Simple Roasted Chicken + Bone Broth

Broth2

Do you roast whole chickens? It’s an easy meal that my family loves, and one of our favorite weeknight meals. I roast a chicken every other week, sometimes weekly. I always use the bones to make homemade broth in my crock-pot.

I can’t tell you how easy it is to roast a whole chicken. I had to get over my irrational fear of touching it. These helped. It takes less than 10 minutes to get the chicken in the oven. After it’s in, I start chopping veggies and just pop them in the oven as they are ready. Easy peasy, lemon squeezie (from Sophia Grace & Rosie’s Royal Adventure – frequently quoted at our house in a British accent, of course)!

What kind of chicken should you buy? Choose a pasture-raised chicken and organic ingredients whenever possible. I purchase chickens from local farms, like The Pasture at Pettingill Farm (order now for June if you are in the Newburyport area). Pasture-raised chickens always taste better and it’s important to me to buy local and support local farms. Additionally, pasture-raised meat is higher in omega-3s. Because the chickens are fed grass-based diets, the meat is lower in total fat and calories with higher levels of antioxidants and vitamins (E, C, and beta-carotene). Pasture animal products are also better for the environment.

We have a chest freezer in the basement that I keep stocked with whole chickens and other local organic meats. I make an exception to my rule with organic chickens from Whole Foods, which is the only grocery store where I will buy meat because of their strict standards.

WholeChicken

How to Roast a Whole Chicken with Veggies
What you need: whole chicken, a lemon, an onion, olive oil, salt, pepper.

Directions (keep reading – it’s easy, I promise):
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2 Lightly spray a baking dish with olive oil. I use Misto because most packaged sprays have lots of hidden ingredients. Check your spray.
3. Take the chicken out of its packaging and remove the bag of parts inside, reserving for later when you make broth.
4. Rinse the chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
5. Place the whole chicken in the prepared baking dish.
6. Cut a lemon in half and stuff it inside the chicken.
7. Cut an onion in quarters and place the pieces around the chicken.
8. Spray or drizzle the chicken and onions with olive oil.
9. Generously salt and pepper the chicken.  
10. Put it in the oven and cook for an hour and 1/2 or until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
11. Now chop up some veggies: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips — whatever you have. Toss in olive oil and add some salt and pepper if you want. Put everything on a baking sheet, and flip after 30 minutes. Cook an additional 15-30 minutes.
12. Let the chicken cool enough for you to handle it.
13. Remove all of the chicken off the bones.
14. Put the chicken caracas (plus everything you are not eating that comes off that chicken: skin, etc.) directly in the crock-pot. Keep reading to find out how to make bone broth!
15. Optional: Remove the wishbone and dry it out for a few days. Bean and Sweet Pea love to see who will get the wish! 

What to do with leftovers?
– Add left over chicken to a salad for lunch.
– Cut chicken into cubes for lunch boxes.
– Make chicken salad or leftover chicken soup.

 Crockpotbroth

Bone Broth

Are you thinking, why would I want to make homemade broth when I can buy it in a box at the grocery store? Homemade bone broth is detoxifying and it contains excellent minerals and nutrients that help your body function. And let’s face it, it’s a great way to save money. It costs almost nothing to make, and would cost about $18 to purchase organic at the grocery store. But wait, there’s more…

Benefits of bone broth
– Aid digestion
– Heal the gut
– Boost collagen
– Good for your teeth
– Anti-aging
– Combat the side effects of cold and flu

The fact that bone broth is good for your teeth really caught my attention. My Mom made bone broth when I was growing up and I don’t have any cavities. I’ve been making bone broth for three years. The monkeys don’t have any cavities. Kind of makes you go, “Hmmmm.”

As with everything, there’s the easy way and the hard way. I like the easy way, so I use my faithful crock-pot. Keep the broth simple because it will be the base for whatever you’re making: soup, sauces, rice, quinoa, vegetables, and for sipping. You can add spices when you’re ready to cook.

How to Make Homemade Bone Broth in Your Crock-pot
What you’ll need:
– Chicken caracas plus all of the parts that come inside (neck, liver, etc.)
– Drippings in your baking dish from roasting the chicken
– A stalk of celery and a carrot if you have them
– 2 TBSP of apple cider vinegar
– Filtered water to fill the crock-pot

Directions:
1. Put all of the ingredients in your crock-pot in the order listed above.
2. Turn your crock-pot to high until it is hot and bubbling, which is about two hours in my crock-pot.
3. Cook on low for about 24 hours. It doesn’t have to be exact. 
4. Pour entire contents of the crock-pot through a mesh strainer into a large bowl.  Note: Wear an apron; it can be splashy!
5. Discard the bones.
6. Cool and store in freezer safe glass containers or in cubes. Make sure to leave room at the top of the container for the liquid to expand when frozen.

Yields approximately 16-18 cups of broth, depending on the size of your crock-pot.

I keep a few boxes of chicken broth in my pantry for emergencies. I rarely run out of my homemade bone broth but when I do, this one is my favorite. Check what’s in your pantry and read the ingredients on the label. Most packaged broths have REALLY long ingredient lists with preservatives and tons of sodium. Besides, chicken in a box? Kind of grosses me out.

Buy a chicken. Make some broth. Unless you are vegan; I’m sorry this post just isn’t for you!

Here are some recent articles about bone broth:
NPR: The Elixir Du Jour: Bone Broth
New York Times: Bone Broth Evolves From Prehistoric Food to Paleo Drink
Yahoo! Health: Bone Broth: 4 Reasons Wellness Experts Are Obsessed

Cómelo todo! 

Pantry Snacks

PantrySnacks2

When you transition to a whole foods diet, snacks are the hardest habit to change, especially for kids.  My monkeys snack way less than they used to, but we still need our snacks!  Fruits and veggies are first on our list for snacks, but sometimes it’s not practical or convenient. 

It takes a lot of time, planning, and creativity to stay on top of healthy eating for the whole family. Baked goods are easy to grab and go.  Realistically though, there isn’t always time to bake something homemade — like our favorite Simple Coconut Chocolate Bars recipe.   

Snacks in packages are typically filled with preservatives and chemicals that won’t help your body stay healthy and strong.  But they are convenient!  And when you’re hungry, it’s generally what you grab.

I made a list of snacks that we keep in our pantry.  Yes, these snacks are processed; however, they are a better choice because they are organic and contain fewer ingredients.  These snacks are non-GMO, dairy free, gluten free, vegan, soy free, and peanut free.  We don’t eat this stuff every day, but we do keep it on hand for when I don’t have time to make something homemade.  

Pantry snacks, as we call them, are also great for snowstorms, when snack lovin’ friends visit, and when I don’t have time to be supermom.  Some days you just have to fly without a cape, and let it go….

Under the Monkey Bars Snack List
Lesser Evil Buddha Bowl Organic Popcorn: 3 ingredients

Dang Toasted Coconut Chips: 3 ingredients

The Good Bean Crispy Crunchy Chickpeas, sea salt: 4 ingredients

GoGo Squeez Organic Applesauce: 2 ingredients

Green Mountain Gringo Organic Tortilla Chips: 3 ingredients

Sun-dried Organic Figs: 1 ingredient

Sunmaid Organic Raisins: 1 ingredient

Wonderfully Raw Coco-Roons, Lemon Pie or Brownie: 7 ingredients

Dark Chocolate Mint Sun Cups: 6 ingredients

Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate Bar, Maca: 5 ingredients

Blue Mountain Organics Raw Nuts and Seeds: 1 ingredient each  
{NOTE: Use code TAKE5 at Blue Mountain Organics for $5 off a minimum purchase of $50!  This nut company does not process any peanuts.}

 

I’ve included links so you can check out these products online.  Some will be available at your local grocery store.  Our Whole Foods offers everything except the Buddha popcorn, Pascha chocolate bars, and Blue Mountain nuts.  Definitely stock up if you find these items on sale! 

One more idea: Try mixing some of these goodies together for your own personal trail-mix.  Bean and Sweet Pea love when I put out our mason jars filled with snack items on the table so they can fill their reusable snack bags.  Pantry snacks are a real treat at our house!

Don and I are getting ready for a ski get-away next week.   I’ll be blogging from Stowe, VT (yes, we are escaping the snowbanks of Newburyport for the snowy slopes of Stowe).  I already have some of these snacks stashed away and ready to pack in our new duffel bags.  Until then…happy, healthy snacking!  Have a great weekend!

Simple Coconut Chocolate Bars

CoconutChocBar

Sweet Pea had a coconut allergy for two years that she outgrew last June.  Practically every company has jumped on the healthy coconut bandwagon, without being required to label for coconut as an allergen.  It was the worst of all of the allergies so far, sending us to the ER twice.  We were so happy to say goodbye to yet another allergy, and hello to coconuts again!

Do you like coconut?  These bars from The Paleo Mom are awesome!  Mini chips are key in this recipe as they disperse themselves throughout the bars, keeping them moist and delicious.  We like Enjoy Life Mini Chips because they are free of the eight most common allergens (note: the bar in the photo has chocolate chunks because I’m out of mini chips!).  Let’s Do Organic shredded, unsweetened coconut works great in this recipe without adding any sugar — and it’s organic.

With only four ingredients, you can throw these bars together super fast.  We usually make Coconut Chocolate Bars twice a month.  When you cut them into long bars, you can eat them instead of grabbing a granola bar.  They make a perfect snack at school and hold up well in a coat pocket for ski days. 

Simple Coconut Chocolate Bars
Yields 8
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Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
22 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
8 min
Cook Time
22 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups finely shredded unsweetened coconut
  2. 2 pastured eggs
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk egg and vanilla together in a small mixing bowl.  Add coconut and chocolate chips. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  3. Line a 8X8 square baking pan with parchment paper.
  4. Scoop mixture into prepared pan. Flatten out and pat down with the back of a wooden spoon or pasty roller.
  5. Bake for 22 minutes until edges turn golden brown.  Let cool.
  6. Cut into bars and enjoy!
Adapted from The Paleo Mom
Adapted from The Paleo Mom
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/
 Cómelo todo! 

Meatballs and Sauce with a Twist

Meatballzoodles 
My friend Christine taught me how to make her mother-in-law’s homemade meatballs and sauce when Sweet Pea was in preschool.  We went to her house one day after school with a big pot and a grocery bag filled with all of the ingredients.  Chris and I cooked while the kids played.  She learned to make the meatballs and “gravy” by asking a lot of questions over the years.  I jotted down some notes that day and have made a few tweaks to the recipe.  What’s the twist?  I add 1/2 cup of veggies to the meatballs and use breadcrumbs combined with almond flour for a healthier, more nutritious meatball.

I typically start cooking meatballs and sauce at 2 p.m. before I pick up the monkeys at school.  If you’re short on time, put all of the sauce ingredients on the counter next to the stove the night before.  You can also throw all of the meatball ingredients in a bowl, massage together, and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the sauce later in the day.  If you prep everything, it only takes 30 minutes to make the sauce, meatballs, and combine!  


MakingSauce

Meatballs and Sauce with a Twist
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For the Sauce
  1. 1 6 oz. can of tomato paste
  2. 2 26-oz. box of chopped tomatoes
  3. 1 26-oz. box of strained tomatoes
  4. 3 TBSP of olive oil
  5. 3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
  6. Generous salt and pepper
For the Meatballs
  1. 1 lb ground grass fed beef
  2. 1 lb ground pastured pork
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  5. 1/4 cup almond flour
  6. Handful of fresh chopped parsley or 1 TBSP dried parsley
  7. 1/4 cup shredded kale, optional
  8. 1/4 cup shredded carrot, optional
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for your meatballs.
  2. Put the oil and garlic in a large, cold pot. Then turn your burner to high.
  3. Don't let the garlic brown! Sizzle on high for 30 seconds.
  4. Immediately add the tomato paste and turn the heat down to medium.  Stir for 45 seconds and break up with the back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the 3 boxes of crushed and strained tomatoes.
  6. Bring the burner heat up to high for the sauce to get hot. When you see steam, turn the heat down; you don’t want the sauce to boil.
  7. Now make your meatballs. Massage all ingredients together until fully blended.
  8. Roll into balls that are even in size. You should have between 20-24 meatballs.
  9. Bake on a jelly roll pan or cookie sheet at 350 for 6-8 minutes, until barely red. Bigger meatballs will take longer. I make mine big so I typically bake them for 8 minutes.
  10. Immerse each meatball in the sauce with a serrated spoon.
  11. Cook uncovered for at least 2 1/2 hours to flavor sauce, stirring occasionally. If you need to go out for a short time, partially cover the pot and turn off the burner.
  12. Serve over your favorite pasta with a kale salad or green vegetable.
Adapted from my friend Christine's Mother-in-law
Adapted from my friend Christine's Mother-in-law
Under the Monkey Bars http://underthemonkeybars.com/

Notes:
– Use a cast iron pot because the acidity of the tomatoes will react with metal.  Sauce will not taste as good in a stainless steel pot!  I learned this trick from Chef Jane.
– Tomatoes also react to the metal in cans, causing harmful chemicals like BPA to leech into your food.  I use boxed non-GMO Pomi tomatoes.  The only ingredient is tomatoes, unlike many other brands.
– We like the flavor of Gillian’s gluten free bread crumbs combined with Honeyville blanched almond flour.  You can try substituting any combination of bread crumbs and flours to fit your dietary needs.  This recipe can be gluten free and paleo, but obviously not vegetarian.  Sorry friends!
– I use kale and carrot pulp from my juicer to add extra nutrition to the meatballs.  When I juice, I remove the discarded pulp individually and freeze it in 1/4 cup portions.  I bake with the juicer pulp as well.  Stay tuned for juicing recipes! 
– We love to eat our meatballs and sauce over zoodles or spaghetti squash
– For gluten free pasta, we like Jovial Organic brown rice pasta and Andean Dream organic quinoa pasta.  I don’t buy gluten free pasta if it contains corn or soy.  
– I prefer not to touch raw meat, so I use food service gloves to make meatballs.  Just one of those things…
– Freeze the leftovers!  You know the drill: only in glass containers.
– Buy local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

Cómelo todo!*

 

 

*Translation :: Eat it all!
When I studied abroad in Madrid during college, my Señora Encarna would say, “Cómelo todo!” when she brought dinner to the table.  I sometimes say it to my monkeys at dinnertime with a smile, remembering that incredible experience.  You can expect to see “Cómelo todo!” at the end of my recipe posts as a tribute to the lovely lady who made sure I was well fed all those years ago in Spain.