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    Roasted chicken is an easy meal that requires very little skill and effort, and delivers delicious results. And, when you roast the chicken on top of a bed of veggies, you've got a whole chicken dinner in one pan! Does it get any easier than that?






What you need:

For the Brine:
1-5 hours
1/2 c kosher salt
water
a big bowl that can hold the whole chicken, and still fit in the fridge

For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken (remember how much it weighs before you throw away the bag!)
1/2 stick butter, softened
4 cloves peeled garlic
1/2 lemon, sliced
12 inch sprig of rosemary, cut into 3 pieces
1 shallot, cut in half or quartered
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped, or baby carrots
garlic salt
pepper
Italian seasoning (optional)
red potatoes, quartered  or sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes (optional)

For the gravy (you know you want it):
1/4 c flour
1/2 c water
ALL the drippings from the bottom of the roasting pan, without the vegetables

What you do:

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     First, always ALWAYS brine the  chicken. Unless it says that it's kosher, then the brining has been done for you. The brine ensures that you will have a moist and flavorful chicken. In other words, it's mandatory! To brine the chicken, remove the insides, and rinse the chicken under cold water. Place the chicken in your brining bowl, add 1/2 cup of kosher salt, and cover the chicken completely with cold water. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but no more than five hours.

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   When the chicken is done brining, take it out, rinse it in
cool water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Then, for a crispy and delicious skin, put it back in the fridge and let it sit for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

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       Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

     Next, make a pile of veggies in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the carrots, onions, celery, and potatoes, and make a nice delicious bed for the chicken to sit on. Place two of the rosemary sprigs on the veggies, and then put the chicken on top, breast side up. Cooking the chicken on top of the veggies enhances their flavor, and the veggies and rosemary lend their flavor to the drippings, which will result in a better gravy later.
    Cover the whole outside of the chicken in the softened butter. The top, bottom, and every little bit of it. Slather it on, and cover it completely. It's okay if it's not even, just get it all on there. This helps the skin get nice and crispy. Then, season the chicken all over with pepper, Italian seasoning, and just a little bit of garlic salt. Remember, the chicken soaked up some of the salt from the brine, so you don't want it to be too salty. 
    Next, fill the chicken with the shallot, garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary, and the lemon slices. These flavors will spread throughout the chicken while it cooks, and will also add to the gravy later.
    Now, place the chicken in the preheated oven, and let it cook at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes. This will give you a nice crispy skin. Then, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and cook it for 20 minutes per lb.
    This is really the only place that things can go wrong, because math is involved... I have made mistakes in this department before, so I made a handy little guide for our reference. 
    

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    Check the chicken thigh with a meat thermometer, making sure not to touch a bone, and when it is 165 degrees, it's done. Take it out of the oven, and place it on a plate or carving board, covered with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes while you make the gravy. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the chicken.
    Take the veggies out of the roasting pan, and cover them. Try not to eat them all in the process, and watch out for stray husbands and kids, too.



To make the gravy:

    You can make the gravy right in the metal roasting pan, or pour the drippings into a pan. Heat the drippings on the stove over medium high heat and bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup flour with 1/2 cup of water, and whisk into the pan of drippings, It won't need any more seasoning, because it will have all of the flavors of the chicken, veggies, butter, and herbs. Once the flour mixture is blended with the drippings, you've got yourself some gravy!

    How easy was that? 

    If you still need more delicious veggies, you can serve it with asparagus, or mashed cauliflower. And don't forget the bread! 

    After you carve and eat the chicken, you can make your own chicken stock for soup, or chili. I love to use mine in risotto. All you need to do is place the chicken carcass in a large pot, and cover it with water. Add a small chopped onion, a few chopped carrots, a couple of chopped stalks of celery, and a few cloves of garlic. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer, covered for a few hours. Strain out the veggies and chicken, and the liquid you have left is your stock.

Top image courtesy of Apolonia / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
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Lentils are a great source of fiber and protein, but you have to eat them to get the benefits. This lentil soup is loaded with flavor and vitamins!

Ingredients:
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1 t cumin
2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained
2 fresh tomatoes, diced, or 1 can
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 cup chopped spinach
2 T balsamic vinegar
garlic salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
    Saute onion, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium high heat until onion is translucent. Add garlic, bay leaf, basil, oregano, and cumin, and cook for another minute. Add lentils, tomatoes, chicken stock and water, and bring to a boil. 
    Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for an hour and a half. Stir in spinach and vinegar just before serving. Season with garlic salt and pepper.