Recipe: Roasted Chicken Times Three

  • October 16, 2011 9:59 am

Hi there!  Glenny here with another post from my kitchen.

As I mentioned before, I plan on visiting Fleisher’s new shop in Park Slope as often as possible.  I certainly do not eat too much meat, but am very happy to indulge in the very good, well-raised stuff when I can.  This past week I stopped by for a whole chicken.  Roasting a chicken is extremely easy, and a great way to make a few meals in one evening.  You’re saving energy by only using your oven once, and you’re exercising some creativity in the kitchen – what to do with the leftovers?  Here is what I did, complete with a basic recipe for your autumnal roast chicken:

Roasted Chicken with Apples and Sage

3-4 lb whole chicken

4 apples, quartered and deseeded (I used Golden Delicious, but almost all will do)

1 apple, chopped into 1 inch cubes

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons chopped sage

2 tablespoons thyme

1 cup white wine (I used a full bodied chardonnay, but a pick your favorite – you’ll be drinking the rest!)

salt and pepper

Prep your chicken.  Season with salt and pepper and put in a roasting pan.  Spread quartered apples around the outside and sprinkle them with half of your herbs.  Mix the chopped apples with a little butter, salt and pepper and stuff in the cavity of the chicken.  Mix the remaining herbs and butter together and spread it both under and on top of the chicken skin.  Pour the wine around the bird, over your apples.

In a 425F oven, cook for 30 minutes, and then reduce temperature to 375F.  Continue cooking for about 40 minutes more or until a thermometer reads 160F and the juices run clear (opposed to red).  Let it sit for about 15 minutes before carving.  Serve with the roasted apples and their juices.

Delicious!  After enjoying this one evening, I still had a lot of chicken left and wasn’t too interested in having the same meal two nights in a row.  So, for lunch the next day it was roasted chicken sandwiches with feta, olives, and market tomatoes.  Followed by a wonderful soup for dinner.  I simply sauteed garlic, onions, carrots and butternut squash in a deep sauce pan.  Added chicken stock, tomatoes, kale, a few cups of farro and the leftover chicken.  Drizzled with homemade pesto, it celebrates lots of flavors; perfect for an October evening.  And the best news?  I’ll be eating that soup for days – this chicken has provided for many many meals.  Easy.

Farro soup, day two.

What You Don’t Know: Saving Energy In The Kitchen

  • October 4, 2011 9:57 am

How often do you use your oven?  Probably a lot more now that the temperatures are dropping and a little warmth in your home is welcome.  (As I type there’s a celeriac roasting in mine.) And how often do you think about minimizing the energy output of your kitchen?  Hopefully more once you read this easy how-to list from The Conscious Kitchen, excerpted below.  Every little bit helps!

MINIMIZING STOVE AND OVEN ENERGY OUTPUT

Whatever kind of cooker you have – new or old – here are ways to minimize its impact:

-Make sure all elements are in good working order.

-Match your pot size to the burner size or you will waste heat/energy.

-Pots and pans come with lids for a reason.  Use them.

-If you use drip pans under your burners, keep them clean.  And don’t use aluminum foil liners for this purpose.  Good-quality reflector pans save energy and are made to last.

-Gas stove burner holes can get clogged.  If the flame is uneven or yellow, turn it off and carefully unclog it with a pin or an unfurled paper clip.

-Calibrate your oven (see below).

-Don’t preheat, even when baking.  And don’t repeatedly open the oven door to check cooking items.  Both waste heat.  If you have an oven with a glass door, peek through there.

-Like your refrigerator, the oven door has a seal.  Make sure it’s tight and not sagging, and that the door hinges are in good working order.

-Don’t overuse the self-cleaning feature (don’t use it more than once a month), or you’ll waste the energy you were hoping to save by having it.  Place a sheet pan in the oven to catch drips and grease so you won’t even need to clean.

-If you turn on the oven, fill it up.  Use that heat to bake/roast/broil more than one thing at a time.

-For more information, check out the following websites: American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: ACEEE.org; ConsumerEnergyCenter.org; HomeEnergy.org; EnergyStar.gov.

Calibrating an Oven

Ovens often run too hot or too cold.  To fix this, you can adjust your own cooking to match however your oven seems to go, you can get a thermometer, or you can “calibrate” it (fancy for fixing it).  This is easiest to do with a digital stove – follow the instructions in the manual.  For nondigital ovens and/or if you don’t have the manual, Google the instructions for your make and model.  The process can be overwhelming for the un-handy, so call in a repair person or a handy friend if needed.

Recipe: DIY Yogurt

  • August 13, 2011 10:20 am

What is more fun than a new DIY project?  And what is more tasty with summer berries and homemade granola than your own yogurt?  It’s very easy to make, you need neither a yogurt-maker nor a special culture.  Although the final product might be a touch thinner than commercial yogurt, the satisfaction of making it yourself is totally rewarding.  Think beyond breakfast too – what about homemade smoothies or chilled cucumber yogurt soups?  Perfect summer fare! I also love love love that making your own means avoiding plastic containers–big or small. You can store yours in endlessly reusable glass jars if you please.

Here is a recipe from from Sally Fallon’s cookbook Nourishing Traditions she let me reprint in The Conscious Kitchen. Fallon is the president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Makes 1 quart

1/2 cup good-quality commercial plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup yogurt from previous batch

1 quart pasteurized whole milk, nonhomogenized

a candy thermometer

Gently heat the milk to 180 F and allow to cool to about 110 F.  Stir in the yogurt, and pour the mixture into a shallow glass, enamel, or stainless steel container.  Cover the container and place in a warm oven (about 150 F, or a gas oven with a pilot light) overnight.  In the morning, transfer to the refrigerator.  Throughout the day, use a clean kitchen towel to mop up any whey that exudes from the yogurt.  Keeps for a couple of weeks.

*Note: Although Fallon recommends leaving the yogurt in a warm oven overnight, Glenny, my fantabulous editorial assistant, says you can also leave it covered in a warm corner of your apartment. I’ve never done that, but she has. She also says it will take longer to reach yogurt consistency, maybe two days, but will save on energy usage, especially in the heat of summer. Enjoy.

What You Don’t Know: Beer

  • August 10, 2011 12:41 pm

I’m a wine drinker through and through. But I must admit that come August with the summer heat far from abating, an ice cold white beer is a welcome evening beverage.  (My apologies to my summer sidekick, Glass Of Rose.) Before popping that bottle cap, take a few minutes to make sure that what you’re going to be drinking is the best brew for the environment and your health.  Ok, ok, I know some people will say there’s no such thing as a healthy beer, but it will be better for you without pesticide residue.

As always, buying organic and local is the number one choice, not only to avoid unwanted additives (check out Food Democracy’s post on this), but also to reduce the carbon footprint of your happy hour.  Unfortunately, buying completely organic and local beer is a challenge, as I explain in The Conscious Kitchen:

Even if you could find beer’s ingredients – water, yeast, malt, and hops – in your area (and that’s a huge if), if doesn’t mean they’re processed locally.  In fact, according to Max Oswald, director of sales and marketing at the Otter Creak Brewing Company in Middlebury, Vermont, the grain used for the malt in their Wolaver’s organic beer must be shipped to the Midwest to be processed.  Why?  Because that is where malt processing is done in this country.  “It’s a conundrum.  We do the best we can,” says Oswald.

HOPS

Organic hops tend to be grown in the Pacific Northwest, Europe, and New Zealand.  Vermont-based Wolaver’s uses New Zealand organic hops and works with a contract grower in Oregon.  The goal is to rely solely on Oregon.  This is as local as it will get.  The Northeast used to produce tons of hops, but the crops were wiped out by fungus.  Other organic brewers are also taking this route of contracting small organic farmers.  Meanwhile, the USDA, in response to a hops shortage in 2008, has put hops on their exemption list, meaning beer made with nonorganic hops but that is otherwise organic can still be labeled USDA organic – music to Big Beer’s ears, and not exactly motivating to any farmers attempting to grow the vines the way they should be grown.  (The amount of hops in any beer, it should be noted, is pretty minimal.  But still.)

AT THE BREWERY

Though it is difficult for any brewer to source all-organic, all-local ingredients, there are other environmentally friendly steps they can take with their brewery.  Otter Creek, according to Oswald, has redone their lighting, runs a boiler system on biodiesel, tries to reuse heat and water, and recycles their grain by giving it to farmers for feed…This is an expensive and lofty goal for the smallish brewery -  in 2008 they were doing about thirty-three thousand barrels, one-third of which was organic – but it will make quite a difference.  Many other breweries are also working to reduce their energy consumption.  Some have green roofs, others are using solar power.  Still others make sure their used equipment is made only in the United States.

Here are a few solid organic (or eco-friendly) brewers:

Peak Organic is very committed to local purveyors.

Brooklyn Brewery isn’t all organic, but is the first company in New York City to be run by entirely by wind power!

Great Lakes Brewing Company‘s trucks are all run on vegetable oil and they promote their closed loop recycling system. Everything that would be considered waste is reused at the brewery or in the surrounding community.

Otter Creek Brewery (Wolaver’s) Wolavers is 100% organic hops and malt–the nation’s first organic brewers.

Cheers!

What You Don’t Know: Energy, Water, And Laundry

  • July 27, 2011 8:55 am

How often do you think about the environmental impact of your dirty clothes?  Believe it or not, about 90 percent of the energy used associated with doing laundry is just making water hot!  The other stuff like making detergents and the actual energy used by the machines accounts for only 10 percent. Fascinating, no?

When you reach for the hot water button on your washer, it’s hard to conjure up the image of a coal-fired power plant and the pollution it creates, but try to connect those dots. Picture greenhouse gases and the mercury residue in our waterways and seafood.  Although we may be home alone washing doormats, jeans, and rags, our actions always ripple out and affect the world beyond our walls.  Washing in cold will reduce that impact and minimize your dirty laundry’s footprint.  Here’s a little  excerpt from Planet Home about cold water washing:

By using cold water, you will also reduce your indoor air pollution: heating water blasts volatile chemicals, including chlorine in municipal water, into your breathing space.  If you’re using heavily fragranced conventional synthetic detergents, all of those vapors are also released when heated.  Cold water is truly all you need to clean, and some natural detergents are specially formulated to remove soils and stains in it.  Cold also prevents stains from setting, colors from bleeding and fading, and wools and silks from shrinking.

No one needs scalding water; you just wind up cooling it with cold – a big waste of energy.  Set your furnace lower – 125 degrees fahrenheit will suffice – and you’ll use less hot water when you choose warm on your washer.  If you have a choice, an on-demand or tankless water heater is best, followed by a high-efficiency gas version.  With electric, the heater itself is efficient, but the production and transmission of energy is not.

Another great way to save energy and reduce your carbon footprint is to air dry–outdoors or inside.  Using natural elements–sun and air–makes sense for so many reasons:

-It’s gentler on your clothes, provided you don’t leave them in the sun for too long (your colors will fade).

-It’s extremely environmentally friendly–dryers use 10 to 15 percent of domestic energy in the United States.

-Sunshine is great at killing bacteria, fungus, and mold–no chemical disinfectants needed!

-Indoor racks can help humidify dry indoor spaces, a big bonus come winter in my apartment.

Unfathomably, many municipalities and condo or co-op associations have banned laundry lines. If you’d like to sign a petition allowing line-drying where you live, go to www.right2dry.org.


Q&A: Microwave Safety

  • May 5, 2011 9:17 am

THE QUESTION

Hi,

I believe microwaves are bad for food. What do you think? Can you share any articles that have some scientific evidence? Thanks! Hope all is well!

Sarah (New York City)

THE ANSWER

What a great question, one that I hear often.  Microwave safety has been a concern of mine for years, and unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer. Everyone seems to have one, everyone seems to use one, but what are they doing to our food?  What happens when we stand in front of them, even when they aren’t in use?  The general consensus is that they’re generally safe, but that you need to proceed with caution, and you absolutely must be careful about what you’re microwaving in. Here is (just) some of what I wrote in  The Conscious Kitchen about the issues concerning microwave use:

If saving energy is your top kitchen concern, and you’re not interested in a raw food diet, a microwave is your friend.  Unfortunately no one with taste buds wants to eat a completely microwaved diet, but the machines have a time and a place, specifically when it comes to defrosting and warming.  Of course it’s not that hard or inefficient to heat up coffee on the stove, or to defrost in the fridge or water.  The real savings come when you use one to drastically reduce cooking times for meals; depending on your model, a microwave uses about a third of a regular oven’s energy.  If you use a combination of cooking methods, you can save energy and time while still achieving the taste and texture you want.  For example, stick a potato in the microwave to cook it through, then finish it in the (toaster) oven to make it crispy.  In the summer, you may even save on air-conditioning costs if you microwave instead of baking.

Beyond efficiency and taste, the real issue with microwaves is their health stigma.  Although this is by all accounts unfounded, it lingers – so much so that people refer to microwaving as “nuking.”  According to Health Canada (sort of like our FDA), “This reference to nuclear energy is incorrect and misleading.  Microwaves are a form of radiofrequency electromagnetic energy.  They are generated electronically.  They do not come from radioactive sources and they do not cause food or the oven itself to become radioactive.”  Microwaves employ, well, microwaves to penetrate food, causing water molecules in the food to rotate.  The rotation causes friction that results in a quick spike in temperature.  As soon as the oven shuts off, the microwaves are supposedly gone.

Still, even properly functioning microwaves that conform to government standards for emissions emit microwaves outside the unit during use. Home Safe Home author Debra Lynn Dadd writes on her website that home ovens emit microwaves that exceed industrial daily exposure recommendations.  Health Canada states that the microwave energy that can leak from the ovens (at levels lower than those set by international standards) has no known health risks, as long as the oven is properly maintained.

Tips For Microwave Maintenance:

  • Do not use if the door does not close or is damaged in any way.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s operating procedures and safety precaution instructions.
  • Don’t attempt repairs yourself – hire a professional.
  • Do not tamper with any safety features or locks, and don’t ever put anything through openings in the door seal.  Keep the door seal and door clean, but don’t use harsh cleaners that could damage them.

As for food safety and nutrition, Health Canada says that microwaves don’t change the chemical components in food, so the formation of new compounds, like the carcinogens that arise when you char something on a grill, is unlikely.  Some studies have shown that microwaved items like vegetables retain vitamins well as a result of the short cooking time.  Others show microwaving decreases vitamins.

What to Microwave in?

  • “Microwave safe” is not a third-party-certified or government-regulated claim.  It infers that the material – be it ceramic or plastic or glass – does not absorb the microwaves and therefore heats up very slowly and that it won’t leach its chemicals into your food.  Environmental health experts do not recommend putting any plastic in the microwave, even “microwave safe” plastic.  I agree.  Use glass, or use no container at all when cooking root vegetables if the turntable in your microwave is made of glass.  For more information, see the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service’s microwave ovens and food safety fact sheets: www.FSIS.USDA.gov.

What’s the takeaway here?  If you have a microwave and you like using it, or if you’re an energy savings junkie who cannot walk away from such a low-impact machine, make sure it’s in good condition.  Keep in mind that Consumer Reports says more research is needed with regard to certain aspects of microwave safety, so do proceed with caution.  If shopping for a microwave, used ones are not a good idea.

Connecting the Dots

  • January 18, 2011 6:42 pm

Our homes hum with electric power, and our neighborhoods are scattered with the poles and wires that deliver it to us. What's less visible is the air and water pollution this system produces.

Generally speaking, the burning of nonrenewable resources creates greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, and emits mercury, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur dioxide that dissolve in rain particles and fall to earth (this is known as acid rain). The mercury contaminates fish in our waterways that we then catch and eat, poisoning ourselves.

Even if you don't live near a coal power plant, the pollution travels. New England forests are being harmed by mercury smog from power plants in the Midwest, and there is evidence now that emissions from Chinese power plants are reaching the West Coast of America. That's quite a system.

Find out where our electricity comes from and how we can do better in "Planet Home: Conscious Choices for Cleaning & Greening the World You Care About Most."

Air Drying Week 4 & Conclusion

  • June 27, 2010 1:47 pm

Well I made it through Week Four of the super fantastic cold-water washing/eco-detergent/air drying challenge. Because I have been trying to make this both an urban and a non-urban (i.e the yard of my parents’ house) experience, Week Four was meant to be a non-urban one. But we didn’t go upstate. So it was another odd attempt to air dry in my New York City apartment. If you have been following along, you will recall that I have always been a cold-water washer (unless I’m doing sheets for allergy reasons) and an eco-detergent user. So really this challenge for me has been about air-drying. My last two weeks of urban air-drying involved a drying rack with PVC ropes too smelly to leave inside, followed by a week when the amount of laundry I hung on my shower rod broke it.

This week was pretty uneventful. The weather has been insanely hot, which means the clothing we’re wearing is pretty skimpy. This means less laundry. I was able to go a full week and a half until I had two stuffed loads – one mainly sheets and towels. I had installed a new shower rod but still haven’t managed to purchase a different drying rack, so I made use of the shower rod, and did the usual drape everything all over the apartment scenario. I cheated on the towels. They weren’t getting dry and were on the verge of smelling. But at least 1 dryer load for 2 wash loads is better than 2.

The organizers of this challenge – Seventh Generation – sent me some end-of-project questions to fill out and I thought I’d share them and my responses here.

1.       What was the easiest part of the laundry challenge and why?

Cold water washing and using the eco-detergent. I have already been doing these for years.

2.    What was the hardest and why?

Several things.

*Figuring out how to air dry inside an apartment.
I see how it can work and work well, but I don’t yet have the right equipment and the dryer is a very useful and lifelong habit. It’s a real mind shift.

*Weather!
Line drying outside on a sunny, lightly breezy day was, well, a breeze. But add some clouds and some downpours and it’s really hard to figure it all out. I’m usually only upstate for 2 days at a time and it can take longer than that to line dry if the weather isn’t perfect, which it rarely is.

*Time
You need to have a lot of it to make it work. Some days I hardly have enough time to sleep. Putting the clothes from the washer directly onto hangers to dry saves some time. I’ve been doing that.

3.       What techniques will you continue to use, now that the challenge has concluded?

I’m going to give up warm water washing my sheets. I do it for allergies, but if/when they’re not acting up I’m not going to turn up the temperature to kill the dust mites. I’m dedicating myself to figuring out the right air drying equipment for my small urban apartment and creating a system for how to make it work for me. I have already started this process, but it will take more than a month of laundry (I only do 2 loads a week). In my current apartment, it may also mean 2 loads of wash and 1 dryer load. I am not confident I have adequate ventilation to air dry completely wet towels in my apartment. That said, if and when we move – and we do have vague plans to – I will take air drying into account. We want a little outdoor space for many reasons, and I will add being able to line dry to the list.