Chicken soup with cilantro, chipotle, and lime

I have been sick for the last three weeks.  I don’t do sick very well.  Being sick means resting, and resting doesn’t really agree with my lifestyle.   I let a lot of things slack the last three weeks, including preparing healthy food, but I am finally back to feeling energetic and feeling like cooking again.  Yippee!

Chicken soup sounded so good the last three weeks, but I had no homemade stock left and the all day process of making stock seemed like too much (even though it is not).  I got around to making chicken stock yesterday using leftovers from my roast chicken. I also had chopped cooked chicken meat left from that same roast chicken, so I was able to easily make chicken soup after work today and boy was it worth it!  I need to never ever run out of chicken stock again.

The  idea to put lime and cilantro into my chicken soup came from my dad.  He is a fantastic cook and I always look forward to trying his culinary creations.  I decided to use cabbage in place of celery, the first reason being that I didn’t have any celery.  The second being that I detest celery with a passion.  I can tolerate it if it is overcooked in soup, but I really just avoid it if possible.  All of these flavors work so well together, turning a very simple chicken soup into something truly special.  This is the ultimate in a nourishing and comforting food.  Better yet, this soup can be whipped up in less than an hour.

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Ingredients

1.  1T coconut oil

2.  6 medium carrots- peeled and chopped

3.  1 medium yellow onion-diced

4.  2 cloves garlic-minced

5.  1/2 head small green cabbage-shredded

6.   6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

7.  2 cups chopped cooked chicken

8.  1t salt (or to taste)

9.  1/2t fresh cracked black pepper

10.  1/4 t smoked paprika

11.  1/4t chipotle spice

12.  1/2 cup Cilantro- chopped

13.  1 lime

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Directions

1.  Heat the coconut oil in a large pot.   Add the carrot and onion and saute until onion is translucent.

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2.  Add garlic and cabbage, allowing the cabbage to wilt a bit.  Add about 1/2 cup of the stock so the veggies don’t stick to the pot.  Sprinkle the salt on the veggies.

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3.  Add the rest of the chicken stock and the chopped cooked chicken.  Add the black pepper, smoked paprika, and the chipotle spice.   Allow to simmer on low for 20- 30 minutes, until the carrots and cabbage are tender.

4.  Slice the lime in half and squeeze one half into the soup.  Slice the other half into wedges.  Serve the soup with a generous sprinkling of chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.

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Roast Chicken

Some of the best recipes are the simplest ones.  I did a search for a roast chicken recipe the other day and stumbled across this one on Epicurious.  When I read the ingredients I thought it would probably be good, but also thought it couldn’t really be that great because of the lack of seasonings, vegetables, herbs, butter, etc…   Boy, was I wrong.  The meat ends up moist and succulent, the skin is salty and crunchy.  This is honestly the best roast chicken I have ever tasted and I probably won’t make roast chicken any other way.

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Ingredients:

1.  4-5 lb whole chicken

2.  2-3 tsp salt (I use Real Salt)

3.  Fresh cracked black pepper

4. 1-2 tsp fresh Thyme (optional)

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

2.  Prepare the chicken by removing the giblets and then rinsing inside and out. My dogs love roast chicken night because I feed them the giblets. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels inside and out.  The chicken needs to be as dry as possible so there is no steam when you are roasting it.

3.  Place the chicken in a roasting pan or do like I do and use a cast iron chicken fryer.  I absolutely love my cast iron and use it for most everything.  Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with 2-3 tsp of salt.  I know it seems like a lot, but you want a crust of salt  to form on the outside of the chicken.  Sprinkle with a little black pepper, maybe half a teaspoon.

4.  Tie the legs tightly together and tuck the wings under the bird.

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Ready to go in the oven!

5.  Place in the oven, uncovered, and roast for 50-60 minutes.  I usually end up with a 5 lb bird and 60 minutes is perfect.  Do not touch the chicken when it is roasting.  Just leave it. Don’t even look at it.  You probably should go for a 50-60 minute walk.

6.  Pull the chicken out of the oven and spoon the drippings over the top of the chicken.  If you want you can mix some fresh thyme into the drippings before you pour them over chicken.  Let the chicken sit for about 10 minutes before carving it up.

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see the salt crust?

When dinner is done do not throw away the carcass.  What I like to do is pick off any uneaten meat and put in a freezer bag.   Then I put the bones/carcass in another bag and throw both bags in the freezer.  When I am ready to make chicken broth it is ready to go in the pot.   If I am making chicken soup (stay posted for the recipe)  I use the leftover meat for the soup, otherwise the meat can be used for most anything you want.   Enjoy!

Kombucha

If you have never had kombucha I challenge you to give it a try. I would describe it as a slightly fizzy, tangy, refreshing, and sort of sour drink. It is basically fermented sweet tea. It is made by letting sweet tea sit in a glass jar with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY is sometimes referred to as a mother or a mushroom. The mother grows a new layer, called a baby, every time a batch is brewed. As the kombucha brews it releases probiotics, enzymes, B-vitamins, and antioxidants into the tea producing a healthful and delicious beverage.

I had been making my own kombucha for quite a while but I fell out of the habit and ended up throwing out the beautiful mother SCOBY I had sitting in my fridge. When I gave up soda and also realized gluten (beer) is no good for me I turned to kombucha to fulfill my fizzy desires.  The problem with the store-bought kombucha is, while very good, it is crazy expensive.  The expense and the fact that I was buying 3 or 4 bottles a week motivated me to make my own again.  The next challenge would be getting my hands on a quality SCOBY. Since I didn’t know anyone who had an established mother and I didn’t want to wait to grow my own, decided I decided to order a SCOBY online from Kombucha Kamp.

When my SCOBY arrived I excitedly dug out my old instructions, checked them with the instructions included in the package, and started making my very own kombucha!  Don’t be turned off by the white sugar in the recipe.  The SCOBY eats it all up and you are left with very little in the finished drink.   Kombucha brewing is the only reason I have white sugar in my house.

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Ingredients:

1 cup white sugar

3 quarts filtered water

4-5 tea bags (black or a combo of black and green works best)

1 SCOBY

Directions:

1.  Boil 3 quarts of water.  Some instructions will tell you to boil a smaller amount and then add cold water after the tea is brewed, but if you have highly chlorinated city water like I do you will want to boil all the water you are using.

2.  Add 1 cup of sugar to the water, stir until dissolved.

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3.  Remove from heat and add the tea bags.  Cover the pot and let sit until cooled.

4.  Once the tea is cooled remove the tea bags.

100_2796Kombucha Kamp sent along a nice bag of their loose leaf tea for my first batch!

5.  Place the SCOBY along with 1 cup of kombucha from the last batch in a glass jar.  My SCOBY came with 1 cup of kombucha in the package.  If you get a SCOBY from a friend ask for 1 cup of their kombucha.  Sharing is caring!

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6.  Pour the tea mixture on top of the SCOBY.  The SCOBY will rise to  the top of the jar.  Again, make sure the tea mixture is completely cooled before adding it to the jar.  The jar I have is a 1 gallon cookie jar from Meijer, and it is not tempered so it would break if I added hot tea to it.

7.  Cover the jar with a dishcloth, dish towel, or  2 coffee filters and secure with a rubber band or string.   Let sit for at least 7 day.  On day 7 you can sample the tea.  If it is still sweet let it sit for a few more days.  My house is cold in the winter, so if I am fermenting anything it always needs to sit for a few extra days.  The summer, not so much.

8.  Once the kombucha is done pour into glass jars and store in the fridge.  Save 1 cup of kombucha for the next batch.

Curried Mashed Plantains

One of the things I have loved about changing over to a paleo way of eating are all the new-to-me foods I am trying.  One of these foods is plantain.  My cousin Wendy, who is also a Whole30 success story, turned me on to this recipe when we had a lovely Whole30 compliant brunch.  She brought these curried mashed plantains and I just couldn’t get enough!

Plantains are similar to bananas, but not as sweet and much uglier.  The best ones to find look like big overripe bananas.  When I bought the ones for this recipe the cashier almost mistakenly rang them up as clearance bananas.  They are eaten fried, steamed, grilled, or baked.

 

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Ingredients:

3 ripe plantains

1 cup diced red onion

2 cloves garlic – minced

1T coconut oil -OR- bacon grease

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 t salt

1/2 t freshly ground black pepper

1 t curry powder

1t garam masala

Optional: 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

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Directions:

1.  Boil 6 cups of water, add a sprinkle of salt to the water.

2.  Peel the plantains and chop into medium size pieces.  I find it easiest to peel by first slicing the skin down the middle.

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3.  Add the cut up plantains to the boiling water, allow to boil for 20 minutes or until soft.

4.  While the plantains are boiling heat the coconut oil or bacon grease in a skillet and add the onion and garlic.  Saute until the onion starts to caramelize.

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5.  Drain the plantains and put into a bowl.  Add the 1/2 cup of coconut milk and mash with a fork or potato masher.

6.  Add the cooked onion and garlic, salt, pepper, curry powder, and garam masala.  This would be the time to add the bacon if you choose to do so.   Stir to combine.

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Roasted Root Vegetables

My love for root vegetables is no secret.  When I ditched grains I knew I wouldn’t be going low carb.  It might work for some people, but I personally need some kind of starch or complex carbohydrate to keep me going.  I get most of my carbohydrates from root vegetables, mostly sweet potatoes.  I typically eat one sweet potato every day and it works for me.  In addition to being a rich carbohydrates source, root vegetables are also a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.  Go for organic if possible as they absorb so much from the soil.

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One of my favorite ways to prepare root vegetables is roasting.  It really brings out the sweetness and nothing beats the texture.  A little crunch on the outside and nice and soft on the inside.  I am going to share with you my basic roasted root vegetable recipe.  You could add some spices if you like, the recipe is very adaptable.

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Basic Roasted Root Vegetables

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato

2-3 parsnips or large carrots

1 large rutabaga

several shallots

3T coconut oil

1t salt

1t freshly ground black pepper

Equipment:

Sharp knife

Large bowl

Baking sheets

Spatula

Directions:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees

2.  Peel and dice your vegetables.  You want the pieces a uniform size if possible, 1/2 inch squares are good.

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2.  Throw all the diced roots into a large bowl.  Drizzle 2T of coconut oil over the veggies and toss to coat.  I like to use my hands to make sure everything gets coated evenly.

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3. Use the last 1T of coconut oil to grease the baking sheets.  Spread the veggies on the baking sheets in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Ready to go into the oven, aren’t they gorgeous!

4.  Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then give them a quick toss with a spatula so they don’t burn.  Put back into the oven for another 10 to 20 minutes.

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5.  Take out of the oven and enjoy!   This makes a pretty big batch so I like to pack up the leftovers for quick eating.

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Feel free to play around with the type of root vegetables you use.  I have had success with carrots, fennel, and beets.

Homemade Sauerkraut

One of the first nutritional books I purchased was Nourishing Traditions.  It contains a wealth of knowledge regarding traditional foods.  I would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about primitive diets and how to prepare traditional  foods eaten around the world.  There is a whole chapter on fermented fruits and vegetables.  If you haven’t read up on the health benefits of fermented foods you should.  Fermented foods contain enzymes which help digestion, beneficial bacteria to promote a healthy gut, and they taste pretty darn good too!

Now, on to the sauerkraut.  Every time I write the word sauerkraut I have to make sure I spelled it correctly.  One of these days I will get it right on the first try.  Sauerkraut  is really as simple as can be to make and it is a good addition to any meal.  This morning I had some alongside leftover beef roast.

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Ingredients:

1.  1 head Cabbage

2.  1-2 T Salt

Equipment:

Large bowl

Sharp knife

2 or 3 quart size mason jars with lids

Something to pound the cabbage – I used my fists and a mason jar.  I might look into a meat tenderizing mallet.

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Directions:

1.  Cut the cabbage in half and cut out the core.

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2.  Shred the cabbage and put into large bowl.

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3.  Sprinkle salt over the shredded cabbage

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4.  Squeeze, pound, pummel, knead,  and generally punish the cabbage until it releases its water and reduces in volume.  *note, this is a good stress reliever*

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5.  Pack into mason jars and push down until the water rises to the top of the jar and covers the cabbage.

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6.  Cover tightly and place in a room temperature spot away from sunlight for about 3 days.  My house is really chilly in the winter, so I had to let mine sit in my cupboard for a few more days until it tasted “sauerkrauty” enough.

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7.  Once the cabbage has fermented to your liking, place in the fridge for storage.

Experiment of One

I recently finished up a Whole30 (you can read more about the program here), and I thought I would give soaked oatmeal a try. You know, just to see if I could tolerate it. As an experiment. Science!

I made a lovely soaked and baked gluten free oatmeal with no refined sugar, just some applesauce and a touch of honey to sweeten. My daughter was beside herself with excitement, one of her favorite things that I used to make was “hard oatmeal”. I ate it for breakfast yesterday and today.

Today I know, without any doubts whatsoever, that grains are not for me. Joint pain and fatigue set in late this morning and have not let up yet. So, I will continue on as an experiment of one. Happily grain-free.

Read this article on the Whole9 website, it tells you a bit about why grain-free might be right for you too.