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Herb Roasted Chicken and Red Potatoes

Baked Chickens used to scare me. They seemed complicated, messy, time consuming and well…impossible. Going to the grocery store deli and picking up a pre-roasted chicken seemed so much easier, but this was until I realized how easy chicken was to make. Sure, I’ll admit when I need dinner QUICK I sometimes will still pick up that store chicken that’s already made, a bag of salad and call it good…but if you really want to impress someone and have time to wait for it to bake…don’t be scared.

I get my whole chicken when they are on sale. As a rule I try not to pay more for my chicken then I could buy the pre-cooked version. There’s no logical reason to this, except I like to feel like I’m getting a good deal when I have to cook the darn thing. I would say on average I pay about $4 for a whole chicken. They also freeze and de-thaw well, so there’s often one or two in my freezer for later use. So now you see how I pick my chicken…..on sale! For a good deal on organic or free range chickens I get them at Trader Joe’s…but maybe that’s another post.

So, you have a chicken in your cart…what other things do you need to make a FANTASTIC chicken? Well, I mix it up a bit with what I have on hand, but tonight I’m going to just give you the version of what I made:

Herb Roasted Chicken

1 Whole Chicken

2 Small Lemons

1 Package of Poultry Blend Fresh Herbs (in your produce section near all the other fresh herbs) (it’s a blend of Rosemary, Thyme and Sage I think)

2 Tablespoons Butter

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic (optional)

Salt and Pepper

Red Potatoes

Preheat your oven to 375

This is a super informal Recipe at the moment, so roll with me here! So you have a chicken…please treat it properly and take it out of it’s bag. Rinse it with cold water (inside and out) and remove the neck and giblets from the inside cavity. Let it drip dry and place it either in a roasting pan or whatever baking dish you have.

On the side, melt your 2 tablespoons of butter in the microwave for about 20 seconds. Proceed to chop your fresh poultry herbs. Chop them as fine or as course as you want. I try to peel the little leave from the giant stems before I chop because Rosemary and Thyme have woody stems that you end up picking off your food. (NOTE: Those stems can be shoved up the cavity of your chicken when your done with them and when the chicken cooks it will give it a nice aromatic flavor from the inside. ) So chop chop chop your herbs up and throw them in with your butter. (You can use a combination of dry rosemary, thyme, and sage if you need to, but it’s not quite as impressive) Now, you need to zest your lemons…I used what I proclaim as the best lemons on earth…the Meyer Lemon. They are more orange colored than a normal lemon and have a softer peel. They zest better and they are juicier. Yet, I’ve been known to just use any lemon I can find. So, hopefully you have a zester…if not the REALLY fine part of your cheese grater sort of works. You just want the colored part of the lemon…so zest away. I used two small lemons but one big one would work. Put that zest in your herb, butter and olive oil mixture. Then go ahead and sqeeze the juice from those lemons and add that. Since I like to shove things in the cavity of my chicken….DON’T THROW AWAY those lemon peels…shove them in with the herb stems inside your chicken…extra flavor) At this point you may or may not want to chop or pulverize some garlic (I didn’t feel like it tonight) but you can add that to your mix as well…Garlic is good for you and yummy.  Mix all those wonderful things together and you have a gooey green mess that you are going to shmere all over your chicken. Don’t be shy, let the herbs just sit in chunks on top. You can even open up some of the skin and put some of the mixture under the skin. Add a nice amount of Kosher Salt and Fresh Pepper on top. (NOTE: You can set aside a tablespoon of this mixture to put over your potatoes….I can’t do that or my kid won’t eat the potatoes.)

I do my potatoes one of two ways (and tonight sort of a combination of both)

ONE: I buy those little tiny potatoes, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper and some of the herbs and put them at the bottom of the dish to roast with the chicken.

TWO: I buy or have on hand larger potatoes which I chop in big chunks….drizzle the olive oil over and salt and pepper…place in the bottom of the pan to roast.

Heck you can even do some of these ideas (which I have been known to do) Omit the potatoes in the roast and just boil  them for mashed potatoes, Add a course chopped onion and those mini carrots with your potatoes and roast them together (LOVE Roasted Carrots) You can even Drizzle on some Balsamic Vinegar when you do the whole toss them in olive oil thing), Oh how the options are ENDLESS.

Your chicken will cook in about an hour and a half or so. You want it to reach and internal temperature of about 165ºF…as it comes out of the oven and rests for a bit before you cut it…it will continue to cook. One site told me to cook it to 180 and they are NUTS.

Your potatoes should be fork tender, and if not, set your cooked chicken aside and throw those potatoes back in for a bit.

I swear it’s easier than I make it sound. You will soon be a pro at mixing your own chicken Shmere….get creative……GO!


Psssst…..want to know another secret or two? This chicken will make more than one meal for my family. When you’ve had your “Roast Chicken Dinner” and maybe even used some leftover chicken in a sandwich, salad, enchiladas, you name it ….throw that whole chicken in to a big old pot of boiling water and break it down for Chicken Noodle Soup, or if your not in the mood for picking off the extra meat from the bones for the soup….throw that out and you have a nice chicken stock to put in the freezer for next time. In total I can get three meals out of a baked chicken!


Skinny and Healthier Spinach Artichoke Dip

There are some things that get consumed before I am able to take photos. This dip was one of them. I also wasn’t sure if it was going to turn out or not. I really just made up a recipe on the fly because all the other artichoke dips for Super Bowl were supper oily and didn’t seem appealing to me. I’m glad I made the changes I did and this dip turned out great. It was even good cold the next day. So this is my skinny Artichoke Spinach Dip:

Healthier Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 (14 ounce) can of Artichoke Hearts Drained

1 (2.25 ounce) can of sliced olives

1 Small Yellow Onion course

1 Brick of Frozen Spinach (thawed, drained and squeezed)

1/4 Cup Parmesan or Peccorino Romano cheese

1 Cup of Skim Mozzarella Cheese Shredded

1 Egg

1/2 Block (4 ounces) of 1/3 fat cream cheese

Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in your Food Processor (I have a Cuisinart) and pulse until all the ingredients are combined but still have some texture.

Pour in to a greased baking dish, bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until it’s all warm bubbly and melty.


When I find a website or something that does it, I will get the nutritional facts from this recipe. Since I’m only assuming it’s healthier than the ones with mayonnaise, cheese and so on and so forth.



DIY Valentines Cards and Photography Talk

We looked all over our local stores just to find the most crappy Valentines cards on earth. I debated MAKING them by stamping on blank cards, but my five year old only made it through one card before she was “done” and there are 20 kids in her class. Not really wanting to make 20 Valentine cards on my own (or with a little help from her), I decided to work my  Photo Shop CS5 magic and design her some snazzy little Wallet size Valentine’s Day Cards. I hope they will be a big hit with the kids and parents, and I might even put my contact info on the back letting them know I do affordable custom birthday invites etc.

Kindgergarten Valentine Cards

I really feel that they are original, fun, and I bet no one else will have anything remotely close to them. I’ve been slacking on the blogging, editing and everything else, so this actually gave me a good excuse to get in and design something and immediately send it to the printer so they will arrive fed ex on Monday. I admit my procrastination, there’s been a lot going on with my health and this pregnancy, but I’m trying to start to push myself a little at a time. Baby steps is how you get somewhere big. We won’t even discuss how many YEARS back of my own photos that I should likely edit.

I decided to take a year off of photography and re launch my business the proper way in January 2013.  I will be holding a contest (if this blog gets big enough for such things) to help me find the perfect name for my business. In the mean time with the website, blog and even I think I’ll take down my Facebook business page all down for a year of maintenance, I really feel that I might be able to make an awesome comeback. To keep in touch you need to read this blog, and I think I will make an artistically domestic Facebook page that you can all switch over to when Jen Van Riper Photography goes away for a bit. This will be a much more rounded blog about…well….a little bit of everything. I even want to pursue some fine art projects this year…so you’ll see those here as well. So, the changes will be awesome.

I want to have some super surprises geared towards other photographers within the year…maybe some actions and some templates that are fit to spec with Millers Lab. I will continue to do commercial shoots for the experience. I will also be taking a select amount of people to do test shots for my line of actions and templates…so I’ll still be shooting and editing the whole time. Wait…this isn’t a “break” after all.

I feel confident in my work now that I can take some time off, and re-launch with a bang. I know where my strengths and weaknesses lie, and I want to focus just on my strengths. Older babies, Children, Teens, High School Seniors, Families and Head shots for commercial use. My prices will finally be set in stone when I relaunch, because I honestly believe you get what you pay for. Pay $50 for photos…you get crap…pay $200-$300 and you have your photographer at their best, giving you those spectacular images you have come to expect. I spend a lot of time in post production making your photos special. The customers that aren’t looking for that and would prefer to have cheaper photos are welcome to go somewhere else. It’s OK with me. I think also by keeping my prices a little higher I can have an allowance to help you design and stylize your photos. My best sessions have been when I have styled them to fit the customers needs and wants. I’ve made tutus, purchased flower head bands for customers, knit certain hats…but it does take some extra funds to do that.

Anyway, Happy EARLY Valentines day. This blog is clearly not just a cooking blog, it’s about my domestic life as a mom, wife, cook, artist, photographer and so much more. I hope you will enjoy reading it.


Here are some pictures from the summer that I did for a commercial crochet pattern designer in town. It turns out they became Claire’s yearly portraits. So it was a double bonus. I hope to keep doing some commercial work with knitters and crocheters in the future. I have fun doing something a little different than what I normally shoot.

In Search of the Holy Grail of Banana Bread….

I’ve been trying different recipes for banana bread for as long as I can remember. I have one that’s super easy, but I must admit it’s not my “favorite”. While browsing the web the other night I found what someone explained as their favorite banana bread that their mom used to make. I figured…sure, why not try it.

I have to admit that this recipe was VERY moist and cake like. I think the combo with the oil and how much sugar was in it…really made it that way. I made a double batch because I had some bananas in the freezer that I could use. Please take note that when your bananas go bad and you don’t have time to bake…don’t throw them out. Peel them and throw them in a freezer zip lock in the freezer…they thaw right out for banana bread when you have time. Anyway, I made a double batch, so two of the four loaves got chocolate chips. Though my five year old thought it was the best thing in the world…I found the recipe too sweet to be adding chocolate chips. Another slight change I made, is that I used half plain flour and half whole wheat. I like to sneak in something healthy when I can. I might cut back the white sugar if I make it again and try some brown sugar for the richness. The recipe says you could use evaporated milk instead of butter milk, but I had buttermilk on hand and prefer it anyway. I think this was one of the better banana breads I’ve tried in a while…but it’s for sure not healthy at ALL.

Banana Bread Trial January 2012


3 Ripe Bananas Mashed

2/3 Cup Vegetable Oil

1 2/3 Cup Sugar

2/3 Cup Buttermilk

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Eggs

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder

1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

2/3 Cup Chopped Nuts (Optional)

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash Bananas with a fork and set aside. Mix Oil, Sugar, Buttermilk, Vanilla and eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix well until it’s all incorporated. Add in the mashed bananas and mix again. In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients together well. Slowly add flour mixture to your wet ingredients until they are fully combined.

Grease two 9×9 loaf pans and evenly distribute the batter in to them. Bake for 40-45 minutes at 350 until a toothpick or knife comes out clean from the center. Let cool for a few min, then remove from the pans when they are still warm and place on cooling racks. Wrap in plastic, or put in plastic zip locks to hold in the moisture.

Well come on in and have a cup of tea!

This is not by an means my first blog, it’s just my other one got a bit too personal and I didn’t like it open to the public. To solve that problem I made a new blog to post my life happenings as an artist, photographer, mom, wife…and whatever else seems to fall on my plate. I’m a busy girl and just like anyone else have my good and bad days. I hope to share recipes, Art, decorating ideas, parenting novelties and so much more. So grab some coffee or tea and join me on my little journey. Everything must have a beginning and you are reading it!