Friday, February 24, 2012

Buying more, but wasting less - a lesson in cooking at home

One of the great byproducts of going grain-free is that I cook almost all of our meals at home. I try to make large batches of one item that I can freeze in individual portions for breakfasts for the week and I plan each of our dinners, cooking enough so that we have stuff to make lunches for both of us the next day. Very often, we just have leftover meat and I slice that up and put it over a salad. The challenge of keeping salads interesting and varied has become one of my favorite parts of this grand experiment.

But what I've noticed most about this entire process is that while we buy almost twice as much food at the grocery store each week as we used to, we actually throw away less than we did before going grain-free!

I can't remember the last time I had to throw away a rotten piece of produce, a moldy piece of cheese (the bad kind of mold, of course), or toss something that had sat at the bottom of our storage freezer for way too long. I think the menu planning has been the biggest help with this. (Speaking of planning, check out this awesome post over at Paleo Parents about this exact topic!) I troll the circulars (especially the one for Whole Foods), select produce and meat that is on sale and then build the week around that. Last week, blood oranges were 10 for $10 and they were used in two of our recipes for the week. Those pickled carrots I made earlier in the week? They were from a 2 lb bag of carrots that I knew would be wasted if I didn't do something with them. Since we eat mostly meat and veggies each day, it's easier to use up leftover veggies because we always need an extra side dish. The simplest way to use up most of the produce that is currently in season? Chopped, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted under a broiler for a few minutes.

Today's recipe was based on this one, but again I had items that I wanted to use up so I adjusted it to suit my needs. The last remaining carrots were roasted and eaten as a side, along with roasted zucchini, mushrooms, and brussel sprouts that were leftover from Wednesday's dinner. I re-used the chicken today as a salad topper with the final portions of roasted grape tomatoes (another use of an on-sale produce item that needed to be eaten before going bad), spinach, arugula, hearts of palm, a sprinkle of parmesan, balsamic, and olive oil.

One note about this recipe - I get my organic chickens at Costco, where they average about 3 lbs each. Big birds cannot be cooked safely in slow cookers, so only use this recipe for the little guys.

Slow Cooker Chicken
1 Small Organic Roasting Chicken - organs removed
1 large onion or two small - chopped
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup of chicken stock
1 large lemon
Any sort of poultry friendly seasoning - I actually used Penzy's Peppercorn Ranch Salad Dressing mix!
2-3 tbsps of organic butter or ghee
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter/ghee in a frying pan until hot, then add the onions and garlic.
Stir until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock then add the entire contents to the slow cooker.
Dry the bird, season inside and out.
Slice the lemon into medium width rounds.
Season the chicken inside and out with seasoning, then lift up the skin to place a few lemon slices underneath.
Place the bird breast side down in the slower cooker and put the remaining lemon slices on top.
Cook on low for 4.5 hours.
The chicken should be done when a meat thermometer is stuck in the thickest part of the breast and reads at least 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the crockpot and slice.
You can defat the remaining contents of the crock and then use an immersion blender to make a delicious gravy. I did this and then froze the leftovers to use on other dishes in the future.

Roasted grape tomatoes
These are so easy to make and they add a lot of good flavor to dishes! Add some whole or chopped garlic for even more bite.
1 pint of organic grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Chop each tomato in half length-wise.
Place on a baking sheet and toss with a bit of olive oil so that all are evenly coated. Salt and pepper to your liking.
Roast for about 30-40 minutes, but make sure to toss them at least every 15 minutes for an even cook.

This post is part of Foodie Friday, Friday Food and Recipe Linky at Mom Trends, Food on Fridays, and Fresh Bites Friday

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