The Sunday Cook-A-Thon!

Most of the time it's Sunday, but sometimes it's Monday (currently the second day of my weekend as I wind down my photo business). I LOVE my Cook-A-Thon! I know for some of my friends cooking is far from stress-relieving, but it's an incredible stress-reliever for me and my every-other-week cook-a-thon produces such a wide variety of healthy foods to keep on hand all week (or freeze) that I don't have to think much about cooking for the rest of the week!

I read recently that in order to reduce stress, taking the most mundane decision-making out of your routine helps. That's why Steve Jobs always wore a black turtleneck. I just thought it was because he looked really good in a black turtleneck. Who knew?! I feel the same about my cook-a-thon. I've developed a no-brainer routine so that I can actually de-stress and relax while I produce an incredibly healthy bunch of food for the week. I often even make the same recipes from the stock and chicken over and over too. Easy!

I open a nice bottle of red wine, ask Brennan to put on a good music mix and off I go!

 Having some fresh flowers and a clean kitchen is a really good start! Some may notice there's already a lot missing from that bottle of red! I started the bottle the night before!

Having some fresh flowers and a clean kitchen is a really good start! Some may notice there's already a lot missing from that bottle of red! I started the bottle the night before!

The star of the show (and most time consuming recipe) is roasted chicken and stock. I use Chris Kresser's recipe which I love because it calls for roasting the chicken so that you can actually EAT the chicken! I used to boil a whole chicken in water. I got good results for the broth, but I really like the roasted chicken stock more AND I get to eat the yummy roasted chicken! I will link to a more detailed description of making the stock, but definitely start the cook-a-thon by stuffing the chicken and getting it into the oven!

Once the chicken is in the oven, I start on a couple of other things. The night I photographed this I also made meat cakes and roasted brussel sprouts. Roast the brussel sprouts first and then you can munch on them while preparing the meat cakes! I have the world's smallest oven with only one rack so I have to get tricky with cooking two things at once!

Yes. That's the roasting brussel sprouts resting on the corner of the roasting chicken pan. You've got to do what you've got to do when you have limited resources!

Don't forget to also drink plenty of water while you're cooking! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my Soda Stream! Good friends gave this to me as a gift and Brennan and I drink so much more water now that we have it! Put in a little lemon and it's soooo good!

 Soda Stream is a kitchen essential!

Soda Stream is a kitchen essential!

While the brussel sprouts are in the oven get started on your meat cakes! Also, while you had those carrots and celery out before for the chicken, don't forget to cut a bunch more up for the week for snacking and salads. While you're at it get a cucumber and some green onions out too and cut those up! All these cut up veggies are also yummy to snack on and might help you keep your hands off the cheese and crackers you've served to your partner as a snack! Of course if you're making the meat cakes, treat yourself to a few kalamata olives with your red wine. Oh and if you have some gluten free crackers, snack on some of these too with that hard cheddar cheese (low lactose in aged cheeses!)! Remember this is your lovely time to relax and de-stress!

When the chicken is out of the oven and cooling, throw the meat cakes in. Put the chicken on a carving board and deglaze the pan with the water, cut a couple of pieces of chicken off the bone, add some au jus, throw a salad together with those lovely mixed greens you got from the farmer's market and all those wonderful veggies you just cut up, throw some of those brussel sprouts on the plate, pour a little more wine and voila! While your chicken is cooling for de-boning, eat a little dinner!

OK, admittedly, after we're done eating, I'm a little pooped, but while Brennan (he calls himself FEMA and me "hurricane Julie") cleans up the kitchen, I "pick the chicken" and always think of Jeanette Walls, author of "The Glass Castle" and marvel at how a half starving child could "pick a chicken" for her friend's mother without snitching some bits! Seriously, I've just eaten an entire meal of roasted chicken and can't help snitching!

Time to start the stock (still using Chris Kresser's recipe). In a large stock pot, I throw the de-glazed pan juices, all the bones (cracked if I can), all the stuffing that was in the chicken and if I was lucky enough to have the giblets included in the chicken, I would have roasted those too and throw them in as well. Put the stock on flame, and friends and family you can stop reading here - then put on nothing but your apron and while the stock cooks, "relax" a bit with your "FEMA"! Remember this is some SERIOUS relaxing! We have a kid-free house so it makes it a little easier to be spontaneous! 

Since then I'm REALLY pooped, all I do when the stock is done is discard the solids, transfer to a smaller pan and put covered in the fridge so I can skim the congealed fat in the morning. 

Seriously. I am NOT a cook. I always follow recipes (although I've been making Chris' chicken and stock for so long now that I don't need to follow a recipe anymore), I have a TERRIBLE, small and quirky kitchen and well, Brennan calls me "hurricane Julie". I'm out of control. But really, if you get used to it, enjoy all the added perks like the wine, music and your partner, you can do it (no pun intended!) and enjoy it too!

The rest of the week, I've got roasted chicken, stock, meat cakes, roasted brussel sprouts and salad fixin's all ready to go! Here are a few things I make with the stock and leftover chicken:

  • All kinds of soups with the stock (chicken and gluten free noodle, veggie soups (think curry cauliflower, broccoli and borscht (I use Chris' recipe)
  • I keep some stock in mason jars in the fridge for a nice warming snack or breakfast to go (yes, just drink it out of the jar) 
  • As for the chicken! So many options and here are just a few:
    • Of course you've got lovely roasted chicken for your lunch salads
    • make curry chicken or regular chicken salad and have as snacks, with salad for lunch or toast some gluten free bread (or regular if you're not allergic) and have a yummy chicken salad sandwich
    • I treat Brennan and I to chicken enchiladas once every couple of weeks. I buy all organic, whole grain ingredients and yes, even organic tortilla chips and use a sprinkling of cheese and it's SUCH a treat! I'm mostly gluten free, but not Paleo so I do enjoy corn foods once every couple of weeks! 
    • There are all sorts of other recipes that call for cooked chicken so just find your faves and go for it!

and that my friends is The Healing Farm recommended Cook-A-Thon! Whew! Now get started and have fun!