Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Waiting, and Preparing for the Weekend

So tomorrow evening is New Year's Eve. Part of the program I'm on emphasizes preparation, both mental and physical. NYE is going to be a feast of junk food and booze; the booze is easy enough to avoid - I'm driving, so I will do my evening champagne toast and stay sober the rest of the night. I already know there will be DUI checkpoints all over Anaheim, and I don't want to risk anything. Its the food I need to prepare for. Chips and salsa - oh, that's my weakness. I'll need someone to follow me with a flyswatter to keep my hand from reaching into the bowl too many times.

I also have a Very Important Person flying in to see me tomorrow. This VIP can eat and drink whatever he wants tomorrow as far as I am concerned - I am just happy to see him. But this person will be hungry tomorrow, and doesn't get much home cooking where he lives. One of the things I love doing for him is cooking him a healthy, delicious, hearty home-cooked meal. So far I've done shrimp scampi, homemade mac-n-cheese, beef stew, and roasted acorn squash - and that was just in his kitchen.

I think for tomorrow I'm going to keep it simple, and have a delicious roasted chicken waiting for him when he walks in the door. Its excellent on its own, or pulled off the bone and slapped into a sandwich. And it makes the whole house smell...well, like home.


1 Whole "fryer" chicken, rinsed and giblets* removed
1 lemon
2 tablespoons of butter, sliced to 1 tablespoon each
4 garlic cloves (more if you're like me and cannot get enough)
Kosher salt
Thyme (fresh if you have it, but dry will do)
Sliced vegetables such as zucchini, onions, red bell peppers (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. Rinse the whole chicken and pat dry.

Take a fork and stab the lemon all over; go ahead, take out your stress. Imagine its a particularly irksome coworker or the guy who knocked into you on the sidewalk. Shove the stabbed lemon up inside the cavity of the chicken. Then, put the garlic cloves inside the chicken cavity as well. If everything keeps sliding out, use a toothpick or two to pin the cavity closed.

Next, take the two tablespoon-sized pats of butter, and slip them under the skin over the breasts of the chicken, one over each breast. This will help keep the leaner breast meat moist.

Season the chicken by first sprinkling the breast side with the salt, pepper and thyme. Then, place the chicken breast-side down on the baking tray/roasting pan, and season the other side. Don't be afraid to move and pat the spices between the wings, legs, and sides of the bird.

Place the chicken breast-side down in the oven, and roast slowly for at least one hour, or until cooked all the way through. To test for doneness, use a meat thermometer and take an internal reading - should be at least 165 degrees. Or, if you don't have a thermometer, slice a knife through a thick part of the chicken meat. If the juices run clear, its done - if they are even the slightest bit pink, the chicken needs more time.

If you opt to cook the vegetables, give them a quick coat of cooking spray and place them on the baking pan when you have approximately 30 minutes left of chicken-cooking time.

Check on the chicken often, as its just a few minutes difference between "juicy and delicious" and "dry chicken-salad fodder". The butter helps keep the breasts tender, as does cooking it breast-side down. If you like crispy golden skin, crank the heat up for the last few minutes or so until the skin gets crackly-brown.

I haven't had a person turn down this chicken yet. I even did a modified version of it for Christmas dinner, and it was gone in a flash. This is a really basic roast chicken recipe - you can make your own modifications. Stuff it with an orange, or with stuffing and sausages. Try rosemary instead of thyme, or oregano and basil for an Italian flair. Its up to you.

I cannot wait for my VIP to get here. Now I am off to the store to pick up a chicken so I can greet him with hugs, kisses, and the coziness of a home-cooked meal.

*If you have a dog, feel free to give them the giblets right out of the chicken. Yes, its raw, but how else would a wild dog eat their food? Snowy loves her chicken hearts and kidneys so much, she will sit at my feet and wait for them to magically drop down to her when I prepare a chicken for dinner.

Regret, and Roasted Garlic

I woke up around 5 am with my throat swollen and on fire. This is not good. It is probably the result of flying so much last week, with stuffed planes, recycled air and sick, weary travelers. I have been chugging lemon-ginger water, eating fruit and lots and lots of vegetables, soup, tea, and popping those vitamins, but I figured this morning I had to really ratchet up my natural defenses.

I gargled with warm salty water for a bit, which helped the pain and swelling. Then I took two whole garlic bulbs out of their bowl and removed the papery outer layer. I remember an artist friend of mine would swear by chewing whole garlic cloves at the first sign of a cold - it would repel his wife, but it would also repel his cold and he'd feel fine the next day. So I sliced one clove in half, and popped the smaller piece into my mouth. I bit down.

Good LORD, do not ever, EVER do this.

First of all it burns, really badly. The sulfury stink of the garlic is overpowering, and it is sour, retched, and vile. I swallowed it, which only caused it to burn my entire esophagus (if you have heartburn, you REALLY do not want to do this). I could feel its journey into my stomach. Once it got there, it hit an empty room, and I thought I was going to vomit right in my sink. It was THAT powerful. I quickly ate a few pieces of the pear I had next to me, which helped.

Garlic may be a very good natural remedy for colds, but that is obviously not the way to go about taking it.

A much nicer way:


Whole bulbs of garlic (as many as you want - keep them whole, do not separate the cloves)
Cooking spray - either butter or olive-oil flavor
Salt and pepper
Option other herbs: rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, Herbs du Provence

Preheat oven to 350. Remove all paper from outer layers of garlic bulbs, while leaving them intact. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice the top off the garlic bulb so that they are flat across and the garlic is exposed. Spray the tops of each garlic bulb, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top (and your other herbs, if you so desire).

Place on a shallow baking sheet - no need to grease the pan. Broil for about 20-30 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and golden-brown.

The garlic will become very soft, and very sweet. You can spead it on toast, as if it were butter - or you can use it in recipes, mash it into dips, put it in salsa - whatever your heart desires.

You can use the little top bits you cut off in recipes - just store them in the fridge in a baggie. I put mine in soup.

Oh, and be sure you have a significant other who is either 1) out of town or 2) also loves garlic. It lingers.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Resolutions, and Honey Mustard Chicken

What came first - the chicken or the New Year's Resolution?

I was never very patient, so I have decided to start on my New Year's Resolutions before 2009. And before the aforementioned chicken. I miss writing, so here goes another blog. I dislike the person I see in the mirror, so I joined Weight Watchers yesterday. And I sure love to cook, and I'd like to spend this year learning to make simple, tasty, budget and waist-friendly dishes for myself and my friends.

Thanks to modern technology I can do all three at the same time.

I'm going to chronicle my progress on Weight Watchers, and I will be posting the recipes I craft along the way. (Due to legal issues I cannot really post the "Points" value of things; I can however let you know if its something you can eat with abandon or something you can be a little more conservative with.)

But whatever. Stipulations aside... I'm in love with taste, texture, and satiety, so come along with me to my kitchen, my bathroom scale, and the year beyond. I'll be weighing in with thoughts and recipes here and there, and weighing in literally every Monday.

And keep me honest dammit. I am tired of starting things and not finishing them. Except food. I have to learn to leave a little more of that behind on the plate, naw'mean?

Honey-Mustard Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into 4 oz portions - about the size of a deck of cards)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon fat-free sour cream
2 chopped scallions (small pieces)
1 tsp dried dill
cracked pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425. Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Mix together the honey, mustard and sour cream to make honey-mustard dressing (is also good for dipping stuff). If you need more dressing, just increase the amounts equally for all 3 ingredients. Coat the chicken breasts with the dressing. Sprinkle the chopped scallions liberally over the chicken, and then dust with the dill. Crack some black pepper over them if you so desire.

Bake at 425 for about 18-20 minutes (or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle). Enjoy with pasta or rice, over a salad, or tucked into a sandwich. Or if you are like me and cannot be bothered with such frivolty, just eat it straight outta the oven.

Blogger is being a pest and won't let me post a picture, so here' s a link to my chicken:

Honey Mustard Chicken

*I am not a food photographer. I am not much of a photographer at all. If this does not look appetizing, I am sorry. It tasted really good. That's all you need to know.

Monday weigh in: 163.4

Pounds lost: 0.8