Sunday, November 21, 2010

All That From One Chicken?!

Talk about stretching a buck AND getting max nutrient benefits... use the whole chicken! I used to be so intimidated by the thought of cooking a whole chicken. Now I don't know what I was so scared of because it's about the easiest thing you could do in your kitchen (besides watching hubby do the dishes). So take the plunge; walk confidently up to that meat counter, proudly ask for a whole fryer chicken, then read what to do with it below:

Whole Roasted Chicken
(This recipe is from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, slightly modified.)
What You Need:
1 Whole Chicken Fryer (about 4 pounds)
Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, or Butter
Fresh herbs - Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Orange or Lemon slices (optional)
Roasting Pan (about 2 inches deep, give or take)

Pre-heat oven to 375. Place a few sprigs each of chosen herbs into cavity of chicken. You also have the option of placing some orange or lemon slices in cavity (a woman at my church just gave me this tip this morning!) to help keep it moist and add a little citrus flavor). Place chicken in roasting pan, under-side up. Brush with butter or oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for one hour. After an hour, turn chicken over (using wooden spoon inserted into cavity) so that the top-side is facing up. Brush with butter or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and return to 375 oven for one more hour.
Enjoy the dark meat and some of the breast for dinner, but reserve the majority of the breast for recipes the next day. Also reserve the carcass and all the fatty, grizzly pieces that you (ok, I) would never eat. Basically, don't throw any of it away. You're going to make stock!

Chicken Stock
(This recipe is from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, slightly modified.)
What You Need:
Reserved Chicken bones, feet (optional), gizzards (optional), fatties and grizzlies. :)
4 Quarts cold filtered water
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery sticks, including leafy tops, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley

Place chicken, water, vinegar and all veggies except parsley in a large stainless steel pot. Let stand 30 minutes to one hour. Bring to a boil and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth. Remove carcass from the stock, then strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.

Leftover Breast Meat
You can use it for just about anything! My favorite thing to make is chicken salad sandwiches for lunch the next day. Shred the breast meat, add mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add dried cranberries and/or apple pieces and celery.
Another favorite use is to shred and spread on a BBQ Chicken Pizza.
Or you could add it to a killer Southwestern Chicken Soup. (If you use Lindsey's recipe you'll have to modify a bit because you already have cooked chicken ready to go! I would also suggest halving the recipe since there's not as much chicken going in.) Oh, and go ahead and use that delicious stock you just made.
Oven melt sammies, quesadillas, chicken pesto pasta... oh the possibilities!

One 4 pound chicken can really go a looooong way. It has become one of my favorite and EASIEST things to cook. Go ahead, give it a shot!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toddler Book Review
Fool Moon Rising
Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty

Dear God,
I heard a cosmic story
And wondered if it's true.
The moon was stealing glory
And this is what he'd do. begins this imaginative tale about the moon's attempt to steal glory from the Sun. Fool Moon Rising is a story about pride and honesty, ultimately teaching our little ones about the importance of humility in God's great light. We see the moon's foolishness as he proudly proclaims to the world what a great light he is, "until one day a piercing ray showed him a shocking sight."

He saw his pride and then he cried
For all that he had done.
For he had lied when he denied
His light came from the Sun."

In the final pages we see the moon pointing all toward the Sun... the true source of his light. It is a gorgeous portrayal of sin and repentance.

There is a half or whole stanza on each page, so it's a little more wording to take in than a board book, but not too overwhelming for a two-year-old who enjoys reading. My 22-month-old son usually wants to absorb each page at least long enough for me to read all the words. The beautiful illustrations are enough to keep him focused. The theme reads clearly, although probably wouldn't be understood until age 3 or 4. My younger toddler, however, has come to recognize the ideas of prayer, remorse and joy as he's become more familiar with the story.

For as many times as I've read this to Maddox in the past two weeks, I still haven't gotten sick of it, and even my husband commented (totally unprompted!) about how much he likes "that moon book." Now THAT'S saying something! I would recommend Fool Moon Rising for any child 3 and up, or a younger toddler who likes to read... or likes pictures of the moon. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homemade Carob Banana Ice Cream

(photo credit)

I realize I've been posting a lot of snack recipes lately. Probably because I'm pregnant and want to snack ALL THE TIME! And probably because after Halloween all I want to do is get all the processed candy out of my life! I can go all year without a Snickers bar, then Halloween creeps up and all of a sudden I have no self control. What is that??

You DO need an ice cream maker for this recipe, and I'd love to convince you to go buy one! Mine was only $35 and it has WELL paid for itself. This is by far my favorite kitchen appliance! Here's the beauty that graces my counter top...

I'm going with carob because it's the perfectly delicious, caffeine-free sub for chocolate!

Homemade Carob Banana Ice Cream
1 Cup Whole Milk, well chilled
1/2 Cup Cane Sugar (I've already cut the sugar here and still think I could use less... you be the judge.)
6 Tbsp Carob Powder
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream, well chilled
2 ripe bananas, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

In a bowl, mix together sugar, carob powder and cinnamon. With hand held mixer or whisk, beat together milk and dry ingredients until all sugar is dissolved. Gently mix in cream, just until incorporated. Turn on ice cream maker and add contents of bowl according to your appliance's directions. Five minutes before ice cream is done, slowly add bananas while ice cream is churning. Allow to churn until bananas are well incorporated. Enjoy right out of the maker or allow to "set" in the freezer for a few hours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Unexpected Life

Some days we get out of bed, go through the motions, and don't feel like we sowed or reaped much of anything by the time we're crawling into bed that night. Some days we get out of bed and have great expectations for the day. We wait for God to move and work through a church service or retreat or small group, and He does, and when we crawl into bed we feel refreshed and excited. But then there are other days, when we think we're just going through the motions, but God does something amazing. He teaches us a great divine lesson in the midst of our daily activities. And when we crawl into bed we have nothing else to feel except complete awe. Today has been one of those days.

I was reading a book to my son before nap time, as is our usual routine. Today's book was The Tale of Three Trees, by Angela Elwell Hunt. The story is about three young trees who have big dreams for themselves. The first wants to be made into a treasure chest and hold the finest treasure in the world. The second wants to be made into a great ship and carry Kings across the sea. The third wants to stay on the mountaintop and become the tallest tree in the world, pointing all eyes up toward God in heaven. As the story progresses, we see the aging of the trees and what becomes of their lives. The first is made into a simple feed box for animals, the second is made into a rugged fishing boat, and the third is chopped down, cut into beams and stored away. Not exactly what they were expecting.

And then the Holy Spirit began his work in my heart, as I read to my son, "Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams." I broke down. Right there in the rocking chair, toddler by my side looking up at me rather confused, I started crying. How many times do we forget, or more likely feel like God has forgotten, about our dreams? As mothers, is it not so easy to feel like as soon as that first child walked in the door, our dreams walked out? After Maddox was born there was a small part of me (a big part at times) that thought my Creator had forgotten me. He had forgotten about my destiny. We spend our childhoods dreaming about the great things we'll become, and as our stories play out, and those initial dreams don't seem to take shape, we often find ourselves feeling alone... left alone by the One who made the promises in the first place.

As I was browsing through some friends' Facebook pages this morning, I came across this quote:
"We all think we’re going to be great and we feel a little bit robbed when our expectations aren’t met. But sometimes expectations sell us short. Sometimes the expected simply pales in comparison to the unexpected. You got to wonder why we cling to our expectations, because the expected is just what keeps us steady. Standing. Still, the expected’s just the beginning, the unexpected is what changes our lives.”

Many of you may know the end of the three tree tale. The first tree, the one that was made into a feed box, ends up in a stable, used as a humble manger for the Lord Jesus. He realizes his dreams are fulfilled because he is holding the greatest treasure in all the world. The second tree, the one that was made into a fishing boat, carries Jesus across the sea when He calms the storm. He realizes his dreams are fulfilled because he is carrying the King of kings. The third tree, the one that was cut down and stored away as a pile of beams, seemingly left to become nothing at all, is pulled out and formed into a cross. He is returned to the mountaintop on which he wanted to stay, this time with the Christ laid across his chest. He realizes that he is pointing the whole world to the God of Heaven, and not only has his greatest dream been fulfilled, but it has happened in a way that is endlessly better than what he initially expected.

Sister, your Creator has not forgotten you. What we expect is not always what He plans to give, but the unexpected gift He so generously gives will far exceed anything we could have planned for ourselves. Let's live this unexpected life with a heart that swells up in thankfulness. That can be our best and only response during this season in life; a season when we could otherwise feel forgotten. We can trust that the One who had a reason for putting us here, also has a purpose for us to fulfill. He will bring it to completion in His perfect timing and we will see the greatness He had destined us to all along.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Five Free Kitchen Tips

Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a FREE cooking class with a few ladies from my church. A friend of a friend is starting up his own school of classes and wants to run several test classes before he starts charging. We were his very first test class! He had just moved into his kitchen an hour before we arrived, so it was a little crazy, but a ton of fun! Each person could decide whether they wanted to observe or participate. I love to cook, so I jumped in with two eager hands! Chopping, frying, stirring... I was glad I hadn't made dinner earlier. We put together a basic side salad, and cooked Cream of Potato Soup and Minestrone Soup. I had never made either soup before so it was great to try two new dishes! We also learned how to make a vegetable stock (easiest thing EVER), potato skins, and sopapillas. I savored those sopapillas straight out of the deep fat fryer...mmm. I'll be making them in my oven. :-)

"Chef Pete" also shared several kitchen tips with us as we went along and I want to share the knowledge with all of you! I love learning new tips to help things run more efficiently in my kitchen.

Tip #1: Mise en Place
Do you ever find yourself frantically galloping circles around your kitchen trying to locate the next ingredient before the first ingredient sets the house on fire on the stove top? Sometimes this feels like a nightly routine in my kitchen. Mise en Place is a French phrase meaning "everything in its place;" literally, "putting in place." It describes the process of preparing your kitchen to cook. Wash and ready your ingredients, set out your tools and utensils, and pre-heat your oven. When everything is readied before cooking begins, cooking is more efficient and has less interruptions. Whenever I can manage "mise en place" in my own kitchen, prep goes quicker, clean up goes quicker, and there is waaay less mess in between!

Tip #2: No-Slip Cutting Board
Have you almost chopped off a finger (or hand) because your cutting board likes to play slip 'n slide? Well you can buy one with rubber feet, OR you can save the cash and put a damp dishtowel between the board and the counter. No more slippery cutting board!

Tip #3: You Don't Need a Peeler
Vegetable peelers annoy me. Who would have thought I don't even need one! I can use the knife that's already in my hand.
Let's work with a carrot. Holding one end of the carrot in one hand, set the other end down on your cutting board. Hold your knife at an angle, perpendicular to the carrot, blade facing you, and scrape down toward the cutting board, peeling off the outside layer. Voila!

Tip #4: Cleaning Mushrooms
A once tedious task in my kitchen, this will now be one of the fastest veggies to clean. Put all your mushrooms in a colander and get 'em wet. Then (are you ready for this?) toss them in corn starch. Get 'em all coated well, then rinse. All the dirt and muck rinses away with the corn starch! 30 seconds to clean mushrooms!
(Interestingly enough, the corn starch method also works for fresh spots on your carpet. Sprinkle with corn starch, wait 15 minutes, vacuum up.)

Tip #5: Easy-Out Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is very thick and usually requires some prodding with a spoon to get it all out of the can. Or, try this: Use your can opener to slice all the way around both ends of the can, then push one end all the way through the can, ejecting the tomato paste (and other end of the can) out the other side! This is my favorite new tip! It's the little things in life, ya know.

Here we are gettin' our cook on!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kale Chips... a SUCCESS!

After trying kale chips so many times I about gave up... I finally found success! Some coconut oil (I always sub for olive oil when I can), low oven temp and long cooking time make these babies perfectly crispy! No browning and no soggy kale (gross). These are something I can feel good about eating the whole batch in one sitting! (Which I do, every time.) Here's what I do:

Basic Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
coconut oil cooking spray

Pre-heat oven to lowest temperature setting allowed (or 170 to 200 degrees). Wash and dry kale (dry VERY well). Pull kale off stems and tear into "chip" sized pieces. Spread out on cookie sheet and lightly spray with oil. Toss to coat all kale evenly in oil. Re-spread on cookie sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about an hour and a half, or until crisp. Then go ahead and eat it all because kale is one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can put in that beautiful body!

When we "bake" the kale at such a low temperature, the process is actually much closer to dehydrating than actually baking, which is why the kale gets crisp without browning. We're just taking the water out!

For another delicious variation on kale chips, check out Lindsey's Cheesy Kale Chips over at Enjoying Healthy Foods. Lindsey has a GREAT recipe blog all centered around whole foods. Go give her a read while you munch down some kale!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Anxiety... Let's Start a Conversation

I want to be honest about something. I struggle with anxiety. There... it's on the table. This post has been swirling around my head and heart for a month or longer now, but I have been too intimidated to write it because the topic could turn out to be enormously consuming. But then I thought, I just want to start a conversation, with maybe more to follow later. I don't have to offer a bunch of fancy stats or the perfect answers. I don't have any of those, really. I want to do what this blog is intended to do: encourage other moms by sharing my story. So that's what I'll continue to do now.

When I say "anxiety" I do not mean that feeling that comes over you every now and again from a day to day worry. I do not mean the stress you feel from running late or forgetting something on the grocery list. I do not mean the sense of guilt and responsibility that comes with being a decision-maker for your kids. I mean something a little different... a little bigger... a little harder to escape. I think everyone knows what it feels like to be anxious at one time or another. To worry or stress or come down with a case of the Mondays. But anxiety, as a day in and day out experience, can be daunting.

It's the thing that has had me staring at a pile of dishes for half the day because I just can't seem to conquer it. It's the thing that has had me running late almost everywhere I go. It's the thing that has had me starting tasks to never finish them. And it's the thing that has had me imagining awful (highly unlikely) things happening to myself or my family. It can keep you in the house or make you feel like you have to get out. It manifests itself in fear, depression, stress, anger, compulsion, obsession, paranoia, panic, and physical health issues as well. Anxiety can be literally debilitating.

Does any of this sound familiar? I have talked with so many women lately who struggle with anxiety on some level or another. I used to be embarrassed about my compulsive habits, or that I was the sloppy one in my marriage. But now I'm beginning to think that maybe I'm not so "crazy" after all. Maybe this is something a lot of women are silently dealing with. Scared to bring it up because, frankly, it can just sound weird. Like when I stand at my sink to fill up the Brita filter and have to take a deep breath and calm myself down because it makes me tense up to wait for the water to fill. Weird, right? Well, maybe not.

Why are we, as women, so silent on this issue? Why don't we want to talk about it? Why don't we share this part of ourselves with our friends? I think it has a lot to do with pretense and pressure. Young moms, it seems, can get into this mindset where we think we're supposed to look and act a certain way. We're supposed to have certain things figured out. Our houses are supposed to be clean when a guest comes over. We should have fall decorations up in the fall. We should be good cooks, or good bakers and should mail out our Christmas cards (ya know, the cute ones from Walgreens) on time. We should have play dates and a Bible study. We should be joyful in all that we do. And while none of these are bad things in and of themselves, it's hard to reconcile bringing something so messy as anxiety to the surface of the pretty pond. It's way down there at the bottom, with the mud and the rocks and last year's lost fishing boot. And maybe if we don't disturb it, it won't disturb us... maybe we can keep it from making ripples on the surface.

Jesus said to the Pharisees, "You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23:25)
Please don't misunderstand. I am not saying anxiety is greedy or self-indulgent. I do think, however, that Jesus brings up a good point that we could follow in all areas of life. What good does it do to make the outside look like something that the inside is not? Sometimes when I'm unloading the dishwasher I'll pull out a bowl that got nice and pretty on the outside but still has old food residue caked on the inside. Do I put it in my cupboard to be eaten out of? No way! It still needs more washing.

I have seen such a desire in young moms (including myself) to fulfill a great purpose in God's kingdom. No matter what it is for each person, the desire is overwhelming. But if we can't clean the insides of our cups, what can we realistically be used for? If outwardly I am all put together, but inwardly I am caught up in the chains of anxiety, how will I fulfill the purpose for which God has destined me? Will I not always be struggling with the things buried at the bottom of the pond? Will they not always hinder me? I have seen this to be the case in my own life, as I imagine it is for many others.

So for me, I say NO MORE. I don't have a great answer here. But I do know this: Anxiety is not an easily defeated enemy. It takes a great amount of focus, determination and intentionality on my part to overcome her. And I also know this: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus' promise to me. He will not leave me. And He does not think less of me for my struggles. He calls me daughter and leads me with kindness back to Himself. It is in these times when I feel the most unworthy that He calls me to lay myself bare before Him, not holding back these "secrets," and let His forgiveness and grace wash over me. And this, I believe, is the beginning of sanctification; that thing that happens when God actually changes us. When He actually makes us better... makes us less like ourselves (all those parts that we hate) and more like Christ.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

"Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly. I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control..."
(1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

I owe it to my children to be a mom who is not victimized by anxiety. Anyone else want to throw a thought out on the table?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cacao Freezer Bites

My friend Renae served up some of these goodies right out of the freezer the last time we visited her family in Laramie. She was kind enough to share the recipe and I just got around to trying them yesterday. Why did I wait so long?! These little guys are perfect for getting your chocolate fix without filling your body with junk. While the recipe calls for cacao powder, I used carob powder (a great sub for chocolate) because I'm pregnant and carob contains zero caffeine. I hope you enjoy this whole food dessert-snack as much as I do!

Cacao Freezer Bites
1 cup almond (or peanut) butter
1/4 cup agave (or honey)
2 heaping Tbsp cacao powder (or cocoa or carob)
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup walnuts, diced
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp flax seeds

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients well. Using hands, roll into teaspoon sized balls. Freeze on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Store in bag or tupperware in freezer. yum yum YUUUUM!
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