The Isle of Family Dinners

I’ve always been an advocate of the sit-down family-style dinner.

I grew up the oldest grandchild one side of the family and as a little kid I remember how I loved going to visit my grandparents for dinner. Back then, there were just a few grandkids in the family and because I was the oldest and able to feed myself, I was granted a spot at the dining room table with all the grown ups. I would quietly eat my dinner and listen to the conversations around me. I remember hearing about what was new at my Papa’s job. I heard about the courses my uncle was planning to take next in college. I heard about how poor Mr. So-N-So’s arthritis was acting up again and how the Italian lady next door had given my Nan some beautiful tomatoes from their massive garden. It wasn’t very philosophical conversation, but I got the feeling that this time spent at the table, breaking bread, wasn’t about debating who was gonna be the next Prime Minister. I remember plenty of laughter and good food. Even at a tender age, I found this simple event to be very comforting. The older I got, the more I was encouraged to participate, so that by the time I had a family of my own, I felt so strongly about dining together, I was practically militant about sitting down to eat as a family.
Nowadays, I have a growing family of my own. My two sons are now busy teenagers with homework part time jobs and have a few days at Mom’s/ a few days at Dad’s kind of schedule. My partner works late several nights a week and my step son and daughter are mostly with us alternate weekends. Sitting down to dinner as a family can’t always happen, so I had to relax my “everyone-dining-at-the-table-together” rule. I’ve even learned to embrace the TV-Dinner. : )
What I find is that more often than naught, on those alternate Fridays, when my gang is all together, we’ll end up hovering around the busy island in my not-so-eat-in kitchen, munching at whatever happens to be dinner, while holding our plates. This is our catch up time. We sit if there’s room and we stand if not. We eat, we talk and we laugh a lot.
We still have plenty of sit down meals. My recent favourite is a new twist on and old standard.
“Stuffed Roast Chicken”, inspired by the tv show “Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course”.
I absolutely adore cooking shows and I think Gordon Ramsay is brilliant, especially when he’s not cussing out a bunch of rookie chefs. When this aired in the UK last year, I had a pal record and send me every episode. I re-watch them often to get inspiration.

Now you can see episodes and register to get selected recipes from the show here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/gordon-ramsays-ultimate-cookery-course/4od
(While researching that link, I also came across this link: http://www.bookdepository.com and placed an order for the cookbook based on the show. I can’t wait for it to arrive!!)

This chicken is tender, juicy and deliciously flavoured with lemon and paprika. The bird steams in white wine and gives you an abundance of pan juices at the end to drizzle over the finished dish. But the best part is the stuffing. Since going gluten free I’m always interested in finding recipes that don’t rely on bread as a main ingredient for stuffing. This one uses Spanish Chorizo and Cannellini beans. It’s amazing.
I could eat the stuffing all by itself (and I have!). One of these days I will make it just to stuff into red bell peppers and roast- I’ll be sure to post about it!
Until then, here’s my interpretation of the recipe.

Chorizo and Cannellini Stuffed Roast Chicken

For the Stuffing:
1 cup Spanish Chorizo, peeled, diced. (about 2 sausages)
1 cup sweet onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Thyme leaves
1- 540mL/19 oz can Cannellini beans (White Kidney Beans)
½ cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes, not drained, roughly chopped
1 large lemon
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the Chicken:
1 8-10lb (3.5-4.5kg) roasting chicken
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 2/3cups (400mL) white wine
1 2/3cups (400mL) chicken stock
bunch of fresh Thyme sprigs
2 or 3 more cloves of garlic, unpeeled
Preheat oven to 350°F or 180°C

To prepare the stuffing:
In pan over, medium high heat, cook Chorizo, allowing the fat to render.
Add the onions to the pan and cook, letting the juices from the pan stain the onions.
When onions begin to soften, stir in the garlic. Cook for a minute then add the beans with their juices.
Add the Thyme by holding a sprig over the pan and pulling off some of the leaves. Add the sun dried tomatoes and stir into the mixture, season with salt & pepper. Remove from heat, set aside.
To prepare the chicken:
Rinse chicken if needed and pat dry with paper towel. Season the inside with salt & pepper.
Stuff the cavity with the sausage bean mixture, pushing the stuffing in to eliminate air pockets.
Once the cavity is almost full, take the lemon and place it at the opening, pulling the parson’s nose up and the skin from the breast down to cover the lemon.
Drizzle olive oil over the bird, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with the smoked paprika. Gently massage this all over the skin of the bird.

In a roasting pan, combine the wine and stock. Place the chicken in the pan. Place remaining Thyme sprigs generously around the bird. Drop the unpeeled garlic into the pan and cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid or foil wrap. Place the roaster in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid/foil, return to oven for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 180°F or 82°C. Remove chicken from the pan and let rest. Remove the Thyme sprigs for the pan, discard. Skim off the fat from the pan juices and discard. Pierce the lemon and squeeze the juices into the pan. Squeeze the garlic cloves, allowing the roasted garlic to fall into the pan. Whisk the pan juices to combine. Strain if you feel it’s needed…I never have, but I’m big on “rustic” food.
Remove stuffing from the chicken and drizzle with pan juices. Carve the bird and drizzle with more juices. Serve any remaining juice on the side.
Matched with a salad like spinach or other leafy green, this meal is delish!
Makes enough for 6-8 people.

The Beginning, Part 3

This is the last of my 3 part story of how I got here. If you have read the previous two chapters, thanks for coming back.

Breathing is even better when you don’t have strange blobs growing in your nose.
Gross eh? Yep, but it’s true.

So…why am I still on a quest? My polyps came back! Three months after my first surgery, I was back on prednisone. I’ve been through several prescriptions to reduce the size of the polyps. Sometimes, it helps but mostly it just slows them down. In May of 2011 I had a second surgery to remove more polyps. Six weeks later, they were back again.  Something had to change.

Now by the time I had my second surgery, I was in a relationship with a wonderful man, who introduced me to a friend who is a nutritionist, specializing in people dealing with food allergies and intolerances. She suggested my sinus issues may be food related. After some education and some convincing, I went gluten and dairy free. I figured I had nothing to loose except my sanity.  Although, some say I never had any to begin with. ; )

At first I thought, this won’t be so bad…I’ll just switch over to gluten free bread and use margarine and I’ll be good…..Man was I wrong! Did you know that gluten and dairy are in practically everything? Well, maybe not everything. If it’s a processed, pre-packaged, ready made food, chances are it’s full of gluten or dairy, or both.

I had already been in consultation with a friend who is also a nutritionist and I did get some advice on what not to eat as well as a few brand names to look for in the grocery store.  However, I’d always loved flipping though my collection of cookbooks and cooking magazines for inspiration, so off I went to Chapters.

The first book that gave me hope of being a happy eater once again was “Cooking for Isaiah”, by Silvana Nardone.  All the recipes in the book looked everyday easy, made my mouth water and best of all each recipe was completely gluten and dairy free. I thought, well if this is what I have to eat, I can do this!

Since then, I’ve been testing and converting of my own recipes along with the several books, blogs, and other resources, full of gluten and dairy free recipes I’ve found to inspire me in the kitchen.

My nose is still a little stuffy, but much, much better these days. I’m still battling polyps and searching for the piece in my puzzle that will keep them from returning. But my asthma is more manageable and I’m much less congested. : )

Now it’s my turn to help….If any of this sounds familiar to you, I’d love to hear from you.

In the up coming posts I’ll be sharing info about my attempts at living a  balanced, healthy, gluten and dairy free lifestyle.