Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Recipe #1 Baking Chicken

Recipe #1

Baking Chicken

Cost: About $15
Equipment: Oven, chicken, baking dish, spice, olive oil (optional), apron (not optional if you wipe your hands on your pants like me)
Time: About an hour

We have established the fact that, if you’re reading this blog, you want to learn how to feed yourself in a healthy way. You might know some basics, or how to cook one or two things well. This blog will help those of you that haven't learned the real use of the kitchen to make some tempting meals. 

You can follow these directions and build on each recipe if you like. Those of you that know each other, get together and make these meals together. Share what you've learned, and expand your use of your skills. I’m hoping to write once a week, but before I promise, let’s see how we do. No worries, we’ll start with the basics, and you can learn in a progressive way. Once you master one recipe, you can either experiment, or if you’re a little unmotivated by the results, wait for the next! I’m going to only give gluten-free or grain-free foods, and healthy alternatives to things we love. I can’t say I don’t cheat once in awhile, so I expect you will too. I can devour a pint of Coconut Bliss in the blink of an eye. But we’re going to focus on building something.

Most of these recipes will build on one another. For instance, today we’ll talk about roasting a chicken. How to pick one out (a healthy one!), how to prepare it, and how to bake it. You’ll have to do the eating part, can’t help you there. And I’m never the one to cut the meat off the bone - I’m not good with knives. The next recipe will help you figure out what to do with the leftovers and the bones. This is the really good part! You will learn how to make things from the recipe before, and even if you don’t like one recipe, you will soon become adept at substitutions. So let’s get started!

Pots, pans, and glassware for your chicken
Before we head off the the store to corral ourselves a bird, we have to have something to bake it in. No, not the oven, I’m figuring you do have one of those. If you don’t, a large toaster oven might work if the chicken is small enough. But what we’re really after is to make sure we have something to put the chicken it while it bakes. There are a number of things you can use; a square Pyrex baking dish (8” or 9”), a round glass cake or pie pan, a large cast iron skillet (seasoned, of course), or a roasting pan that’s not to tall. You don’t want the chicken to steam while it cooks, which is what happens if the sides are too high. But it should be deep enough so that it catches the gravy without slopping over the side. A few things to avoid: no aluminum pans or Teflon coated bakeware. Aluminum is a toxin, and Teflon can kill your pet parrot. If it can kill your bird, it is not a good idea to be using it to cook your food. All set? OK, let’s get started.

In this blog, I wanted to keep it simple, so I started at Trader Joe’s. I will start by saying that I’ve done some research, and although they don’t publish it in mainstream media, Trader Joe’s does not use GMOs in any of it’s own brands. So we can go into the store knowing that the maltodextrin comes from Ecuador, and not GMO corn from the US. Now that we have that out of the way…just a bit about what you want your chicken to say on the label: PASTURE RAISED. Organic is good, but it’s not the best choice here. Chickens like to eat bugs (I'm sure they'd prefer organic bugs, but you can't get them to stay still to question them!). When do you think the last time a hen in a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) got a bug? She lived her life never knowing one, organic or not! 

Brined or not? Your choice
Food raised on it’s natural diet is the healthiest choice. Take a look at the pictures - and see? They don’t cost that much more, and the chickens are happier (I believe this, I really do). We should realize our food is our fuel; these animals give their lives for our benefit. We should raise them the way they were meant to live, and give thanks when we sit down at the table.

Find the meat section, it’s usually along the wall. You want to find a chicken that looks good, you know, long legs, big chest...no, just kidding. Make sure it’s not bruised and red in areas, and it’s the right size, maybe 4 or 5 pounds, and not past it’s sticker date. Very simple. Then stroll by the sample coffees, have yourself an ounce, and then find the spices. These spices are perfect for what you want to do. All you really need is something to give it a little pizzazz! Take a look at these choices, I’m sure you’ll find something that wets your whistle. Don’t go for the heavy stuff like gravy or sauces, they often have stuff in them that’s not very healthy. We just want a nice crispy juicy chicken!

Now if you don’t have olive oil at home, I’m wondering if maybe we should start with the alphabet. If you have it, you’re done for now. Go home and put on the apron. If you don’t have olive oil, there’s a wonderful TJ’s brand that I love, in the round bottle.

This one looks good
Hurry on home while 
the bird’s still cold, 
and throw it in the 
sink. Turn the oven 
on to about 400 or 
425ᐤF. Cut off the 
wrapper and wash 
it out. Now, when I 
first started baking 
chicken, I never
looked for the giblets. 
I often cooked the 
giblets inside the 
neck cavity (the 
opening with the 
long skin) without 
even realizing they 
were there. It’s OK, 
it makes the juices 
flavorful. If you’re 
squeamish, cook 
them for the animals, if you have them, or toss them in the city-compost (only hot compost should have meat - not your backyard compost if it’s small). Pat the girl dry, and give her a little massage with some olive oil if you want. Not necessary, but it will help her pass over to the other side. Pull out your spice you’ve selected, and have at it. It’s OK to just use salt and pepper, but it can get old after a bit.

Here we get to put her in that baking dish, bending the little wings back so they hold the chicken level in the pan, it looks so professional. Now we’re ready to cook. Of course, you did remember to adjust the racks in the oven, right? Me neither! You’d think after all these years, I’d remember that before I turn on the oven, but no, only when I cook a turkey do I remember that. Put your bird in the oven and turn the oven down to 375. Cook for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Pull her out (you do have pot holders, don’t you?) and let her set for about 20 minutes to ½ hour. The juices coming out of the chicken should be clear. If they’re not, put the chicken back in again for another 15 minutes or so. Don’t forget to turn off the oven!

Some options at Trader Joe's
Although I’m not religious, giving thanks for our food is an important part of gratitude; you have something to nourish you, and this animal gave you its life. Say thanks. Yup, just ‘thanks!’

If you want to get fancy, there are some things you can do once you have mastered the above:
1. If you separate the skin from the meat beforehand, the skin gets nice and crispy without oil.
2. You can put things inside the cavity (make sure you do a cavity search before you add anything!). For instance, preserved lemon, sliced lemon or orange, onion, seasonings.
3. On top, you can put a few pats of butter (thin, of course).
4. If you’re feeling really creative, slice some onions for underneath the old girl, or maybe you have some ideas!
5. You can put some veggies around the bottom (not too many if it’s a tight fit), like carrot, onion, celery, potatoes. Just a few, ‘cause they will be swimming in juice and oil!

Although we didn’t talk about what else you ate with the chicken, we will build on this later. I don’t want to overwhelm anyone with the serious hard work this takes (yes, satire). When you have eaten all the meat you want (dark meat, white meat), toss the skin and put the entire carcass, juices and fat and all, into a big stockpot. OK, you may have to go back to the store! You have a few days to figure this out, while you’re eating the chicken. Cover the carcass almost to the top of the pot (any size, really, but you don’t want gallons if you’re doing this solo). Simmer the bones for a few hours at the lowest setting on your stove top. Let it cool, and then strain it (no, not a colander, a strainer - back to the store!) into containers that are either a cup or 2 cups. You can use yogurt containers or really, anything with a good lid. You’ll probably need 5 or 6 containers. 

Optional: I usually make the stock after dinner, then turn off the stove before bed. In the morning, the fat is congealed across the top, limiting any bacteria. You can leave it there for extra flavor when you cook with it.  I like to write the contents on the lid with a grease pencil: TS is turkey stock, CS is chicken, etc. Add the date, so you use the oldest stock first. The stock can be used straight from the freezer. Just turn the container upside down and run water over it. It will slide right into a pot. Two cups of broth to one cup of white rice, cook with a tight lid, and voile! in 10 minutes you have delicious rice. Brown takes a little longer, 30 to 40 minutes, you can look at the package. You can also use it for soup or pasta, which is another recipe! Hope you had fun. Give me any feedback or share an experience you had doing this so we can all learn.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Our Way of Life

smiling boy in red shirt
We can do better for our children
We’ve all heard the new statistics about autism. 

One in 50 now, and there are no signs of 
improvement on the horizon. But there are things we can do, more than staying away from vaccines. Is it just vaccines that have caused this problem? No, I have to say emphatically, no.
graph showing rise in number if ASD cases
Let me explain why I say this. Our bodies are made up of organisms and systems and cells and chemicals that all must find a way to work together to be healthy. Up until a few decades ago, this wasn’t a big deal. But life gets in the way, sometimes. Think about the last thing you did that you shouldn’t have. Yes, that’s the one. Now think about how your parents or grandparents dealt with that thing you shouldn’t have done. 

toxic smoke stacksWhat was the straw that broke the camel’s back? With all the puzzle pieces, maybe it will make sense. Maybe you can see the big picture. If your child has ASD, it may be that it was that last straw that caused him to stop communicating. Maybe it was the vaccine, maybe it was the food, the chemicals, the air, the plastics, the mercury in the fish you ate. These are things with which you and your children should not have to deal. But our lifestyles are not the idyllic picture we like to imagine. What caused that last straw? Can you identify it? 

DO NOT EAT fast foodWas it fast food? Grandparents didn’t have that option, or at least not in the way we got it. It’s ubiquitous now, and not just one or two places – you can find 5 or 6 places on the same 4 block area, and even in hospitals (CHILDREN’S HOSPITALS!) you will find fast food outlets. How many calories, sugar, and hydrogenated oils in that fancy coffee? Cut it out. Now. Don’t feed it to your kids. They will thank you. How many generations does it take to get sick? Two or three, if you’re eating poorly. How long to get better? Seven generations. OK, that was for cats, but you get the idea. It is a lot easier to eat well and stay well than burden your offspring. They’re supposed to be around to care for us!

young girl sleepingWas it poor sleep? Um hm. I see. Just wanted to finish that movie, or that book, or checking Facebook one more time. Watching that last YouTube video, because that dog was just too cute and you had to share! Or maybe you’re bringing work home from the office, or sewing the button on that shirt that lost one. But when you miss sleep, you have other ways you’re affected that you might not be seeing. For instance, what happens when you wake up tired? Yeah, the cup of coffee at 3pm that you shouldn’t have had that will keep you up late again. Or the candy bar you ate to get you through that meeting. People that scrimp on sleep end up gaining weight. Moms that have kids know that one. Sure, kids need sleep to grow, to keep their bones healthy, to keep their immune systems in good shape. If you don’t ensure they have enough sleep, you may have a piece of the puzzle. 

spoon in sugar bowlWas it having that last drink? So there are good things and bad things about alcohol. One of the bad things is that it turns into sugar in the body. The bad kind of sugar. When you have sugar in your body, you grow yeast. When you have yeast in your body, it craves sugar. You see the problem. Don’t do it too often. It’s not just alcohol. Sugar consumed by college students depressed their immune systems for 4 hours after they ate it. If there’s a bug going around, do you really want to be eating sugar? And sugary cough drops when you’re sick? No, don’t think so! So keep that sugar away, especially from your kids. No, it’s not a special treat when they eat it. It’s bad for them, and we need to stop thinking of sugar as a reward. Maybe this is another piece of the puzzle. 

Was it eating poorly? Processed food or restaurant, our food choices are getting us into more trouble than we can handle. I see people every day that can’t handle wheat anymore. It’s so common, I’m surprised there is bread on the shelves at grocery stores anymore. cabbage salad chicken onions eggplant for dinnerI am not surprised when people tell me how many people in the middle of (and increasingly, across) this country are obese. ‘Fat bombs’ is what one friend calls them. They hit 20 and blow up like balloons. Why? The food we eat has no nutrition in it. It has no fiber, no vitamins, no minerals. Our bodies are starving for nutrition, and we aren’t supplying it from our dead soils anymore. I see ads for food that has no fiber whatsoever, you know the stuff I mean. Pizza with cheese stuffed in the crust, covered with meat. Is it good for you? NO! Are you eating greens? cilantro leavesNO? Change your diet! Your parents didn’t eat this way, and neither did your grandparents. It’s gotten progressively worse to the point where our food supplies so little our bodies need that it is amazing we still function, albeit marginally. Don’t accept your child saying he won’t eat his greens. Grow some with him, outside in a pot if need be. He will be so proud he can grow food! Find something to cook together, engage your children in the kitchen. One child with ASD so loved cilantro he’d help his mother make salad every night, munching on the wonderfully detoxing herb as he helped. Maybe this is a piece of the puzzle? 

couple jogging early in the morningWas it sitting in front of the TV all night after work? In this country, we do so little for our body’s health and expect so much. This evening I went to the gym, and was stunned. A Friday evening and there were more people there than I’d ever seen in 10 years. I thought about why. People need connections, and not just the Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+ kind. They need to talk to each other and interact. Go out and do things. We’ve become very communicative on our posteriors, and those posteriors are growing. Gastric bypass or the lapband are not the way to go. Your bones will lose the weight instead of your body. people playing bocce in the grassIf you eat for comfort, when you do these procedures, you’re not dealing with the reason you put food in your mouth in the first place. Once you put the crimp on your stomach, you won’t have the one pleasure you’ve used to cheer yourself up. Don’t go for the quick fix. Fix the whole thing. Go for a walk, find a routine you enjoy. Do it with a friend, your kids, the dog, or plan a routine and stick with it. Wear a pedometer. Just do SOMETHING. Make sure your children see it’s healthy, and it’s a great thing to do. Let this be another piece in the puzzle. 

basket of fresh fruits and vegetablesWas it taking a laxative? If this is the case, you’re in bad shape (literally!). Your gut needs cleaning, and this is so important for your kids, too. They watch you eat, and they follow suit. Don’t give them bad examples. Stand up and be proud! Eat those kale chips. They DO taste good! Get that system moving. When your colon doesn’t process food, as it sits, it ferments and rots. The fluids in this mess are being recycled by your colon, and it dries out the waste and gets hard as it sits there. The fluids are now toxic, and your body has to deal with this stuff. You wouldn’t eat out of the toilet, so don’t let your gut go bad. Start with some fiber, like an apple – it’s got soluble and insoluble fiber. Drink more water, or tea, or something else healthy! Your body needs vitamins and minerals, and if you don’t eat a balanced diet, you won’t be healthy. Neither will your children, so don’t let this be the reason. Another piece of the puzzle?

children harvesting kale in the gardenOsteoporosis has become quite a problem in the last decade, and it looks to get worse. Are you the type of person that really doesn’t like to eat greens? Get over it! They’re necessary, and you must change your outlook. Go to the store and buy some kale. Dry-fry it with some garlic (no Teflon, please) for 5 minutes on high heat and you will be amazed. Chop up some baby kale, drizzle it with olive oil, lemon juice, some pine nuts and feta, a little white balsamic, and poof! Instant lunch. Delicious. And it has fiber! Dehydrate a head of kale (OK, washed in the package is alright) by mixing a tablespoon of peanut butter, the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon or two of miso, and add apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s!) till it’s like salad dressing. Toss them around in a big bowl and if you don’t have a dehydrator, put them on a cookie sheet at the lowest setting your oven has (below 118F keeps it in the live-food range). Check it after an hour or so. When you taste it to see if it’s done, you won’t be able to stop yourself. You are now a chef! 

quiche cut into squares with a side of carrotsStart fixing meals ahead of time, maybe on the weekend. Make a big pot of chili with REAL food, stuff that tastes good all by itself, and add greens and zucchini and lots of onions and garlic and beans. Freeze some of it if you need to, but in one-container meals. Three in the family? Freeze enough of this meal for next week. Use a slow cooker, make some soup. Leave it on low while you work. Easy dinner! Roasting a chicken? Throw the carcass in a stock pot for 3 or 4 hours on low and you’ve got stock for the next time you make soup or rice. We need amino acids we can only get from eating a rounded diet. Don’t throw away things your body (and your family) needs. 

Over the past decade, as a society, we have become so much more dependent on ‘time-saving’ inventions so that we can get more work done. Is this a good thing? I think not. If we can go back to doing things that take the time, maybe we would see that all time-saving has done for us is make us tired, fat, and unhappy. 

young girl blowung bubblesSome of the children I see with ASD are the sweetest kids. But they have toxins in their little bodies and can’t get them out. Is it just the vaccine? No. It’s also the gut that isn’t digesting, it’s the parent that thinks it’s OK to just let them eat Chuckie Cheese this once, it’s the food that comes straight from the microwave or wrapper. We need to get back to cooking real food and sitting down to real dinners. We need to take our child’s hand and go for a walk and just enjoy being out of doors, without checking the iPhone every few minutes. It’s the flu vaccine that the moms are given while pregnant. It’s the doctor that insists on a C-section for whatever reason (I always say I’ve never heard a doctor admit he did a C-section because it wasn’t needed!). It’s the medicine you’re taking for acid reflux when a change in your diet is all that’s needed. It’s the candy and the garbage we put in our children, thinking it’s normal or a special treat. No, vending machines don’t belong in schools. We need to teach our children about healthy food IN SCHOOL. 

young girl choosing carrots in the school cafeteriaRecently I watched Jamie Oliver on a YouTube series. I was horrified and couldn’t stop watching. The lunch ladies were saying, ‘Let’s see if they eat it.’ WHAT? You teach them about healthy food and they will eat it. They follow what they are taught. They follow what they see their parents doing. This is the first generation that will die younger than their parents. Shame on us. 

How about diet foods? Don’t. 
poster from Natural News showing food products which may contain aspartame

Aspartame should never have been allowed on the market. It is an excitotoxin and kills brain cells by opening the calcium ion channels and toxins flood the neurons. Once we lose 80 to 90% of them, plan on Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or ALS, or diabetes. Don’t use fake stuff, don’t use MSG. Look at those food labels. Autolyzed yeast extract? That’s a fancy name for MSG. In the 60’s they put MSG in baby food. Did they know better? Yes, but they did it anyway, until Congress was forced to act. Don’t believe these huge agro companies care a smidgeon for your sweet pea. They will sell your grandma poison and make her believe it’s good for her. The word ‘natural?’ Don’t buy anything that says ‘natural’ on the label. It’s pure baloney. And no, don’t eat baloney! 

baby brushing teethMake use of your computer to research things like what’s in your shampoo, or your kid’s toothpaste. Go to www.ewg.org and find out what’s in your mascara or new couch. SLS? Bad stuff, found in toothpaste and shampoo, used to wash floors (an industrial detergent!). Doesn’t belong in your child’s mouth. Find out what’s in your food. Find out what’s ON your food. Don’t believe that the restaurant doesn’t use MSG, ASK! Your computer is a wonderful resource when it comes to finding out what’s healthy and what’s not. Share recipes. Share exercise routines. Share inspiring healthy stories! 

We haven’t even talked about GMOs yet. Let’s save that for another time. Too scary. 

home-made popsicle in non-BPA plasticWhat ties all these things together? We’ve been sold a bill of goods by companies looking for a profit. Not just the big screen TVs, the drug companies, and the fast food places. By the companies looking to sell us on saving time, on immediate gratification. We need to get back to basics, and start eating whole foods. That will take some getting used to. But it’s cheaper, and it’s healthier. We need to stop relying on our doctors to give us a pill to make something better. You can improve your health. But you have to work on it. 

You may think I harass my clients into improvement. I don’t make suggestions much of the time. I often let them find their way with supplementing a few things. Suddenly they feel better and after a homeopathic remedy, they start wanting to improve. Often the parents of my ASD kids are wonderful loving parents that do everything possible to keep their child from slipping away. It’s often not something that they had control over. But we need to take control of our health back into our own hands. 

people buying fresh whole food at the farmer's marketLet’s start planning things. Find out what’s fun in your area – maybe a market or a festival, a street fair or local group meeting you’ve always wanted to join. Take a cooking class with your spouse or your kids. Have someone show you how to really shop for good food. Learn about nutrition. Get the Nutrition Almanac and study what you crave. Maybe you can find why you crave those particular things! 

Start somewhere, start small, but just START.