Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fowl Play

There is nothing like a roasting chicken in the oven. It’s nutritionally sound, provides aromatherapy, and is a comfort food all rolled into a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 70-90 minutes.

I really like to roast chickens. No. Let me be clear. I really like to roast chickens. I would have one in the oven right now, only I’ve roasted three in the past seven days. Company was coming, you have to understand. And who doesn’t like to walk into a house filled with the smell of something good in the oven? Well, in this case—perhaps—a vegetarian.

Looking back, even as a child I was a huge fan of the bird. Though my Mom, rest her soul, couldn’t make a chicken to save her life. She always said people were “cookers” or “cleaners.” Imagine my dismay at 13 years old to realize that I was neither. I digress. She cooked the darn thing within an inch of its previous life. It wasn’t juicy. It wasn’t moist. Dry as the Sahara. Somehow, I liked it anyhow.

As I grew, so did my love for fowl. Chicken was my friend back in high school when I decided that I needed a little more of it so there would be a little less of me in a bathing suit. In college, I admit, Colonel Sanders was the source of my chicken fetish from time to time. In my 30’s when I began doing strength training, it was my answer for additional protein for many a mid-afternoon snack. It was what I would order in any shape or form - whether I was in a Chinese, Thai, Italian, Spanish or fill-in-the-blank restaurant. Yet for years I was hesitant to try roasting one myself.

t really wasn’t until I understood the truth and horror around factory farming that I realized that I needed to spread my wings and find good quality chickens that didn't have antibiotics or hormones in them. Then… learn to cook it. Also, if I was going to eat an animal for food, I wanted to be sure that it saw the light of day during its lifetime. I wanted to know that it was not kept in an unlit chicken coop with hundreds of other chickens milling about in their own mess. I wanted to know that it could enjoy the natural instinct of literal pecking order, sans suffering the stress and pain of having their beaks physically altered so that it wouldn’t injure, or prematurely kill, another chicken in the process. And, that during its life span, it was eating healthy feed and not genetically modified corn or soy product. Okay, sorry for the soapbox. If you are not aware of what goes on with chicken processing, try to learn about it. It's worth it! Most chain supermarkets, non-organic butchers or most restaurants are up to fowl play. Alas, that’s the story of most 21st century chickens today.

What to do?

If you live in an area that has local chicken farmers, please support them. Many local farmers markets will have vendors with free range and antibiotic/hormone free chickens. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are two other national chains that make a point of having 'clean' meat. And, once you find that great source of beautiful lean protein, here’s a great way to cook it:

Divinely Roasted Chicken

-Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
-Put your chicken in a roasting pan
-Pour one cup of organic vegetable broth/stock over it (Or use one cup of either red or white wine)
-Season with Celtic Sea Salt and Pepper
-Add any additional seasonings you wish (some yummy ideas: sage/rosemary/thyme; herbs de Provence; a glaze of honey and mustard --one teaspoon of mustard to one tablespoon honey)
-Place in pre-heated oven for 70-90 minutes. Timing will depend upon your individual oven. Gas and electric will cook differently. Older ovens, whatever the energy source, cook more slowly.

My FAVORITE sides are roasted root vegetables (beets, potatoes, carrots, onions, parsnips and/or any combination). I cut them up, drizzle an abundant amount of olive oil on them and season them, minimally with Celtic Sea Salt and black pepper. Herbs de Provence are great on them too. I usually put them in a separate roasting pan on the oven shelf below where the chicken is roasting, but at the same time. They are usually done 10-15 minutes before the bird.
Others swear by throwing them in with the chicken and letting the veggies cook in the meat juices for more chicken delight.

Note: Some people prefer roasting at 350 degrees. If this makes you happier…go ahead and do it. I have an electric oven and I’m just happier roasting at 375 degrees.

You know when the chicken is done one of three ways:

a) Use an oven thermometer. It should read 180 degrees when it is cooked.
b) It should be evenly browned and the leg will jiggle freely when you wiggle it.
c) The juices run clear when you cut into it. (And, of course, the meat is white—not pink)

Bon Appetit !

Contact me for nutrition/wellness counseling at

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tiny Bubbles

I ate dinner in the bathtub a few nights ago.

I knew I’d be pretty cozy upon return from a yoga/meditation class and debating between dinner and a bath, because I’d want to soon get to sleep. So I made some dinner ahead of time then warmed it upon returning home while simultaneously running a warm tub. Then my plate and I soaked for 30 lovely minutes.

Don’t fret. I held the plate. It didn’t touch water.

My aqua meal, as one friend referred to it, did as much for calming me as the yoga practice AND the bath. It’s my version of a phone/cable/internet company’s triple play….yoga/dinner/bath.

For me eating a meal in the tub has a wonderfully undisturbed effect on the nervous system, slowing the body, mind and spirit down from a frenetic I’ve “gotta- get -stuff -done” pace. Why? Well, because I love taking baths. By the way, I have another friend who likes to eat in bed. Why? She loves her bed. And I know someone who loves to eat out-of-doors, and yet another person who hates to eat outside. Getting the picture?

It is really being aware of things you want and need. Being able to answer: Where can my body relax? Know that when it’s in a peaceful state it will digest, take in/absorb nutrients better and feel more tranquil.

So…how about eating :
-while standing mostly upright with a slight bend over the kitchen sink?
……..Sitting in the car as it idles and you wait for someone outside of somewhere?
……..Walking down the block while you are heading toward an appointment?
No way.

When working with clients I often do a session where we prepare a meal together in their home and then sit and eat it together. I place emphasis on using nice placemats or a likeable table cloth. Lighting candles and/or dimming the lights are great too. Creating an atmosphere for relaxation around eating is important and an act of kindness you give yourself.

That all said, eating certain foods can assist in relaxation and help your body move to an undisturbed state.

-Any of the whole grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth, oats, barley, rye….) are considered natural valium for their expansive effects on the nervous system.
-Fruits and other naturally sweetened (honey, molasses…) foods fall under a similar category. Their sweet taste naturally relax one and “open” them up some.
-Herbs that can be ingested as teas (lavender, chamomile) create internal feelings of peace and are great sleep-inducers.

All this talk about baths makes me want to run one. And, hmmm….I’m feeling a little hungry.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Can, You Can......CAN

It is the second day of September. How did that happen? It was just May…and then June. We were complaining about how much rain kept falling and how it still felt chilly and not quite like flip-flop season. Then it was July and the flip flops made a squeaky, sticky sound as they hit the puddles that were still everywhere, as it continued to rain. Then, finally, it was August. The sun at the beach, in the mountains, and on the corner spread rays of sunshine that simply and to the point said: “it is summer!”

Well, it’s the last month of summer now. It is this time of year that people that live in the country begin to talk of canning foods. They plan to can tomatoes or blueberries, in the form of jam, and other stuff that grows in their home gardens or is sold via the Farmer’s market. Foods that they want to savor for the upcoming winter season.

I have been in the field of nutrition and wellness and based, most of the time, in the country for nearly a decade now. Yet, when I hear the word, “can,” it actually brings me back to my city roots and makes me think of one of two things: kick the can—a game I didn’t, but that other kids played; or Delmonte, the brand where most of my vegetables came from when I was growing up. Yes, they were in a CAN.

When in this state of being, somewhere between the uses of the word as a verb or a noun I try to rise above my truth. My truth is that I have no need, want or desire for the verb “can” or the noun “can.” I have decided to focus on the mason jar being half full and talk with anyone out there who might still wish to have some fresh local vegetables in the middle of January, even if they live in the northeast and won’t have year-round access to the beloved Farmer’s Market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) …like me.

I know, I know. Being a nutrition counselor I’m supposed to be queen of the can…right? Well: nope. Not me. It’s just not my cup of honey vanilla chamomile tea. However, I’ve got some short cuts that will fit the bill so you, too, can have some fresh local veggies in the cold of the moment, come February, even if the only can-can you are interested in is dancing.

Here, please find, the Cliff Notes version of my attempt at “Canning:”

Garden Ripened Olive Oil

Yes, the man who made the leafy green, spinach a main character in his cartoon strip, Popeye, also loved his beloved Olive Oyl….and, really, don’t we all love her too….olive oil, that is. It can withstand high heat, provide a great source of fat, and fashionably dress any salad or sautéed/roasted vegetable, it is true. Take some garlic tops—otherwise known as “scapes” and let them sit in a jar of olive oil for the next few months. You can do the same thing with onions, and what you’ll have is a beautiful, ready-made, flavored olive oil that will accompany some good looking vegetables come the first snow.

Along the same lines, you can take any of your garden herbs….basil, thyme, sage, etc. and have wonderful infusions of olive oil with the remnants of your summer garden.
Remember that olive oil is a preservative. So, you can put just about anything in there and keep it well. Who needs a freezer when you have a barrel or two of olive oil hanging around?

Vegetable Stock/Broth

You know the tops that are on carrots, fennel, celery and the like? NOT the leafy greens that we know that we can cook and savor. But the veggies whose tops we don’t think twice about chopping off and tossing away? THOSE tops can easily be the base for a vegetable stock/broth that can be the foundation for wonderful soups, stews and/or casseroles all winter long.

-Put tops of veggies in a pot.
-Fill the pot with water
-Toss in some sliced up onions, garlic and a bit of Celtic Sea Salt and pepper
-Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30-45 minutes
-You’ve got the basis for the most simple and delicious stock that you’ll enjoy all winter

True frozen vegetables

You can take any/all of the vegetables that you are getting in your own or Community Supported or Farmer’s Market gardens and simply freeze them. It’s a lot nicer, tastier, and healthier to pull out a ziplocked bag of beet greens, organic corn kernels or zucchini in the middle of the winter, rather than fishing into the back of the grocer’s freezer section to processed dull lifeless veggies. Leafy greens are the easiest to freeze and hold up the best to freezing, so here you go:

-Take your leaves of kale, collards, bok choy and the like.
-Blanch them (Put them in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two and then immediately put them in a pot of cold water to stop the cooking process.)
-Spin them dry in a salad spinner or lay them out to slowly dry.
-Lay them flat in ziplock bags and freeze until needed for use

Give it a whirl. Then when we hit the post-holiday season, I’ll ask you to pull some of your frozen and/or “canned” goods out and we’ll make soup. It’s hard to image now, but we’ll be cold. So, soup will be good.