Brrr….Bring on the Broth!!

It’s been a beautiful fall season and I’ve really been enjoying the crisp air and crisp apples.  But before we know it, the heat will be on and our bodies will be seeking warm, hearty food.  Soup is a classic winter food and I’ve talked before about how easy it really is to make your own.  No need for that canned stuff!

But there is one secret that makes good homemade soup into great homemade soup…homemade broth, or stock, or best of all, bone broth.  I have to admit I didn’t know the difference between the three of these until now, but here it is. They all start out with the same base; vegetables, herbs, and some sort of animal carcass.  Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones, and simmered for a short period of time, usually a couple of hours.  Stock is made with only animal bones that are usually roasted first for extra flavor. Stock is typically cooked for a medium amount of time, 3-4 hours.  Bone broth is also made with only bones, but is cooked for very long periods of time, sometimes 24 hours or more.  This long cooking time helps to extract as many nutrients as possible from the bones.  Bone broth can be made from the bones of chicken, beef, fish, or other animals.

In my opinion, bone broth is where it’s at, because it contains so many amazing nutrients while imparting wonderful flavor to any dish you use it in.  Bone broth is rich in amino acids, which help support the body’s detoxification process and healthy digestion.  Bone broth is also high in collagen, which helps with digestion as well as healthy skin.  There are also components in chicken stock that help to lessen the effects of colds and flu.  So your grandma was on to something!

Bone broths are less expensive than their store-bought counterparts, are more flavorful, and do not contain any additives or other weird ingredients.  If you don’t make enough of your own bones you can always ask a butcher or one of the meat producers at your farmers market for bones, which they would probably give you or sell you at very low price.

Here’s how I make my chicken stock (I guess it’s not quite bone broth because I usually cook it for 10ish hours):

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Save the bones, skin, and drippings from roasted bone-in chicken pieces or whole chickens in the freezer.  When you have enough (approximately 2-3 chickens worth of carcasses) put them in a large deep pot with a few stalks of celery, a few carrots, a large onion, whatever other vegetable scraps strike your fancy (just avoid ones that could impart a bitter flavor like broccoli or cauliflower) and a few cloves of garlic, all roughly chopped.  Alternatively, you could use vegetables scraps, such as carrot and celery tops, and onion and garlic skins.

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Add about ½ bunch of parsley or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand, about 10-20 whole peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, whatever dried herbs you like, and enough filtered water to cover everything well.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and let the whole pot sit for about 30 minutes before turning on the flame.  The vinegar helps to draw more nutrients out of the bones before cooking.

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Turn the stove on high and bring the stock to a boil.  Skim off any scum that comes to the top, cover, lower the heat, and simmer all day, or up to 24 hours or more.  When mine is done I strain the solids through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth.  You could just use a colander for this, but I find that if I don’t strain it well there is grittiness at the bottom of the stock that I really dislike.

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I then either use it immediately or freeze it in containers for later use.  One thing I love to do is freeze my stock in ice cube trays so that I can just use a little for sautéing or sauces when I need to.

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Once the stock is chilled, the fat will rise to the top and it can be scooped out if you like.  Traditional foodies believe you should leave it in or use it to cook other dishes with.  I usually scoop some and leave some.  It should also be noted that the sign of a good chicken stock is that it gets gelatinous when chilled.  I used to be put off by this, but recently learned that this means that there is lots of gelatin from the bones along with other goodness in my stock.  Lastly, I want to mention that the more “parts” you use for your chicken stock the better.  Many people use the gizzards as well as chicken feet, which are very high in gelatin.  I just haven’t been able to go there just yet!

I hope that this inspires you to make some of your own broth, stock or bone broth, and that it keeps you warm and healthy through the winter!

Here is my recipe for this week, mmm, mmm. Simple and packed with flavor.  And you could use your homemade veg or chicken broth!

CARROT GINGER TOFU SOUP

(gluten free, dairy free, grain free)

Adapted from the Vitamix Whole Food Recipes Cookbook

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 medium carrots, diced*

¼ c onion, diced*

4 garlic cloves, minced*

1 Tbsp fresh ginger root, minced

½ tsp salt

pinch of white pepper

1/3 c silken tofu*

2 cups low sodium (or homemade!) vegetable or chicken broth

Directions

Sauté carrot, onion, garlic, and ginger in oil until onion is clear and carrots are very tender.  Add salt and pepper.  Place carrot mixture in a blender or food processor with tofu and broth and puree to desired consistency.  Return to pot and heat through.

*Available NOW at the market

Nutrition Facts (per 1 cup): Calories 107; Total Fat 6g; Saturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 348mg; Total Carbohydrate 8g; Dietary Fiber 2g; Sugars 3g; Protein 4g

Mindful Meals

My market post for this week…

It’s 6:30, you just got home from work, you’re starving, and your family is too.  You throw together whatever you can find in the fridge and call it dinner.  You and the family sit down to eat at 7:00, you wolf down your food and are out the door to a meeting at 7:10.  Sound familiar?

This is a common occurrence in many homes today.  We feel pressure from many sides, and are often rushing around trying to get it all done.  Unfortunately this also includes cooking and eating.  We stuff down our food without thinking, or while watching TV or even while working.  This type of “mindless” eating can lead to overeating or eating the wrong foods.

All the while, most of us are trying to lose a few pounds too, so we often go between starving and restricting our eating to overeating or bingeing.  It’s been shown that most of the time traditional diets do not work, and the pounds shed during times of restriction are gained back quickly after one goes back to their regular diet.  Often a few extra pounds are gained back too, because restricting intake causes the metabolism to slow down.

Enter “mindful eating”, a new perspective on diet and eating.  The principles of mindful eating stem from Buddhist teachings and involve eating almost as a meditation, paying close attention to all the properties of each bite of food taken.

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This of course involves turning off the TV, closing the computer, sitting down, and eating slowly.  The goal is to savor the taste, texture, and temperature of each food physically, while also taking notice of the effects the food has on our emotional self too.  Mindful eating is not a diet but quite the opposite; giving a person permission to eat whatever foods they are hungry for in the amount that is satisfying to them.  This might sound crazy to some people, but research has shown that it works.

When eating in a mindful, conscious way, we ask ourselves, “Is this what my body needs?  Am I eating this because I am hungry, or just tired and stressed?”  By asking  these questions when we are about to eat that second slice of cake, we can not only have a moment to check in with our selves, but also a moment to find an honest answer that will probably lead us to NOT eat that slice of cake, and feel perfectly satisfied with the first one we ate. That is if we ate it slowly and savored it, instead of wolfing it down while watching TV.

By slowing down and eliminating distractions when we are eating, we are much more aware of our food and therefore need less of it to feel satisfied.  We are able to tune in to our bodies cues of when we are still hungry or when we are full and to think just about the food, perhaps where it came from, who grew it. This mindfulness about what we are eating and why we are eating it is what experts say may keep us from overeating or eating for the wrong reasons.

Of course there will still be meals on the run at times.  But I urge you to give mindful eating a try.  Sit down, eat slowly, focus only on the food, and savor each bite.  See what happens.

For more information visit the Center for Mindful Eating.

Edible Rainbow

Here is the link for my recipe for this week, Broccoli Quinoa Pilaf.  Have I told you how much I love quinoa?  I love quinoa.  I didn’t make the cod in this recipe, and all the reviews said it was just OK.  I’d skip it.

More amazing powers of vegetables!

Here is my market post for this week.  The amazing detox powers of FOOD!

Most of us have done a “detox” diet or cleanse at some point in our lives.  We have signed on for eating kale soup morning, noon, and night, or drinking nothing but juice for 10 days with the hope of shedding a few pounds and having more energy.  But are these cleanses necessary, or even safe?  After all, our grandparents never did a cleanse, and many of them lived long and well. 

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Well, most nutrition experts will tell you that the safety and efficacy of cleansing has never been scientifically proven, and that our bodies have their own detoxification systems in place that work to remove toxins from our bodies all day, every day. So why are so many people still jumping on the cleansing bandwagon?

It doesn’t need to be scientifically proven that many people do lose weight and feel good after a detox program or cleanse.  However, it is questionable whether it was the cleanse itself that makes you feel better, or the fact that you start eating more clean foods and less junk. Either way, once you start back on your regular diet, chances are good that you will regain weight and feel crappy again.  Not to mention that when you are eating very little your metabolism slows down to conserve calories, which is exactly the opposite of what you want when trying to lose weight.

In my opinion, a better way to detox the body is to eat as much fresh, whole foods as possible, and keep junk and processed food to a minimum ALL THE TIME!! This gives your body the best chance at getting as many nutrients as possible, and sets it up to be in top condition to process the less healthy stuff when we do eat it.  And did you know that there are many foods that help our bodies detoxification systems work optimally?  Here are just a few, and you can find them all at the market!

  1. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are chock full of antioxidants, which help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  2. Collard Greens increase bile acid binding, which helps keep ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol down.  They are also high in chlorophyll, which feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
  3. Yogurt supports healthy digestion by replenishing that good bacteria and boosting the immune system.
  4. Cold water fish have least amount of toxins and are high in omega-3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory.  They also contain good protein that support liver detox.
  5. Free range chicken also contain healthy protein to support the liver.
  6. Onions and garlic are loaded with sulfur-containing compounds, which help to detoxify the liver.
  7. Beets are packed with minerals to help flush out toxins, and also contain betacyanin, a cancer-fighting compound.
  8. Apples contain many nutrients, plus pectin, a special fiber that helps remove food additives and metals from the body.
  9. Parsley helps protect the kidneys and bladder with vitamins A, C, K and beta carotene.

I didn’t create this recipe but its DARN GOOD!!  Here is the link for Squash and Corn Chowder, so go warm up and make yourself some.  I used fresh corn from the market of course, and boxed organic vegetable broth. YUM!

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A few tips for successful weeknight meals..

With the fall officially here, schedules are getting busier, and this often means cooking meals falls by the wayside.  But with a little bit of creativity and planning ahead, you can still fit in a simple home cooked meal in a matter of minutes.

Keeping a few key ingredients on hand is always helpful, as is spending a couple of hours on the weekend prepping for the week ahead.  Keeping boxes of pre-made chicken broth, cans of beans, dried pasta, and quick cooking grains like quinoa or basmati rice is very helpful.  I even found some organic brown basmati rice at Trader Joe’s recently that only takes 15 minutes to cook.  Another great idea is to prep your vegetables right after you get home from the market on Saturday; wash and chop that big bunch of kale, peel and cut up that bunch of carrots, shuck the corn.  Having these vegetables ready to cook makes them so much more appealing on a hurried weeknight.

Thinking about the week ahead is also helpful in planning meals.  Will you and your family be home every night for dinner?  Will you need to pack up a meal for a child’s sports event one evening?  If you know this ahead of time you can be ready with ingredients to make sandwiches to take along, instead of having to take-out.

One thing I love to do is roast a chicken on the weekend.  It makes a great meal for that night and then you have leftover chicken meat that can be made into chicken soup, chicken salad, topping for a green salad, or chopped and frozen for another night.  You can also use the bones to make homemade broth, which is packed with minerals and nutrition to keep you healthy through the winter.

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If you plan your meals ahead of time, make a list of all the ingredients you need.  Then you can make one shopping trip and be prepared for the week.  There are also many online services that provide weekly meal plans and shopping lists for a nominal subscription fee.  Many now give the option of vegetarian, gluten free, or even Paleo meal plans too.

Here are a few of my favorite quick, delicious, and healthy meal ideas.  (Items in BOLD can be found at the market!) :

  • Taco bar: Brown up some GROUND BEEF or turkey and add some Mexican spices.  Serve with warm taco shells and your toppings of choice such as shredded cheese, salsa, LETTUCE, TOMATO, CORN, low-fat sour cream, and sliced avocado or guacamole in separate dishes so everyone can make their own.  Serve with a simple veggie side like SPINACH salad or sautéed ZUCCHINI.

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  • Breakfast for dinner: Scramble up some FARM FRESH EGGS, serve with a few slices of BACON, some WHOLE GRAIN TOAST, and some steamed BROCCOLI. Or better yet, check out my friends recipe for green eggs and ham http://tribecanutrition.com/2012/03/happy-st-patricks-day/. Perfect for Irish Day this weekend!
  • Quick chicken noodle soup: chop up GARLIC, ONIONS, CARROTS, AND CELERY.  Sauté with a little olive oil until soft, add homemade chicken broth or boxed broth.  Bring to a boil and add noodles of your choice.  When the noodles are almost done, add chopped leftover roast CHICKEN and some seasonings.  Serve with CRUSTY BREAD and GREEN SALAD.

My recipe this week was for broccoli and cheese smashed potatoes.  I didn’t alter it that much so I am just going to give you the link here.  I have to say that I used lowfat milk instead of whole milk to lower the fat content a little and it came out a little too milky…so just sayin, it tasted wonderful but looked like chowder.  Not my best market dish, but at least still tasty.  So if you make these with lowfat milk too just add less milk and increase if you need.