Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Last of this month's birds

I roasted the last of this month's chickens last night. This would be the one I divided into pieces and gave a garlic/olive oil marinade. Frankly, it was the least impressive bird of the month. The meat tasted nice and chicken-y, but beyond that it was nothing to write home about. The marinade was ho-hum and chicken pieces don't get the same kind of crisp skin as a roasted whole chicken. I think for next month I'm not going to bother with dividing up the bird, it's so much easier just to freeze it whole, and with vacuum sealing there's little risk of freezer burn over 3-4 weeks time.

Because of the Independence day holiday, I don't think we're getting next month's chickens until the 13th, so I'll probably pick up some grass fed beef for meatloaf this weekend. Next month, I'll probably repeat the same herb roasted chicken & 5 spice marinade for two of the birds, and scan through my cookbooks for some new ideas with the third bird. Chicken chili is on the menu again (great way to use up scraps), but I may keep a bunch of carcasses in the freezer for a couple months before I do broth again. The idea of a big ol' boiling stock pot in the middle of summer just sounds miserable.

In other sad news, I had to take out 3/4 of our tomato plants due to an unknown virus. I'm going to use the space to put in some winter (hard shell) squash, which fed us very well last year. And I might try to do some tomatoes in pots... though irrigating potted tomatoes is a nightmare around here. Mostly I'm just bummed. And really praying that whatever it is doesn't spread to the eggplants & chiles in the same bed (all part of the same botanical family and some of the virii can cross over). I can't quite figure out exactly which virus it is though, so I have no idea if they're at risk.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh Produce

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
I'm really excited we're starting to get veggies from the garden! Last weekend I pulled out some chiles to make chicken chili. And today we have some eggplants as well, the striped ones are fairytale eggplants and they're meant to be harvested when they're young and tender. The longer one is an heirloom chinese eggplant.

Dinner tonight is going to be my husband's favorite salmon cake recipe, with anaheim chiles subbed for the bell peppers, and roasted eggplant on the side. My basic roasted vegetable recipe can be made with almost anything, it's as amazing with eggplant as it is with cauliflower.

Basic roasted veggies

Any quantity of fresh veggies, cut into chunks. Options include everything from bell peppers to cauliflower to root vegetables to squash. Mix and match according to your imagination and what you have available.
Olive oil
Salt & freshly cracked pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Throw the veggies in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top. Toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Oil a roasting pan using either using a cooking spray, or coating it with a brush. Throw the veggies in the pan, roast for 30-45 minutes (depending on the size of the chunks and density of the veggies, large pieces of sweet potato will take longer than thin slices of zucchini). Vegetables should be starting to brown around the edges.

For mediterranean vegetables (like eggplant) sprinkle with some parmesan cheese halfway through roasting or deglaze with a tiny sprinkling of balsalmic vinegar at the end.

If you wanted more of an chinese feel (green beans anyone?), you could use peanut oil with a dash of sesame oil and add 5 spice powder along with the salt and pepper.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The subject of finding great, healthy recipes online has come up a lot lately in chatting with people, so I figured I'd park a few links here so that I can direct folks to one spot (instead of re-typing up the same e-mail a whole bunch).

Two really awesome websites that I rely on for recipes are:
Eating Well magazine and
Kalyn's Kitchen.

Eating Well is a wonderful magazine and has great food photography (yum!), but let's face it, it's 100 times easier to search a website for recipe ideas than to flip through a stack of back issues! I love their quick, easy to understand "Nutrition Profile" for each recipe.

Kalyn's Kitchen is a South Beach Diet recipe blog. But unlike the recipes in the South Beach Diet books (which tend to be a little heavy for me), Kalyn's idea of good food is light and fresh. If you're scared of nuts & olive oil or think that beans have too many carbs, then her site is not for you. But if you love fresh veggies, beans, whole grains and fish (like I do) you'll love her recipes. Her way of eating suits me just fine and I'm always getting great ideas from her blog.

And as a side note: I have been positively obsessed with kale lately. I'm planting more in my garden because the plants just can't keep up. I've been making a really great lentil & kale salad (recipe to come next week), and a friend of mine has been serving a totally different amazing kale salad recipe at every BBQ and get together. I'll have to bug her for the recipe because it has even my husband wolfing down his greens like there's no tomorrow. But by far, the greatest kale recipe I've been making lately has been kale chips. Tons and tons of kale chips. Man they are INCREDIBLE! Instructions abound in the blog-o-sphere, but I'll point you in the direction of my friend Mo at Kinda Like a Chef.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peach & pistachio salad

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
Today, for Meatless Mondays, we had an awesome salad for dinner, with a side of stuffed mushrooms. The salad was a tweak of an idea I found online, the combo of pistachios & peaches just sounded luscious and I've been anxiously awaiting peaches so I can try it out. The Small One doesn't like lettuce, so I just served his portion without the lettuce, and he sucked it down and asked for more! Not bad.

Peach & Pistachio Salad
Serves 4

1 head of green leaf or butter lettuce
4 peaches
1 avocado
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of salt
Pinch of pepper
1/2 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, chopped
Basil, thinly sliced (optional)

Wash the lettuce and tear into edible sized pieces. Divide into 4 portions among the serving bowls. Slice the peaches and avocados into chunks, mix them together and divide among the bowls. Mix the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Sprinkle with pistachios and garnish with basil. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

5 spice roasted chicken, ginger coleslaw

OK, I'm just going to call a spade, a spade here: This is a food blog. Any pretensions of mine that it was going to be anything else were foolish. I'm a foodie through and through and I can't try to write about things having to do with food without getting sidetracked by... OOOOO! FOOD! So yeah, I'm still probably going to tackle some other themes, but for now, I'm just going to settle in and post some recipes.

Today I roasted the second of our chickens. I'd popped this one in the freezer with a 5 spice marinade, pulled it out of the freezer Friday night and threw it in the oven this evening and it was thoroughly delicious. The wings especially were divine, tender with a nice crispy salty skin. As a side, we had my vegan ginger coleslaw. I'm not vegan (by a loooooong shot), but eggs don't agree with me, so I prefer to avoid things that are heavy on the mayo. However, this coleslaw is so amazing, it will win you over even if you're a die-hard traditionalist. I love bringing it to BBQs because people are always surprised by the big time flavor.

5 Spice Marinade

2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake (I have a cheap bottle I use just for cooking)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Mix all ingredients together. Makes enough to marinade one 3-5 pound chicken. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with chunks of onion before roasting. Roast in a 350 degree oven for an hour & 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. For an extra crispy skin, baste with a little peanut or sesame oil after 1 hour in the oven.

Ginger Colelsaw

1/4 cup tahini
Juice of two limes
2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
~1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups finely chopped cabbage (about 1 bag)
3 medium carrots, grated

Put everything except the cabbage and carrots in the food processor and whizz it until it's a nice dressing-like consistency. Set aside about 1/2 cup of the cabbage, and dump the dressing into the remaining cabbage and carrots. Throw the 1/2 cup of reserved cabbage in the food processor and buzz a couple times, then throw in the bowl with everything else. (This is just an easy way to get all the extra dressing out of the bottom of the processor.) Toss well, let sit for at least 2 hours and enjoy.

If you don't have a ginger grater, just peel about 1" long chunk of ginger, and run it through the food processor before adding the other ingredients.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Our chickens came on Tuesday!

After watching and waiting most of the morning, they showed up USPS instead of UPS like I had expected. Which is good because our UPS guy usually comes way at the end of the day, and I would have had to go to plan B for dinner. I was really impressed at how well they were packed, not a huge amount of packing material, but everything was in a mylar bag and it was a good 30-40 degrees cooler inside the bag, and even colder in the cavity of the chickens; definitely withing food safety guidelines.

So the big deal is that the chickens from this particular farm are processed "buddhist style" which doesn't mean anything about buddhism, just that the feet and heads are still attached. My first order of business was to chop them off. I am NOT going to be facing down heads and feet every week of the month. That part wasn't as bad as I had thought, I need to get better aim with the cleaver, but a broiler/fryer is a pretty small chicken so it wasn't too hard to get through the bones.

Then I got one ready for the oven and prepared the other two for freezing. Frankly, this is where I kinda got stuck. I need to look up some better "once a month cooking" recipes for whole chickens, so I can put them together as meals and pop them in the freezer. According to the USDA, fresh raw chicken is only supposed to stay in a home fridge for 1-2 days (although, they were slaughtered on Monday and in my freezer by the end of Tuesday, so it's not like they were sitting around in a supermarket cold case with people picking at them). Anyway, I left one chicken whole with a basic soy sauce, sesame oil and 5 spice marinade, and the other I cut into pieces and covered with olive oil & garlic. Both went into vacuum bags (love 'em!) and then straight to the freezer.

The one I roasted I simply rubbed with salt, pepper and oregano, popped a whole onion in the cavity and threw in the oven for an hour & 15 minutes. Let me tell you people... it was AWESOME! I don't think I've ever had a chicken where the breast meat had so much flavor, usually breast is really bland. And I was really worried that the credit for my tender chicken rested more on the shoulders of Foster Farms than my own... but nope, this bird was tender & juicy. I think because it was a broiler/fryer which is a smaller, younger chicken. Overall, I was impressed. The price is only a little more than organic breast meat, I know the quality is better than factory farmed organic chicken and frankly, it just plain tasted good!

Thursday, I made stock with the bones... I had bones & gibblets from one supermarket chicken, and the carcasses from the chicken I roasted and the one I took apart into pieces. I had roasted the carcass that I had divide up, a trick from my mom to get more flavorful broth. Oh and I also had a bunch of mushroom stems that I'd been throwing in the freezer from cooking for the past few months. I'm a big fan of holding onto veggie scraps to throw in the stock pot. The stock was way easier, I sauteed the gibblets & mushrooms, threw everything in a BIG pot (my husband brews beer so we have some MEGA POTS), covered it with water and threw in 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar to extract some of the minerals from the bones. Then I let it sit for an hour, brought it to a simmer and let it go for the rest of the day. The tricky part was after I skimmed out the bones, I had to cool the broth quickly to avoid bacteria. Do you remember those little glass plates you grew gross stuff on in science class? Well fresh warm broth is full of all those same nutrients and the perfect temperature for nasties to grow. So you can't just pop your MEGA POT into the fridge and hope for the best, you have to bring the temperature down quickly, by putting it into smaller containers and putting those in an ice water bath and then in the fridge. It was awkward, especially since I was scrambling for containers, but it all got done. I now have broth for one batch of chicken soup, some stew for my lunches next week and a 4 cup container that I'm not sure what I'm going to do with. I also got a lot more meat picked off the bones, so hopefully by the end of the month I'll have enough chicken scraps in the freezer for chili. Lord knows, our jalapenos are already going great guns in the garden!

I would post pictures of the chickenpalooza, but I'm kinda uptight about safety when it comes to food borne pathogens. I'm not one of those people who's going to go back and forth between my camera and handling raw poultry! The broth making... well, I could have taken a picture, but all it would have shown is that my kitchen was a MESS that day!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How does it work?

Sorry, I didn't finish up last month's series, the end of the month got very hectic in our household. I promise to spend a little bit of time this month wrapping up the loose ends.

This month, however, my theme is F-ing meal plans, how do they work? (If you have not seen the Insane Clown Posse video from which the 'F-ing magnets, how do they work?' meme comes from, go watch it now. Bring chocolate, you'll need it.)

I have no CSA chickens yet! They're coming next week because of the holiday. But here's what our week is looking like.

Tuesday - Chicken with pesto, cole slaw.
Wednesday - Pasta with artichoke sausage.
Thursday - Salmon cakes, with mixed veggies
Friday - Burgers on the grill
Saturday - Dinner out

Pictures to come.