Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken

I love Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s the best – no frills and completely accessible. Julia Child took what was typically considered a very high end and difficult form of cooking, and turned it into something any American housewife could make. Or a single Canadian girl, as it may be.  Videos of her show, The French Chef, are up on Youtube. If you haven’t ever seen her in action, I highly recommend it.

Back to my attempts mastering the art of French cooking. I had an organic chicken in my freezer that I hadn’t used. My sister (who is now my roommate) and I had tried cooking a whole chicken in a slow cooker one day. It was an absolute failure – dry and flavourless. We thought maybe roasting it would yield better results. Enter Julia. I used a variation of her recipe, but went a bit rogue on the dressing, because I really needed to use the lemons and herbs that were in my fridge before they went bad.

Here’s my take on the Roasted Chicken from Mastering the Art of French Cooking:

1 whole chicken (mine was just over 1 kg)

Softened butter

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

5-8 cloves of garlic (intense, I know, but worth it)

Fresh thyme and marjoram

At least 3 lemons

Potatoes

Carrots

One yellow onion

Preheat your oven to 425. Place the chicken breast up in a shallow roasting pan.This is the fun part – dressing the bird. First, take few tablespoons of butter and smear it…inside the chicken. Take a handful of marjoram and thyme and stuff that inside with a few slices of lemon. This is the point at which Julia suggests trussing the chicken (sewing up its behind). I didn’t have time for that and I didn’t have string. You’ll see what happened. Truss your chicken – at the very least, tie its legs up.

I halved 5 cloves of garlic. Then I randomly pierced the skin of the chicken and stuck the garlic under the skin. I dabbed a few pats of butter over the chicken (wings and thighs too). It will help your chicken brown. I seasoned the chicken with salt and pepper, covered it with thin slices of lemon and the herbs. The lemon will caramelize and tastes amazing with the chicken, so fit as many slices as possible on the chicken. Here’s what mine looked like:

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Looks amazing, right? I cut up potatoes, carrots and onion, and scattered them in the roasting pan with more herbs, the rest of the garlic, and more lemon slices. Then I squeezed half a lemon and drizzled olive oil over the vegetables so that you will have juices for basting.

Place the chicken in the oven. Julia says middle rack. I went with the top because I was too lazy to move my oven racks, then put it on the bottom rack for the last half hour of cooking. Your chicken will be fine, whatever you do.

Cook for 15 minutes. Then baste the chicken, and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Let the chicken cook for an hour and 15 minutes (adjust according to the actual size of your chicken). Baste the chicken with the pan juices every ten minutes so it doesn’t dry out. This is really important. My chicken was moist and juicy because I spent an hour reading in my kitchen in order to baste regularly.

The chicken is done when you pierce the thigh and liquids run clear. It will look like this, and your kitchen will smell unbelievable:

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See why you need to truss? To avoid that unsightly gaping hole. We all know what it is, and if you put a chicken like this on the table at a dinner party, your party will become significantly less elegant. Tie those legs up.

Let it sit for a few minutes so you don’t burn yourself when you go to carve it.

And then eat yo heart out.

XOXO

Christina

**But have not yet mastered the art of french cooking.

There and back again

I took a brief, year and a half long break from updating this blog. I wish I could say it was because I was off doing something fabulous, but the boring truth of it is that shortly after my last post I took a tumble on my bike and ended up with multiple fractures in each arm. Oops.

This grainy instagram photo is the only photographic proof I have that it actually happened.

This grainy instagram photo is the only photographic proof I have that it actually happened.

Given how hard it was just to maintain a minimal level of hygiene, cooking fell off my radar. I sustained myself almost exclusively off of butter chicken and saag paneer from the Indian restaurant near apartment.  Terrible, I know. I’m paying the price for it now. But before you judge, just know that they waived delivery for me. How could an incapacitated girl resist?!

Anyway, I’m better now!

I’m re-teaching my hands to do everything they used to do, like this:

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And this!

Full disclosure: this isn't a picture of me. But you know what I'm getting at, right?

Full disclosure: this isn’t a picture of me. It’s a guy playing at a really fun wedding I went to in August. But you know what I’m getting at, right?

And I can do this:

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This is the best, because I missed holding this muffin. And hugging people too.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this post. Don’t worry, I’m about to get there.  After I began working some of the things I love back into my life (and after moving to a new place with a way bigger kitchen), I was able to start cooking for fun again.

I KNOW.

I KNOW.

All of this is really just a long winded way of saying that this blog is back again and good things are coming. Starting with a roasted chicken that was delicious as hell.

Lots of love, and things.

Christina

Honey Lavender Latte

A little sweetness to start the day.

This time last year, I drove up the California coast to San Francisco with a good friend. At our final stop, we stayed at a cute B&B called the Red Victorian Peace Centre in Haight-Ashbury. With one notable exception, we loved everything about this place.  The cafe in the lobby made an amazing honey lavender latte. This is my version.

Honey Lavender Latte

Add 1/4 tsp honey and 1/8 tsp vanilla in the bottom of your mug, and pour 2 shots of espresso over them.

Add about 8-10 edible lavender buds to milk before frothing. When the milk heats up, it will take on the flavour of the lavender. Pour over the coffee and enjoy :)  

Gluten and Sugar Free Banana Muffins

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Gluten Free Sugar Free Banana Muffins

For the past few weeks I’ve cut alcohol, refined sugar, and (most) gluten from my diet in an attempt to correct the awful habits I slipped into over the winter. While this detox has reminded me how good it feels to eat healthy, sometimes you just want something sweet to eat. One night this week, during a shamefully long Game of Thrones marathon, I got a craving for cake.  I scoured my cupboards for something cake-y but still healthy to bake.

Luckily for me, I’m really bad at eating bananas before they get mushy and have amassed a freezer full of ripe bananas.  Bananas in hand, I decided to make banana muffins.  Unsurprisingly, however, every recipe I looked at was full of sugar.  I decided to omit refined sugar altogether, and hoped that my super ripe bananas and a few chopped dates would give the muffins enough sweetness to be palatable (palatable is a low standard, I know – but I wasn’t expecting much from this recipe).  If you like a lot of sweetness you could probably add some stevia.

The other hurdle was making these gluten free.  I don’t have any gluten-free flour, so I did a bit of investigating into flour alternatives that I already had in my kitchen. The options were almond flour or oat flour.  I decided almond alone would be too heavy, so I blended them together. I thought that using only oat flour might make the muffins a bit dry, but if you wanted to make them  lighter, that might be one way to do it.

As a lover of bread and sweets, I did not have high hopes for these muffins.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were.  Enjoy :)

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Gluten free sugar free banana muffins(makes approximately 24):

6-7 smashed up ripe bananas

1/2 cup of soft, unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups of almond flour (ground up almonds)

1 1/2 cups of oat flour (made by grinding oats to a powder in a food processor)

1 tsp ground flax seed

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts(optional)

10 chopped dates (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins, leaving one well unlined. Fill that well with water – it will help you make moist muffins and will keep the bottoms from burning.

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, combine the butter and bananas.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla. On a low speed, add the dry ingredients and blend until just incorporated. Add the walnuts and dates if desired.

Fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way and bake for about 20 minutes.

Quinoa Croquettes with Lemon Garlic Sauce

While my croquette-shaping skills leave much to be desired, I can assure you these are delicious.

While my croquette-shaping skills leave much to be desired, I can assure you these are delicious.

These croquettes are amazing. They make you feel like you’re eating something deliciously unhealthy, but there’s no guilt.  They’re also really versatile – I ate two over a salad instead of having meat with my dinner one night. You could also make smaller ones to serve as appetizers, or larger ones to eat as veggie burgers. Because they’re full of protein you will feel full for hours after.

They’re best served fresh, but they will keep in the fridge for a few days and can easily be warmed up.

Quinoa Croquettes (Makes 8 large croquettes)

In a bowl, combine:

1/4-1/3 cup of breadcrumbs (I made my own by toasting bits of stale focaccia  and grinding them in a food processor with herbs)

1 chopped, sauteed shallot

2 cloves of garlic + 1/2 tsp salt, smashed to a paste with a mortar and pestle

2 eggs

Half a carrot, grated

2 large leaves of swiss chard or kale, chopped

1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 pinch each of chili powder and paprika

Half a teaspoon of ground black pepper

1 cup cooked and cooled quinoa

Optional – grated cheese (I didn’t put any in mine, but I would try something sharp like a pecorino, or my current obsession: Don Heliodoro Rosemary Sheep Milk Cheese)

Almost ready to be molded into misshapen croquettes!

Almost ready to be molded into misshapen croquettes!

Mush everything up with your hands, and gently shape into small balls or patties. I’m not sure how other people do this. Clearly, the shaping of patties falls outside my culinary skill set (see the top photo). It may have been the ratio of “filler” to “binding agent” –  I’m really not sure. This is also a struggle I have with meatballs, though, so most likely the issue is just me.  But I digress –  do whatever it is you have to do to make these look presentable.

Heat up a small amount of olive oil (or use cooking spray) in a pan and cook the croquettes on medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side, flipping carefully. I covered the pan to hold in the heat while they were cooking.

Serve with Lemon Garlic Sauce (Or anything else you think would go well on top)

Lemon Garlic Sauce

Combine in a magic bullet/food processor, approximately (I rarely measure things):

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp light mayonnaise

The juice of about half a lemon – or the equivalent in white wine vinegar

A few sprigs of coriander and/or flat leaf parsley

1 clove of garlic (clearly when I made this up I was having a party of one. You may want to omit the garlic if you plan on eating this around other people).

Drizzle over the croquettes and enjoy!

My organic energy smoothie

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Before…

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…after

I’m not one for eating in the morning. I used to just eat a piece of fruit and down a cup of coffee before running out the door.  By 10 am I would be starving and eat the first thing in sight (usually coffee cake at Starbucks). Since I started training for a half marathon last month, I’ve realized my eating habits have to change.  This breakfast smoothie keeps me full until lunch, and because it gives me energy, my mornings at work are so much more productive. Gone are the days of the mid-morning Starbucks coffee cake (ok, not entirely true – but I don’t snack at Starbucks nearly as often).

Organic Green Smoothie

8 leaves of organic kale: I switch between kale, swiss chard and spinach depending on what the grocery store is selling that week. Generally I fill my magic bullet cup halfway with greens packed in fairly tightly.
Half an organic banana
1 quartered and peeled organic orange
1  quartered organic pear, skin on
Any other organic fruit I find (kiwis, blueberries, strawberries). The smoothie won’t look as appetizing if you use colourful fruit, but it will still be delicious.
Sometimes I just fill the rest of the cup with water (approx 1 cup).  Usually, though, I use skim milk or a bit of yogurt with water to add some protein and calcium to the smoothie.
Blend and enjoy :)

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

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Sweet, salty pieces of heaven.

If you want a recipe that will make you popular among friends and colleagues – this is it. I first made this stuff back in December with a co-worker to bring to our work holiday party. It was devoured. I’ve made it about 5 other times since then, and every single time I bring it somewhere, people rave about it. The best part is that it’s very easy to make.

Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 bag of pretzels

Flaky sea salt, like Maldon Sea Salt Flakes or Cyprus Flakes

2 cups Semi-sweet or Dark Chocolate – I used a block of Callebaut dark chocolate that I bought at Johnvince. I shaved the block into little flakes with a knife to make it easier to use. Personally,I don’t think 2 cups is enough – I used much more.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large baking sheet with foil, arrange pretzels on the foil.

In a pan, melt butter and sugar together on medium-low heat. This is the hardest part. The first time I made this, I overcooked the caramel and it separated. Once the sugar dissolves, increase the heat to medium and, while stirring constantly, let the caramel boil gently until it starts to stick to the bottom and is thickened. If you have a candy thermometer, you should let it get to 290 and then remove it from heat.

Pour over the pretzels, and let the pretzels cook in the oven for 5 minutes. Pull out the pan, cover in the chocolate shavings (or chips, either works), and return to the oven for another 2 minutes.

Remove from oven, sprinkle liberally with salt, and immediately place in the freezer. Once hardened, break apart the pieces (the foil is tricky to remove) and store in the fridge until ready to serve.