Roast Chicken and a White Wine, Lemon, Dijon sauce (GF option)

Sometimes, you just want comfort.  Like leggings, you can dress them up, or dress them down, but no matter what’s on with them, it’s comfort.

I think roast chicken is the food equivalent to leggings.

On a rushed weeknight, you can throw on salt and pepper, and have a one pan dish in an hour total (with 15 minutes of hands on work), or if you’re having company over, you can dress it up a bit with different toppings or sauces.  However you make it, it still feels accessible and comforting, sometimes with a fancy flair.

And I think that’s really what we want from most food.

We don’t want just a fancy dish that fills us up… too much pizzaz distracts from the heart. We want our souls fed.

In my mind, you can’t get more simple or comforting than roasted chicken.  If I know I’m having people over and it’s been a crazy week, this is a simple, fairly mindless dish (that can even be prepared ahead of time) that is perfect for time around a table.  It’s also great for evening dinners with the family.  The versatility is endless.

The thing that always surprises me, is that roast chicken isn’t something that seems to get prepared much these days.  I’m not sure if it’s the intimidation of making sure it’s done, or people not wanting to deal with bones and, um… other things.

I admit, whole chicken totally weirded me out when I first started cooking.  All I knew were boneless skinless chicken breasts.  I don’t think I ever ate chicken prepared at home with bones in it until I made it myself.  Which was in large part to necessity.

I lived overseas for a year, and it was a good day if you could find bone in chicken breasts at the supermarket and didn’t have to go to the open air market and see the live chicken before you got the dead one handed to you.  After plucking feathers from a turkey with tweezers for Thanksgiving, coming home and dealing with a whole chicken didn’t seem quite so intimidating.

I’m not the biggest fan of roasting a whole chicken.  To get the breasts done, the legs are overcooked, and it always seems to take so much longer to cook.  Thankfully, you’re local butcher can solve this problem with no additional charge for you.

If you don’t have a local butcher, head over to your local Whole Foods.  They’ll do anything you need them to…grind chicken breasts for you, cut down a whole chicken, give you half a chuck roast, butterfly your pork chops and more, all for no additional charge.  One of the many reason why the store has my loyalty.

Partially from living over seas, and partially from surviving in the North East as a single income family, frugality is ingrained in me.  So when I show up to the meat counter, I check and see what’s less expensive per pound, whole chicken legs or a whole chicken.  If it’s legs, I get one for each person and am on my way, if it’s the whole chicken, I ask them to break it down for me, which simply means they cut it into breasts, wings, legs and thighs for you.  If the thought of sticking your hand inside of a chicken makes you want to curl up in the fetal position and suck your thumb, this is your gig.

When you are ready to cook your chicken, preheat your oven to 425°.  If you got legs, throw them all on there, if you got the full chicken, place just the breasts on the pan…those need to cook longer than the rest of the chicken.

This is a breast on the pan, with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.  Notice how much salt there is.  If you are doing the simple straightforward version of this dish, then you need to season it well, this is going to be the only flavor imparted to the chicken.  Put the oil on first and rub it into the skin, then salt and pepper it.  Or if you’re really skittish about touching the chicken, you can buy olive oil in spray cans (like Pam, I get mine at trader Joe’s) and spray that on top of the chicken.

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If you’re cooking all the pieces of a chicken, and have given the breasts a head start, this is what they will look like after spending 20 minutes in the oven.  If you’re roasting legs, then you can throw them in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes.

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After the breasts have cooked for 20 minutes by themselves, add the legs and thighs and roast them for another 30 minutes.  This is what they should look like after they are done.  I love the crispy, salted skin!

 

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You could stop here, roast some vegetables (on the same pan with all the chicken goodness!), toss a salad and call it a night.  That’s usually what I do for weeknight family meals.  However, if you’re wanting to dress it up a bit, you have endless options.  You could do a sauce, one of which I will show you below, and another option is to do more elaborate seasoning before roasting.  One of my favorites is to chop garlic and rosemary and rub that on the chicken, along with salt and pepper.  I also like doing a bbq style rub (paprkia, brown sugar, dry mustard, etc) and serving it with our favorite bbq sauce.  I’ve also used a couple different marinades (like a balsamic one, balsamic vinegar, garlic, dijon, and olive oil), which are good, but don’t leave the skin quite as crispy as I like it.  Worth a try, never the less.

If you want to make the white wine, lemon dijon sauce, then take all the yummy chicken goodness at the bottom of the pan, and dump it in a sauce pan.  At this point there are still a few chicken yummies on the roasting pan, to which I throw my root vegetables (any combination of potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, turnips, etc) on to along with salt and pepper and olive oil.  I toss and scrape and pop it back in the oven for 40 minutes, at the same temp the chicken was on, leaving the chicken on a dish to the side.

This is what I had once I put it into the sauce pan.  Not a ton, but enough to cover the pan.  If you do legs, you may have a little bit more fat than I did.  If you want to scoop some of it off, go right ahead.  I think it adds flavor, and I need less butter, so bring on the fat!  To this I added 1 tablespoon of butter, but if you have more, you don’t need to add any butter.  Just make sure you have a bout 2 tablespoons of some sort of fat in the pan. Cook over a medium high heat.

 

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Once the butter is melted, or everything is warm, you can add your flour.  I added 1 heaping tablespoon which equates to about 2 tablespoons.  Stir, and let it cook a bit.  This is called a roux, and is the base for just about any cream sauce, cream soup, and lots of other incredible things.  Learn it, love it.

My sister and a close friend have Celiac’s, and I also have several other friends with gluten sensitivities, so it’s always great to know a gluten free version for them.  When I am making a roux based dish gluten free, I usually sub out cornstarch in equal amounts.  I’ve also heard of people having good results with gluten free flour and arrow root powder.

 

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Once you have the roux, add 1 tablespoon of dijon and stir to combine.  If you’re not a big fan of dijon, you may want to cut back a bit.  Mustard is my condiment of choice, so I’m quite partial to the flavor.  Slowly stir in 1 cup of white wine (I used a Chardonnay) and 1/2 cup chicken stock.  Slowly stir until sauce has thickened.  Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice

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Once my vegetables are done, I throw the chicken on top of them and put the whole pan back in the over for 5 minutes to heat it back up.  I put all the veg on a large serving plate, top with the chicken and serve the sauce on the side.  I can manage this meal while doing homework with one kid, disciplining another, and putting another one back down for a nap several times and not feel stressed out, and once it’s on the table, all of my brood eats it without complaints.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Hope it has the same success at your home!

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Roast Chicken

Whole chicken cut into parts OR

Whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), 1 per person

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Preheat over to 425°.  Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Place on rimmed baking sheet and rub pieces in olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  If using whole chicken, place just breasts on pan and roast for 20 minutes before adding remaining pieces.  Roast another 30 minutes.  If using legs, roast 35 minutes.

 

White Wine, Lemon, Dijon Sauce

Pan drippings

1 cup White wine

2 TBS Flour OR Corn Starch (see note above about GF options)

1 TBS Dijon

1/2 cup Chicken Stock

Lemon

Add flour to pan drippings and heat over medium high heat.  Stir and cook until light brown.  Add dijon and stir in.  Slowly add wine and chicken stock continuously stirring until sauce is thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Just before serving add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Let it Go

I tend to be a black and white sort of person.

While I see a lot more gray in the world that I used to (and am grateful for this!), I still tend to view and speak in absolutes.

Which makes me sound pretty stupid a lot, and gets me in a lot of trouble and hurts others.

I’m a work in progress, by the grace of God.

I’ve found this trait tends to link itself to feeling a need for justification. Sometimes for myself, sometimes for others I love, or sometimes there is no connection and I just want justice.

This means when someone does something wrong to me or my family, I have a really hard time forgiving, and want the wrong righted.

I think we can all look back and see situations in our life where we were done wrong by. For whatever reason I have an extremely long list of very pivotal situations in my life where I was treated wrongly.

After thinking and praying a lot about this, wondering why these situations occur over and over in my life…there were a couple possible scenarios I came across:

– God is trying to teach me something through these situations
– There is something unhealthy in me that allows these situations to keep playing themselves out
– Both

I strongly believe that we choose our emotions and how we react in the midst of those emotions.

One of the biggest life lessons I’ve had to learn (over and over) is that forgiveness is a choice. I can choose anger and bitterness, or I can choose forgiveness, but I am making a choice. While there is a natural inclination to emotion in situations, we make the choice of what we feel and how we react. Even the law recognizes this. Assault and abuse are crimes in this country, because we control how we react and are expected to have a certain level of control. Twitter feeds are dominated by jokes about a football player who runs his mouth in the midst of a surge of emotion. Job applicants are turned down because of their emotional reaction on social media. We choose our emotions, and when we forgive, it is because we made the choice to.

Can I tell you how easy this is to say? I have done studies, read books, and talked endlessly about this idea of forgiveness and how to get there. There are no step by step instructions to be found. In 95% of my situations there has been no justification, no apologies, no righting the wrongs. I am left to deal with the pain, the hurt, the slander, broken reputation, bruised ego, and more. It is my choice to hold onto all of that, or to let it go, and forgive.

There is absolutely no way I have the ability to forgive outside of Jesus. None. Even with Him, learning to let go of the pain has seemed insurmountable at times. At the end of the day though, it is a choice. Forget even a daily choice, there are times it’s a minute by minute choice to shut down my thoughts and replay of the circumstances and make the choice to forgive. To hold on to all the bad and wrong, or to forgive, like Christ has forgiven me. I deserve death, and I have life. I deserve hell and yet have the promise of heaven. So why do I expect perfection and justification from others when I haven’t been held to that standard?

For me the answer is pride. Is my being done right by more important to me than forgiveness? Is my need to see that person get what they deserve, more important than forgiveness? Is my need for an apology and public righting of a public wrong more important than forgiveness? Unfortunately, too often these answers are yes. Me, and what I want are more important than grace and what Jesus has commanded.

It doesn’t make sense, I know. Initially, it feels wrong and like the person is getting away with what they did when we make the choice to forgive. Really though, isn’t that exactly what our salvation looks like?

We have done wrong and terrible things, we have turned our backs on Jesus, lied to Him, pushed Him away, we have chosen to feast our eyes on evil and give our bodies over to sinful urges, we choose ourselves and our plans over and over and mock His divinity, we let hatred spill from our tongues, and turn our backs to those He told to love. Yet in those moments, not only did He see us, He loved us. Jesus hung on the cross and felt our ridicule, every time we turned our backs to Him for our own desires, every time we spit in His face and did things our own sinful way. He felt all of that, and in THAT moment…not our pretty sitting in church or serving the poor moment, in our dirty, disgusting and repulsive moment He forgave us.

He made a choice to forgive us. We are called to make the choice to forgive others. Not because they deserve it, but because we have been forgiven. Choose forgiveness today.

Seasons…a time to mourn

I’ve always loved the biblical analogy of seasons in climate to seasons in life.  I love that Jesus knows we are going to go through highs and lows, and instead of trying to explain it lofty phrases he relates it to something we get to see every year and have first hand experience with.

There is a lot of death and loss around me in my current season.  Lots of friends hurting from loss and hardships, praying for family and friends on deaths door, the death of things we thought may be.  It’s a season of winter.  Which happens to be aptly timed, and I’m so grateful.  I have walked through winter seasons in summer, and it’s so much easier to trudge forward when everything is a bit gray around you too.  It’s like the earth is mourning with you, instead of mocking you.

We have walked through our share of winter seasons in life.  In recent years we have mourned the losses of unborn babies, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, and the more everyday losses we have to walk through at times as well.  The loss of friendships, job circumstances, our plans, home as we know it, community, etc.

As much as I dread these seasons…it’s really here that God brings new life.

Without the dying and death, there can’t be growth.  If something doesn’t die off, there isn’t room for anything new to spring up.

This is easier to say, then walk through.  When we lost my mother in law, and I held a seven week old baby in my arms, the symbolism was palpable.  God brought us new life, in the midst of death.  There was a reason to look up, to keep going.  When I mourned the loss of life inside of me, He grew compassion and mercy for other women in the same situation.  I needed to keep going, because He “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 2:4 ESV, read for full context).  I needed to give the comfort and compassion the Lord showed me to during that time, to others.

Sometimes, you can’t see the life and light in the darkness.  A door closes, there isn’t another one open, and it just feels dark, lonely and hopeless.  

I’m so grateful that Jesus was so gracious to those who mourned.  In John 11, after the death of Lazarus, I love the way we get to see Jesus respond to those who are grieving.  

“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.” v.28-29 ESV

Mary didn’t hide from Jesus, or refuse to see Him.  Despite the fact she knew that he could have prevented Lazarus’ death, she went to Him, I believe because she knew that was the only place she would find solace.

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?”  They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” v. 32-35 ESV

I love that Mary isn’t afraid to bring hard questions to Jesus.  Where were you? He can handle the pain and confusion.  Not only does He see it, and hear it, He’s moved by it.  He grieves with us.  He doesn’t blow off our questions, or judge us for having them.  He doesn’t expect us to understand.  He sees our pain and wraps His arms around us and cries with us.

 

“And everything that’s new has bravely surfaced, teaching us to breathe,

And what was frozen through, is newly purposed, turning all things green

So it is with you, and how you make me new, with every season’s change

And so it will be, as you are re-creating me, summer, autumn, winter, spring.”

Nichole Nordeman, Seasons

 

It’s winter now, but spring is coming.

What season of life do you find yourself in?

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

It seems fitting that the first recipe I share here, is this one.

This recipe is one near and dear to my heart, and like most really great recipes that tickle the taste buds and the heart strings, is from my grandmother.

There were a fair amount of food regulations and restrictions in my home growing up, and one of the things we didn’t seem to ever have were bananas.  But, pretty much every time we went to my grandmothers house we had full access to bananas…and versions of this recipe.

Sometimes we would find it made in cake form slathered in rich chocolate frosting, other times it would be in loaves filled with walnuts, and sometimes (being the frugal woman she was) she would bake it in leftover tin cans, serving the small rounds with tea.  However she made it, it was always delicious, and a special treat.  Plus arguably healthy, since of course there was fruit in it!

When I first got married, this was one of the first recipes I started making, but it still seemed reserved as more of a special thing to make since ingredients like white flour and sugar were something we tried to avoid.

As I grew more confident in my cooking and baking abilities, and in my health decisions, I wanted to pull this one out of the “once in awhile” category and stick it in the “everyday” category.  I gradually switched from white flour to wheat, and added oatmeal, without sacrificing any taste factor.  Then I started adding things like flax seed and chia seed, which blended seamlessly.  However, sugar still seemed the tricky one to substitute.

I’ve tried lots of sugar substitutes over the years.  I really don’t like stevia, just a personal taste thing.  I love agave (in face I use a bit in my coffee each morning), but I didn’t want a liquid sweetener in the muffin mix.  Xylitol was great tasting, but the price and texture didn’t have it winning awards in my book.  Sucanet seemed to be the best option, but still not favorite flavor profile, so I usually just ended up using organic naturally milled cane sugar to make me feel better.  Until….

My best friend and fellow health nut turned me on to coconut sugar a couple years ago.  Since then it has started popping up everywhere…AS IT SHOULD.  I use this in cookies, muffins, tarts…just about everything.  This is my favorite sugar substitute that I have found to date.  And Trader Joe’s just started carrying it… for the same price as their organic sugar.  Done.

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It’s not an exaggeration to say, my week runs more smoothly when I have these ready for breakfast.  I’ve learned that if my kids like something, they eat it quicker.  I have one child in particular who can draw out eating a bowl of cereal for an hour.  So because none of us are really morning people around here, we need something quick, easy and mindless.  I lay these on the table, and they inhale them.  My husband can also grab one on his way out the door.  Done and done.  I’m seriously seeing a correlation between cereal mornings vs muffin mornings and our timeliness.  I mean, I’m not saying these will change your life, but… they may change your morning.  And that’s saying something.

I’ve made this recipe hundreds of times and never had a complete “fail” with it.  It is endlessly adaptable, and very forgiving.  I’ve subbed blueberries for chocolate chips, added more flax seed…done 1 cup flour and one cup almond meal, and it freezes great.

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So, my grandmothers banana cake/bread recipe, with a few (ok a lot) more healthful choices.

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

approximately 24 muffins

 3-4 ripe bananas (or frozen rip bananas that have been thawed)

1 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

2 stick room temperature butter

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup oatmeal (old-fashioned, not quick cook)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 ground flaxseed

1/4 chia seed

3/4 cup plain yogurt (or 1/2 cup almond milk, soy milk, regular milk)

1 bag chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli mini, or semi sweet)

 Preheat over to 350º

Cream butter and coconut sugar together. Add the bananas until well blended. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Add salt, baking soda and one cup of flour and mix until it just comes together. Add yogurt and mix until incorporated. Add remaining one cup flour, flax and chia and blend. Mix oatmeal and chocolate chips in by hand. Spoon into greased or lined muffin tins. Bake 15-17 minutes until tops lightly spring back and don’t sink to the touch.

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Public Service Announcement: noonday sale!

I love noonday collection.

If you’re not familiar with them, you can read more about them here.

I love buying from places that doesn’t support slavery of any sort.  Even more, I love supporting businesses that are directly trying to combat slavery.

All that to say, they have some VERY cute items, and they are having a SALE right now, with newly added items.

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I mean, how do you not want to snatch this up?

If you love me, and you’re reading this…my birthday is around the corner…

So, go shop for you and other girlies with great taste knowing you’re making an impact in another continent!  How’s that for guilt free shopping?!

Beginning

This past year I have felt God pressing on me to get back to writing.  I have had a blog off and on, and written here and there, but with no regularity.

It’s an outlet, helps me process, and it’s a way of sharing and (hopefully!) encouraging or helping others.  

I felt this press over the summer of 2013.

Since then, I have done just about every thing possible to distract me or justify my not stepping out in obedience.  

I got on a sewing kick (I don’t even really like sewing?!)…making up imaginary deadlines in my head of when things had to be done by.  I started home renovations, deciding now was a perfect time to redo my cabinets and floors.  I have legitimate responsibilities, like 3 children, feeding them, pick ups, schedules and appointments, laundry (does it ever end?!), and keeping a home running.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Then, when I actually had moments to think about this, I allowed fear and doubt to creep in.  

I have nothing new to say.  My blog isn’t cute…it needs to be cute.  My pictures won’t be good enough.  What if instead of encouraging women, I accidentally say something stupid that detracts from that (a very real possibility with my mouth and rawness)?  What if while meaning to help with dinner ideas, I become the obnoxious, intimidating food lady?  I don’t want to be obnoxious or give anyone a sense of insecurity.  These are just a few surface level fears, not even getting into the more deeper fears of inadequacy.

The New Year rolled around, and quite literally every single day I have woke up with the intention of taking a step in obedience.  

And every day I have not.

Thirteen days of a weight and purpose over my head that I have let fear win.  Not to mention the 6 months before that.

Well, today it stops.  Fear is not winning today, obedience is.

So I ask you, what is fear keeping you from today?  What are ways you are felling called to step out in obedience?  Are you supposed to make a phone call?  Serve others in a new, unknown way?  Step out of your comfort zone in the office?  Walk into that space full of new people?  Spend time with God every morning? (Because as a mom of young kids, we all know this is an act only accomplished with the strength of the Lord!) 

Whatever it is, as someone who has let fear control her for too many days, I encourage you to “…lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV, read for more context).  Because, “God gave us NOT a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV, again, emphasis mine, read for full context)

Don’t let fear win today.

 

And welcome…to my blog.