Thursday, August 28, 2014

Paleo Cooking - Turning 2 Chickens into 3 dishes

Getting the knack for Paleo cooking I'm learning that planning is key. It sounds daunting but really I'm not sure why I never thought to cook this way before. Instead of spending an hour in the kitchen every night heating up the house in the summer, why not spend a few hours making a larger quantity and eat that for a few days? Whether the weekend works for you or put your slow cooker to work while you're at work, doesn't it make sense to make more food so that you can cook less often?

The trouble I've had in the past with this method is that I'm not the biggest fan of leftovers. I can eat something twice but then I need to change it up. So my challenge to myself was to mix cooking in bulk with variety.

In my second week of the Whole 30 challenge I came across a recipe from Nom Nom Paleo for chicken with gravy. Michelle Tam, author of Nom Nom Paleo, is responsible for planting the Whole 30 seed for me so I was excited to try her recipe. I've made gravy with flour or corn starch in the past but both are not allowed in the Whole 30. So when I came across this recipe with gravy that was Whole 30 compliant I had to try it.

Michelle cooks a whole chicken in the slow cooker and I discovered by luck that the 2 cut up chickens I purchased the day before fit perfectly into my pot. Since I used 2 chickens instead of 1 I doubled the amoIf you're like me you're not the unt of vegetables and used what I had on hand. I added mushroom broth instead of chicken stock and Herbes de Provence in lieu of the spice blend Michelle used. As you can see in the photo on the left the chicken simply fell off the bone. You can find the recipe on her blog here.

Crock Pot Chicken and Gravy with Pork Paleo Stuffing

My gravy didn't come out as thick as Michelle's but it was delicious nonetheless. Chicken with gravy makes me think of Thanksgiving dinner so naturally I thought of mashed potatoes. However, the paleo world has yet to decide unanimously whether white potatoes are or aren't paleo. So I decided the next best thing was stuffing. Since grains are not part of the diet I decided to make it with ground pork and concoct my own sausage stuffing. I think I'm beginning to like this paleo thing. Not only do I feel better but I enjoy food more because everything isn't served on a bland starchy canvas. Everything has flavor and this sausage stuffing was fabulous.

1 lb of ground pork
1 large granny smith apple
1 medium onion diced (2 cups)
3 cloves of garlic
3 stalks of celery
1 T of celery leaves
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 t dry thyme
1/2 t salt
1/4 t allspice
1/2 C mushroom broth
pepper to taste

Add the pork to a preheated skillet over medium-medium high heat. When the pork is 3/4 of the way cooked add the apple, vegetables, and spices and cook until the pork is completely cooked through. Add the mushroom broth at the end and simmer the stuffing, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the broth has evaporated.

Top the stuffing with your favorite cut of chicken and gravy from the recipe above.

For the green beans: I blanched them in salted water and finished with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Garden Note: Growing sage is incredibly easy because it doesn't require much water. It's a perennial so plant it in the dry spot of your yard where most plants seem to wither and you'll have fresh sage nearly year round. For comparison of growing conditions I'm in southwestern Idaho where it is very hot and dry but we also get snow in the winter.

Chicken Salad

Although I loved the chicken and stuffing I had for dinner I wanted something completely different the next day. I eyed the spinach in the refrigerator and it became my inspiration. My mind began to race with numerous options and when I saw the homemade mayonnaise I finally settled on chicken salad. Melissa taught me how to make mayonnaise in her Well-Fed 1 cookbook and I haven't bought mayonnaise since. I like being able to customize it and decide which seasonings and oil to use. For this particular batch of mayonnaise I used extra virgin olive oil which gave the mayo a hint of the olive oil flavor.

2 healthy portions of chicken salad:
1 T finely chopped shallot
1 T cider vinegar
1 t dry tarragon
1/2 t salt
1/2 C olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 C chopped pecans
1/4 C unsweetened dried cranberries
diced chicken (I used 2 thighs, 1 breast, and 1 leg for this recipe)

Combine shallot, vinegar, tarragon, salt and mayonnaise and stir to form a dressing. Add pecans, cranberries, and chicken. Stir to combine and serve.

I ended up making a second batch of chicken salad the next day to go with my butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup

Since I made chicken salad 2 days in a row and I ate the stuffing for breakfast I no longer had anything to put the remaining gravy/chicken broth on. Knowing the many benefits of bone broth I couldn't throw it out. If you ever have extra bone broth I urge you to freeze it and use it another day because as far as I know you can't buy it in stores. With winter on the horizon it's great to have on hand in case anyone gets sick because homemade chicken soup really does help fight a cold.

In a crock pot add the following:

1 butternut squash peeled and diced
2 C leftover chicken broth/gravy
2 C water
1/2 t salt
few sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of garlic crushed

Cook on low, or high, until the squash is tender. I made this batch on low and pureed it after 5 hours but this is a recipe that would be difficult to overcook. So if you need it to cook while you're at work, no worries. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a traditional blender. Just remember that hot liquids expand in a blender so put a towel over the top and keep a hand on it so hot liquid doesn't go flying around the room. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Variation: Add 1/4 t of curry powder to a bowl of soup for an Indian twist