How I made a roast chicken this time

I don’t remember when I first started making roast chicken but I wasn’t like a teenager or anything. I doubt I was even in college.  It always seemed intimidating and whole chickens are sort of scary and weird. But eventually I started making them and they are, of course, really easy. They’re what I make when I am feeling exceptionally lazy. I usually just rub some butter, or drizzle some olive oil (when I’m feeling even too lazy to get my hands dirty), some salt and pepper on a whole chicken, plop it in a 400 degree oven for an hour or so and call it good. It IS good, I don’t just call it that.

But part of my “new years resolutions” was going to be to “cook everything from The Joy Of Cooking!” LOL. I had a plan to discuss how good the book is (it really is!) and how bloggers don’t get into the why’s and how’s and all that as well as this ancient text does (which is also totally true- later I’ll tell you about my revelation about crepes). But, I am just not a commiter. I don’t commit long term to anything ever. To cook everything from Joy Of Cooking, or even to only cook from it is hideously limiting. Plus it’s already being done.

ANYWAY, I thought, well, if I’m not going to cook everything from Joy, maybe I’ll cook a few things from it. Starting with roast chicken. Why I felt the need to reinvent the wheel on that, I don’t really know. It was sort of half baked I guess. Ha, half baked. Get it? Ya.

So, here’s how I did it:

Joy Of Cooking said to use 3/4 tsp dried thyme, some lemon zest (I didn’t have any zest), garlic, crushed red pepper flakes (smoked paprika sounded better to me! Take that, Rombauer), and salt. Whatevs.

I took some dried thyme (about a tsp), some smoked paprika (maybe a TPS or so?- I don’t know, I didn’t measure it, if you want to do this I’m sure you can figure it out!), and two cloves of garlic, pressed. Put them in a bowl, then swirled in about 4 swirls of olive oil.

Joy Of Cooking did not say to mix olive oil into this mixture. Ooops.

Joy Of Cooking said to preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Apparently we’re going to turn it down later for some reason. There’s a whole section “About Roasting Poultry” that I was supposed to have read before embarking on this recipe, and that probably explains why, but I didn’t read it so don’t know (didn’t I just say I liked the book because of all the explanations? I guess I just like having the option to educate myself more than the actual education).

The spice mixture, along with a bottle of cheap red wine, and the whole chicken. The wine does not get used in this recipe, at least not on the chicken..

The spice mixture, along with a bottle of cheap red wine, and the whole chicken. The wine does not get used in this recipe, at least not on the chicken.

I accidentally stepped in front of the light and got this shot- ooooh ominous.

I accidentally stepped in front of the light and got this shot- ooooh ominous shadows

Ok, back to the recipe. Here's the mixture with the olive oil added to it.

Ok, back to the recipe. Here's the mixture with the olive oil added to it.

The mixture was supposed to be carefully put under the skin of the chicken. Fine. Well, ok, I sorta did that. But the olive oil made it tricky to do. I did manage to loosen the skin and spoon some of the mixture under the main part of the chicken. But then it occurred to me that I should do the legs, too. That seemed overly tedious and too hard to do- the legs are small and I wasn’t sure how I’d separate the skin without tearing it. Plus now the whole thing started to seem like just too much! So I just poured the rest of the mixture over the chicken and brushed it all on there really well. Of course the spices are probably going to cause it to burn. It might not be pretty but it will be tasty (I know this because I’ve done it before). Then I got on a chair to take the battery out of the smoke detector. Don’t do this, it’s dangerous! Oh, hey, the battery is already out of the smoke detector. So ANYHOW, here’s the chicken ready for the oven.

The chicken ready to be roasted.

The chicken ready to be roasted.

See that pretty red Le Creuset? My brother got it for me for Christmas one year. It had a pretty lid and the whole thing was just so darn pretty I could never bring myself to use it. Then in one of our many moves, the lid broke and from then on I felt perfectly fine using it and getting it all gunked up with burnt on chicken, etc. I don’t think it’s technically a roasting pan but it works great.

Ok, so I think the oven is sufficiently preheated so I put the chicken in (middle rack, of course), and turned down the heat to 350. How I’ll get a decent roast chicken at 350 is a mystery to me, but we’ll see.

At this point I had to stop and take a picture of my ridiculously cute cats.

Gus and Cookie Puss

Gus and Cookie Puss

OK! The chicken is done! How do I know? Why, I have an instant read thermometer, that’s how. This is something you must have- it’s the only way to tell if your chicken is cooked. When you stab it in the middle part and it reaches 160 degrees, it’s done (Joy of Cooking says 180 in the thigh- I’ve always done 160 in the middle and it’s always been perfectly done).  It took about an hour and 15 minutes. And hey! It wasn’t burnt! The skin wasn’t as crispy as when I cook it at 400 but it was still tasty.

When the chicken reaches 160 degrees it's done.

When the chicken reaches 160 degrees it's done.

Then I usually let it rest for 10 or 15 minutes. Joy makes no mention of resting (unless it’s in that “About” section). But everyone knows you have to let it rest!!

Yum! I put a little of the pan drippings over it. I may go back to the regular way of doing it, but the smoked paprika was a nice addition, so maybe I’ll figure out a way of adding it without burning the skin.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Five Things I Did…in the last two days

1. Went to the RV and Motorhome Hall Of Fame in Elkhart, IN.

2. Found a vintage ad for our trailer model.

3. Ate a delicious meal at White Palace Grill in Chicago.

4. Took pictures of Cookie Puss

5. Took a picture of Cookie Puss and Gus snuggling.

Five Things I Did Today

1. Woke up with a screaming migraine for the 4th day in a row. Finally took one of Mike’s Imitrex which worked in about 10 minutes to get rid of it. Thank God.

2. Walked to Starbucks and sat in a sunny window and read a book. Dropped a glove on the way back. Found it later!

3. Walked to Crisp for dinner. Yum.

4. Took pictures of Cookie Puss on his new bed.

5. Made Nutella hot chocolate.

Healthy meal ideas

Happy new year! Like almost everyone else, my new years resolutions usually involve plans to eat healthier. One year I actually did it! My idea of healthy eating doesn’t involve “low fat’ or “low carb” or anything else “low”. It consists of natural, fresh, minimally processed REAL food. Like Michael Pollan says ” eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.  In the past I’ve talked about how I do this on a reasonable budget.

So, here are lots of ideas. Not only are these basically healthy ideas, but they’re also mostly really easy and quick.

Warm potato and arugula salad, Whole Foods roasted lima beans, caprese salad, chicken salad with grapes (roast chicken, mayo, plain yogurt, sliced grapes):

Healthy meal.

Healthy meal.

I make roast chicken a couple times a month. One chicken will last 3 or 4 days and can be used in many different ways. This is a “bowl” with the roast chicken, some steamed broccoli, and warm pasta salad with tomatoes, feta chunks, basil, and olive oil.

Chicken pasta bowl

Chicken pasta bowl

Nothing is easier to make than eggs. Here’s a fried egg, some oven roasted potatoes, and a nice big green salad with veggies.

Eggs and salad

Eggs and salad

Fried eggs again. This time with a composed salad of greens, orange bell peppers, feta, and grape tomatoes. I also made some tzatziki, some hummus and some whole whole wheat pita.

Eggs again!

Eggs again!

Chicken posole and a green salad with lots of veggies. For dressing I usually just use olive oil and vinegar.

A big green salad and some chicken posole

A big green salad and some chicken posole

The best and easiest black bean soup, green salad with leftover roast chicken.

Black bean soup and grilled chicken salad

Black bean soup and grilled chicken salad

I really like one bowl meals. One of the healthiest things you can eat is mixed veggies. This is onions, broccoli, orange bell peppers, and corn sauteed in some olive oil. I probably either servied this in a bowl of rice and black beans or in a taco.

Veggie bowl

Veggie bowl

I hope these ideas help you in your quest to eat healthier. Let me know what you eat when you want to be healthier!

So much amazing food in Chicago

Some of you might have noticed that we like to eat. For a lot of people, eating is something they do to stay alive. They call it a necessity.

But for us, eating is a hobby.

Lucky for us, Chicago has a few places to indulge us. We’ve been pretty busy, and we’ll talk about some more of these in greater detail later, but for now, here’s a list of some of this city’s amazing food offerings we’ve enjoyed:

  • Uncle Sammy’s: Our first night in Chicago, we were having a horrible time finding a place to park a UHaul truck. At about midnight, we finally found a place and were walking home when we stumbled onto this gem. The Pilgrim is a very fine sandwich.
  • Kitchen Sink: Good, simple sandwiches.
  • Floriole: Adrienne loved it. I thought it was only OK. Quiche, apparently, is to die for.
  • Pasta Bowl: Delicious and affordable pasta.
  • Tzatziki Grill: Excellent Greek place that also has a pretty solid Italian Beef sandwich.
  • Margie’s Candies: It’s like time travel at Margie’s. Egg-salad sandwich and the Terrapin Sundae: Recommended.
  • Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria: Our favorite pizza in Chicago so far. Pizza in Chicago is like barbecue in other towns: Everyone has a very strong opinion. We loved Lou’s, but we’re still open to trying others.
  • Lito’s Empanadas: Delicious — and cheap. For $2.50, one of these little guys is great for a snack. Get two, and it’s lunch.
  • Del Seoul: Weird little Asian dumplings that are oddly addictive.
  • Paciugo: Gelato. Can’t go wrong with gelato.
  • Pret a Manger: This is Target’s cafe. Yes, I know. Why eat out at Target? But you see, here in Chicago, even going to Target is a dining experience.
  • Brown’s Chicken: Fried chicken place in one of the downtown pedways. Scenery wasn’t great, but loved the biscuits and mashed potatoes.
  • Bobtail Ice Cream: An almost-overwhelming amount of goodness.
  • The Edge: Cake!
  • The Grove: More time travel. Open-face turkey or meatloaf sandwich, with bottomless coffee.
  • Red Hen Bread: Tip: Get the day-old stuff for a little less money (same deliciousness, though).
  • Taco Joint: Best Mexican so far in Chicago. Lebanese Pork Taco: must have (available only on Thursdays).
  • Chicago’s Dog House: Our favorite dog place in Chicago so far. Good choices, good service, good prices.
  • Clark Street Dog:  Got caught in a storm and waited it out in here with a couple of dogs and a couple of beers. There are worse places to end up when it’s raining.
  • Red Hot Ranch: Our first hot dogs in Chicago. Our first experience with french fries on a hot dog. Interesting.
  • Big Star: Gourmet tacos. Service was only OK, but the decor was great. After Taco Joint, though, hard to compare.
  • Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse: Best service of any of the restaurants we’ve been to. A shoutout to our server, who happens to be a Lincoln Park neighbor! Desserts are insane. And tall. You’ll need to share. Oh, and also: $$$
  • Filini: Ultra-modern, ultra-hip dining at the signature downtown building Aqua. Sotto Bosco pizza was impressive. As was the Carciofini spinach dip.
  • Rosebud: Best Italian so far in Chicago. Two must-tries: Penne Bolognese and their Cavatelli Alla Rosebud.
  • Toast: Great service. Outstanding breakfast burrito.
  • Stella’s: Delightful breakfast options.
  • The Bourgeois Pig Cafe: Carrot cake!
  • Goose Island Brewpub: We didn’t eat here, but for some great local brews, it’s worth a try.
  • Dunlays on Clark: $5 Cheeseburger special = delicious.
  • The Burwood Tap: One of the oldest continuously operating bars in Chicago. Really good free food Mondays through Thursdays (my fave was the chicken).
  • Smoque: Been having a hard time finding some barbecue out here, but this was fantastic.
  • Pizzeria Due: After a too-long wait at Malnati’s, we ended up here. Not quite as good as Lou Malnati’s, but if LMs is a 10, Pizzeria Due is a 9. Very good.
  • Portillo’s: Iconic. Worth it for the atmosphere. Still, Chicago’s Dog House wins out.
  • Potbelly Sandwich Shop: Grilled Chicken Mediterranean is a fine, fine sandwich.
  • Matisse: Did not expect deliciousness when we ordered the Reuben Potstickers. We were pleasantly surprised.
  • Do-Rite Donuts: You’ll find lots of Dunkin’ Donuts here, but few local places. These guys do donuts right.
  • Wow Bao: Quirky little place with neat little fluffy dumplings. A must-try.
  • Devil Dawgs: It’s worthwhile to try all of Chicago’s hot dogs.

So much food in this town — how do people here ever get anything done?

Sundaes, treats, floats. Plenty of tasty options at Margie's Candies.


If you're after treats, Bobtail is also an excellent choice.


What's this? A hot dog? Yes, I guess so. Underneath the french fries, anyway. Interesting technique, Red Hot Ranch.


The S'mores cake at The Edge. Cake did not last long.


The best Chicago hot dogs, in our opinion. Chicago's Dog House.


A very full meal at Smoque BBQ: Chicken, mac & cheese, baked beans, and cole slaw.


Carrot Cake! At the Bourgeois Pig.


We don't only take pictures of food. We are also capital-A Artists. Or, maybe this is the view after we'd eaten too much and had to lay on the floor. Hard to say.