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I looked through my recent posts and realized there’s not much recipe sharing happening around here these days. Time to fix it… Where’s my utility belt?

Unless you live in the Smurf Village, you must be aware of the food revolution going on in America these days. It hasn’t started with Jamie Oliver’s hit TV show under the same name. The documentary “Food, Inc.” came first (among others). Its very own, and my personal guru, Michael Pollan has been talking about the REAL FOOD versus FOOD LIKE PRODUCTS for years now.

I’ve been observing the growing trend of eating fresh among my own friends and my American family. (In Poland it’s still so much easier to eat real food despite heavy influences of the Western World, hence I’ll focus on my life in the US for the purpose of this rant.) Shopping at Farmers Markets is fun. Sprouting one’s own herbs in a recycled can on the window seal, turned out, has nothing to do with magic. Stirring away creamy Risotto at home no longer intimidates. To top it all, gastro pubs pop up all over the cities like mushrooms after it rained. Those are the yummy eateries where everyone gets a chance to taste what fine dining is about for a fraction of what it would cost them in a high-end restaurant. Places like “Animal” on Fairfax or “Lazy Ox” Downtown (both in Los Angeles) are getting the buzz for a reason.

It’s undeniable, the way the Americans think about food today is shifting. And it’s so exciting to watch. I realize the change cannot be completed over night, but the steps we’ve been taking are very promising. Many of us, however, still hesitate to take the leap onto the brighter side of life for the organic food is priced at a higher mark. Moreover, people got used to cheap food in this country over the last several decades. The truth is, the prices are low because of the industrialization of the food market. The quality of the food in America is so low for the same exact reason. The cost of health care is also directly related. You do the math.

While I personally believe that we should pay for quality (You get what you pay for!), today I want to show you how we can all eat more organic foods without breaking the bank. Let’s use the product that an average American consumes over 60 pounds of each year–CHICKEN.

The regular chicken, not an organic one, raised most likely in some horrendous conditions, lingering knee-deep in its own feces, with legs breaking under its own unnatural weight (due to added growth hormones and overfeeding with genetically altered corn), that whole chicken costs about $6 at our grocery store. When you look over to the right, where the Organic, Free Range Chicken rests right next to the sad guy, with its price tag of $12, that may be shocking. I get that. Now, think about where your food comes from first. I don’t think it’ll take you long to lean toward the organic, happy bird. Your challenge is to use up that $12 to the last penny. I’ll show you how I do it.

First and foremost, I save a bucket of money by purchasing an entire bird versus only breasts, or legs. Then I cut it to pieces myself at home. Next, I place the chicken thighs and drums along with the boobies in a glass bowl and rub them with a combination of herbs and spices. I cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the meat marinate for a day or two in the refrigerator.

The carcass, the neck and the wings go into a large pot along with a whole bunch of vegetables (cleaned, peeled if needed, and roughly chopped): 4-5 carrots, 2 parsnips, 1 large leek, 1 onion, 4-5 celery stalks (or 1 celery root, peeled and quartered). Next, I add a handful of whole peppercorns, no more than 1 tbsp of salt, 5-6 bay leaves and a bunch of fresh thyme springs plus a small spring of rosemary. (Dry will do, too, if you don’t have any fresh herbs handy.) Such arranged, I cover the content of the pot with water, as much as I can fit into my 6 quart dutch oven, and turn the heat on. You want to bring it to a simmer, and never let it boil. Leave the pot on the stove, with a lid on but not covering it completely, for about 2-2.5 hours.

When my chicken stock is concocting itself, I toss the giblets left from the bird (all the inner organs usually packaged along with the whole thing) in some flour and toss them onto a pan with hot oil. When those are cooked through, Cosmo has a ball. Frankly, I love chicken livers. I grew up eating them. Jason, on the other hand, is repulsed by the idea. Since one chicken liver won’t make a meal for me, I simply give it to Cosmo. You, however, can entertain the thought of using the innards for a cheap meal, if your feelings towards the meat are similar to mine.

Two hours later, I strain the stock and, once cooled, store it in an air-tight container. You can freeze it for up to 6 months! In my next installment, I’ll show you how you can turn that complex and aromatic stock into a pot of soulful soup with an addition of only a few bucks to your healthy food budget.

From the strainer I pull out all the chicken parts, and you won’t believe it until you do it yourself how much meat there’s still on that carcass, the wings, the neck. I gently pull it all away from the bones using two forks, as the meat simply falls off those bones.

Let’s add it all up. We spent $12 on the organic chicken plus another $5 – $6 on all the veg for the stock. We ended up with:

1) about 8-10 cups (based on my pot) of homemade, flavorful, organic chicken stock to be turned into a big pot of HEARTY AND FILLING SOUP in a few days;

2) 2 full legs (or 2 thighs and 2 drums, if you separate them) and 2 full breasts that are marinating in the ice-box that will turn into 2-3 full meals for two, with an addition of some starch and/or salad;

3) chicken scraps that can be sauteed for added flavor, mixed with a variety of sauces and served over brown rice or whole-wheat pasta (See how I’m planting those healthy choices in your head? INCEPTION…), or used as a filling in dumplings or croquettes, that will again easily feed 4 – 6 people.

I will get back to the SOUP and my CROQUETTES in the next few days. Today, let me share my simple tricks for baking that bird in such a way that the meat is perfectly cooked and yet still moist at each bite.

I roast my marinated chicken in a roasting pan for about 35 minutes in a 375° oven (with an addition of  a ladleful of my stock and some water or white wine, 1-2 bay leaves, fresh rosemary and thyme), then take it out and let it rest covered with foil for another 10 minutes. I serve with in a variety of ways; sometimes it’s over a medley of brown rice (as seen above) for the enjoyment of our clients who love ONE MORE BITE’s Lunches. The sauce that surrounds the meat in the pan is divine. Just pour it over your starch, perk up with fresh herbs (tarragon, parsley, dill, cilantro, etc.) and you have yourself a hearty and satiating dinner! A side of simple green salad with a LEMON VINAIGRETTE makes the meal complete.

This is home cooking at its best. The food is always fresh, with no processed ingredients, all made from scratch, leaving you not only satiated and content, but also the satisfaction level from the accomplishment (when you realize what you have just CREATED ALL BY YOURSELF, FROM SCRATCH, SO DELIGHTFUL AND FRESH!) will get you like a drug. You’ll want to come back for more. IF I CAN MAKE THAT, WHAT ELSE CAN I MAKE MYSELF INSTEAD OF BUYING CRAP FROM  A STORE OR EATING EVEN WORSE CRAP AT CHAIN RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD PLACES??? Now you feel the power of creation.

The fact that it also makes sense money wise is just a cherry that flips its feet in the pool of icing on top of the cake. The cake I have just described above. You get it, don’t you.

Homemade, organic, fresh are the slogans of today. Stay healthy, America. Stay healthy, the World! And Bon Appetit along the way.

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How was your weekend, Internet? Ours was just as mundane as usual. Or was it?

One slept in whilst the other one went grocery shopping and then carried all four bags into the house all by herself. One got a haircut while the other one was stuck with a bunch of needles all over her body in a room filled with Brian Eno’s tunes. One studied Polish while the other mastered a few new French phrases before our trip to Paris in May. Surprisingly both enjoyed the Chopin concert despite their paralyzing fear of highly potential boredom. One has donated three bags of clothes, shoes and purses to SOJOURN, a charitable organization that supports battered women and underprivileged children in Los Angeles, while the other has only one closet with just enough clothes to cover his back. He also read a very hopeful and BRIGHT GREEN interview with Alex Steffen published in our beloved magazine THE SUN.

What about those needles, you may wonder. A few months ago I met this gorgeous woman Tamara ZumMallen through my dear friend Missy. Even though we haven’t known each other long, already we have shared many laughs and even some tears together.

Tamara happens to be a very knowledgeable and experienced acupuncturist, hence last Saturday I ended up in her bed. Wait, what I mean by that is that I was laying ON her therapist’s bed in her office at the HEALING HANDS WELLNESS CENTER at 414 N. Larchmont Ave, here in Los Angeles. While I rested garments-free under the crisp white sheets, she gently but skillfully inserted two needles into my feet, four more were placed on my belly, one on my chef’s wrist, two in my ears, and one straight into my third eye.

Needles in my Third Eye and both ears respectively

Four needles centered around my belly button, and the rest of the gang

While it may sound like a quickie, it was nothing but. Tamara began the session with sitting me comfortably on the bed; then she conducted a thorough interview. We went through my health history, eating habits, regularity of my menses, the shenanigans I recently got myself into, and my thoughts on Jamie Oliver’s FOOD REVOLUTION in America. The show had aired on ABC the previous night.

Speaking of which, for crying out loud, how is it possible that a six-year old child does NOT know what a potato looks like?? Perhaps a tomato? Anything? Jason and I were watching the program in terror, while tears welled up in our eyes.

In the meantime, the needles were prepped to stand upright around my bellybutton. At Tamara’s request, I stuck my tongue out at her. It was dark and purple-ish, enough for her to determine mild blood stagnation with kidney QI deficiency. She recommended eating black and blue foods to balance out my kidneys. Instantly I asked DOES CHOCOLATE COUNT FOR BLACK FOOD? Luckily it did, as long as it is dark and raw, or at least organic. Next the needles helped me get un-stuck.

It was a thrilling and yet relaxing experience. What I loved about that Chinese healing method is that it has a very holistic approach to one’s health. If you have a headache, the acupuncturist will ask you a series of maybe 20 questions about everything but your head to find the source of pain. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Western medicine adapted the same attitude instead of just curing the symptoms? While I’m not trying to doom our doctors and their astounding accomplishments in the medical field, I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in the system they’ve been taught and have since practiced.

(Oh, I am so getting an email from Jason’s dad, Doctor Jimmy Harkins, with his take on the matter later today. I hope he’ll be kind to me. He always is.)

All that typing made me hungry. While I go pop in a few blueberries and black olives, I suggest you spruce up your chicken dinner with my recipe. How does CHICKEN CORDON BLEU WITH GOAT CHEESE, CRANBERRIES, AND HERBS sound? You can serve it with sweet potatoes or a giant bowl of greens mixed with avocado, tomatoes and dressed with a light, lemon vinaigrette. After the din-din, your mate will kiss your feet in gratitude, and then some. I don’t need to hear about that part of your evening, but you enjoy!

Wash your hands and set your station ready. If making a dinner for two, you’ll need:

–       2 chicken breasts, organic and free-range

–       1 egg + 1 tsp of water, for egg-wash

–       2-3 tbsp of flour (any kind, choose the healthier option)

–       2-3 tbsp of breadcrumbs

–       kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

–       3 oz of goat cheese, soft

–       2 tbsp of dried cranberries, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and then drained and roughly chopped

–       1 cup of fresh basil/dill/parsley/cilantro (use one, two, or all if desired), roughly chopped

–       1 tbsp of fresh thyme

–       1 tbsp of olive oil

–       2 plastic zip-lock bags, large

–       meat-tenderizing tool (could be a rolling pin)

–       4 small bowls

Beat the egg and water with a fork in one bowl, and use another two bowls for flour and breadcrumbs respectively. Season your flour with a solid pinch of salt and pepper, while the breadcrumbs – with a few springs of crushed fresh thyme and your olive oil.

In a separate bowl, mix the goat cheese with herbs and cranberries, and season gently with salt and pepper. Feel free to pimp your filling with the zest of a lemon, too! Mix well.

Place each chicken breast in a separate plastic bag and using your meat tenderizer pound it evenly until it’s about 1/4” thick. Remove it from the bag with a pair of tongs and place on a plastic cutting board (that had been devoted in your house solely to raw meats. I don’t want to mother you, but make sure you keep the raw meat away from EVERYTHING else to avoid possible contamination. That means you must wash your hands and anything the meat has touched in hot water and with soap when done). Season both sides with salt and pepper. Using a small spoon, scoop some of the cheese filling and spread it evenly across the chicken fillet, leaving about 1/2” strip clean around the edge. With your clean hands fold the longer sides of the chicken inwards, and then roll the whole thing making sure all filling is secured inside it. Repeat the procedure with the remaining chicken breast.

Now, dip each stuffed chicken breast first in the flour and coat it lightly on all sides, then the egg-wash, and finish with the breadcrumbs.

Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and put into a preheated oven at 350°. Bake about 20 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown. When done, remove from the oven and let the meat rest for about 10 minutes. Cut each piece into 1/2” thick pinwheels and serve as desired.

That’s my take on CHICKEN CORDON BLEU. It’s elegant, creative, delectable and never boring. Bon appetit!

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