I Just Want to Be Better at Cooking! | The Whole Chicken

February 28, 2011

 

Whole foods, fresh produce, meal plans, whole wheat, raw dairy, soaking grains, homemade . . . everything . . . it’s overwhelming, really.  I want so badly to be a better cook.  I want to cook faster and smarter and cheaper.  I want the food I cook to be healthy for my family.  I want to get rid of processed foods and preservatives.  I want to learn the traditional ways of cooking–things women did up until 50 years ago.  Only I want to be able to do them in an efficient way that fits into today’s lifestyle.

Well, that may be a tall order, but I think I might actually be on my way to achieving this.  I’ve learned (during the past year of trying to be more natural) that baby steps are the best way to go.  There’s no point in me throwing myself into a way of life that I don’t really know how to live in!  I started a year ago learning just about natural beauty products, then house-hold cleaning products, then I very slowly began switching things like my all-purpose enriched flour to things like whole wheat flour, and now I think I’m finally ready to continue adding more natural ways to my cooking by making even bigger steps than just switching to purchasing bottom or top shelf items (because that’s where they tend to store the “good-for-you” products).

Step Number One: Create a Healthy Menu Plan.  This will be a 6 week schedule of meals where each week the meals I make will include some of the same ingredients so I can re-use fresh produce without it going bad (so I don’t throw away 95% of the fresh cilantro–just 80% it.)  My goal is to create these 6 weeks worth of meals using healthy ingredients and homemade items whenever I can.  Then I can start over with week one and run through the 6 weeks again without my husband getting bored with the same old meals every week.  This will take me longer than 6 weeks to figure out (so don’t expect one of these every week for the next 6 weeks!), as it’s already been about 4 weeks since I came up with and perfected the week I will now break down for you: The Whole Chicken Week.

For some reason whole chickens have always freaked me out.  Really, whole any-type-of-dead-animal has always freaked me out.  There’s just really something gross about them.  However, they are quite inexpensive, really give you a bang for your buck, and are super healthy.  It is because of those things that I decided, in my search to make a great menu plan for my family, that the first week in said plan would be The Whole Chicken Week:

Meal #1: Chicken & Veggies

Day One (in the morning):

Cooking a Whole Chicken

  • 1 3-4 lb. Chicken (make sure it’s natural–without any additives or hormones or nasty things like that)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter
  • parsley
  • basil
  1. Thoroughly wash chicken and pat dry.  Sprinkle cavity with salt, pepper, and parsley.
  2. Put chicken in crock pot (with no water!).  Dot chicken with butter.  I don’t know how much–just slab some dots of butter on it!  Sprinkle with parsley and basil.
  3. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.  Turn down to low and cook for 6-8 more hours.
  4. Remove chicken from crock pot, cut, and serve (with veggies–we like peas & corn).
  5. Save bones and liquid to make broth and store extra meat in a tupperware in the fridge to use later in the week.

Making the broth

  1. Once all the meat is off the bones, put the bones back in the crock pot.
  2. Add veggies if you want.
  3. Add 5 cups of water.
  4. Set crock pot on low and cover.  Leave overnight.

Day Two (in the morning):

  1. Strain out the bones.
  2. Put broth in containers and let cool in fridge.
  3. After completely cooled, scrape layer of fat off of the top and store back in fridge (I use it for soup later in the week).  Store in freezer for up to 6 months!

Meal #2: Tomato Basil Soup & Paninis

Tomato Basil Soup (from my good friend over at A Godly Heritage.  Check her blog out for more awesome recipes and encouragement in being a godly wife and mother!)

I double this recipe in order to give some to friends or to freeze for later!  Also, doubling it helps in not wasting half an onion, for instance.

  • 1 cup red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 Tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar or raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 4 cups whole Roma tomatoes, diced
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock (doubling the recipe uses almost all of the chicken stock from cooking my whole chicken)
  • 1 cup whole basil leaves, chopped thinly
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream (if you use raw milk, just skim the cream right off the top!)
  1. In a large saucepan, caramelize the onion, ginger, sugar, and oil.
  2. Add tomatoes and bring to a simmer.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chicken stock and basil and simmer on low heat until very soft, about 30 minutes.
  5. Puree soup in a blender.
  6. Return to pot and add cream.
  7. Warm and serve.

This soup is so yummy.  Tim and I have had it three times in the last month.  We just can’t get enough of it!

Paninis (for two)

  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
  • turkey or ham slices
  • sliced cheese
  • butter or coconut oil
  1. We make paninis just like grilled cheese sandwiches.  Just make a sandwich.
  2. Put a skillet on the oven on medium heat.  Spread butter or coconut oil on one side of sandwich and put the sandwich on the skillet buttered/oiled side down.
  3. While toasting, spread butter or coconut oil on the other side.  Flip to toast the second side when the first side is toasted to your liking.

Meal #3: Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo (Bake)

  • Cooked chicken you stored in fridge on day one, pulled apart into chunks
  • Homemade Alfredo Sauce*
  • Whole Wheat Fettuccine Noodles, cooked
  • Mozzarella Cheese, shredded
  1. Combine chicken, sauce, and noodles.  Sprinkle cheese on top. Serve. :)

(Bake)

  1. Or to make a pasta bake, combine chicken, sauce, and noodles in a dish.  Top with cheese.
  2. Heat in oven at 325 degrees until bubbly.

*Homemade Alfredo Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese (to make homemade cream cheese check out this tutorial–we use raw goat’s milk instead of cow’s and it works just the same!)
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 oz. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  1. Melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring with wire whisk until smooth.
  3. Add milk, a little at a time, whisking to smooth out lumps.
  4. Stir in Parmesan and pepper.
  5. Remove from heat when reaches desired consistency.
  6. Sauce will thicken rapidly–thin with milk if cooked too long.

And there you have it!  These three meals last our little family of two eaters a whole week–sometimes with leftovers for a day or two.  These recipes are easy and cheap and it’s actually fun being able to serve healthy, natural meals that didn’t cost a fortune!

Now I just have to figure out 5 more weeks worth of recipes . . . hmm . . .

If you have any questions about these recipes or any suggestions (or great ideas for my other 5 weeks), please comment!  I’d love to hear from you!

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8 Responses to “I Just Want to Be Better at Cooking! | The Whole Chicken”

  1. Cassandra Lasher said

    Katie, you are an inspiration. I need to take a page out of your book. I’m just so lazy!!

    • Ok, you’re so sweet, but it’s only been since staying home that I’ve really been able to do any of this! I remember being so overwhelmed with it all while working–I wish I had just given myself a break–realizing that I just couldn’t do EVERYthing! :) <3

  2. Sharon said

    I LOVE WHOLE CHICKENS!!! The only way to go!

  3. Jasmine said

    Great stuff. Some tips I use: we grow our own cilantro. You can also freeze it flat in bags and use in soups, etc. I pour my chicken broth into ice cube trays (which I also used for homemade baby food) and once they are frozen, store in ziplock bags.

  4. Jasmine said

    Oh, you can also just boil the chicken and then you have cooked chicken for recipes and broth all in one. I usually put some celery and carrots in the water with some spices like thyme, rosemary, etc.

  5. Cassandra Lasher said

    You mentioned looking into natural household cleaning products. I would like to request a post/series of posts on this topic please! So far, I’ve switched over to health foods, and am in the process of switching over to natural beauty products, thanks to you, but I would like to know what some options are for safe household cleaning products. I’ve done a little bit of research and basically found out that baking soda will clean just about anything, but that’s as far as I got.

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