt and failure. Before the ball dropped, I thought briefly about resolving to do away entirely with sugar and carbs (which I try, very hard I might add, to avoid anyway), but I’m not very good at following rules, so I didn’t make any resolutions this year after all.

However, I am trying to be as mindful as possible about what I put into my body, and that’s where this no-noodle spaghetti dinner came from.

I’m a big fan of spaghetti for multiple reasons. One, it’s a one-pot meal. Two, you don’t have to have a recipe to make it. Three, it always makes a much larger pot than I expect, which means leftovers and less meals to cook later in the week! Hurrah.

Here is how I made spaghetti recently (which I suppose is not really spaghetti, since we don’t eat any noodles anymore) and what I used:

1 ½ pounds ground beef

¾ pound Italian sausage (or three links)

1 large chopped onion (more if desired)

2 chopped green peppers

2 boxes of pre-sliced baby bellas

5 cloves minced garlic

4 bay leaves

Oregano, basil, parsley, tarragon, marjoram

2 jars of pasta sauce

1 big can of diced tomatoes

Half a little can of tomato paste

¼ teaspon cocoa powder

½ cup or so of Marsala, or any alcohol, really

(A swirl of honey, if you need a sweetener for your tart tomatoes)

salt and pepper to taste

I dumped my ground beef into a large stockpot with one large chopped onion. I’m not sure it matters terribly much what kind of beef, but I prefer ground sirloin, or whatever has a less fat percentage. If you use a higher-fat beef, then once it’s browned, just pour off the extra fat so you don’t have puddles of it floating on the top of your sauce.

Anyway, go ahead and brown your beef. If you’re really on top of things, you might add your Italian sausage at the same time (we like the kind that is freshly made, with a lot of fennel), crumbled, but I wasn’t that on top of things, so I just let my ground beef go ahead and cook. Since it wasn’t fatty, I didn’t pour any excess off, and then I added two chopped green peppers, garlic, and mushrooms.

A note on mushrooms: I love baby bellas, and I got pre-sliced because I was tired and lazy, but you can do whatever mushrooms you like. I’ve never tried any other kinds, but I would advise staying away from white button mushrooms, they just look gross to me.

I also added my jar of tomatoes at this point. I know, I know, there’s probably BPA in those cans, but I didn’t have a Mason jar of garden tomatoes on hand, so whatever. I used organic, does that count for something? And you can add your sauces at this point, too, and your sausage. Pretty much everything else on the list.

I used Marsala, but you don’t have too. Cab sav is fine, however much you want to dump in there, I would just recommend simmering your sauce uncovered if you make it really runny. You also don’t have to add cocoa powder, and you can add more than I did, but I have in my head that it deepens the sauce or something, I don’t know.

And for the herbs, you can use any you have on hand, too, but those were close by so I dumped them in. I like a lot of herbs. If you add honey, make sure you add it once your sauce has finished cooking and you’ve taken it off the heat.

We served ours over steamed green beans, tossed with olive oil and sea salt, but you can choose any veggie you like. I prefer roasted zucchini slivers, but that’s hard to come by in the dead of winter.

Happy dinner!

on chicken soup.

Unfortunately, as soon as Christmas passed, I was struck with some kind of illness, and it appears that it will not go away before New Year’s Eve. This made me angry, of course, because I pride myself on trying to be as healthy as possible (although I do still nurture a penchant for good chocolate). And I haven’t been sick in so long I can’t remember being sick.

But alas, everyone I know has come down with the sniffles, and now it’s hit me, too. I’ve been downing teaspoons of elderberry syrup, taking Vitamin C supplements, drinking hot herbal tea with local honey and a lot of (good–not cheapy) cinnamon…I’ve even been downing raw garlic (which made me dry heave the first time I tried it) and once I wrapped my feet in garlic and onions, but I’m not sure what that did besides make our bedroom reek. Anyway, I’m still congested, but I do believe I’m on the road to recovery.

The good news is this: my wonderful husband made me chicken soup! And it has nourished me every day of my sickness.

Here is what he used and how he made it:

~ two split chicken breasts

~ 32 ounces of chicken broth (one box)

~ two chopped onions

~ four chopped carrots

~ four chopped celeries

~ four minced cloves of garlic

~ several bay leaves

~ a good amount of basil and oregano, or whatever herbs you like (those are just my fave)

~ salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, cover the chicken breasts with the broth. If it doesn’t cover them, add enough cold water so that they’re submerged. Simmer, covered, for several hours–we did four, at least. The longer, the better. Just make sure you aren’t boiling your chicken! A nice slow, soft simmer is all you need.

When the chicken is done, take it out of the broth to cool and add everything else to the pot. Simmer the veggies, covered, over medium heat until they’re done (I don’t like mine mushy, so it doesn’t take too long). When the chicken has cooled slightly, pull it off the bone and shred it, then add it back to the bot, and heat it all back up. Voila! That’s all. So simple. You could always add hot sauce if you want a kick, but I think it’s yummy as is.

Happy Holidays!

on sweet potato smoothies.

Kind of an odd concept, when we’ve gotten so used to our same ol’ same ol’ kale-fruit-seed combo. But I have to admit, the sweet potato smoothie Timothy and I tried was a nice (and very fluorescent) change of pace.

At some point when sweet potatoes were on sale, I stocked up and never ate them, so we decided to bake them all and then try them for breakfast. We typically try to make three servings of smoothie (one for me, two for Timothy), so you can adjust this recipe to fit your serving needs. All the amounts are estimated anyway.

We combined these in a blender:

~two cups of OJ

~one baked sweet potato (peeled, obviously)

~one teaspoon of fresh minced ginger (or less, if you’re not a fan of ginger–it gives a good kick)

~half a cup (at least) of fresh cranberries

~one handful of pumpkin seeds

~three pitted dates

~one spoonful of local honey

~one apple

~two chopped carrots

Salud!

on breakfast smoothies.

Ever since we decided that Timothy was probably lactose intolerant and possibly sensitive to gluten, we drastically changed our breakfast routine and we haven’t looked back.

I used to be religious about my breakfast: some kind of health cereal + strawberry yogurt + half a sliced banana, alongside a cup or two of black coffee. And Timothy was more of a fan of apple-flavored oatmeal.

Now, though, we’ve tried to go relatively Paleo in our diet, and that seems to be the easiest at breakfast time.

We eat the same smoothie (more or less) every morning. To my surprise, not only did we stay fuller longer after drinking a smoothie than we did eating grainy breakfasts, but we seemed to have more energy, too. I’m sure there are a lot of smoothie recipes that pack more of a nutrient punch than ours, but if you want to give it a shot and see what you think, we generally follow this pattern to make about three servings:

~Pour a little more than 2 cups of orange juice in your blender. I know this probably isn’t the best liquid to use, and sometimes we opt for pineapple juice instead, but more often than not its OJ from a carton (not from concentrate).

~Add a handful (1/4 cup or so) of pumpkin seeds. Apparently, Brazilians eat pumpkin seeds to ward off or destroy parasites. I’m not sure what other health benefits they have, but I like to imagine that our intestines get cleaned out a little.

~Add a handful (probably around a 1/4 cup too) of chia seeds.

~Add a spoonful of maca powder. Sometimes, we use a handful of goji berries, or golden berries, or small amount of cacao crunchies. But we’ve got a big bag of maca powder, and it is really nasty, so we’re working our way through it spoonful by spoonful.

~Add a big hunk of kale. We get the biggest bags of kale that Whole Foods sells. The leaves are already torn up for you, but they’re pretty stemmy, so you won’t want to use this kale for anything other than smoothies/juices/etc. It’s not good salad food. And since we don’t always get through the whole bag before it expires, I’ve found sticking it in the freezer works just fine. As far as the amount goes, I normally grab at least two big handfuls of kale.

~Add three ripe bananas. If you use frozen ones, as we do pretty often, you might need to add more liquid (water at this point works fine) to thin out your smoothie.

~Add a couple chopped carrots. When apples were in season, we used two apples instead of two carrots. Or you could do one apple and one chopped carrot.

~Add a handful of frozen fruit. We like pineapple and strawberries best, because it seems to cut the bitterness in the kale and that bizarre maca powder flavor. Blackberries and raspberries are good too if you don’t mind seeds in your swallows.

~Add a slice of beet. This is optional, but it will make your smoothie much prettier to look at, especially if you haven’t used any blackberries or raspberries.

Blend and serve!

We still accompany this yummy treat with a couple of cups of coffee. For a good time, we’d recommend anything Counter Culture produces. We’re also going to try adding coconut oil to our smoothies, but I won’t recommend that until I’ve tasted it. 🙂

Happy breakfast!