Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Upcoming Workshop at 5 Focus

Wanted to let you know about my upcoming workshop at 5 Focus integrative center on June 7th.  I'd love to see you!

From Chocolate to Kale

Spruce up your summer with new foods on your plate!

Sunday, June 7th

2 - 3:30p.m.

Cost: $30 –food samples included!


·    Are you tired of your food routine? 

·    Love shopping at organic markets but can’t pronounce or identify many of the foods on the shelves? 

·     Are you curious about quinoa, kale, or other ‘exotic’ grains, vegetables, and natural sweeteners?

Join Bastyr-educated nutritionist Christine Weiss for a lively and tasty class on demystifying the many healthful ingredients found in natural food stores.  Christine will discuss the health benefits of kefir, agave nectar, buckwheat and other foods that can liven up meals and snacks.  You’ll also have a chance to taste a variety of products new to your palate – traditional socca made with chickpea flour, homemade ginger root tea and an energy bar made with almond butter and maple syrup.  Go home with new flavors and new recipes for a new healthy start.

Christine received her MS in Nutrition from Bastyr University in 2008 and is currently a dietetic intern at Sea Mar Community Health Center.  She has a passion for food and wine, which she shares with her students as a culinary instructor for PCC Cooks.

For more information or to register, please call 206.631.2818 or visit

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to Roast a Chicken

I really never thought I'd be doing this but, lately I've been roasting chickens.  I've never considering myself the 'throw the hunk of meat in the oven and shut the door' kind of gal.  I mean, it wasn't that long ago that I considered myself a completely raw vegan.  Yeah, it's a bit of a leap, but lately I've been roasting chickens.  I suppose you learn a lot about food and even more about yourself when you go through 3+ years of nutrition education.  Juice it or eat it whole?  Got milk or got propaganda?  Honey or sucanat?  Eat meat or go veg? Along the way you confront those decisions, one by one.  Along the way you make those little decisions as they come to you, and before you know it you're eating entirely differently than you did before.  Stripped of your bias, your political proselytizing, your internet heresay, you have yourself a new outlook on food - and hopefully on cooking too.  

After years of taking a hard look at my food, and years of loving an omnivore (I say omni, because I finally got him to eat broccoli) I've made a bit of peace, and some subtle compromises, with my choices. 

Clarification: now I'm roasting organic chickens.

I still don't eat beef, and my meat intake continues to be much less than the average Jane, but I have a hungry guy to feed (and I'm usually pretty hungry too).  So I turn on the oven, slap that chicken onto the roasting pan, and call it dinner.  I feel... so... so... wifey.  Yes, I know how to make roast chicken for my man, and I can still be a confident feminist while saying it.

The first time I attempted this, I had to look up how to do it online.  I then looked into my good old reference cookbooks with all the classics.  Somehow, after doing it the fifth time, I finally got the hang of it.  It isn't complex, and even the first 5 times yielded something quite edible (and some would even say delicious).  It's actually so much more simple than making a big pot of chickpea stew.  You don't even need a meat thermometer, although I would advise picking up one for a few bucks simply for piece of mind.  

If you have an hour and a half to cook it, then the prep time is 15 minutes.  I mean, less prep time than some frozen dinners!  I don't understand why every graduate from every college across America isn't required to demonstrate how to properly roast a chicken before given his or her diploma.  I mean, we could seriously solve some pizza take-out issues in this country if all the 20-somethings could just throw a bird in the oven every couple of days.  I know I could have used the skill at age 21 when I was trying to save my food pennies for stiletto heels and short sparkly skirts to go out dancing in.  

A big hunk of animal can be terribly intimidating.  How do you cook it all the way through without it becoming something resembling jerky?  What if I don't cook it through and all my guests are keeling over onto my dining room table with food poisoning?  What if I touch it, it feels slimy and then I don't want to eat it for dinner anymore?  Okay, I can't help you with that one.  Just tell yourself it's a big slippery piece of tofu or something.

Step One:  What kind of chicken to buy?
I always recommend buying an organic chicken.  If you're lucky enough to have farmers at the local markets who sell their chickens, then I would recommend those.  The best chickens come from farmers who take care of their animals, give then space to roam and bugs to eat... happy chickens!  Otherwise, go to your natural foods store and ask about organically-raised animals.  At the very least you won't be eating the pesticides that they had been eating... and just maybe they were well-raised too.   However, I would always go with the happy chickens first, and you can't find those anywhere but roaming on small organic farms.  Find a chicken that's around 3-4 pounds.

Step Two: What do I cook it in?
I really like those roasting pans that happen to come with many ovens.  For most people who don't cook very much, those are the largest pans in the house.  Just take the bottom pan (not the top slotted part) and put the chicken, wings-down, in the center of the pan.  

Step Three: Prepping the chicken
This part is easy - just use the veggies and herbs you have in your kitchen!  With the chicken in the center of the pan, surround the bird with chopped potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, celery, kale, sliced lemons... whatever you have lying around.  If you have fresh herbs, load in tons of thyme, rosemary and sage on the veggies.  Stuff the bird with some herbs too, and some lemon slices as well.  Dried herbs are also nice, just don't skimp.  Dump 1/4 cup of the dried stuff around the bird.  Take some peeled garlic cloves and tuck them under the chicken's skin.  You may need to loosen it up with your fingers first (poke them under and explore around, separating the skin from the flesh underneath).  Put sea salt and cracked pepper on the skin and veggies.  Now take some flavorful liquid - water or white wine will do... or vegetable stock... and pour it around the chicken until you can't pour more, fearing you'll dump it everywhere when you lift the pan. 

Step Four:  Roasting It
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Put your chicken in the oven, and just let it cook for the first 20 minutes or so.  Open the door after that and pour the liquid over the chicken and the vegetables, moistening the skin.  You don't want the chicken to dry out.  Do this every 20 - 30 minutes.  The chicken should take no more than one and a half hours to roast.  You can make yourself feel more assured that you're not making chicken jerky by inserting the thermometer into the thigh meat - what does it read?  You know your chicken is just about done when it registers 160 degrees.  I like mine to be at 180 degrees, because then it is fall-off-the bone tender. You'll need the full hour and a half to reach this point.  However, if your chicken is larger you'll need more time.

You're done, now isn't that easy?  There may be a few finer points here and there to make it rock star awesome, but you can literally throw it in the oven and be a slacker, and it would still be delicious.

Okay everybody, your homework assignment is to roast a chicken.  Now get to it.  


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tangential Tuesday - Rosemary

There used to be a renowned restaurant here in Seattle (now closed) that served a famous Douglas Fir Martini.  Yes, you heard that right.  A pine tree snowball dropped right into your vodka 'tini.  Though 'pine tree' isn't exactly a flavoring that sounds appetizing to me at first glance, I nonetheless was intrigued.  Pity that I didn't have a chance to try it, as the place closed not long after I moved here.  But isn't it telling, the fact that you could actually find an evergreen cocktail here in Seattle.  Here in the Emerald City, I think we're a little obsessed with our evergreen surroundings.  I really can't blame the Seattle foodies for breaking out the tree-flavored cocktails (and not just because we're known to be the tree-hugging type).  

We actually use evergreens all the time to season and add flavor to foods and spirits. You taste that juniper in your gin?  Yup, it's the berry from an evergreen in the cypress family.  And the most common herb with a pine-like flavor and aroma? Rosemary.  The evergreen rosemary bush has long been used in cuisine but also for religious and spiritual purposes in Roman times.  Although it's an evergreen, it actually belongs in the mint family.  That piney smell comes from an aromatic compound called pinene found in the needle-like leaves. 

There are many other herbs whose flavor is enhanced by pinene.  Sage, thyme, marjoram, nutmeg, fennel and many others possess this pungent chemical that awakens our tastebuds.  Rosemary, however, is one of my favorites.  When I first moved to Seattle from the Midwest, my neighbors' choices for hedging were shocking: rosemary bushes.  You mean that people just grow this stuff outside as decorative landscaping?  My thoughts turned to my desperate attempts at keeping a tiny, woody, scrappy-looking rosemary plant alive in a small terra-cotta pot in the dead of a Chicago winter.  But here, in the land of plenty, even the decorative shrubs spelled dinner.  Soon, every pasta sauce, omelet, and chickpea stew had at least a few branches of rosemary thrown in.  Mark was even more addicted to the stuff, taking my cue and pilfering the neighbors' yards when shades were drawn so we could have a few leaves to add to the roast chicken and Sunday night's pizza.  I can't even imagine buying the stuff now... would be kind of like buying dandelions.

Rosemary can be used  in so many interesting concoctions.  I've had a rosemary lemonade at Cafe Flora, rosemary cookies, the thicker branches may be threaded through meats for outdoor grilling, and Martha Stewart even suggests getting a little pleasantly tipsy with a rosemary pear vodka cocktail.    

So tell me, what's your rosemary inspiration?