When to buy organic? Know your Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: When to buy organic

For those of you who try to eat organic as much as possible, would you be surprised if I said you don’t always have to?

Every year the Environmental Working Group tests a wide variety of conventionally grown (non-organic) produce for levels of pesticides.  They publish their findings in a Shopper’s Guide as well as boiling them down to two easy-to-understand lists: the Dirty Dozen (highest levels of pesticides) and Clean Fifteen (lowest levels.)  The Clean Fifteen can help us all to save a few dollars by buying conventional when we can and the Dirty Dozen is a helpful reminder of which foods are the most important to buy organic.  Most recently that original dozen has expanded a bit to 15, but Dirty Fifteen just isn’t as catchy.

I can’t seem to keep track of all of these, so don’t feel bad if you can’t either!  I mean, potatoes should be organic but sweet potatoes don’t have to be?  It’s hard to keep it all straight.  Save yourself a headache and just bookmark this page or pin the image to return to later while shopping.

How to Cook a Basic Roasted Chicken

Basic Roasted Chicken, paleo, simple, home cooking

I make roasted chicken all the time, usually once a week. It is one of the simplest and most economical way of cooking chicken since it makes enough for dinner plus leftovers, and I can use the bones to make a batch of broth.  I get locally pasture-raised poultry from La Bahn Ranch at the Atwater Village Farmers’ Market on Sundays.

It never occurred to me to post this recipe on the blog because I thought of it as too simple.  That was until  my friend Heather recently asked me for a good roasted chicken recipe and I realized that it took me a long time to get the recipe just right.  No need to suffer through dry or flavorless roasted chicken if you’ve never cooked it before, just follow these few simple steps and you’ll love the results.

Spice Rub, sea salt, garlic, pepper, cumin

Basic Roasted Chicken
3-4 lb whole chicken
1 yellow onion
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
drizzle of olive oil

First things first you need to get the spices you’ll be using together.  I used the mixture listed above, but you can use any variation that works for you.  I also often use sweet smoked paprika, dried dill, or ground coriander.  If you’re not familiar with the flavor profile of different spices or don’t have many on hand then you can just use salt and pepper, just don’t use much more than 1 tsp of either in your mix.

Take your chicken out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before roasting so it can come up to room temperature, this helps the meat to cook more evenly.  A heavy-bottomed pan is best for roasting, I use a Le Creuset and find it works best, but you can also use a roasting pan or ceramic casserole dish if that’s all you have on hand.  Preheat the oven to 375F.

Line the bottom of your pan with thick yellow onion slices so the chicken skin doesn’t stick.  Wash the chicken before putting it into the pan, also remove any giblets from inside (I use them in making broth.)

Drizzle the chicken with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle on your spice rub evenly.  Start with the front of the chicken, then flip over and cover the back, and save just a little bit of the rub.  This way, the chicken starts roasting with the backside up, where most of the fat is.  As it cooks and the fat renders it drips down to the breast meat and keeps it very moist and tender.

Roast for 90 minutes at 375F and flip it over halfway through so the skin on the front of the chicken gets a chance to get brown and crispy.  When you flip it, use that last bit of rub you saved to sprinkle over the front.

Let the chicken cool for at least 10 minutes before carving up, this will allow the juices to settle into the meat without running all over your cutting board.  Serve with those cooked onions, they taste delicious!  And definitely use the drippings in the pan however you can, it is a great base for making a sauce or soup.  Enjoy!

How to Cook a Basic Roasted Chicken

Fresh Strawberry Popsicles – 2 ways

Fresh Strawberry Popsicles - 2 ways

I’ve been wanting to experiment with making my own popsicles for long time now but never had proper molds, until my birthday a few months ago.  Not only was I gifted 18 popsicle molds but also an amazing book on how to make them using fresh seasonal produce, called People’s Pops.

To jump right in I decided to start with 2 different strawberry flavors.  Yes, mainly because I love fresh strawberries, but also because I’ve found that while you can find strawberries at the farmers’ markets in LA most of the year, they really peak in the spring and early summer.

I was particularly inspired to feature strawberries when I laid my eyes on some beautiful rhubarb from Jimenez Family Farm at the Atwater Village Farmers’ Market this past Sunday.  Rhubarb is a strawberry’s best friend, most likely because of their famous combination in strawberry rhubarb pie.  The tartness of the rhubarb and delicate texture goes so nicely with the subtle acid of the strawberries.

I cannot tell you how hard it is to find rhubarb at the markets here in southern California.  Having worked at markets for over 3 years I would get countless customers pleading with me to tell them where they could find it, or more often, confidently confusing red Swiss chard for the fresh rhubarb they wish it was.

The other famous combination I wanted to toy with was strawberries with balsamic vinegar.  It’s classic in Italian cuisine and a combo I became particularly obsessed with last summer when I tried Heidi Swanson’s Roasted Strawberries recipe, which pairs the two along with some maple syrup, olive oil, sea salt, and port wine.

It saves heaps of prep and clean up time when you make these recipes together and would work great for a big group of people – maybe a pool party or a barbeque?  But they are also a nice simple dessert to be enjoyed outside while it’s still a bit sunny after dinner.  Mix up a batch of your own and let me know how it goes!  I’ll be trying out new pop recipes all summer long…

 People's Pops

 

[Making Simple Syrup: the basic recipe for simple syrup is equal parts sugar and water, if you add 2/3rd cup water with 2/3rd cup sugar that should make about 1 cup of simple syprup.  Add the water and sugar to a sauce pan and heat very gently just to dissolve the sugar, not to boil or cook down.  It’s a good idea to make a big batch to have on hand if you’re making several popsicles, but keep any unused simple syrup in the fridge.  The book recommends using organic cane sugar (aka: dehydrated cane syrup,) so that’s what I used.  But I do plan on experimenting with honey, maple syrup and maybe even coconut sugar in the future.]

 Rhubarb

Strawberry & Rhubarb Popsicles
1/2 pound of rhubarb, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
10 ounces (2 and 1/2 cups) strawberries, hulled
1 cup simple syrup (see above)
2 tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice

 

Once the rhubarb is prepped, add about 1/2 inch of water into a heavy non-reactive pan (I used my ceramic coated Le Creuset) and heat up on high.  Add in the rhubarb and let cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes or until some of the liquid has cooked off and the rhubarb has become soft.  With the spoon, break up any larger pieces of rhubarb and remove any that seem to be too tough or stringy.  Once done cooking this should yield 1 cup of rhubarb puree.

 Rhubarb and Strawberry Puree

The strawberries on the other hand do not get cooked, as it breaks them down too much and makes them lose their fresh flavor.  Once hulled they are simply pureed in a food processor.  The same technique is used for the second recipe, so I pureed a big batch of strawberries all at once.  You’ll need 1 cup of strawberry puree for this recipe.

Mix together the rhubarb puree, strawberry puree, simple syrup and lemon juice in a large bowl with a pouring spout.  Portion the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze.

The final flavor of these pops just scream springtime to me, so fresh, light and the perfect combination of sweet and tart.  Who needs a pie when you can have a pop!

Makes 10 pops

 Fresh Strawberries

Strawberry & Balsamic Vinegar Popsicles
Juice over 1 pound (4 cups) strawberries, hulled
3/4 cup simple syrup (see above)
1 tablespoon freshly squeeze lemon juice
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, roughly
 

Even simpler than the above recipe, this one only requires pureeing the strawberries, then mixing all the ingredients together.  For the amount of strawberries called for in this recipe it should make about 2 cups of puree.  As I said above, you can make the strawberry puree for both recipes all at once.

Once the strawberry puree is ready, mix it together with the simple syrup and lemon juice.  The balsamic vinegar should be added in slowly while you continually taste the mixture, this is because each vinegar isn’t equally as pungent.  I found I preferred just a bit more vinegar than suggested.

Pour the mixture into your molds and freeze well.

I just love the final result of this recipe.  While it’s a very simple strawberry recipe, the balsamic vinegar brings out such complex flavors with almost a savoriness.

Makes 10 pops

 Popsicle Molds

3 Healthy Summertime Mocktails – Guest Post at MamaFloat

3 Healthy Summertime Mocktail Recipes

If you are enjoying a Memorial Day BBQ today but can’t drink alcohol then be sure to check out my latest post over at MamaFloat for some tasty summertime mocktail recipes!  I show you how to make your own vinegar-based syrup known as shrub, as well as healthy takes on a mojito and piña colada.

Enjoy with friends and happy Memorial Day everyone!

Roasted Butternut and Broccoli

Roasted Butternut and Broccoli

When it comes to weeknight dinners I tend to keep it pretty simple.  Especially during the winter and early spring when seasonal veggies can get a bit monotonous this often means roasting whatever I have on hand.  Tossed with some coconut oil and flavored with garlic powder and aleppo pepper is one of my favorite ways to do it.

You can really use this technique for almost any vegetable you have on hand – carrot, sweet potato, zucchini, cauliflower, pumpkin, potato, apple, you name it!  And play around with the flavors too.  I’ve roasted broccoli with sweet flavors as well as curry powder and I’ve found it’s really hard to mess up.  Try your own combination and let me know how it goes!

 

Ingredients
Top of a 2-3 lb butternut squash
1 large head of broccoli
4 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp real sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp aleppo pepper (or sub smoked paprika)
A sprinkle of Maldon’s finishing salt or some Parmesan for topping
 
Butternut SquashPreheat your oven to 375F.

If you have a 2-3 lb butternut squash then it is easy to cut off the neck of it (the skinny end) and use that for cubing and roasting. The bulb is harder to peel so I like to save it for later when I usually half, seed, brush with oil and roast until tender. The soft butternut is great for soups, stews, or sauces.

Butternut Squash

With the neck of the butternut you want to remove the stem and then the peel. I’ve done with with a peeler as well as a sharp knife and I prefer a knife.  Just be careful because the butternut skin if very tough and hard to get off.

Butternut Squash

Then cube the butternut into about 1/2 inch cubes.

BroccoliBroccoli

Rinse your head of broccoli and shake dry. Cut all the florets off and cut the larger ones in half. Save the broccoli stem and cut that up as well, roughly as large as the butternut cubes.

You can toss all your veggies with the oil in a separate bowl and transfer to a roasting pan, I did that for years, but recently I’ve just started doing it all on the roasting pan. This saves me from washing an extra bowl and I haven’t noticed any difference.

I like to roast my vegetables with coconut oil because it is one of the most stable oils at high temperatures.  I used olive oil for a long time before learning that most of its beneficial qualities are destroyed at high temperatures. Now I use olive oil cold in things like dressings, sauces and a light drizzle over salads.  I use coconut oil for high heat cooking like frying and roasting. The flavor of the coconut oil is subtle so I don’t mind it.

Aleppo

Melt your coconut oil if it’s not already liquid. You can do this by setting it on top of a warm oven or putting it in a double boiler. If the container your coconut oil is in is plastic then transfer to a ceramic or glass dish for melting as plastic gives off toxic chemical when heated.  Add your spices into the coconut oil while warm so they incorporate their flavors.  You don’t have to use garlic powder and aleppo, I also like ground cumin seeds or something spicier like dash of cayenne with veggies like this.

Roast for 40 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during the cooking process so all the veggies cook evenly.

Before and After Roasting

Once everything’s cooked enjoy as a side with dinner.  I ate this paired with a beautiful hanger steak grilled rare and I topped the veggies with just a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese but you can leave it out to keep this dish vegan and paleo if you’d like.

Roasted Butternut and Broccoli