What’s For Dinner? Ginger Chicken Soup


GingerChickenSoup

UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup

There are a million varieties of chicken soup. That’s an accurate count, too, I think. Actually, if anything, I’m underestimating. There are probably at least 1 million and 1 varieties. At least. In fact, my wife and I end up with a new variety of chicken soup almost every night. Lately, we’ve been cooking up some chicken soup every night, re-using the leftovers from the night before, and adding in a new set of ingredients – some the same, some different. We’ve had some really delicious versions, and some that aren’t really worth getting all excited about. That’s cooking for you!

This Ginger Chicken Soup was one of the more impressive versions that we’ve put together over the past week. The way that the ginger brightened the flavor of the soup was amazing! It brought out all the best flavors of the other vegetables that I used. And the way that ginger works with chicken is like magic! I’m really going to have to use some ginger on some baked chicken now – I’ve done it extensively with stewed meats, chicken included, but now I have got to try it baked!

UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup:

  • 2 Whole Chicken Legs (skin, bones, everything)
  • 2 inches Ginger, diced
  • 1/2 Jicama Root, chopped (would work with a sweet potato or diakon too; though that would result in a very different flavor)
  • 1 medium Carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium Golden Beet, chopped
  • 1 medium Zucchini, chopped
  • 3 sprigs Basil Leaves
  • 3 sprigs Basil Stalks, diced
  • Spices: Sea Salt, Turmeric, Sage
  • 6 cups Water

Serves: 2-4 (2 with a lot of leftovers)
Cook time: 45 minutes

1. Put the chicken legs and spices in the water and cook on high, covered.

2. While the chicken is heating up, chop the ingredients and add them to the pot. Here is the order that I add ingredients:

  • Ginger first (need the flavor!)
  • Carrots (hardest; needs the most time in the water to soften)
  • Jicama (or Sweet Potato)
  • Golden Beet (Very different flavor profile from red beet – I would use Sweet Potato or Rutabaga instead of Golden Beet if you need to substitute)
  • Diced Basil Stalks (Yes, dice up the stalks of the basil sprigs – these cook quite well, and the flavor is subtle but delicious)
  • Zucchini

3. Let the water boil, still on high heat (use a big pot) for 10 minutes.

4. Take the chicken legs out of the pot and pull them apart, shredding the meat and extracting the bones. Put the chicken back into the pot once it’s been shredded.
Note: I do this step right in the pot, shredding the chicken and extracting the bones all without removing them from the pot. If you’re going to do this, be very careful not to get burned by the steam or splashing.

5. Let the soup continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • How much do you enjoy chicken soup?
  • Seriously, how much do you love chicken soup?!?
  • Is chicken soup a year-round comfort food for you, or do you typically start turning to it as the weather turns?
  • What other soups are your fall and winter comfort foods?
  • Are you adventurous with your chicken soups?
  • Are you adventurous with your other soups?
  • What kinds of adventures have worked out well for you?
  • What has failed miserably?

What’s For Dinner? Baked Vegetable-Mustard-Marinade Chicken


BakedVegetableMarinadeChicken

UPC’s Vegetable Mustard Marinade Chicken

I’ve had a hectic couple of days! On Sunday I wrote what I had hoped would be a rousing response to a comment I received on a “4 Steps to Successfully Eating Out” post I wrote many months ago. I called my response “Am I Really Allergic To Wheat?” It’s no surprise that the nay-sayers came out in droves to give me their opinion on the matter. I received comments from the three main camps that you might expect. They all fell in to one of these:

  1. “It’s not a real allergy until a doctor has diagnosed it.”
  2. “My allergy is more important than yours.”
  3. “It’s not an allergy if you don’t get Anaphylactic Shock from it.”

It’s difficult to be trying to have an open and honest discussion about this sort of topic. This is a challenging topic to have among people with generally like minds! But throw in the fact that I’m opening my discussion up to the public, and all sorts of other opinions will start to show their faces too. While I want people to participate, I find it difficult and challenging to facilitate a beneficial discussion when it so quickly devolves into the dirty kind of arguments where the only “Out” is when someone gets hurt, insulted, or gives up because there’s no intellectual middle-ground. That’s not a good discussion for anyone.
So keep your eyes peeled at the end of this post. I’ll be bringing the above up in my Questions section, since it’s important to me what you all think.

Vegetable Mustard Marinaded Chicken; What you’ll need:

  • 1lb Whole Chicken Legs, skin on (this recipe will work with any cut; but it’s best on dark meat)
  • 1 cup Carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Lemongrass, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Chives, chopped (will work just as well with green onions, scallions or leeks)
  • 1-inch Ginger, sliced
  • ChickenMarinadeVeggies1

    Just vegetables, before liquid is added

    2 tablespoons Whole-Seed Yellow Mustard (optional: Make your own with white vinegar, water, mustard seed, turmeric, sea salt, and ground mustard seed)

  • 4 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar (optional: white or apple cider vinegar will work, but will change the flavor dramatically – consider your flavor carefully)
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Water

ChickenMarinadeVeggies2Serves: 4
Prep Time: 1 day
Cook time: 40 minutes

1. First put the chicken in a marinade container, then combine all remaining ingredients.

2. Close the container and seal it, then shake the container thoroughly, making sure that all ingredients have mixed.

ChickenMarinadeVeggies3

After shaking thoroughly

3. Store the chicken in the refrigerator for at least a day. Shake vigorously at least twice during that time.

ChickenMarinadeVeggies_After

The oil thickens in the fridge – this is a good thing, it locks the flavor in!

4. 60 minutes before meal time, pre-heat the oven on to 375, and take the chicken out of the fridge.

5. Using coconut oil or a nut oil (I used walnut oil) grease an oven-safe pan, and put the chicken on the pan.

6. Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes (depends on how crispy you like the skin). Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you enjoy it when I do a “Weekend Food Commentary” on a hard-to-discuss topic like I did this past weekend?
  • Would you like to see these more frequently? Keeping in mind that it’s been months since I did the last one.
  • Are there any particular hard-to-discuss topics that you’d like me to review and discuss?
  • Chicken Questions:
  • What kinds of chicken recipes do you like the most? Baked/fried/soup/etc?
  • I’m playing around with some “Crusted Chicken” recipes, at the moment – any suggestions?
  • I’ve got some ideas for some chicken meals, and chicken appetizers… Any chance we could do a chicken dessert? I know – that might be pushing it a bit… 🙂

What’s For Lunch? Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box


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Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box with Salad Eggs and a Green Salad

I changed jobs about 2 months ago. There are a couple of things that happen to me when I change jobs. My sources of stress change (not more, and usually less, but it’s quite different). There are always the early questions in any new job that everyone asks themselves; questions like “Am I going to get along with my boss/co-workers?” keep coming back over the first several weeks. More importantly than those questions, though, are the changes in your habits. You may no longer have the same people to spend time with during the day, the same lunch spots that you’re used to, and your commute might be different. These each are sources of stress to your system, and while the euphoria of a new job typically masks them, that will wear off eventually.

I mention this all because when I change a job, that means that I stop running to work. Why? Because I wear my work shoes on the commute for the first several weeks of any job. I don’t want my new boss or new co-workers to see me walk in to work with my Vibram Fivefingers while my First Impression is still being formed – it’s much easier to change later and start to use them after a few weeks than it is to convince someone that, while I am weird, it won’t negatively affect my performance. So, I don’t run to work for the first several weeks. No big deal, right? 5 miles is less than 20% of even a low week of my running miles. And in terms of time, it’s probably even less significant than that: maybe accounting for 5-10% of my workout time. I shouldn’t worry about it, right?
Wrong. Let’s keep in mind that workouts are not just quantitative, they should also be qualitative. And each workout has a specific purpose. I have strength days 1-2 times each week, where the purpose of the workout is to seriously stress my muscles, causing strength to build. I have speed workouts, where I run as fast as I can over a specific distance, stressing my muscles to build more speed. And I have endurance workouts, where I run for a long time, or do planks or wall-sits for a long time, to build my endurance capacity. And then there are meditative and stress workouts. You’ve had a tough day, and to let that stress go, you pound on a heavy bag for a while, or you go out for a bike ride for an hour. These are just as important, in a very different way, as strength, speed, and endurance workouts are. And my morning 1-mile is a meditative workout. It’s as important to me as eating breakfast. Do I skip breakfast occasionally? Yes. Should I skip my morning 1-mile occasionally? Yes. But there are always adverse affects when I skip it for several days, or more. It adds to my stress levels. Or, rather, skipping it reduces my capacity to handle stress.

So I’ve just settled in enough to start running to work again, and I feel GREAT! I started last week, but hadn’t had a chance to mention it until today. I couldn’t be happier!! My work shirts are groaning in distress, knowing that their brief respite from my morning runs to work have ended, and that they’re going to have to deal with my sweaty neck again. I know, it’s no fun to get to work with sweat inside the collar of your shirt. But it’s so worth it for my 1 mile stress preparation runs every day! Welcome back morning 1-milers!

Balsamic Pulled Chicken Bento Box; What you’ll need:

  • Balsamic Pulled Chicken:
  • 1/2 Chicken, pulled (skin on, slow-cooked, spiced)
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sea Salt, Ground Pepper
  • Bento Box:
  • Salad Eggs (I used Fennel instead of basil)
  • Favorite Salad Greens (I used Baby Arugula)
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Basil, chopped (use fresh basil; it’s a leafy green along with a herb)
  • 1/2 cup Crimini Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium Yellow Squash, sliced (Zucchini works too)
  • 2 medium Carrots, chipped
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Serves: 2
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes (I did it all the morning of; extra cook time will be better!)

1. In a pot, add the chicken, several cups of water (so that the chicken is fully submerged) and the spices.
Note: I started the chicken even before my coffee in the morning, and let it cook for as long as I could.

2. Cook the chicken on Medium heat, about 5 out of 10, covered for as long as you can – but at least 45 minutes.

3. Prepare the Salad Eggs and the salad. Add these to the bento box (or lunch container of choice).

4. After at least 45 minutes of cook time, using a pair of tongs and a fork, shred the chicken thoroughly, leaving the shredded chicken in a separate bowl.

5. Add the balsamic vinegar to the bowl and mix the chicken thoroughly. Add this to the bento box (or other) lunch container. And enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you have some daily (or most days) stress relief activity?
  • Do you have a meditative workout?
  • Do you have different kinds of workouts that you do on different days?
  • Do you eat pulled-chicken?
  • When you do a 3-piece meal for lunch, how do you keep them separate?
  • What’s your favorite chicken meal?

Chicken Soup for the… Just Chicken Vegetable Soup


ChickenVegetableSoup

Just Chicken Vegetable Soup

I hope you enjoyed the post title! I had fun with that. I also had a short story all thought up to go with the title, and I thought it was pretty funny at the time. Unfortunately, all I can remember right now is that I thought up a story and thought it was pretty funny. Sometimes writing does that to me. Sometimes it clears my mind of all other things, and something surprising comes out of my fingers (yes, I write with my fingers, not a pen). Almost like magic. And sometimes I don’t forget the story, and I can relay it back to you all with a humored grin on my face, despite that there’s a pretty good chance that no one else thinks I’m funny…

Just chicken vegetable soup. I really enjoy soup season. Fall, winter, and spring here in NYC is prime soup season for me and my wife. And we always know that soup season has kicked off with aplomb once I’ve made the first chicken soup of the season. It’s almost a “Soup Season Tradition” for us. Perhaps we should call it that.
One of the things that I like the most about Soup Season is the use of spices. I do a lot of steak with nothing but turmeric or pepper. I like the flavor of steak, and only really want to hide that flavor with spices when I’m making something “fancy”. But when it comes to soups, it’s all about the spices! Of course, you don’t just grab a random handful of spice jars and just use them. You carefully, artfully choose the spices you’re going to include in order to maximize your enjoyment, and the specific flavors, of the dish. Today’s key players are: fresh sliced lemongrass, fresh chopped rosemary, and turmeric (sorry, not fresh).

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Chicken Thigh Meat
  • 2 medium Yellow Squashes, sliced
  • 10 oz Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 medium Carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced Fennel Bulb
  • 1 cup sliced Celery
  • 4-6 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, sliced
  • 4-6 tablespoons sliced fresh Lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons Turmeric
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves: 6-8 (I always make plenty for leftovers)
Cook and Prep time: 60 minutes (I prep the spices and vegetables while the soup cooks)

1. In the soup pot, add the chicken and several cups of water and cook on high, covered.

2. Slice the lemongrass first, and add it to the soup as it is ready, followed by adding the turmeric, then chopping up the rosemary and adding it to the pot.

3. Let the chicken and spices cook for 5-10 minutes, on high heat, before adding anything else to the pot.
Note: This is a good time to prepare the other vegetables.

4. After the chicken has had some time to cook through, add the carrots, fennel, and mushrooms to the soup, as well as refreshing the water. Always make sure that there is more than enough water to fully submerge all of the ingredients (keeping in mind, of course, that the vegetables float…).

5. Allow another 5-10 minutes of cook time, then uncover the pot and using a serving fork and some tongs, fish out the chicken chunks, and shred the chicken back in to the pot, leaving it as shredded as you have the patience to make it. I do this instead of cutting it in to chunks, because I like the texture of the shredded chicken much better than chunks of it.

6. About 15 minutes before meal time add the remaining ingredients to the soup. Again, refresh the water in the soup so that there is plenty of water to cover all of the vegetables.

7. Just before serving, add the salt and pepper, and increase the water of the soup to the point that there’s the right amount of broth to suit your tastes (some people like a lot of broth, some people like less…). And serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you ever forget something right as you’re about to say it? Or write it?
  • What is your favorite kind of soup?
  • When you do chicken soup, which spices do you use?
  • Do you prefer your chicken soup to be a “slow-cooked” meal, or something you throw together in a quick 30-minute prep session, just before dinner time?
  • What meal really personifies the beginning of soup season for you?

UPC Bento-Box: Apple Sausage, Sweet Potato Fries, Herb “Sweet” Salad


SausageBentoBox1

Another UPC’s Bento-Box Lunch; and a new treat: the Herb “Sweet” Salad

I have a sweet tooth. In fact, if there was a “Sweet Tooth’s Anonymous,” I would most definitely need to be a member. I realize that Humans are naturally predisposed to having a sweet tooth. There is a very good evolutionary reason for this: we need to eat sugar to get fat, and we need fat to survive periods of famine (winter, dry season, etc.). I get that. Despite that there are very good reasons for us to have a sweet tooth, I seem to be more predisposed to sweet-tooth cravings than other people I know.

Obviously a sweet tooth is somewhat counter-productive when you’re trying to get down to fighting weight, so to speak. I am a firm believer in a “Cycles” approach, where you have a slimming and muscle-building cycle, like in the spring and summer, and then you have a sweet-tooth season where you put on a bit of fat and let your body take itself in another direction for a while, like in the fall and winter. And while our bodies existed in their evolutionary environment, that was all fine and dandy, because our cycle-approach was limited and driven by the food that was available. For example: the herbivores which were still alive in the fall tended to be stronger, faster, and more able to survive (they lived through the spring and summer, after all). So they were harder to catch. But lucky for us Humans, we can eat the abundantly available fruit instead of being primary predators for a while; it helps us to put on weight and incidentally, survive the winter.

But here in the NYC area, I live in an environment of non-seasonal abundance. My limitations have to be entirely self-created, and self-enforced. So I’ve become VERY inventive at finding ways of satisfying my sweet tooth without much, if any, carb intake. And today’s Herb “Sweet” Salad is a perfect example! Enjoy!!

Herb “Sweet” Salad; What you’ll need:

  • Favorite Salad Mix (I used a “Power Greens” mix)
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 large Cucumber, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, “chipped” (cut chips of the carrots in to the mixing bowl)
  • 1 cup White Button Mushrooms, chopped
  • And for the “Sweet” flavoring:
  • 3 sprigs Tarragon, pull the leaves off, then chop
  • 1 cup Fennel, chopped (Get fennel with the greenery still on; use the greenery, not the bulb – alternately, chop and caramelize the fennel bulb.)
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Bento-Box; What you’ll need:

  • Herb “Sweet” Salad (ingredients listed above)
  • 1 large Sweet Potato, sliced
  • 4 Apple Chicken Sausage Links (or other sausage; another household favorite of ours is Kielbasa)

1. Put the Sausage Links in a pot with some water and cook on high, covered.
Note: Most sausages come pre-cooked, so you could eat them right out of the package. I always cook them anyway.

2. Put the home-fry sliced sweet potatoes in a pan with a refined nut oil and cook on a high heat.
Note: I used Walnut oil; using a refined nut oil here is important, because they’re less likely to oxidize under the high heat of stir-frying the sweet potatoes.

3. Mix the salad and tend to the sausages and sweet potato home fries.
Serve, and enjoy!

4. (Optional Extra Step): Take the sausages out of the pot, slice the sausages and fry them, lightly crisping them for additional flavor.
Note: This step works particularly well with flavored sausages.

SausageBentoBox2

Questions:

  • Do you get sweet cravings?
  • Do you indulge them?
  • Do you find ways of satisfying them without indulging?
  • What kinds of things do you do to keep your sweet tooth satisfied, without offsetting your hard work to manage your health?
  • Do you allow your body to have a weight “cycle” of sorts?
  • Is your weight-cycle dictated by anything? The seasons? Holidays? Vacations?
  • Are you satisfied with your body’s cycle? Does it work for you?
  • Do you, like me, believe that a weight cycle (within healthy limits, of course) is actually likely a healthy thing?

Chicken Croquette


ChickenCroquette

UPC’s Crispy Chicken Croquette

I just reorganized my Recipes page. It’s looking fantastic, and I’ve got a huge number of amazing recipes there! It’s been months, literally months, since I last made any updates to the Recipes page, so I really didn’t have any more than a passing notion of how many recipes I’ve actually posted! I’m really excited by what’s there, and I’ve been able to take a look at what you all really appreciate, and what more I need to supplement with. Take a quick peek over at the Recipes page when you get a chance and let me know what kinds of recipes you would like to see more of!

In my excitement at a job-well-done, I showed the update page to my wife. Thank god for her and her insights (you all should too), because she took one look at the page and said: “You don’t have very much chicken, soups, or appetizers there, do you.” I took a few moments to think about it. The unfortunate truth is: no, I really don’t have a lot of appetizers, chicken, or soups. Fortunately, Fall is the perfect time for all three!! Summer is, in my mind, meat and barbecue season. Fall is dinner-party season. And there’s nothing more appropriate for dinner-party season than chicken, appetizers, and soups! To kick it all off, take a look at the Crispy Chicken Croquette that I whipped up immediately after my wife pointed out a distinct lacking of chicken and appetizer recipes. Two birds with one stone!

ChickenCroquette-Ingredients

UPC’s Crispy Chicken Croquette; What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup Sweet Potatoes, mashed
  • 1 cup Chicken, cooked and chopped (I slow-cooked it in coconut oil)
  • 1/2 cup Green Onions, chopped
  • 1 Egg, beaten (Pastured Eggs)
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Cream
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Flour (or nut flour)
  • (Optional) Some finely chopped chives to enhance the green-onion flavor
  • 2 pinches each of Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper
  • Refined Nut-Oil for frying (I used walnut oil)

ChickenCroquette-MixingServes: 4-6 (depending on the size of the croquettes)
Cook and Prep time: 60 minutes (add cooling time if you want to serve as finger-food)

1. Mix the coconut flour and coconut cream thoroughly. Make sure there are no clumps in the mixture.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, including the egg, salt and pepper, and continue to mix until you have a mostly homogeneous tan-looking thick paste.

ChickenCroquette-Patties3. Pinch a large chunk of the paste out of the mixing bowl and roll it in to a ball in your hands. Now pat that ball out to a flat patty; leave it on a plate while you create patties with the rest of the croquette paste.
Note: You should have enough croquette past to make 4-6 patties. As usual, it’s better to make them smaller than you think you need.

ChickenCroquette-FirstSide4. Heat the oil up in the pan on high. Once the pan is radiating heat, you can start cooking.
Note: This is what you use refined nut oils for; unrefined oils will degrade under high heat conditions.

5. Carefully place the patties in to the heated oil.

6. Let the patties cook for 2-4 minutes per side. After about 30-60 seconds of cook time, slide the spatula under the croquette patties to make sure that they’re not sticking to the pan.
Note: cook time depends on how large you made your patties – smaller patties cook for a shorter time while larger patties need longer.

ChickenCroquette-SecondSide7. After 2-4 minutes (depending on patty size) of cook time, flip the croquettes and cook the other side. The just-done patty should be a golden-brown color. Don’t be surprised if patches of the croquette are a darker color than the rest of it.

8. Remove the croquettes from the pan and place them on a plate.

9. Cover the plate and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Then serve and enjoy!

Hu Kitchen Gets It!


HiKitchen-Sign

Hu Kitchen

I’ve already done a few different posts on Hu Kitchen, so any of you regular readers should be well-familiar with the name. These guys are excellent, and truly understand what “Food” is: it’s not just some caloric intake to stop our stomachs from grumbling, it’s carefully selected items of quality, which our bodies will use to fuel our lives! If we want a top-quality life, then by golly we need to have top quality food!!

My wife and I recently went back to Hu Kitchen, one of our favorites. In fact, we go often enough that I don’t report to you readers each time we drop by. Well, sometimes I’ll send a twitter update, but that’s about it. But when they do something extraordinary, I feel it is my responsibility to share. And what Hu Kitchen did this last time we visited them was something that really resonates with me, and is well in line with a few of my recent posts (notably: UPC’s rant about eggs). See the picture above where Hu Kitchen points out, on a chalk board outside the restaurant, one of the ways that the beef industry is trying to bamboozle consumers in to thinking grain and soy fed beef fit in to the consumers’ “healthy” food categories. I have mentioned the same thing about chickens: since they’re birds, and all birds need to eat live protein sources (does “The early bird gets the worm” ring any bells?) then an all-vegetarian fed chicken is not a healthy animal!

So, since Hu Kitchen gets it, and I really like them, I am sharing their excellent work with you all. When you’re in the Union Square area of NYC, definitely make some time to stop by Hu Kitchen for their wonderful food, excellent deserts, their ambiance, and most of all, to support a restaurant that really gets it!

HuKitchen-RoastChicken

And back to the food:

I ordered their rotisserie chicken (yes, it’s a pastured bird; thank you Hu Kitchen!!). There are a few different meal options at Hu Kitchen. There is a meal-menu, where the rotisserie chicken is always available, as well as another meat. After selecting the protein source, there are several really excellent sides to choose from. I chose the cauliflower and the grilled Brussels Sprouts. The meal, as usual, was excellent!

One of the most exciting things about Hu Kitchen is that you don’t have to worry about their food being Paleo or not. Nearly everything there is Paleo, they never cook with soy, and when there are grains in their food (they’re still a business, they need to attract non-Paleo customers until we grow our ranks more…) they have them clearly labeled. There’s never any confusion, and I’ve never walked away with that curious stomach feeling, letting me know that something in my meal was not Paleo. So feast there with confidence that your food will be to your standards!