Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day Two-Three: The First Weekend

First, thanks for all the support that has been posted here and elsewhere ... this year presents a major challenge for me (as evidenced in the rough start on Day One) and having a community of loved ones supporting the venture helps a great deal.

So: the first weekend.

Our friends from South Dakota, Kim and David, are in town, and visiting guests inevitably means more dining out than otherwise.  More dining out means less control over the way foods are prepared, and I'm discovering that my year of whole foods is of necessity going to also be a year of being THAT OBNOXIOUS PERSON at the table.  Like, I just became my Southern grandmother, who insists on four pieces of bacon when she is presented with three and asks the waiter not to "be so chintzy" with the wine.

Except I'm asking what everything is made of and precisely how the cattle were raised, which, frankly, is information most waitresses are not prepared to handle.

Thankfully, Kim and David (and Matt, who has already bewailed his status as Mark Ruffalo in that movieeee) have been understanding and helpful and prepared to research with me the answers to my food-processing questions, including:

*The 2% milk in my daily latte ... what's in it?  Should coffee count as processed?  Splenda is obviously out, but what about refined sugar?  Does this mean I need to only use sugar in the raw? Honey? Agave nectar? (Not prepared to answer this just yet, and sticking with refined sugar for the moment.  Great Grandma Genevieve had white sugar.)

*Jam.  Matt's sister and her husband worked on sustainable farms all summer and gave us some jam and preserves which they canned this fall, using just the fresh fruit, sugar, and water.  Obviously unprocessed (and delicious!) but what about the Bonne Maman brand already open in the fridge which contains fruit pectin? (We wiki-ed "fruit pectin" and, in the end, came down against.  Though it was first identified in 1825, well before Grandma Gen's time, it is produced commercially as a "white or brown powder" which doesn't precisely smack of "whole".)

*Fruit juice from concentrate.  What is concentrate?  Does it add anything new and creepy to the fruit, or is the process simply the dining equivalent of making a zip file?  (We think the latter.)

Even with all the questions, the weekend has been relatively successful, in large part because of the amazing dinner we cooked last night: roasted whole chicken with fingerling potatoes and some multicolored carrots Matt and David found on an epic trip to Treasure Island (the bus driver wouldn't let them on with their grocery bags, so they trudged the mile home in 6 degree Chicago winter).

We followed my mother's incredibly easy, incredibly delicious recipe: chop and toss the potatoes and carrots in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme.  Halve an onion and throw it into the mix, along with a few whole garlic cloves (we don't eat these, but they infuse everything else as they roast).

Put the chicken in a roasting pan and surround with the veggies; cook on 400 for a little over an hour, until the chicken is 190 degrees (fully cooked).  It comes out amazingly tender, and the vegetables pick up some of its juice as they roast, making everything deliciously chickeny and crisp.

Today we've mostly had fruit smoothies and whole-grain toast, not particularly photo-worthy, but we also made a quick trip to meet Crystal from C&D Family Farm, a local Illinois farm that raises 100% grass fed cattle, free range chickens, and the like.  I first met her at the Hyde Park farmer's market, and she comes up every week in her van.  We stocked up on ground beef and chicken thighs.

(Mark Ruffalo photographed the transaction.)


  1. I forgot to note: the chicken was a "Free Bird" from Treasure Island. I need to research their farming practices, but they claim to be free range, cage free.

  2. Lovely photos! That chicken dish wanted to just jump right off the computer screen and into my waiting --oops not the keyboard!

  3. That chicken looks incredible!!!!!! I can't wait to try the recipe. Thank you!