Seeking Health in a Stock Pot

The heady aroma of stock cooking has permeated my home. For the last two days the heart warming aroma wrapped around me promising me comfort and nourishment. It’s been too long since I’ve made a batch of stock. I used to make a batch every time I had enough bones. But that was when the household budget was tight and I squeezed every bit of nutrition I could out of what I had.

This batch has taken me over four months to collect the bones. I rarely buy whole chickens anymore, passing them over for the cheaper boneless breast. Two days ago I pulled out the bone collection from the freezer, added the recent roast chicken carcass and popped it all into the crock pot. Just add water, set on low and let the magic work. Today I have bone broth cooling down in the kitchen sink.

It’s a deep amber color this time; I think due to the onions tops and carrots I added. I’m already missing the aroma of it cooking. It’s like a long lost friend just left. The nostalgia of past dishes I’ve made with home-made stock has my stomach growling.

I did a web search yesterday looking for the nutritional information on bone stock and found that stock has risen in popularity compared to the last time I did a search almost a decade ago. It’s like a new food fad has risen up and claimed the most basic of cooking recipes and claimed it for it’s own. Just glancing at the search results I see a variety of key words; traditional foods, paleo-cooking, super-food and all that has me puzzled. When did a foundational recipe become a health food superstar?

I’ve known that home-cooking or should I say scratch-cooking is a bit of a lost art; reserved for five-star restaurants, hobbyist and the super stubborn (like me) determined to eat well both in taste and cost. It takes time and effort to do efficient meal planning and skill to make a dish that’s more that a few hours to make.  A good stock is a prerequisite for a variety of soups, stews, sauces and even main meals. For some reason I figured that any scratch-cook worth their salt would have mastered stock.

Perhaps it’s not the scratch cooks who are discovering the value of stock. What’s old has become new again. Folks looking to improve their life and health are discovering the roots deep inside the kitchen; that our food choices and our attitude toward food speaks a lot about our potential health. And they are making choices; going back to the basics, even enjoying one of the most basic foundational recipes, stock.

Bon appetit

Ranch Chicken Tenders

My yummy ranch tenders.

My girls love chicken nuggets dipped in ranch dressing. And I was tired of plain baked boneless chicken breast and not having the girls eat it, so I adapted a friend’s recipe for Ranch Chicken Bites. Her’s required a deep fat fryer which I don’t have.

I took about two pounds of boneless chicken breast and cut it up into tenders and bites. I marinated the cut up breast in ranch dressing overnight.

After the chicken marinated, I rolled the pieces in breadcrumbs. Baked them in the oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes.  The bites came out very tender and a bit light on the ranch flavor. I need to add ranch powder to the breadcrumbs just to see how it would taste. This was a big hit with my girls!

Onions

DSCN1327 Recently our grocery shopping had gotten out of hand. Me and my husband were making the classic mistakes, going to the store without and list and going hungry. The surprising result to this folly was several bags of yellow onions piling up in the pantry. With the oniony abundance, I have sought new ways to deliciously cook them. Of course I had to do steak, onions and mushrooms. Ah, the flavor of sautéed onions and mushrooms piled high on medium rare London broil is to die for. 

I can make a great liver and onions, but for us that’s a once a month meal. It is also the catalyst that started the over buying of onions. So I’m on the hunt for great recipes.

In the Kichen again.

I baked two loaves of wheat bread yesterday. I’m out of wheat germ so my bread isn’t as yummy as I like it. I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour to about 3 cups of AP flour. I’m still using the wheat gluten. I’m getting good rise and great texture. My only complaint is I think I’m putting the loaves in before they have a good rise in the pans. I score the tops but I don’t seem to get any oven rise. Could it be the yeast I’m using? I’m using the rapid rise / bread machine yeast. I’ve got to look into it.

I’m still having problems with my hands. I have to wash my hands and disinfect every time I touch the dough. It’s barely enough to keep my hands flexible.

Today is my hubby’s birthday. I stayed up late last night and baked a chocolate cake. It’s sitting on the counter looking so yummy. I don’t know how he didn’t cut a piece for lunch.

Wheat Bread

Yesterday I made some yummy wheat bread. I had a chance to work on it while my daughters were down for naps. It was the first time they were both asleep. It was nice getting my hands in the dough without worrying that I’m going to have to stop and clean up to tend to them.

I made Woman’s Day cookbook’s recipe for sandwich bread and adapted it for whole wheat.
I used 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour, 1/2 C wheat germ, 4 tsp of wheat gluten and the rest AP flour for the dry ingredients. I had never used wheat gluten before. I am very happy with the results. When I’ve made wheat bread before it’s always been a dense hard loaf. These loaves came out soft. They rose well, held their shape and the grain was perfect. And the taste was great.

Because of the basic economies that we are having to take, I don’t think that we will be purchasing bread anymore. Just for the taste alone, I don’t think I’m going back. The only downside, if there is one is that I’m sore. I do the kneading by hand so ten minutes is a bit of a workout. Well, said that way it’s not so much of a downside after all. I need to find ways to stay active and being sore tells me that I’m out of shape. Hopefully it won’t last too long.

I’m curious what the exact cost per loaf is. That little project is on my task list now. I’m looking forward to doing more bread baking. All I have to do is get my girls to take naps at the same time.

5 Bean Beef and Tomato Soup

2 1/2 C Kidney Beans
1 C Pinto Beans
1/2 C Chick Peas
1/2 C Lentils
1/2 C Split Peas

Rinse dry beans and pick over for stones. Place in crock pot and cover with water. Add one bay leaf. Put the pot on high and let cook for about four hours.

1 15 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes, onions and green peppers
7 cubes of beef bouillon

When beans are tender, add both cans to the pot and stir. Take about two cups of liquid out and add the bouillon cubes to it in a separate container. Smash up cubes and return broth to the pot. Stir well.

1 lb ground beef
4 to 5 cloves garlic

Smash and chop the peeled garlic. Add to fry pan with the beef. Brown and drain off the grease. Add to the pot and stir. Let cook for about an hour more for the flavors to meld. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:

I made this soup last week as my larder was going bare. I have plenty of dry beans but I didn’t want to eat a passel of plain kidneys. This came out surprisingly well much to every ones gastric enjoyment.