Saturday, June 27, 2015

Quick post #5

There's something heartening about having a pot of something simmering on the stove on a rainy day.

For me, today that something was a pot of chicken stock, easily made from scratch.

I started with chicken bones leftover from some thighs I processed yesterday. (When there's a good deal at the store, you stock up!)

I also picked up some mirepoix vegetables, onions, celery, and carrots, from a local organic market.

The last addition was some white button mushroom stems. The stems tend to be woody, so I prefer not to use then in my other recipes, but they can still impart that lovely earthy flavor I love.

I roasted all the ingredients in the oven (350°, 45 -60 min) to deepen the flavor and color.

Then follow your typical stock directions: add everything to a large stock pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and let it simmer for several hours. Check occasionally and skim off the fats and yucky stuff that floats to the top.  Keep an eye on the water level, and add more as needed to keep the ingredients completely submerged.

After 2 - 3 hours, strain the stock either into a container, or into another pot for further simmering if you want to reduce the stock even further.

If you have a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, strain the stock into a container for storage.  If you don't, let the stock settle and cool, then carefully pour it into a container leaving any bits in the bottom of the pan.

Store in the fridge, and use as needed throughout the week.  You can store stock in the freezer as well. Try freezing it in ice cube trays to get individual servings of stock you can add to a variety of recipes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Clean Eating Challenge

I recently completed a 28 clean eating and fitness challenge.

Some of the reasons I decided to jump in and do this are:
1.  My exercise goals and my exercise realities were not in alignment. I would always have plans to go for a walk or work out at my local pole gym, but often found myself getting wrapped up in other things or being completely distracted. This challenge requires a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise for 6 days a week, not much of an effort if you really think about it, and with the community being as supportive as it is I feel like this will be cake. Most days.

2. The food part of the challenge is a “Clean Eating” type of diet. Not diet, life change*.  There are a few variations on the idea, but generally eating clean means avoiding overly processed foods and beverages with excessive amounts of additives, sugar, sodium, dyes, etc. The easiest way to achieve this is to basically skip the middle aisles of most grocery stores. Any food item in its whole state, with little to no processing is fair game. Think produce, meats, eggs, and whole grains. This does require making a lot of meals from scratch, but that’s all part of the fun! Well, for me anyway.

I’ve learned a similar idea about what makes food good for some about ten years ago while taking some cooking classes, it just never really had a name.  What I learned was that fresh ingredients make for excellent meals, when you cook from scratch, you control what goes into your food, and that simple is often better when it come to preparation and presentation.

I remember one of the chefs telling us about the best dessert he ever had in a restaurant. It was fresh ripe fruit, still on the branch, simply presented on a plate.  He was so impressed; it made an indelible imprint in his memory
A lot of people have lost sight of this simplicity and insist upon doing a lot to food, but really if it’s fresh and ripe, less can be more when it comes to presentation.

To be able to achieve this at home, only takes a little bit of cooking knowledge and a little extra time and effort. But its time and effort well spent if it means your food tasty and fresh, you know all the ingredients in it. 

* I say its a life change, since diets aren't forever, and therefore do not yield lasting results.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Quick post # 4

I've been enjoying salads for lunch or dinner for the past couple of weeks; they're healthy, quick and delicious, making them ideal meals for the summer.
Layering my salad ingredients probably started out of sheer hunger. Who has time for tossing a salad when you're ravenous and all you want to do is stuff food in your face?
But, this layered assembly method stuck with me and now I've got it down to an art.

Start with one or two fistfuls of salad greens of your choosing and place them inside your bowl. Now unless you have enormous bowls, this alone will fill them to capacity, or close enough that adding anything else could result in a tragic mess.
Don't fear, our next step will rectify this. Add any seasonings you may like such as salt and pepper to taste, and then the recommended serving of your favorite dressing. Mine's ranch, and I use a smidge more than 2 tbsp, measured by eye.
Now is the time to cut and/or toss the greens so they get an even coating of dressing. You'll notice that as this happens that the greens will start to take up les volume in your bowl. (The dressing helps to weigh down the greens so there is less air present between all the leaves)
Next, layer on whatever toppings you like. Today I added parmesan cheese, cucumber slices, a tomato, and two hard boiled eggs.
Topping combos are endless, and some of the others I've added recently have been diced chicken breast, sliced mushrooms, sliced bell peppers, carrots, and other typical salad mix-ins.
By leaving the ingredients in layers on top of the greens, I can dig into my salad and get a little bit of everything on my fork, without chasing them around in my bowl.
I also avoid the potential mess of my salad spilling over the sides of the bowl when I try to mix all the ingredients together.
For me this is clearly a superior way to eat salad at home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lunching with friends

Last Friday I made lunch for my bff and myself.
It was simple, refreshing, and delicious.

Tuna salad (white albacore, mayo, Old Bay), tomatoes, and salad greens with ranch dressing.

P.s. I love her square plates!