The Chicken Challenge

ImageUne poulet.Uno pollo.A chicken. Some wise person described it as a blank canvas for cooks. The number of recipes ranging from weeknight suppers to the most formal of dinners supports that theory.

In a fair and perfect world, everyone could afford organic chickens. We are in process with that, and that day will come. I buy them when I can. I have an organic poultry farm in my area, and her eggs and chicken are fantastic. 

Most of the time, I purchase chickens produced by Amish farmers. A bit more expensive than the supermarket brands, but less than the 100% organic free range ones, and yes, you do get better quality.

I do whole chickens either on our electric indoor rotisserie or en coquotte. For the rotisserie, I blend salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and rosemary, then rub the mix under the skin. Do not ask me to tell you how to truss the bird. My trussing attempts look like a bondage session that went terribly wrong, but it’s enough to keep the wings and legs from flying around. Once the rotisserie is going, it takes about two to two and a half hours for the bird to be done.

En coquotte can be done with a slow cooker or in the oven at 400 for about two to two and a half hours. If you use a slow cooker, make a rack in the bottom with the carrots and leeks–cut both into batons. Season the chicken with salt and pepper as well as the desired herbs, and put it on top of the carrot-leek rack. Add some quartered redskins, then put it on high if you’ll be eating it in less than eight hours, or low for more than that. If you’re doing it in the oven, use a covered pot and the same veggies.

Leftovers can be used in a myriad of ways. The meat is also dog-safe, so you can use it as a treat or a base for Fido’s meals.        


The Great Nut Butter Experiment: Something You May Try At Home

Ohh, myyyy…..just ate a spoonful of almond-pecan-walnut butter. Nirvana in a food processor. 

Today’s post comes courtesy of two inspirations: Vicki Linich, my voice teacher who is also a raw foods chef; and nearly popping an artery over the rising price of nut butters. details Vicki’s almond butter adventure. While you’re there, check out the meatball pate’ recipe–I haven’t tried it yet, but will.

Nut butters are not hard to make at all. It just requires patience and a sturdy food processor. First I put in about a half-cup of almonds and let them go until they were about halfway processed. Then the pecans–they are a lot softer than the almonds.  I’d say that I put in about a half-cup of those as well, and a quarter-cup of walnuts I had sitting in the freezer. 

Next, I turned on the food processor and let it do its stuff. In less than five minutes, I had nut butter that suspiciously resembled the contents of the jar that I’d bought at Trader Joe’s the other day. Even though I used roasted and salted nuts, it tasted a lot fresher than the jarred equivalent. If you used unsalted nuts, add a dash of sea salt if you want to after the nut butter reaches the desired consistancy.

If you’re making this with the intention to share with your four-legged companions, please don’t use walnuts or macadamias in the mix. Both are toxic to dogs.  Otherwise, improvise at will and enjoy.


Cauliflower Soup

ImageToday is one of those days when I wonder why they don’t call the wind chill factor the bone chill factor. It’s six above and falling with a northwest wind blowing at quite a few miles an hour.

Some might prescribe a bowl of potato soup for this weather. I love potato soup as much as the next person, but the calories and carbs are a bit much for me these days. If you’re in the same boat, or just looking for an easy option for mostly homemade soup, try cauliflower as a substitute for the taters.  

I sliced up a small onion, a carrot, and a stalk of celery, then sauteed everything in a couple of tablespoons of butter until they went limp. Sprinkled about a half-teaspoon of nutmeg on the veg-butter mix to bloom it. While that was going on, I trimmed the better part of a head of cauliflower into florets. Put that in the pot with about two cups of broth (chicken or veggie). Salt, pepper, let it go for about 20-30 minutes, then puree in a food processor or blender. Check for seasonings. You could garnish with cheese, bacon, green onions–whatever you’d use on potato soup.  

Not only was this lighter while being as filling, but I used up half of a carton of broth, a cauliflower head that needed using, and have enough for several meals. Yum.



The Great Alternative Ice Cream Experiment

Objective: Satisfy Oakley’s desire for frozen treats without 1. dropping almost a dollar per serving of a premade “ice cream” for dogs with an ingredient list that was as long as “Gone With the Wind” and 2. use a non-dairy milk to avoid consequences of his lactose intolerance.

The best milks were coconut–the canned full-fat kind, preferably Thai Kitchen–and plain ol’ organic soy. I flavored them with alcohol free vanilla extract from Trader Joe’s to enhance the scent. Oakley enjoyed both. They also yielded the best texture. Other plant based milks yielded extremely icy results.

I don’t have an ice cream machine, so I either broke up the ice crystals by stirring with a fork or in my food processor using the steel blade every half-hour to hour until it seemed “done.”  At that point, I transferred the mixture into small plastic containers and let them freeze solid. Oakley enjoyed them both. 

To make these yourself: 1 can full fat coconut milk or 2 cups full fat organic soy milk with 2 teaspoons of alcohol free vanilla extract. Combine, pour into your ice cream maker and follow directions, or place in freezer and stir well or run through food processor every 30-60 minutes. Pour into containers and store in freezer. Yields 3-4 servings.  





The Monday Rant: Dear President and Ms. Obama…About the Inauguration Luncheon Menu….

With all due respect, I don’t think that this really represents agricultural diversity except in a very predictable way. We know seafood and apple pie are about as northeast as you can get. We know about bison being a First Nations delicacy.  The veggies for the main course represent the best of the season and the recipes given sound delicious. However, I don’t feel that it truly represents today’s US, especially when as one of the HuffPo commenters observed, the per-plate cost equals a week’s worth of groceries for the majority of families. Keeping those issues in mind, may I make a few suggestions that will highlight diversity and keep an eye on the budget while blowing the guests’ socks off?


  1. If you really must on the seafood, a raw bar with a mix of Northwest and Northeast clams, oysters, and mussels. Or a seafood cocktail, perhaps with some Asian influences.
  2. Soup: Corn and roasted southwestern veggie soup with poblano chiles and a blue corn muffin (savory) or fry bread. Puree some of the corn to give it a creamy texture.
  3. Actually, I would keep the bison, but braise it in the oven and do a reduction sauce with herbs, mushrooms, and a sturdy red wine. I’d go with Yukon gold or a red potato or a medley rather than the sweets in that case. The strawberry preserves might be nice with the bread, but get some California olive oil and Wisconsin butter in there, too. You could use grassfed beef as well–less expensive ($7 and change per cut as opposed to $10 and change for bison), but similar in taste and texture. Turkey breast could be used as an alternative.
  4. Cheeses from small producers in Wisconsin and California.
  5. And finally, a blackberry and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream.      

So…those are my thoughts. Thank you for your time.

In hopes that all may be fed,

Wolf Mama Fran