Chicken salad is something I make often.  It’s easy, tasty and the ingredients are readily available.  I like that it has fruit and little bits of sweetness even though it’s a savory dish.  I usually eat a scoop of this all by itself but also serve it along with veggies or on top a bed of greens.  It’s a go-to lunch item but I’ve also made it for company to glowing reviews.  If you fancy, you can swap out the cranberries for other dried fruit (raisins are a favorite), add some walnuts or pumpkin seeds, use celery instead of carrots.

Apple Cranberry Chicken Salad

Serves 4

1 pound cooked chicken

1 medium to large apple (I like Fuji but any variety will do)

1 medium carrot

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 – 3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 teaspoon grainy mustard

1 – 2 teaspoons TJ’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other herb mix)

1 teaspoon dried dill

Salt and pepper

  1. Cut up the cooked chicken, apple and carrot into pieces that are roughly the same size and place in the food processor and pulse.  Process until everything looks crumbly.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process just until everything is well mixed.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with a salad or raw veggies.

Happy Valentines Day!  I wanted to share a piece of what makes my heart sing.  I’ve been away for what is an eternity in the blogging world but I’ve been busy.  We recently added to our family via adoption – a baby boy – and  my computer and I have lost touch.  Today, though, I’m back to send a shout out and let you know that new posts are coming.  I’ve still been cooking (still gotta eat) and taking some photos here and there, so please stay tuned.

Blog sale!  So I didn’t set my blog up for this but since I have something that other primal-minded people might find useful, I’m going to offer it up for sale before I put it on the Bay.  If you are looking for a pair of Vibram FiveFinger KSO Sprint in Slate/Palm, Women’s 37, then I have a pair.  I’ve worn it all of 4 or 5 times and it’s in excellent condition with no noticeable wear.  I bought them last year to walk around the neighborhood and wetlands in but I have really narrow feet and they just don’t suit me.  In all honesty, I’d rather walk around in a cute pair of ballet flats.

If you’re interested, e-mail me.  Thanks.

$60, shipping included, US only.

 

Have you heard that radio ad for Frank’s Red Hot Sauce?  Where the granny says “I put that [bleep] on everything.“?  Well, that’s how I use the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s.  If I am using salt in something then I am probably also adding this.  I like it because it has all kinds of herbs and goodies but no salt so it’s an all-purpose seasoning that can be used in lots of foods.  It’s especially handy if I don’t happen to have any fresh herbs but want a quick and dirty way to spice up a dish.  Trader Joe’s carries it in a 2.2 ounce bottle and it’s the only place that carries a seasoning mix like this, so I’m constantly replacing this tiny little bottle.  Then one day when I was shopping at Costco I came across the Kirkland Organic No-Salt Seasoning.  I swear it’s the warehouse bulk version of the TJ 21 Seasoning Salute.  They both list the same ingredients, just in slightly different order.  I was so happy!  I already love Costco but now it’s just that much better because I can get the seasoning I’m obsessed with in a big shaker bottle.  If you’ve wanted to try this and don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can probably find it at Costco.  But if you don’t live near a Costco, then I’m sorry.

In case you’re wondering, the ingredients on the TJ 21 Seasoning Salute is as follows.

  • Onion
  • Spices (black pepper, celery seed, cayenne pepper, parsley, basil, majoram, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, savory, rosemary, cumin,  mustard, coriander)
  • Garlic
  • Carrot
  • Orange peel
  • Tomato granules
  • Lemon juice powder
  • Oil of lemon
  • Citric acid

Love this stuff!

Once you see the photo that follows, you will think I am totally corny for the naming the title of this post.  The truth is, though, that this is just straight up, good roast chicken.  I debated whether to even post the recipe since it’s so straight forward and simple and so many people already know how to roast a chicken.  But if you are one of those who could use a little help, read on.

I used to be a huge fan of the rotisserie chicken at Costco.  It was so convenient to stop in after work, pick one up and have dinner ready in no time.  The chicken was always tender and flavorful and I wish I knew what Costco uses to season it.  The best part was how cheap it was – you could get several meals for two people out of one bird for less than $5.  But cheap meat probably isn’t the healthiest kind, so now I make my own.  It’s easy to do, doesn’t require much preparation and the cooked chicken can be used in so many different ways.  After a meal of roast chicken, I use the leftovers for chicken salad, throw it in a frittata, add it to some lettuce wraps, make soup with it, or just eat it cold out of the fridge.  It makes such a regular appearance in my kitchen that, like other things I cook a lot, I don’t really measure anything out any more.  Honestly, it’s tough to mess this one up but I have provided some guidelines on the ingredients.

I prefer to roast a whole chicken, as opposed to one that is cut up, because you get more flavor with a whole bird.  The skin and bones also keep the chicken from drying out during the cooking process.  I roast my chicken by standing it up using something similar to this thing.  It’s based on the beer can chicken and it’s great because it lets the fat and liquid drip away and keeps the skin crispy.  The canister in the middle can be filled with beer, wine, stock or liquid of your choice and it helps to steam the chicken from the inside.  Add some bay leaves, lemon or garlic to the liquid and it adds even more flavor.


Straight Up Roast Chicken

Makes 1 chicken, feeds about 4 people

1 4 to 5-pound organic whole chicken, room temperature

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or your favorite herb seasoning)

1 cup of beer, wine, or chicken stock

Bacon drippings (or your choice of fat), melted

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine the rosemary, thyme, parsley, salt and herb seasoning in a small bowl and mix well.
  3. Pour the beer/wine/stock into the center canister of the vertical chicken roaster.
  4. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towel.  Removing excess moisture will ensure a crisp skin.
  5. Separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken on the breast, thighs, and back.  Be sure to do this gently without breaking the skin.
  6. Brush or rub bacon drippings on the outside of the chicken and in between the skin.
  7. Rub the herb and salt mixture in between the skin and on the outside of chicken so it’s well coated.
  8. Place chicken vertically on the chicken roaster and tuck tips of wings under so they won’t burn.
  9. Place roaster in oven and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the internal temperature reads at least 170 degrees F.
  10. Let chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

A recipe post, FINALLY!  As I promised earlier, here’s one of many recipes that I want to share.  My all time favorite cookie is oatmeal raisin and I think that this version is a pretty decent alternative.  It’s not grain free since it has quinoa in it but I think the quinoa lends more flavor than a boring oat.  I have been using a basic cookie recipe and changing the add-ins based on the flavor I want and this came out of that.  I will share the basic cookie dough recipe, and a chocolate chip version, in a future post.

 

 

Quinoa Raisin Cookies

Makes about 30 cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened (or coconut oil)

1 cup coconut sugar (or 1/2 cup coconut sugar, 1/2 up Zsweet)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups almond meal or blanched almond flour

1 cup quinoa flakes

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together.
  4. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Add dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat well.
  6. Fold in raisins.
  7. Drop by the teaspoonful onto cookie sheet, flatten slightly, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving to cookie rack.

Compared to some of my other recipes, this uses more sweetener.  I have played around with both the amount of sweetener and the form.  I’ve tried more coconut sugar but it was way too sweet.  I’ve tried less and paired it with stevia and didn’t like that combo much either.  The flavor and sweetness were fine but the texture was not the same.  Of course, the raisins are plenty sweet themselves so the cookies will still turn out if you cut the sugar by one-third or half.  Another note is that this recipe works well with either blanched almond flour or natural almond meal.  I ran out of almond flour and have been using Trader Joe’s almond meal and they bake equally well.  If you play around with the recipe, let me know how it works out for you.

Hello blog, I’ve missed you!  I hadn’t intended to stay away for so long but summer came, family activities picked up, and here I am, months later.  One of the things that’s taken up my time is my new fitness routine.  I’ve been practicing yoga for over a year now and in the last few months have upped the frequency to almost daily.

I first tried yoga eons ago when I was in college.  Back then it seemed to be more of a new age-y activity.  The class was for the gentle, meditative type of hatha yoga and my instructor’s name was Coco.  She had long, gray, braided hair, complete with feathers.  I stopped going after a few classes because it always seemed that I would fall asleep as soon as we got into corpse pose.  A nice respite from an afternoon of classes, but I could have easily achieved that in the comfort of my own dorm room.  Flash forward to last year when the neighbor who runs the daycare my daughter attends recommended hot yoga to me.  My first thought was, “Uh, yoga? I don’t think so.”  My second thought was, “Isn’t it gross with all those hot, sweaty people dripping on you?”  She went on to explain that, no, it wasn’t nasty and that the heat really helped to loosen her muscles and relieve her arthritis.  She gave me a couple of free passes, I thanked her and promptly forgot where I put them.

After a couple of months, I started thinking about trying yoga in earnest.  For me, the thing with exercising has always been consistency.  I’m not the type of person who loves to work out.  I do it because I’m vain and want to look good and if it’s going to happen on a regular basis, I better love it.  I also wanted something that didn’t require a ton of equipment or weights or lots of space.  I had been training with weights and trying some primal-friendly, cross-fit type workouts and while I was improving my muscle tone, I didn’t want to be tied to heavy weights as I travel quite a bit for work.  Yoga was my answer on those two fronts.

So I signed up for a free week of classes and, wouldn’t you know it, I ended up going everyday for five days.  I would have been there seven days straight if it hadn’t been for the business trip that interrupted my free yoga.  It was all the things I thought it would be – hot, sweaty, drippy.  I was tired and sore but I also felt renewed and refreshed.  Yoga is all about uniting and balancing opposites.  In order to fully “be” in a posture, there is both pushing and pulling, extending and compressing.  The muscles have to be engaged in every which way.  And you have to breathe.  Sounds simple but when you’re trying to hold a pose, the breath instinctively stops.  Reversing that tendency and breathing through the pose is what will get you through it.  This facet of training the body is what I was missing from other types of exercises.  What I really value, though, perhaps even more than the physical aspect, is what it does to my mind.  Taking 60 or 90 minutes a day (a huge luxury in and of itself) for my type-A, obsessive, multi-tasking self to quiet this chaotic mind is a humbling challenge.  I have experienced some emotional releases mid-pose that have caught me off guard and almost threw me off my feet.  I’ve recently entered into what will be a life-altering commitment and yoga is helping me to grasp and process it.  Yoga for me is not just a practice but a space; somewhere for me to both stretch and think, exert and let go, rejoice and grieve.   No matter how long of a day I’ve had and how I feel going into it, I always come out feeling better and rejuvenated.  Physically speaking, I am probably in the fittest shape I’ve ever been and my body continues to evolve.  I have more flexibility, better posture and I feel more symmetrical.

So I’m going to wrap up this yoga love fest.   I hope you have a chance to try yoga for yourself, you might like it.  I’ll be posting a recipe shortly, I promise!

Yogurt goes fast in our house.  It’s eaten for breakfast and snack, mixed into dips and dressings, and topped on chili and soups.  My favorite way of eating it is unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and bananas or raisins and slice almonds.  The thing is Greek yogurt is more expensive than its runnier counter parts.  And most chain supermarkets don’t carry the full fat variety.  So it’s non-fat or low-fat yogurt mixed with some other gunky fat-replacer or stabilizer.  They also have lots of sugar.  After seeing AndreAnna’s yummy post on homemade yogurt at Life as A Plate, I figured I can make it myself, hopefully save some money and get a pretty decent product.

When searching for yogurt making methods, I had no luck finding one that didn’t require cooking the milk first.  All the recipes start with pasteurized milk which is followed by further cooking the milk.  Why?  I imagine it’s because you are killing off any unfriendly bacteria that may compete with or impede the friendly, yogurt-making kind, but no where does it say so in any of the recipes or blogs I found.  Even more curious is that all the buttermilk or sour cream instructions I dug up just have you mix the milk or cream with the starter and leave it at room temperature to culture.  I totally get why you’d need to heat the milk if you were using raw milk since it has yeasts and other organisms not found in pasteurized milk.  I tried using raw milk, without cooking it, and I don’t recommend it.  It turned out more like kefir and a bit cheesy.

There are two reasons I don’t want to cook the milk, the most important of which is I don’t want to go through the extra step.  I’m on a path to simplify.  The other reason is I don’t see the need for it.  I’m already buying pasteurized milk and there is no fooling around with it between the time I open the carton to the time it meets the other ingredients, so I am not worried about contamination.  I was determined to skip straight to the culturing part and see what happens.  The worst is the milk doesn’t magically turn into yogurt or it smells funky and I won’t do it again.  But that didn’t happen.  I made perfectly good yogurt with the first batch and every one after that (well, except for the kefiry batch).

There are several methods for preparing your own yogurt and they all require time and a warm place.  That can be done with a heating pad, an insulated cooler, a slow cooker, a yogurt maker, a warm oven or a dehydrator.  I have a dehydrator so I opted for that which is a very good thing because it has a setting for yogurt.  If I had to guess at the right temperature, my first batch either would have still been milk or probably baked.

No-Cook Yogurt

2 cups organic, pasteurized milk

1/2 to 1 cup organic heavy cream

1/4 to 1/2 cup starter yogurt (purchased or from a previous batch)

  1. Mix milk, cream and starter yogurt together in a bowl.
  2. Cover and place in a dehydrator or warm place (105  to 115 degrees F) for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.
  3. Chill yogurt in refrigerator to set up, a few hours to overnight.
  4. Strain yogurt using a paper towel or cheesecloth-lined colander over a bowl.  The whey will drain out.
  5. Transfer yogurt to air tight container once it reaches the desired thickness.  Keep in refrigerator for up to a week.

I have made this so many times now that I don’t even bother to measure anything out.  I make the biggest batch that will fit in the dehydrator and just eyeball the ingredients.  Feel free to adjust the ratio of milk to cream or omit the cream all together if you don’t mind a thinner yogurt.  This unsweetened version is a blank canvas for all kinds of mix-ins: honey, jam, fresh fruit, granola, and more.  My daughter loves tart yogurt and doesn’t need any sweetener to enjoy it.  How will you eat it?

I am back from a sun-drenched vacation (glorious!) and returned to dingey, overcast skies that are practicing for June gloom.  It’s left me feeling sort of blah in a couple of ways.  Blah because vacay is over and work is on the agenda.  Also blah because I feel gross from indulging in food I normally don’t.  So to reset myself, I’ve embarked on a cleanse.  Knowing that I’m giving my digestive system a bit of a break is helpful and leads me back to a more normal – and primal – way of eating.

I’ve never really explained when I started this pokey little blog on why I choose primal living.  I choose [present tense] because it’s a conscious decision I make everyday.  And what I decide today can be different than what I decide tomorrow or next year (obviously like when I was on vacation).  My husband is really the one who got me more in tune with a healthier lifestyle.  Because he has done so much research into natural supplements and alternative medicine, I followed his lead.  My initial forays into healthier eating started with the goal of losing weight.  I followed conventional trends:  low-fat, low-carb, vegetarian, soy-everything.  But I started to wonder if a trend was so healthy, why doesn’t it stay that way instead of being replaced with a new one?  It all got to be very confusing.  Then everything changed the year my first child died and I was diagnosed with cancer.  My heart was broken and so was my body.  I could not see beyond my grief to care about what I was feeding myself.

It has taken me a long time to feel anything more than loss and despair but I have come a long way.  Once I started to feel more hopeful and was looking toward the future, I realized that I had to change my lifestyle to live and to thrive.  I had to be as healthy as I could to be a wife and mom.  In addition to conventional medicine, I sought out homeopathy, acupuncture, and spiritual guidance.  Thankfully, a year and a half ago, I landed on Mark’s Daily Apple and found what I was looking for.  It all seemed so clear and simple and exactly what I needed.  I was first introduced to the Paleo Diet by a co-worker years ago, but didn’t give it more than a fleeting thought since it seemed ludicrous to give up bread (serious?)  My friend also didn’t consume dairy, season her food or really invest in the process of cooking.  She took in the nutrients she needed and that was it.  While that approach didn’t appeal much to me, I was intrigued and agreed with many of the paleo principals.  The foods we eat shouldn’t be able to sit in a box on a shelf for years and they shouldn’t have a list of ingredients that takes longer to read than to actually prepare.  The idea made a home in my brain and continued to pop in and out for the next several years.  As I discovered the Primal Blueprint, it all came together and I knew what I was missing.  Mark Sisson breaks it down and keeps it straightforward and I was ready to make the change.  Hubby and baby were coming along.

While there were certain aspects of our diet that didn’t need a whole lot of tweaking – we’d already been buying organic produce and grass-fed meat – we were still eating a whole lot of grain.  I went from white flour to whole wheat to sprouted berries but it was all still wheat and gluten.  I was making homemade bread to avoid preservatives and refined flour but was adding vital wheat gluten to help them rise.  And then there was the sugar.  My rotten sweet tooth couldn’t grasp how to bake without sugar.  I have since been schooled on the subject and found a wealth of information and recipes.  Thank you, internet!

One of the greatest things about the Primal Blueprint is that it factors in the idea of eating like a caveman with living in a modern setting.  Strict adherence, while admirable, is not required nor realistic.  For a while, I thought my recurring rash may have been food related, possibly wheat, and I have made the choice to eliminate gluten as much as knowingly possible.   We do occasionally , however, have other types of grains and pseudo-cereals such as rice, and millet and quinoa.  Eating this way certainly has it’s challenges and I think we have fared reasonably well.  Although, I am finding that influencing your child’s diet is tough enough without having to exclude all the stuff that other kiddies are eating.  That’s for another post.  I love to cook and share my food and have found that I am cooking so much more than ever before.  It’s inevitable if you’re bent on having fresh, nutrient-dense food but I don’t mind the extra work.  I prepare all of my daughter’s meals and snacks for daycare even though I don’t have to.  This way I know she won’t be eating the same empty calories that her little friends get.

This has been an evolution.  I am still learning about food, nutrition and fitness and it has been wonderful to find an ever expanding community of primal and paleo eaters.  I would love to hear about your experiences.  Grok on!

I’ve mentioned before how much I like using bananas in making espresso banana muffins or the cocoa banana loaf, but this one just might be my new favorite simply because it doesn’t use any sugar.  All the sweetness comes from the bananas and dates.  There isn’t any stevia, either.  So if you hesitate to use stevia because you don’t love how it tastes, this could be the banana bread for you.  I use two bananas that are pureed to help sweeten the batter and a third that’s chopped up and mixed in because I like to taste the chunky pieces.  The number of bananas or dates can be adjusted to suit your sweet tooth. 

Date Sweetened Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf (7¾ × 4½ × 3)

3 ripe bananas

1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted (5 – 6 dates)

5 eggs

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, melted

1 /2 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup of pecans or walnuts, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a loaf pan.
  2. To a blender add two peeled bananas, pitted dates, eggs, and melted butter or coconut oil.  Puree until smooth.
  3. Sift all dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry and stir until there are no lumps.
  5. Chop the remaining banana and add to batter along with the nuts. 
  6. Pour into loaf pan bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cool completely on rack before serving.

If making these into muffins, bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  For even more sweetness and some melted gooeyness, mix in some dark chocolate (72%) chunks.  It’s all good.

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