Monday, January 11, 2016

The Whole Bird is a Better Buy

The boneless skinless chicken breast finds its way onto on many dinner plates each night and the lean protein source often comes at a premium. This week Wegman’s in central Pennsylvania advertise organic boneless skinless chicken breasts for $7.49 per pound, double the price of a whole organic chicken, selling for $2.99 per pound.
Taking a little extra time to cook the whole bird can be a cost and time saver. Roast chicken dinner on Monday can easily turn into chicken sandwiches on Tuesday, chicken-topped salads on Wednesday, and tasty nutritious bone broth to enjoyed between meals or make into a hearty soup. The benefit of cooking at home puts you in control, no mysterious preservatives or flavorings. If your family likes lemon and rosemary, add a handful. Someone in the house is allergic to garlic? Omit it and no one is the wiser. 
It can be a little intimidating looking at the pale, slick skin of a raw chicken for the first time but a few simple steps and minimal ingredients, transforms the barging bird into a deliciously healthful dinner option.

Simple Roast Chicken
1 4-5lb whole chicken
1 head of garlic, sliced in half
1 lemon, sliced in half
4-5 sprigs fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, thyme and/or sage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven 425°F. Remove chicken from packaging, place breast side up in a baking pan or large deep-dish pie pan. No need to rinse the chicken, rinsing the chicken only increase the spread of bacteria in the kitchen. Remove any contents of the cavity, such as giblets or neck, discard or freeze for making broth. Trim away any excess fat, usually located at the opening of the cavity. Insert lemon, garlic and herbs into the cavity. Drizzle chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast on center rack of oven for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375°F, cook additional 60 minutes until golden brown and internals temperature of the inner thigh reaches 165°F. Let rest 15 minutes before servicing.
*Tip. Once all meat is removed from carcass, place bones in a plastic bag and freeze until ready to make broth or stock.

Hearty Bone Broth
Bones from 2 roasting chickens
1 large onion, skin left on, cut into eight wedges
2 gloves garlic, smashed
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into chunks
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
6-8 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
Place chicken bones, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a large stock pot. Add water to just to cover. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 hours. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Line a fine, mesh strainer with cheesecloth and strain broth, discarding the solids. Season with salt and additional pepper if desired.

Culinary Question: What is the difference between broth and stock? Both are derived from similar ingredients, bones, meat scraps and aromatic vegetables. However, broth has the addition of seasonings, such as salt, pepper and occasionally wine. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Seven Servings for Seven Days

One cup of chopped vegetables or fruit is considered a serving and the challenge was  to incorporate five to seven serving of fruits and vegetables a day. It was doable but not without thoughtful effort. In preparation for the week, my grocery list contained more produce than average. For a household of two adults, the shopping trip was expected to yield 56 servings of fruits and vegetables. Weekly standards like broccoli and kale were purchased in addition to seasonal items such as rutabaga and cabbage.
This exercise spotlighted my imbalance of very limited fruit consumption. Typically vegetables are incorporated throughout my day and easily doubling or tripling a serving for dinner. Occasionally I was underestimating my vegetable consumptions, often overlooking the onion or carrot added to the dish as a supporting vegetable for flavor. Having dinner work double duty as leftover lunch the next day provided a quick, minimal thought, complete lunch.
Because of my food sensitivities and allergies, fruit has been limited in my diet. The past few days a conscience effort was made to incorporate more “friendly fruits,” primarily apples, clementines, and frozen mixed berries. The biggest adjustment to my normal routine was to change breakfast to a smoothie consisting of frozen mixed berries, water, and a vegan meal replacement powder recommended by my physician.
Having the goal to eat seven servings of vegetables a day is attainable but perhaps a more approachable goal is to average seven servings. Busy schedules can disrupt the best-intended food plan. Striving for an average was more empowering to make healthful choices, limit negative thoughts of failure and encourages analytic thinking about food.
Food Journal
Breakfast: 2 cups Vegetable Ratatouille (Sunday dinner leftover), 8 oz. coffee
Lunch: 3 cups assorted raw vegetables, hummus, gluten free brown rice wrap
Dinner: 2 cups mixed salad, turmeric-infused brown rice and black beans, 4 oz. grilled ground organic grass fed beef patty
Snack: Applesauce
Breakfast: 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 serving Xymogen’s Opitcleanse GHI, 8 oz. water, 8 oz. coffee
Lunch: 3 cups assorted raw vegetables, hummus, gluten free brown rice wrap
Dinner: Broiled Seasoned Haddock, sautéed arugula with caramelized onions, blistered grape tomatoes, and butter beans
Snack: clementine
Breakfast: 2 cups Vegetable Ratatouille (Sunday dinner leftover), 8 oz. coffee
Lunch: Broiled haddock, sautéed arugula with caramelized onions, blistered grape tomatoes and butter beans (Tuesday night leftovers)
Dinner: 2 cups mixed salad, grilled BBQ turkey tenderloin, grilled cauliflower steaks and red curried lentils
Snack: 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 serving Xymogen’s Opitcleanse GHI, 8 oz. water
Breakfast: 1 cup frozen mixed berries, 1 serving Xymogen’s Opitcleanse GHI, 8 oz. water
Lunch: grilled BBQ turkey tenderloin, grilled cauliflower steaks and red curried lentils (Wednesday night leftovers)
Dinner: Vegetable Soup – Diced carrots, onions, celery, tomatoes, rutabaga with shredded cabbage, and green peas simmered in a homemade organic chicken stock
Snack: ½ cups pistachios, clementine, 6 oz. applesauce

I choose MyPlate (2015) Available at: (Accessed: 5 November 2015).

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Buzz on Bees

If the bee population became extinct, there would be no more fresh yogurt with berries for breakfast, and the cost of a steak dinner would cause many to order fish. During the short and productive lifespan of a bee, the impact of a colony affects our daily choices of what and how we eat. In the average grocery store, 80% of the products sold are from bee pollinated crops (Tucker, 2014).
Instead of an unwanted nuisance, the sight of a bumblebee should bring thoughts of a bountiful harvest. The mighty bumble bee has been struggling to survive globally and recently has suffered a 20% reduction in population (Stewart, 2007). Because of the short lifespan of bees, it will take a colony three years to rebuild after exposure to pesticides, climate change, or being overtaken by varrora mites, a predatory parasite (Aubrey, 2015). Unfortunately, humans seem to be the biggest threat to colonies through destroying natural occurring habitats and increasing use of pesticides. In the 1990’s the use of neonicotinoids were introduced and now are one of the most commonly used pesticides. Limited exposure to these pesticides does not negatively affect bee health but with an estimated 80-95% corn, half of all soybean crops using neonicotinoids, the exposure magnifies to a point in which bees reproductive rates decline (Aubrey, 2015).
Picnic goers should not rejoice in the idea bee extinction but be concerned about the impact on the availability and affordability of food. In addition to honey, bees are responsible for pollenating many crops. One-third of the American diet in comprised of crops pollinated by bees, such as nuts, squash, and berries (Stewart, 2007). The U.S. Department of Agricultures estimates $30 billion worth of crops rely on bees and other pollinators (Rescuing Honey Bee Hives | Penn State University, 2015). Almonds exclusively rely on pollination by honeybees. A 1999 study from Cornell calculated the contribution of a healthy bee population to pollinate crops is comparable to $14.6 billion (Pollination facts - American Beekeeping federation, 2015).
If the bee population continues to decline, not only the availability of crops will be diminished but also the affordability of meat. The primary crop fed to live stock is alfalfa, which is a pollinated crop (Stewart, 2007). Mono-cropping is also attributed to the population demise. By framers exclusively growing non-nectar producing crops like oats, barley and wheat, no available food source is available (Top stories, no date).  Acknowledging the threat to the food supply and economy, earlier in 2015 the U.S. government strategized to developed 7 million acres of “pollinator-friendly habitat” (Aubrey, 2015).


Aubrey, A. (2015) As Beekeepers lose more Hives, time for new rules on pesticides?. Available at: (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Pollination facts - American Beekeeping federation (2015) Available at: (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Rescuing Honey Bee Hives | Penn state university (2015) Available at: (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Stewart, K. L. (2007) Eating between the lines: The supermarket shopper’s guide to the truth behind food labels. 1st edn. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Top stories (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 17 December 2015).
Tucker, J. (2014) How bees benefit other living things. Available at: (Accessed: 17 December 2015).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Elegant Dessert for Entertaining - A delicious day in the kitchen!

Wonderful class last night  ~  
Lots of Pinteret worthy desserts to share!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Hens Eat Meat - Misleading Labeling of Eggs

Upon leaving the Harlem neighborhood in New York City for the rural hills of Pennsylvania, our family tripled in size!  Courtesy of the and via the U.S Postal service, six hens were delivered to our doorstep within a few weeks. With the same ease of buying a book from Amazon we suddenly were the keepers of our very own feathered-flock. Setting up the coop involved creating a food plan for the birds. Bugs and worms were expected but soon learned some animal-protein table scraps were wonderful additions to their diet.
As the chicks grew, along with my knowledge of fowl husbandry, the commercials encouraging people to buy vegetarian chickens became bewilderment. Perhaps the biggest misnomer in marketing eggs is promoting chickens raised on a “Vegetarian” diet. Our chickens, like all chickens, are true omnivores. In addition to insect, worms and the common grub, they love meat! The backyard flock now enjoys a protein rich diet along with a mixture of commercially purchased grains.

In most grocery stores, cartons are no longer just labeled “eggs,” instead consumers must be educated marketing sleuths to determine the good eggs. Caged-Free or Free-Range eggs, are produced by hens not confined to individual battery cages. This denotation does not require hens to have outdoor access. This practice receives some criticism because there is no a space allocation per hen and most coops are very densely packed, allowing diseases to easily spread. Eggs labeled “Raised without Antibiotics” indicate that any hens that received antibiotics were removed from the egg-producing flock. Optimal conditions for the hen and egg production are classified as Grass Range or Pastured Hens. These hens have full access to the outdoors and can forge for proteins. Typically these eggs are produced from small farm operations (Stewart, 2007).   
For the past two years, our flock has continued to thrive and has brought great life and joy to our backyard. The charismatic, pasture-raised, omnivore hens even found their way into a few of our wedding pictures this past August. 


Stewart, K. L. (2007) Eating between the lines: The supermarket shopper’s guide to the truth behind food labels. 1st edn. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November & December Schedule Announced!

Looking to get a head start on Thanksgiving or something fun to do on a Friday night? Registration is now open for November & December classes. 
All equipment is provided and a good appetite is the only prerequisite!

Classes listed below will be held at the 
DuBois Senior & Community Center
(120 West Park Avenue, DuBois, PA 15801)
To reserve your spot email CookingClassChef [at] or call (814) 375-2750

Pie Perfection
Thursday, November 19, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, Register by 11/17
Cost: $45 (cash or check)

 ‘Tis the season…for Pie!   Understanding what makes a pie crust flaky and tender can be the difference between an amazing crust and a frustrating kitchen disaster. This class will focus on the tips and techniques for creating the perfect pie crust, while getting knuckle-deep in butter. Menu Includes: Basic Butter Pie Crust, Stone Fruit Galette, Seasonal Fruit, & Custard Pies.

Winter Soups & Hearty Stews
Friday, December 4, 6:00pm-8:00pm, Register by 12/2
Cost: $45

Delicious one-pot wonders! Discover the secrets to creating warm healthful ladles of goodness. Starting with basic stock recipes this class will create soups with big flavor. Crockpot shortcuts included! MenuIncludes: White Bean, Kale & Sausage Soup, Classic French Bouillabaisse, Creamy Butternut &Sage Soup, and Moroccan Chickpea Stew

Elegant Desserts for Entertaining
Sunday, December 13, 1:00pm-4:00pm, Register by 12/10
Cost $50

Impress your guests with elegant, sophisticated and simple desserts. No special equipment needed to create delicious mouthwatering, Pinterest-worthy desserts. Menu Includes: Apple Rose & Bavarian Cream Fruit Tartlets, Winter Fruit Pavlova, Decorative Cakes & Petit Fours.

Pasta, Sauce & Cheese – A Taste of Italy
Thursday, December 17, 6:00pm-8:30pm, Register by 12/14
Cost $50

Learn the technique of making fresh pasta, a grandmother approved red sauce and the art of pulling fresh mozzarella. Menu items include: Fresh Semolina Pasta, 30 Minute Red Sauce, Weeknight Alfredo & Panzanella Salad with Fresh Pulled Mozzarella.

Must be at least 16 years of age. All equipment provided.

To reserve your spot email CookingClassChef [at] or call (814) 375-2750

Classes listed above will be held at the DuBois Senior & Community Center
(120 West Park Avenue, DuBois, PA 15801)

*Need a unique idea for a birthday, bachelorette, or book club? Or have an idea for a class? Inquire about hosting an in-home workshop. Prices will be based on the number of guests and menu items.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Is there such thing a hormone free milk?

Milk production is a big business and like most business, profit driven. Currently, the dairy industry is facing a marketing controversy over the use of artificial bovine growth hormone. “Hormone free” is a term many consumers view positively but any animal protein or by-product contains some amount of hormones. Artificial bovine growth hormone, also known as rGHB, is given to cattle to increase milk production. The FDA has stated, there is “no significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormone,” however there have been studies published that raises concerns about the ingestion of insulin-like growth factor (Stewart, 2007).
Insulin-growth factor, also known as IGF-1, survives pasteurization and digestion by connecting with casein, and enters the bloodstream (Stewart, 2007). IGF-1 is present in tumor formation, accelerates cell growth and is considered anti-apoptotic because it prevents cancer cells from dying (Keon, 2010). Particular concern is in the development of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer (Stewart, 2007). Non-fat and whole milk have shown to increase IGF-1 levels. In teenage women, consuming one pint of milk can raise IGF-1 levels by 10%. Despite the connection some research has shown, the USDA has yet to join countries like Japan, Canada and New Zealand to ban the use of rGHB (Keon, 2010).

Keon, J. (2010) Whitewash: The disturbing truth about cow’s milk and your health. United States: New Society Publishers.
Stewart, K. L. (2007) Eating between the lines: The supermarket shopper’s guide to the truth behind food labels. 1st edn. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Making change in the way civilization eats

Changing the way a civilization eats is a monumental undertaking that begins long before dinnertime.  For the Western diet to shift, the financial and agriculture systems will need to be reorganized but change can happen from the bottom up. Organic food is a great example of how spending habits create change and the markets changing to meet the consumer’s demand.
Reeducating consumers about food, nutrition and healthcare could be the first step in the shift. Many Americans many find it difficult to accept the lessons of the food pyramid may be the cause of chronic conditions they are managing today. Unfortunately becoming ill or unhealthy is often the reason individuals begin seeking nutritional education. The first resource many patients turn to is their primary care physicians. Physicians are highly trained in many fields but not in nutrition. Medical schools in the United States on average only require 25 hours of nutritional education. Only 5 of those hours occurring during the clinical years, the rest included during the basic science coursework prior (Adams et al., 2013). For a society facing rising obesity and diabetes rates, the focus seems to be misdirected to teaching physicians how to manage disease rather than prevent.  If the individuals and medical professional acknowledge the poor and lack of correct information available, an opportunity arises for an educated nutrition professional to step in. 

Adams, K. M., Lindell, K. C., Kohlmeier, M. and Zeisel, S. H. (2013) ‘Status of nutrition education in medical schools2,3’, 83(4).

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What Are Your Food Rules?

Food is one of my favorite topics. It is a vast subject that can be studied a lifetime and still leave much unknown. Typically my day is food focused, creating, educating and studying the subject but the task of eating can get pushed down on the priority list. As my food knowledge increases along with learning how my body responds to certain foods I have developed a set of personal guidelines or rules for eating.
Rule #1 Control when you can control: When shopping and preparing food at home my goal is to purchase organic meats and vegetables.  Meals are dairy, gluten, egg and soy free, and prepared using whole foods in a variety of food combinations. Processed foods are kept to a minimum and thought of as an occasional treat, not a daily staple. The more stringent way of eating at home is to make up for the times when I am unable to be in control. If the majority of meals are eaten at home using the most healthful ingredients available, I’m happy to accept dinner invitations and my body can recover when traces of dairy remain after the waiter removes the cheese from the salad once realizing the mistake
Rule #2: Give up the guilt! Socializing over food can be a wonderful experience and provide nourishment for both the body and soul. Most celebrations include some sort of social food norm and even Michael Pollan advocates people should not eat alone (Pollan, 2009). We should not be judged for making a choice that is best for us at that moment and should not pass judgment on others, the latter sometimes being the more difficult. It seems commonplace for people, often women, to explain or apologize for their food choices. The last few times I have dined out in a group, one guest usually feels the need to justify or explain his or her order.
“I usually don’t eat bread, but this is so fresh.”
“I’m going to have the pasta, and then go straight to gym, and skip dinner.”
“How about dessert? I’ve had a rough day.”
“Hamburger please, but without the bun. I’m gluten free and feel amazing. Everyone should be gluten free. Gluten in evil.”
Ask any parent of a two-year-old who has been held in a high chair standoff at dinner time, one of the first things children learn to control is food. What someone puts into his or her body is a very personal choice and if you make the best choice for you at that moment there is nothing to apologize for.
Rule #3 No Substitutions: After extensive work with major food companies I have noticed first hand when the fat comes out, something else must go in. In line with Michael Polland’s food philosophy about no food is off limits, if made from scratch, I believe in eating real food (Pollan, 2009). Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise lists the first ingredients as soybean oil, water, and whole eggs, all standard in a mayonnaise recipe. Hellmann’s Low Fat Mayonnaise Dressing’s primary ingredients are water, modified cornstarch and eggs. In order to reduce the fat per serving, the fat has been replaced with starch. Such changes to the “recipe” or formula create a product that can no longer be legally labeled as “mayonnaise” but must be called “mayonnaise dressing” (Products, no date). If looking to add the richness, mouthfeel and flavor mayonnaise provides, I prefer to spend a few minutes creating the real thing then spread a mayonnaise flavored starch compound on my sandwich.
Rule #4 No Soda: Growing up my mother often said, “If you don’t want water, then you are not really thirsty.” It’s often the easiest and most affordable option, which is hard to argue. The soda companies have yet to persuade me that water isn’t a better option.

Pollan, M. (2009) In Defense Of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. New York: Penguin Books.

Products (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 8 October 2015).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Food Distressed in a Food Desert

There are several large supermarkets and a Walmart that continues to gain momentum as the largest grocer in our small town, DuBois, Pennsylvania. Without hesitation, I would describe our community as being food distressed but was surprised to learn the United States Department of Agriculture classified the area as “food desert” (Ploeg and Breneman, 2015).
For a rural community of 8,000 residences there are 10 nationally recognized fast food franchises within two square miles but the classification of a food desert is based on meeting the government’s definition of low income and low access to food. The USDA classifies any region with a median household income of 80% or less than the state’s median household income (Ploeg and Breneman, 2015). The medium income for the area from 2009 – 2013 was $34,340, which is 65% percent of the state-wide median income $52,548 (Median household income (in 2013 dollars), 2009-2013, no date). Although the supermarkets are in close proximity to each other, more than 33% percent of residences live 10 or more miles away from the markets, therefore being categorized as a region with low access (Ploeg and Breneman, 2015).

Median household income (in 2013 dollars), 2009-2013 (no date) Available at:,4220136,42 (Accessed: 24 September 2015).
Ploeg, M. V. and Breneman, V. (2015) USDA Economic Research Service - Go to the Atlas. Available at: (Accessed: 24 September 2015).

Friday, September 18, 2015

What is raw milk?

In effort to remove any harmful substances, milk goes through pasteurization. A process in which it is heated to 61° F for a minimum of 15 seconds, then quickly cooled in the most frequently used process called High Temperature Short Time pasteurization (Pasteurization | international dairy foods association, 2013). The attempted of making milk “safe” according to FDA standards may also be removing some of its most healthy components, such as beneficial micro flora (Got Raw Milk?, no date).  
Raw milk does not go through the pasteurization process and therefore not exposed to high temperatures, allowing the enzymes that aid in digestion to remain active until consumption. It also becomes a source for all eight essential amino acids (Health benefits of raw milk, no date). Extremely heat sensitive immunoglobulins or complex antibodies remain in unpasteurized milk (A brief overview of the health benefits of raw milk, no date). Unlike pasteurized milk with a finite shelf life, as raw milk ages its sweetness diminishes because the active probiotics and enzymes begin to ferment and multiply, creating an even more health food (A brief overview of the health benefits of raw milk, no date).
The benefits of illegal and banned substances are often few and minimal, however raw milk may be the exception.  If cows are organically raised and pastured fed the risk of contracting harmful pathogens from raw milk is very small. Sourcing milk from grassed fed cows also increases levels of conjugated linoleic acid (A brief overview of the health benefits of raw milk, no date). Because grass fed cows are typically produces from smaller independent farms, choosing to purchase raw milk provides a direct economic impact for local farmers.


A brief overview of the health benefits of raw milk (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 24 December 2015).
Got raw milk? (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 24 December 2015).
Health benefits of raw milk (no date) Available at: (Accessed: 24 December 2015).
Pasteurization | international dairy foods association (2013) Available at: (Accessed: 26 December 2015).

Friday, May 1, 2015

*New Class* Intro to Gluten Free Baking

Introduction to Gluten Free Baking 

Sunday, May, 17, 2015

Learn how to recreate some classic favorites and add new recipes to your gluten-free baking repertoire. The 3-hour class will focus on using alternative flour blends, baking techniques and easy substitutions for gluten free success. Menu includes: satisfying breads, decadent flourless cake, buttery shortbread & dark-chocolate peppe
rmint holiday cake. 

*Please note: this class will use gluten-free ingredients but will not be held in a designated gluten free facility. Some recipes may contain: soy, dairy, chocolate, eggs, nut and/or peanuts.

To reserve your spot email CookingClassChef [at] or call (814) 375-2750

Class will be held at the DuBois Senior & Community Center (120 West Park Avenue, DuBois, PA 15801)

*All equipment will be provided. Must be at least 16 years old.*