Category Archives: Uncategorized

Keeping Things Clean and Simple

I wanted to explain my hiatus from this blog for the last few months. I have taken on a new job as Chef of a local catering company.  We mainly work on a daily quota of corporate lunches, but we also have a retail space in Black Mountain, NC.  The shop makes salads and sandwiches for lunch, but also features take-home dinners, soups, casseroles, and other treats made from scratch.  We will soon be expanding our reach with these offerings, so stay tuned. You can check it out at here.

I am still offering my Personal Chef and clean eating services, so feel free to contact me with inquiries and questions. On to the blog…

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It’s difficult these days not to get overwhelmed by all of the information out there.  If you are reading this blog you are probably aware that I practice and preach clean eating.  I know that staying healthy involves daily exercise, and eating smallish portions of real food.  Make your food at home from scratch, and try and stay away from too much fat, cheese, alcohol, and sugar.  Simple, right?

I have been sucked into some of the latest health trends. I recently tried The Whole 30, and had good results. I felt okay on the diet, but I really felt like the “no grains” approach was not ideal for me.    As I often do, I got completely sucked in and obsessed.  Now I am asking myself, “Are grains really that bad?”  “Can I get the complex carbs I need without grains?”

I had also previously spent several weeks on the Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.  This approach is all about healing the gut, and replenishing the ecology of microbes in the gut through diet, suppliments, and eating fermented vegetables.  I was telling a friend of mine about how I was really into the diet (this friend also happens to be a health coach), and she said, “Yes, it’s great, but isn’t the program designed to help people that are sick?”  “Yes,” I thought, and I asked myself, “am I sick?”  The answer was, “no.”

I asked myself, “On which diet did I feel the best?”  I knew the answer.  I felt the best simply staying on a clean eating diet as well as daily exercise and meditation. Which is EXACTLY what I specialize in, and provide for my clients (with great success) on my 21 Day Program.

I’ve realized it’s time to get back to basics. Follow a plan that doesn’t eliminate food groups, is practical, and is simply common sense. Below is an article written by Paige Johnson of LearnFit.org, where she outlines “6 Essential Lifestyle Habits to Increase Longevity.”  Reading this article made me realize that I needed to relax and go Back to Basics. Enjoy!

6 Essential Lifestyle Habits to Increase Longevity

If you want to live a long, healthy life, taking care of your body must be a lifelong priority. While there’s no single, magic bullet that guarantees you’ll live to reach 100, a combination of healthy lifestyle choices throughout your life will help your body build its immune defenses and maintain your youthful appearance and energy for many years to come. It’s never too late to start making healthy choices.

  1. Consume a balanced diet.

You’ve probably read about dozens of fad diets touting the benefits of cutting out one dietary source or another from carbohydrates to fats, sugars, or whatever the current trends indicate is the culprit behind weight gain and obesity.

Unless you’re on a specific diet due to a health condition such as diabetes or high cholesterol, tried-and-true is usually the best option when it comes to nutrition. A healthy, balanced diet includes fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, nuts and grains, and healthy dairy choices.

  1. Keep your brain and body engaged.

Remaining active later in life has been linked to lower mortality rates. While you don’t necessarily have to avoid retirement altogether, consider part-time employment, volunteer work, or even continuing your education in mid-life and beyond to keep both your body and your mind strong.

  1. Exercise regularly.

In addition to maintaining hobbies, volunteering, or maintaining part-time employment throughout life, regular physical activity is essential for a long, healthy life. In fact, one study finds that regular, moderate exercise can lower brain age by as much as 10 years in some older adults – evidence that it truly never is too late to start making positive changes for your health and well-being.

  1. Get enough sleep.

Today’s hectic lifestyles make it ever-more challenging to get adequate, quality sleep, yet getting enough rest is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Sleep deprivation leads to fatigue, lack of focus, mood swings, and other ill effects.

If you have trouble falling asleep at night, there are beverages that help promote sleep. Add a sleep-promoting beverage to your evening routine and start getting the rest your body needs.

  1. Commit to happiness.

Choosing happiness isn’t always as simple as deciding what to eat for lunch, but you can employ strategies that will contribute to a more content, satisfied life. Set realistic goals for your personal and professional life and continuously strive towards them, cultivate your ability to evaluate situations objectively, and practice controlled breathing and other techniques to help you better manage your emotions. There are many ways to cultivate a happier lifestyle; experiment to find what works for you.

  1. Cut the stress.

Stress is one of the biggest contributors to obesity as well as anxiety, depression, and even heart attack and stroke. Take intentional actions to reduce the amount of stress in your daily life such as meditation, taking up hobbies that you enjoy, surrounding yourself with positive people, and being mindful about what you’re saying “yes” to. That means turning down offers and invitations that you’re not passionate about and declining to spend time around negative, toxic people who tend to bring you down.

Living a longer, healthier life is achievable when you commit to developing healthy lifestyle habits and maintaining a positive outlook on life. Learning how to look at situations and circumstances, turning down invitations that don’t feed your soul, and finding ways to cope with stressful situations are just a few of the secrets that can contribute to longevity. Coupled with a commitment to a healthy diet and regular exercise as well as ample rest for your body each night, it’s a recipe for a long, fulfilling life.

Paige Johnson is a self-described fitness “nerd.” She possesses a love for strength training. In addition to weight-lifting, she is a yoga enthusiast and avid cyclist. She enjoys writing about health and fitness for LearnFit.org.

Image via Pixabay by PublicDomainPictures

 

 

Mental Health and Meditation

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I could not do a series on what inspires me in health and wellness without addressing meditation. A few years ago, we had recently moved from Vermont to a little town outside of Lake Placid, NY. Everything was going well.  Kirk had a good new job that he enjoyed, we found a great house to rent that was right in front of the school.  The kids had friends to play with, we had great neighbors, and we were fitting right into this wonderful little community.

The only problem was that we were having trouble selling our house in Vermont.  Paying rent and a mortgage was a lot.  We decided to rent the house, which resulted in even bigger headaches, causing me to never ever want to be a property manager.  Among other things, it was really difficult being two hours away.

I had this great life.  I had a great marriage, and great kids. I loved my work, and we lived in this idyllic little town with amazing mountains and great friends.  The house in Vermont, however, was causing me unbelievable stress.  I had heard of the book, The Secret.  I remembered seeing it on Oprah years earlier.  One day Kirk said to me,  “I know it’s a little hokey, but I’ve been watching this movie on Netflix.”  It was The Secret.  I watched it, and watched it again.

I was mesmerized by all of the experts in the movie. They seemed so knowledgeable, and so happy.  The movie is about the Law of Attraction.  The main idea that I took away from it is that you should train your mind to focus on what you want, and not what you don’t want. What you focus on grows.  So, if you don’t want more bills, don’t think about them.  Think about what you want and you will attract more of it.

I started looking up the people in the movie, and looking for their books and  teachings.  I have learned so much from these amazing teachers.  My favorites are Jack Canfield, Joe Vitale, LIsa NIchols, and Michael Beckwith.

They all contribute different ideas and methods, but here’s my little summary of what they all teach:

1. Try and stay as positive as possible.  Look at bad things that happen to you as life lessons that you will emerge from stronger.  Try and avoid negativity.  Distance yourself from negative people, and stop watching the news – it’s very negative.

2. Set goals.  Think hard about what you want in life.  Get clear on this.  Write it down.  The more detailed the better.  Do you want to make more money?  Write down exactly how much.  Do you want to travel to Paris?  When? What are you going to do there?

3.  Tap into source energy.  Source energy comes from the universe, or creator.  This can pertain to whatever deity or Deity moves you spiritually.  You might be thinking how to do this?  The best way is to get quiet and go inside yourself.  The best way to practice doing this is to meditate.

My Mom has been meditating since I was in High School.  She explained it to me, and I tried to do it, but it was really hard.  The thought of it haunted me for years.  It was always in the back of my mind.  “I should try and eat healthier…I should exercise more…I really should start to meditate.”

What exactly is meditation?  The best definition I could find comes from good ole Webster’s Dictionary – to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.  I like to think of it as exercise for your mind.  You basically try and focus your mind on one thing.  Your breath is the “anchor.”  Pay attention to you breath.  What does an inhale feel like?…going into your nose?…your throat?…your chest…?…your belly?  What does an exhale feel like?…going out your nose?…your throat?…your chest…? your belly…?  There are some other things that you can try and focus on, like sounds in the room or sensations in your body.  You can recite a passage or a mantra mentally, and focus on the words.  The goal is to truly be in the moment.  To try and have your mind focus on the present, and not what you have to pick up at the grocery store later. If your mind does wander (and it will), just release the thought and come back to the breath, or the sounds, or the sensations, or the passage. Don’t get frustrated if it is difficult at first. It is a meditation practice.

I started meditating consistently a couple of years ago, and it has changed my life.  My level of stress has gone way down.  My husband and family have noticed the positive change.  It’s also helped me to focus much better on my work, my exercise, and to sleep better.  Overall, it has taught me to live in the moment. and to be more aware of my surroundings.

HOW TO GET STARTED?

The best way to get started is just that, start.  Pick a time and a place where you will not be disturbed.  I wake up at 4:45 in the morning so I have my meditation time.  I recommend starting with some guided meditations.  One of my favorite websites, Fragrant Heart, has a little mini-course you can sign up for (it’s free!).  You get an email every day for five days, lengthening the time each day you meditate.  Elizabeth Blaikie’s sweet voice guides you through, bringing you back when you need it.  Another great website that goes a bit deeper with a meditation course, is Quiet Lotus.  The site offers a five week course, with each week following a theme, also free.

Some other great programs that are not free are Oprah and Depak’s Meditation CD’s.  There’s several themes that you can choose from.  They offer a daily lesson, and then you meditate with a mantra.  It’s hard to go wrong with Oprah and Depak.  Lastly, I want to mention Holosync, by Bill Harris (also from The Secret).  Bill has been meditating so long he is a bona fide zen monk. He has also done extensive research on how the brain works.  His audio program has cues and tones that are supposed to take you deeper than you just meditating on your own.

Now that I have been meditating for a couple of years consistently, it’s become like brushing my teeth.  If I don’t do it, my day doesn’t feel quite right. It’s sometimes difficult to get it in every single day.  Sundays are hard. I need one day to sleep in, but sometimes I can sneak away and find  a bit of alone time later in the day. Even if you can get in five minutes, it’s well worth it.  Overall, if you are a spiritual person or not, I highly recommend meditation.

A book that I’ve read recently, which really explains all of the above in a funny, easy to read, easy to digest book is You are a Badass by Jen Sincero.  I recommend getting the audio book, and listening to it more than once.

The Food Plan

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One week down on my clean eating 30 Day challenge.  I am pretty proud of myself.  I usually get off track in two situations.  One, is when people come to visit.  Two, is when I am catering.  I tend to skip meals.  This weekend I catered four events and had eight house guests – and I stuck with my plan!

What is clean eating?  Wikipedia’s very vague definition is “…eating foods without preservatives, and on mixing lean proteins with complex carbohydrates.”

Fitness Magazine takes a deeper and less specific definition:

 “Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate.”

Clean Eating Magazine has by favorite, but long definition (I’ve paraphrased a bit here).

 “The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life – one meal at a time.

Eat five to six times a day

Three meals and two to three small snacks. Include a lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal. This keeps your body energized and burning calories efficiently all day long.

Choose organic whenever possible

If your budget limits you, make meat, eggs, dairy and the Dirty Dozen your organic priorities.

Avoid processed and refined foods

This includes white flour, sugar, bread and pasta. Enjoy complex carbs such as whole grains instead.

Know thy enemies

Steer clear of anything high in trans fats, anything fried or anything high in sugar. Avoid preservatives, color additives and toxic binders, stabilizers, emulsifiers and fat replacers.”

 

My Clean Eating regiment is a lot like the one above. I eat five to six small meals a day.  I eat a lot of lean protein (chicken, turkey, and fish).  I have some complex carbs (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice), but I eat them early in the day.  I generally avoid wheat and gluten.  I sometimes have a piece of toast or pita bread, but it is always the Ezekiel brand, which is sprouted grain and a complete protein. I eat some fruit and TONS of veggies.  I am careful to limit veggies that are high in starch and sugars.  I limit fats (even the good ones).

I do count calories.  It helps me keep track of my day from meal to meal.  For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I keep my calories around 250-300. My snacks are around 150-200.  That gives me some wiggle room.  If I have a really long workout, I can eat a little more after, or sometimes I am really hungry after dinner.

My fitness pal is an app that is a great way to keep track of calories.  It also keeps track of protein, carbs, fat, sugars, etc. It can seem a bit tedious at first, adding everything in, but once you get some foods established, it goes more quickly. It’s very important to measure your food.

Breakfast:

1 cup of oatmeal or ½ cup of low calorie granola with ½ cup unsweetened almond milk.

AM Snack

Lunch:

4 ounces of lean protein, 4 ounces brown rice, quinoa or sweet potato, and unlimited (approved) veggies.

PM Snack

Dinner:

6 ounces of lean protein,  and unlimited (approved veggies).

The snacks vary.  I make my own gluten free banana bread and protein bars.  Smoothies, 2 Hard boiled eggs, frittata, rice cake with sun butter and raisins, greek yogurt, cottage cheese…

I will be posting some meals and snacks through my 30 Day plan.

Below is a recipe for my low calorie granola.  I eliminated the honey and cut down the almonds from my original post on this blog.  ½ a cup with ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk in the morning is about 200 calories.  I look forward to it in the mornings.

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SKINNY ALMOND GRANOLA RECIPE

10 cups rolled oats

2 cups slivered almonds

8 Tablespoons flax seeds

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon Diamond Krystal kosher salt (use 1/2 the amount if using Morton’s)

2 Tablespoons water

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

¼ cup powdered stevia

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Measure oats into a large bowl.  Measure almonds, flax seeds, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and kosher salt into the bowl.  Stir well to combine.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, place, water, and almond and vanilla extract.  Using a small whisk or spoon, and stir to combine liquids.
  3. Pour liquid mixture over oat and nut mixture.  Using your hands or a spoon, stir well to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture in a single layer between two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Place the pans in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and toss with a spatula.  Return pan to the oven on opposite racks.  Cook for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pans from the oven and sprinkle 1 cup of raisins and half of stevia evenly over each pan.  Allow granola to cool completely.  Place in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Makes about 16 cups granola.  Recipe is easily halved.

Goal Setting

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Day two of my 30 Day challenge is almost over.  It’s going pretty well.  I have been working like crazy, but I have been able to stick to my clean eating plan – thanks to proper preparation and bringing my meals and snacks along with me. I have also kept up with my exercise goals.  My body has been a bit sore and tired, and overall I have been a little low on energy, particularly toward the end of the day.

I am a big fan of Jack Canfield.  He’s the co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series.  He’s written several books since, including, “The Success Principles.”  He is a big believer in the Law of Attraction.  The basic idea is that whatever you focus on, you attract more of.  If you are always stressing about not having money and bills you cannot pay, you will attract more of that.  If you focus on abundance and prosperity, you will attract more of those things.

Jack goes a bit deeper in his teachings.  He has a whole set of behaviors and practices he recommends which include setting goals and visualizing the outcome you want.  He recommends setting goals in seven areas of your life.

  1. Finances
  2. Career
  3. Health and Fitness
  4. Relationships
  5. Personal (things you want to do just for you)
  6. Recreation
  7. Legacy (what you want to leave for the world, your contributions)

Jack recommends having three goals in each of these areas, reviewing the goals twice daily while visualizing the desired outcome. I know it seems like a lot.  It does take time, but it’s important to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

I have been using this technique for my business and career goals for several weeks now.  It has made a huge difference.  I’ve noticed opportunities popping up from places I never expected them to.  I have five solid, consistent clients who I cook for weekly. I’ve scored an amazing professional kitchen to cook in. It’s in a beautiful spot where they want me to do catering and offer clean eating workshops. My clean eating programs have been taking off with happy, successful clients. It’s seems as though every day a new opportunity pops up.

Health and fitness was the easy one for me. I love eating clean, and I LOVE working out, running, doing yoga, and other physical activities. I consistently do these activities, and I am in very good shape.  I have, however, surrendered to too many treats.  One main reason I am doing this 30 day challenge and posting it here is to keep myself accountable.  I want to embrace and succeed in ALL areas, and achieve ALL of my goals.

I am not going to list all of my 21 goals, but here are a few.

  1. Finances: Totally debt free with all of my taxes and bills paid with ease.
  2. Career: To write a book which will inspire people to eat and live well through clean and healthy, delicious foods.
  3. Health and Fitness: To get back to my clothes fitting well, maintaining my eating and exercise regimen, and feeling great.
  4. Relationships: To really be available for my kids, husband, family, and friends.  To listen to them without judgement, and to offer pure, unconditional love.
  5. Personal: I want a big garden and to grow herbs and vegetables. I want to pickle, make salsas and flavored vinegars, and can them.
  6. Recreation: I want to attain and start riding a mountain bike.
  7. Legacy: I want to help public schools serve nutritious, scratch-made food.

Reeling it In

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I have been working very hard on getting my personal chef business established.  I have also been working very hard in personal development.  I have been setting goals and visualizing the outcome I want. I have been meditating and learning to control my mind. All of these developments have been amazing transformations in my life.  My business is taking off, and I feel focused on my vision.  I have, however, let other aspects of my life get a bit out of focus.

I’ve gained some weight.  My jeans are tight.  Living in the remote Adirondack Mountains of New York, it was easy to stay on target with health and fitness goals.  There was only one small grocery store in town, which opened at 8, and closed at 7. There were only two restaurants in town, a diner and a pub. To get anywhere in town, you had to go either straight up or straight down.

Moving to Asheville, NC, brought big changes into our lives.  The food scene is booming. There are unique and interesting restaurants all over town.  There’s also a craft brewery on every street corner, and a weekly beer festival to go along with it.  There are a lot more temptations at my fingertips, and a lot more people asking join them out for a drink or a meal.  I’m a lot closer to my family, which warrants a lot of celebrations.

This is what I do.  The programs I offer are designed for weight loss. I provide food to people to help them lose weight.  I have healthy, light food at my fingertips all the time. Every time I get back on track, life gets in the way.  I tell my clients not to avoid experiencing life because they are dieting. I fully believe in this, but it is time to reel it in.  Even Chef Katie can get off track.  It happens to the best of us.

I am inspired by my recent personal growth.  I am ready to fully get back on track.  I am starting a 30-Day Get Clean Program.  For thirty days, I am going to be focused on getting my body and mind aligned for success.  I will be posting recipes, tips, and other great information I have learned.  I will also feature some amazing people and facilities that offer great teachings and motivation for overall wellness.  Join me in my journey.  I took today to get organized. It officially starts tomorrow.

Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group has a new logo!  I cannot stress enough how important this organization is.  When it comes to living clean, the EWG does the research for us.  They are an amazing resource for all things safe and clean when it comes to the food we eat, the household products we use, and the environment we live in.

It’s Not All in the Food

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Several years ago, before I decided to become a chef, I became concerned about what was being put in our food.  I learned that processed foods were driven by big business and contained toxic additives and chemicals, white sugar, and high fructose corn syrup; with little to no nutritional value.  I was introduced to the organic movement, learning about the toxic chemicals that are sprayed on our fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Shortly after entering culinary school, I was introduced to the “Farm to Table” movement.   People began to demand to know what was in our food, where it came from, how far it had to travel, and even, who was growing it.

I am still embracing all of the above movements today.  I have made a career out of cooking food that is healthy and clean.  For several years, I have made great strives to buy organic and locally grown food products.  I also believe that it is safer to buy fruits and vegetables produced in the US, due to this country’s strict laws and regulations.

Recently, through a company called Beautycounter,  I learned that these laws and regulations did not extend to personal care products.  I learned that our shampoos, lotions, shaving creams, and cosmetics are loaded with toxins and chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and other diseases.

In this day and age, 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women, in the US will be diagnosed with cancer. Ask anyone my age to ask their parents how many friends they had that had problems getting pregnant.  In the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients in personal care products, while the US has banned only 11.  The US has not passed a federal law to regulate personal care products since 1938.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), actually allows companies to add chemicals that are know to be harmful, such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates.

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Beautycounter not only produces personal care products that they have deemed safe, but they are also trying to get the word out about the harmful toxins in the products we use daily.  The company has banned more than 1,500 ingredients, setting a new industry standard.  Beautycounter ensures that their products perform, and are on par with any luxe shampoo, lipstick, or oil on the market.

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The company works closely with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has developed an app that I urge you all to use and download, “Skin Deep.”  You can either scan the barcode or enter the name of your personal care products to see where they measure up on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most toxic and harmful.  All of Beautycounter’s products measure as a 0 or 1.

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Referring to myself a “Wellness Chef,” or “Healthy Chef,”  who focuses on eating and cooking clean, I could not help but join this movement.  I care A LOT about where my food comes from, who grows it, how it’s grown, and what is sprayed on it or put in it.  Today, it’s not all about the food.  It extends to all the products we use.  We cannot always control water, air, and soil quality.  Nor can we control other environmental hazzards that we are knowingly or unknowingly exposed to, but we can control what we put into our mouths, and what we spread on our skin.

Check out these links to some press that Beautycounter has gotten:

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/12/image/la-ig-beauty-counter-20130512

http://www.goop.com/journal/do/281/the-dirty-on-getting-clean

http://www.fastcompany.com/3032834/most-creative-people/whats-really-in-your-eyeshadow#4

 

Contact me or visit my website for more information:  http://www.chefkatie.beautycounter.com

Tis The Season for Soup!

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Ah, the Holidays…  Since I have had kids, the season has been kind of a love-hate thing (maybe hate is too strong of a word).  Don’t get me wrong – I love the Christmas story, all of the lights, the parties, the cookies, the music, the food and drink, the tree, and more.  On the flip side, there’s the stress of having enough extra income to pay for gifts, the food and drink, decorations, etc.  Hosting relatives that can be less than the best houseguests.  The bombardment of advertising, the expectations, the thought of having to work off all the food and drink (and cookies), vacuuming all of those pine needles.

My husband always has to work like crazy.  He’s tired and stressed.  Last year I admitted to my mom that I was finding it difficult to enjoy the Holidays, and she laughed out loud for about three minutes.  I guess that is just another one of those parental satisfactions that I will experience when I’m sixty something. I try to keep things simple and easy, but all of the above seems to creep back in. I am trying hard to focus on the LOVE and not the (not) hate.

One thing that keeps me grounded and healthy throughout the season is chicken soup.  As much as I want to jazz it up, the simpler it is, the better.  I love the simplicity of it all.  The methodical simmering of the bones to make the stock.  I love simmering them long enough that when the stock cools, it becomes a solid.  I love gently cooking (sweating) the vegetables, slowly bringing out their flavor, while I gradually add more layers of flavor with salt, pepper, garlic and ginger.

The traditional vegetables for a good chicken soup are onion, celery, and carrots.  I love swapping out the carrots with the delightful root vegetables that are available this time of year.  Parsnips, fennel, rutabaga, celery root, turnips, oh my!  I sometimes try and push the envelope with the celery flavor.  I double up on the celery AND add lots of celery root.  I know. That’s crazy, right?  Celery root is the best.  I suppose slightly adapting subtle flavors on a classic dish like chicken soup while still keeping it simple, is what I love so much about cooking.  These simple, methodical techniques are what I have come to appreciate about cooking after doing it for so many years.

Consider the recipe here a guide for a simple chicken soup.  I encourage you to make it your own. You can add and/or substitute whatever vegetables you want. Add mushrooms and finish the soup with cooked brown or wild rice.  Add some fresh ginger, lots of garlic, and fresh chilies, and finish it with a splash of rice vinegar and tamari for an Asian hot pot.  Play around with the fresh herbs that you finish your soup with.  Add chopped fresh sage, rosemary, basil, thyme or mint.

Buying a raw chicken, roasting or poaching it, and then making stock for soup can be ambitious.  I buy a rotisserie chicken from Earthfare.  They sell nice, regionally produced chickens without antibiotics, hormones, and the like.  The chickens aren’t coated with a bunch of nasty chemicals to season it, either.  Even better, they have already done half of the work for me by cooking it. It has been sitting on a rotisserie, cooking slowly and evenly all day.  The meat is flavorful and fall off the bone tender and juicy.  It’s a better cooked bird than I could have hoped for, and the best part is that it’s actually cheaper than the raw chickens for sale.  Also, these chickens have been cooked so long, that the stock “goodness” that you want to simmer out of the bones, is already on it’s way.  You don’t have to simmer the bones as long to make a great stock.

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The meat is really easy to separate from the bones. I start by removing the legs.  Remove all the skin.  Carefully separate the meat from the bones.  Remove the wings and set them with the leg bones (it’s not really worth my time to separate the small amount of meat from the wings).

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Remove the breast meat from each side of the chicken.  I reserve one of the breasts for other uses, like salads.  Once the breast meat is removed, turn the chicken over and remove all of the meat from the back and whatever is left from the sides of the chicken.

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Pick through all the meat once more to be sure you’ve removed all of the bones and fat.  Dice up the meat and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven. Cover with COLD water.

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Bring the pot to a simmer, and cook slowly for 3-6 hours.  Once the stock is finished, strain it into another container, discarding the bones.

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Meanwhile dice up the vegetables.

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Get another pot or dutch oven hot. Add a bit of olive oil, and then the vegetables.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and cook slowly, stirring often until they are translucent and slightly tender.

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I like to add garlic and/or ginger after the vegetables have cooked for a bit.

At this point, add the stock.  If it’s a small amount, I like to strain it right into the soup pot.

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Bring the soup to a simmer, and add the chicken.

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Allow the soup to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  Finish the soup with fresh herbs.  Add rice or pasta if desired.

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CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE

1 Rotisserie Chicken

¼ cup olive oil

3 small to medium yellow onions, diced small

4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced small

3 parsnips, peeled and diced small

½ celery root, peeled and diced small

3 cloves garlic, small dice

5 teaspoons Diamond Krystal kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper.

½ bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped

Procedure:

  1. Make Stock.  Remove chicken meat from bones.  Reserve one chicken breast for other uses.  Carefully pick through meat to make sure you didn’t miss any bones.  Chop chicken meat and set aside in the refrigerator.  Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven.  Cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Turn the heat to low, and simmer bones for 3-6 hours, depending on the desired depth of the stock.  Add water as needed as the stock reduces.  Once the stock is finished.  Allow it to cool and strain it through a fine mesh sieve.  This step can be done a day or two in advance.
  2. Get another pot or dutch oven hot over the stove. Add the olive oil.  Add the vegetables and 3 teaspoons of the salt, and one teaspoon pepper. Slowly cook the vegetables, stirring often, until they start to release their water.  At this point add the garlic, and continue to cook, stirring until the vegetables are translucent and slightly tender.
  3. Add the stock to the pot of vegetables. Add the chopped chicken, and remaining salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a simmer, cooking for 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Finish the soup with the parsley.    Soup will keep up to five days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer.

Braised Taco Turkey

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I like roasting turkey breasts that still have the wing attached.  The breasts seem to be bigger, and have more flavor and juiciness due to the bone.  I then cut the wing from the breast and have the wing left over.

I also like buying rotisserie chickens from my neighborhood natural foods store, to add to a dinner salad or a different meal.  I often have leftover wings or legs that I wrap and freeze.  Once I have a plethora of frozen leg and wing pieces, I braise them and use the meat for tacos, soups, or burritos.  It’s quite simple, it just takes time.  Here I’ve used Southwestern flavors, but you could make any flavor combination you like.

First, take your wings or legs.

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Place them in a large roasting pan.

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I like to add green salsa.  You could also add red sauce, herbs, or other seasonings of your choice.

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I also add about a quart of chicken stock and a quart of water.

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You want the meat to be covered about half way with liquid.

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I usually don’t add salt until after they are cooked.  Most likely, the meat has already been seasoned, and you don’t want to make it too salty. Cover with foil and place in a 325 degree oven for at least three hours.

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Once the meat is cooked, I allow it to cool on my counter for a bit. I then let it cool overnight in the refrigerator. This will allow any fat to rise to the top of the liquid, which makes it very easy to remove.  The liquid will probably be solid due to the high amount of collagen.  This is really good for flavor and nutrition.

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The meat should fall right off of the bone.  Take the time to pick through the meat while shredding it, removing any skin or tendons.

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Once the meat is picked through and shredded, you can add in the liquid to add more flavor and moisture.  Feel free to re-season the meat with salt and spices as I have done with chili powder, cumin, and salt.    Use the taco meat in my previous post, Kale Tacos.  You can also use the meat for other meals.  Below is a Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Bowl with Braised Turkey and Chilis that I threw together.  Enjoy!

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Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw, and Apple Salsa

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Today is National Kale Day.  Kale has come a long way. Who would have thunk it?  Remember when it was just a mere garnish for Shoney’s and Pizza Hut salad bars?  Who knew that it was easy to grow and extremely bountiful?  Who knew that it carried super powers that would make you feel fabulous about your body and soul after eating it?  Who knew that it was even edible?

Even in the early days of kale’s coming out, I had trouble selling it.  In the early 2000’s, the farm for our restaurant, Sugar Snap, was cranking out kale at an epic pace.  I was putting out kale chips, kale fillings for burittos and frittatas, tons of garlic sauteed kale, red wine braised kale, and the ever popular cheesy kale bake.  Kale was (and still is) a rock star of locally-grown crops in Vermont.  I thought it was a Vermont thing.

 Upon moving to North Carolina, I realized that the “Kale Kraze”  was universal, and it had hit hard.  My biggest seller at Chef Katie’s Cafe was the Kale and Sweet Potato Salad.  I was processing a case a day.  There are places where the most popular sandwiches have kale pesto as the main ingredient. Even at our local pizza joint, Marco’s, the “Kale Pizza Special” has been on the board since we moved to Asheville. I admit – it’s what I order every time – and its delicious.  Let’s face it people – you can’t take kale down, King Kale cannot be beaten.  Just face it, celebrate and embrace kale!

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These Kale Tacos are gluten free, low calorie, ultra tasty, quite healthy, and easy to make.  You can use any protein you like.  I like to take chicken or turkey legs and braise them with green salsa and Mexican spices.  You can also use the Mexican chicken from my previous post, Mexican Chicken Dinner Salad.    Blanched kale is the base of the taco, taking the place of a tortilla.  I top the kale “tortilla” and braised chicken with fresh sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.  The slaw and the apple salsa give the tacos a nice crunch.  Cheese is optional.

Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and ground cumin into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.

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Thinly slice cabbages and add to a bowl.

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Pour hot liquid over cabbage, mix well with tongs, and cover with a plate.

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Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add chopped onion, cilantro, pepper, and salt.  Mix well.  Squeeze  the orange and lime into the mixture, discarding any seeds.  Mix well.  Meanwhile, bring a bot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of ice water.  Dip the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately add to ice water.  Remove leaves, gently wring out extra water, separate leaves, and drain on a clean kitchen towel.

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Build tacos:  Lay kale leaves down.  Top with hot chicken or turkey, sour slaw, apple salsa, and then jalapeno.  Enjoy!

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Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw and Apple Salsa

Makes About Eight Tacos

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked protein of choice (braised chicken or turkey, sliced seasoned chicken breast)

1 bunch lacinato kale

1/4 head red cabbage

1/4 head green cabbage

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

2 tsp ground cumin

2 fresh apples (Gala or Macintosh), peeled and diced small

1 fresh orange

1/2 fresh lime

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup pickled jalapeno

Procedure:

1.  Make slaw:  Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and cumin in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Finely slice cabbages with a knife.  Add cabbages to a bowl and pour hot vinegar liquid over the top.  Toss the mixture well with tongs, and cover with a plate.  Set aside.

2.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes.  Carefully and quickly drop the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately remove with tongs, and dunk into the ice water.   Wring the kale leaves out without ripping them.  Separate the leaves and drain on a clean kitchen towel.  Set aside.

3.  Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add sweet onion, cilantro, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and mix well.  Squeeze the orange and lime over the salsa, removing any seeds.  Toss well.

4.  Gently heat chicken, turkey, or other protein.

5.  Build tacos. Lay kale leaves flat on a plate.  Top with chicken, turkey, or other proten.  Top with sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.