Curiously Crunchy

Asking crunchy questions for my family and yours.

I Cooked a Chicken!

I love chicken. I could eat it every day, and some weeks I swear we do. The chicken I was feeding my family from the grocery store though really wasn’t all that high on the quality scale.

Door to Door Organics to the rescue! This last order I purchased a whole chicken from Gunthorp Farms in Lagrange, Indiana. (Can I just take a minute and say how much I love that Door to Door lists the farms their meat is coming from so I can look them up? I read about the farm and how the animals are raised, cared for, and even how they are slaughtered. I liked what I read so I picked this farm for my chicken. )

When it arrived on Monday, my husband realized it was still frozen solid and my master plan of coming home to a roast chicken dinner was squashed. So, we wrapped it in 2 layers of cellophane and put it inside 2 grocery bags to thaw in the fridge. Last night at about 8:30pm I realized I still hadn’t cooked it yet (2 days later), so I ran out to the kitchen during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to take care of it before it spoiled.

I preheated my oven to 450F so my it would be warm when I was ready.

When I pulled the bird out of the bags, I could see some blood leaking into the plastic wrap, so I bleached my sink real quick so I could open it up in the sink itself (and not have to try to wash blood off my counter or cutting board). I had the trash can right next to me and gently peeled away the plastic wrap, so the blood wouldn’t splatter, and threw the plastic pieces in the trash.

As I was rinsing the unwrapped bird with cold water, I realized I have never actually cooked a whole bird of any kind. My mom or my cousins always cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners so this was my first experience. At first I got a little skittish about the raw-ness of it, but I reminded myself that this was once a living thing, and if I’m going to eat it I at least need to respect it; there was nothing to be afraid of (and although I opened up the cavity to check for a bag of innards, I still couldn’t bring myself to actually stick my hand up there… yet).

So anyway, I rinsed the chicken and placed it on a large cutting board. I patted the skin dry with paper towels and rubbed olive oil all over the skin. I then placed the bird in my roasting pan with about a cup of water, and sprinkled a bunch of seasonings all over it. When I felt like I had flavored it enough, I put the lid on my roasting pan and put it in my oven at 450 for approximately 40 mins (I had forgotten to set the timer! I checked when it started to smell good.) You always want to check internal temperature, check for clear juices (red means it’s not done yet), and do the “poke” test (if the fork goes in easy, the meat is probably done). After the first check, I dropped down the temp to 375F and put it in for another 60 minutes (checking it every 20 since I still had no real idea how long it would take).

After the last check, it passed my tests and I turned off the oven and set it on a cutting board to cool (and covered it so the cats didn’t think I left them a treat!). When it was cool (ish) I ripped into it and tore off every price of meat I could find; I put the meat in a clean bowl with a lid to eat as leftovers for tomorrow, saving all the skin and bones, and the liquid left over from the roasting pan, for broth.

After I was sure I had picked the bird clean of meat, I put all my saved skin and bones and leftover juices and the entire carcass into the crock pot with lots of water to cover everything, more seasonings like garlic salt, onion salt, a few cloves of garlic, thyme, oregano…(and if I had saved veggies like celery and carrots instead of eating them, I would have put them in there too…) and set it on high overnight.

I woke up to a house smelling like chicken soup heaven. I checked it to make sure the pot was still full of water (it was) and left it to cook the rest of the day. I’ll drain it when I get home and freeze it into useable portions.

I’m so stoked with how this whole experiment went, I want to buy a chicken every week! (Although that’s a little impractical on the budget. Every other week then…?)

I wish I had thought to take pictures of this thing I’m so incredibly proud of, but you’ll just have to try it for yourself to see it!

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One Bite at a Time

If you’re anything like me, you’ve stepped into the wellness world and had a mini panic attack at everything that you “should” be doing.

This lifestyle is a journey, not an overnight conversion, and can be done with simple steps a few at a time.

Here are my favorites that I’ve incorporated into my life the last year, and some of these options have even saved me money!

  1. Hydrate

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Everybody knows you’re supposed to drink like a million ounces of water a day (or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes). It’s hard when you don’t enjoy the nothingness taste of plain water. I’ve found, though, if I have iced tea I’ll drink it all day long, and I do. I bought a half-gallon jug and make tea (with a sprinkle of stevia) with Lipton Cold Brew bags every morning at work. All day long I’m filling my cup with something I enjoy that isn’t made of chemicals (like a soft drink) or extra servings of sugar (like juice). There is caffeine but according to my box there is 10mg per 8oz serving (compared to 95mg in 8oz of coffee) so all day I’m getting a steady low dose drip that keeps me alert and hydrated.

If you have kidney stones, speak to your doctor about drinking a lot of black tea because it can possibly exaggerate an already existing kidney stone issue.

  1. Breakfast

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It’s another one of those things everyone knows is good for them, but one I have always struggled with.

I don’t get hungry right away when I get up, nor am I a morning person. I always hit the snooze until the very last possible minute. So to combat my morning anti-hunger I have been on the smoothie train. I throw some combination of whatever fruit is around, usually bananas, frozen strawberries, mangos, peaches, and this last week blueberries since they came in my Door to Door Organics box, with about a cup or so of nut milk (usually almond or coconut), a spoonful of vanilla Greek yogurt, a scoop of protein (switching from whey to hemp this week), and maybe some maca powder or some ice, depending on how I feel or if I remember.

I drink it in the car on my morning commute and it’s pretty fulfilling.

If I feel especially ambitious (usually on the weekend) I’ll try to throw some kale or spinach or something else greem in there too. Jamba Juice makes Fruit & Veggie Smoothie kits which run around $3.00 for 2-8oz smoothies, the ingredients list can be found here. It’s not too bad of a list for a frozen kit from a chain, in my opinion, and it’s still a better option than a chocolate chip muffin or a doughnut.

  1. Personal Hygiene

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I have been switching to products I can make myself as much as possible, partly because it’s better for me and partly because it’s more cost effective.

I use this recipe from DIY Natural for body wash, which includes castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Almond), raw honey, and some oils. I always feel super clean when I’m done and it smells amazing! And like they say on DIY Natural, it lathers great for shaving, too.

For my teeth I use this tooth powder instead of commercial toothpaste, and I try to oil pull when I remember (my morning mouth is always less when I’ve oil pulled the night before). The cost is like a dollar per batch and it lasts a while!

I wash my face with either just water, raw honey, or if my skin is really dry like it was this winter I’ll oil cleanse with almond oil. I very rarely wear makeup, so I don’t need to clean much off my face at the end of the day.

Sometimes I’ll do a honey mask while I brush my teeth at night, and I always use witch hazel as a post-wash toner and finish off with some avocado oil or calendula-infused almond oil to replenish moisture.

I haven’t found a “natural” shampoo/conditioner combination I like yet that is affordable, so for now it’s Pantene or Dove or whatever is on sale at Costco. There are suggestions about using baking soda in water or castile soap as a simple shampoo and diluted apple cider vinegar as a rinse, but with my long curly hair, it just doesn’t work as well for me. So if you find something just isn’t for you, don’t panic. Go back to what does work and keep researching until that time when/if another option appears.

I also make my own lotion and lip balm (my last batch of lip balm made 25 tubes and the supply has lasted almost 18 months!) and they are great, too.

  1. Don’t waste what you have!

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What if you JUST went to Bath and Body Works and bought 3 bottles of soap? Or have a just opened tube of toothpaste or brand new bar of face soap? No worries, just use what you have and when it’s gone, replace it with better. There is no need to throw everything out and start over. Or you can take the unopened containers to a shelter or food pantry to help those less fortunate. Either way, don’t be like me and think you should scrap everything you have. It gets expensive and sad.

  1. Prepare

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(Sorry, not sorry. I couldn’t help but think of Scar!)

This is the hardest part. You don’t realize how much easier all of this can be if you just prepare! Meal plan and keep a good stock of your most used items so you don’t run out. I base the week’s meals off of what is coming in our Door to Door Organics box and I always make sure I have a good supply of castile soap and raw honey.

If we keep taking baby steps, who knows where we’ll be in our wellness journey a year from now!

What baby steps have you taken to make your life more natural?

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Digital Mini-Detox

The irony of this post is that I’m posting it from the car on my phone.

We are headed about an hour and a half west to my aunt’s cottage on a small man made lake. It’s surrounded by nothing but farmland. There is hardly any signal up there.

It’s a great place to have a digital detox. Without signal, we are all forced to put down the devices and just be.

The cottage is on a pretty good size plot right on the water, so we have grass, trees, and blue skies all around. It’s one of the only places I visit where I can’t hear traffic.

It’s tranquil. It’s serene. It’s soul food.

Have you ever taken a digital detox? Do you think they’re necessary?

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Alternative Sweeteners

(Let me preface this with the statement that I am not a doctor, nor am I a medical professional of any kind. I am just a woman who gets super nosey about what I’m putting in my body and I would like to share a small portion of my research on sweeteners with you below.)

We all know that too much sugar is bad for us, but if you’re like me you can’t drink coffee or tea without a sweetener.

We also all know that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin are full of unnecessary chemicals and garbage that can cause cancer and migraines and all kind of terrible things.

So what’s a girl to use? I’m going to go in to some of the different kinds of sweeteners and which one is my favorite.

First we have Table Sugar

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Usually obtained from Sugar Cane or Sugar Beet, it is processed by crushing and extracting sugarcane or sugar beet with water, evaporating, and purifying with lime, carbon, and various liquids. (From PubChem.)

Traditional table sugar is incredibly refined and any of the beneficial trace nutrients are taken out, leaving it devoid of anything but empty calories.

If used moderately, this sweetener really isn’t so bad, in my opinion, BUT it’s in so much of what we eat already without even realizing, it is rarely my sweetener of choice (except for baking). And when I do use it, I use Sugar In The Raw.

They don’t do the extra refining to get it white (although they do offer a white sugar).

Next up, Agave Syrup

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Agave syrup (or agave nectar) is from the Agave Americana and Agave Tequilana plants. The leaves are cut off the plant after it has aged seven to fourteen years and the juice is then extracted from the core of the agave, called the piña. The juice is filtered, then heated, to break the complex components (the polysaccharides) into simple sugars. This filtered juice is then concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey. Its color varies from light- to dark-amber, depending on the degree of processing. The main sweetening agent (called inulin or fructosan) is mostly fructose.

According to Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt (a member of the American College of Nutrition and an associate faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health) “Agave syrup is almost all fructose, highly processed sugar with great marketing. Fructose interferes with healthy metabolism when (consumed) at higher doses. Many people have fructose intolerance like lactose intolerance. They get acne or worse diabetes symptoms even though their blood [sugar] is OK”. (from the Huffington Post)

This is one of my least favorite options because of the fructose content. If I’m going to consume a sweet syrup, I’m going to go for raw honey. I personally prefer the taste and I don’t need the extra fructose (we’re already getting plenty with HFC in practically everything).

Raw Honey

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Honey is a great food to have around for a number reasons. Although its sweetness comes from mainly fructose and glucose, its other properties make it worth keeping around.

“The support for using honey as a treatment regimen for peptic ulcers and gastritis comes from traditional folklore as well as from reports in modern times. Honey may promote the repair of damaged intestinal mucosa, stimulate the growth of new tissues and work as an anti-inflammatory agent. Raw honey contains copious amounts of compounds such as flavonoids and other polyphenols which may function as antioxidants. Clinical observations have been reported of reduced symptoms of inflammation when honey is applied to wounds. The removal of exudate in wounds dressed with honey is of help in managing inflamed wounds.” (from PubMed)

Wholesome Sweeteners is my favorite, and I even use it to wash my face!

Please note that because honey contains contains small amounts of proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma compounds and polyphenols, the medical community agrees honey should NOT be given to children under 2.

Stevia – My Favorite 

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My favorite sweetener that I use daily is Stevia. I prefer the taste of Stevia In The Raw, although Wholesome Sweeteners is a close second. I also really like Wholesome Sweeteners because they are Non-GMO Verified and Fair Trade Certified, which the In The Raw brand is not.

Stevia has been found to increase insulin sensitivity and to have beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin levels. According to a National Institute of Health study (found here), stevia had significantly less impact on insulin and blood glucose levels than glucose and aspartame.

Although maltodextrine is listed as an ingredient on the Stevia In The Raw packages, the National Institute of Health says “meals, consumed as either dextrose or maltodextrin, pose little postprandial oxidative insult to young, healthy men. As such, there should be minimal concern over such feedings, even at high dosages, assuming adequate glucose metabolism”, which I interpret to mean that as long as you are pretty healthy overall, it isn’t going to affect you much, especially because I don’t need very much to get my desired sweetness. Its inclusion doesn’t bother me at all, but use your own judgment on what’s best for you and your family.

There is SO MUCH information out there about different sweeteners and the effect they have on our bodies. I encourage you to do your own research and find what works best for you and your family.

Are you loyal to one particular sweetener or brand of sweeteners?

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