About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Bone Broth Buzz

Every morning I peruse the Internet for food related material and recently noted that Bone Broth is now being touted as a natural miracle cure for everything from wrinkles to arthritis.  People are lined up in NYC for a $4.50 shot of the stuff.  "Isn't this already in my freezer", I'm thinking.  Not just the stock I make but what my Mom called "essence" that I collect to flavor soups, sauces and stews.  I even collect the "essence" when I smoke a pork butt and use it to flavor my prize winning BBQ sauce (see blog post The Secret to Brand X BBQ Sauce, June 2013).  It's the juices from cooked meat that congeal when chilled.

After chilling and removing fat
When meats are cooked, the collagen from the connective tissues and joints of the bird or animal dissolve and run off mixing with melted fat.  Once collected and chilled the fat rises and solidifies on top.  It's scraped off and discarded leaving a gelatinous product.  I toss it in a container and into the freezer.  It's already seasoned and ready to go whenever I pull it out to add to a recipe.

I'd never really given its' properties, beyond flavor enhancer, much thought, and now, here it is as the latest health craze.  It seems beef marrow bones are favored for the most mineral content and cooked bones actually crumble when the broth is completed after many hours of cooking.  Broth flavor comes from roasting the bones first and then transferring to a stock pot or slow cooker with aromatic vegetables and covering with water, then cooking down for hours and hours.  My sister-in-law uses a pressure cooker which significantly speeds up the process and really extracts the marrow even better.  Weight bearing bones, such as chicken necks and backs are also excellent for a bone broth.  I always grab a package when I see them at the grocery.

My mother used to serve jellied consomm√© with a dollop of sour cream as a starter at many a bridge luncheon.  It was considered chic in the '60s even though it came out of a Campbell's soup can.   Consomm√© is a clarified bone broth.  She told me frequently it was good for my nails and hair too. Beef bones and their marrow are served as a first course in some of the finest restaurants and consumed with a clever little spoon to scoop out the marrow.  Bone broth would also be a close cousin to demi glace'. The broth and Maderia cooked really way down for some serious flavor.

Well, enough of my know it all.  Nutritionist are skeptical of this elixir du jour but it can't hurt to try it.  The best part, is it's encouraging people to be more mindful of their diet and getting us back in the kitchen.  It's getting pretty hard to get beef marrow bones, so make friends with the butcher.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees sprinkle bones with salt & pepper and roast bones 30 minutes turning once.  It's not necessary for them to be done.  Add the browned bones and vegetables to a slow cooker and cover with cold water.

4 lbs. beef marrows (may combine with ox tail)
1 large onion sliced
2 carrots trimmed, unpeeled cut in quarters
2 ribs celery, quartered
1 parsnip, trimmed, unpeeled cut in quarters
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
6 pepper corns
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbls cider vinegar
cold water to cover in a slow cooker

Set on low for 10 hours, then reset for 8 more when cycle is complete.  Strain through a colander lined with cheese cloth.
A pressure cooker will reduce the cooking time to 3 hours or less.  A chicken carcass will be ready in 1 hour.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sobering Thoughts

My husband announced he was "going on the wagon" for the month of January as redemption from the holidays.  I thought we did that sort of thing for Lent but he'd read something about a respite from spirits doing wonders for the liver, sort of like spring cleaning or changing the oil in your car.  I blithely took the bait and agreed to join in, there's not much on the social calendar in January and his birthday on the 30th makes it a good ending point.  I'd just shed the extra pounds I'd put on in the last few years testing recipes and thought this was a great opportunity to continue the theme.  Its the first time in memory when I haven't had to consider losing weight at New Year's so I might as well lose the wine to make the reformation complete.

 I've really been on the "clean eating" bandwagon whipping up kitchen sink smoothies packed with super foods and baking my Brown Irish Soda bread more often than baguettes.  I've incorporated more Omega-3's and antioxidants into my daily diet and avoided a lot of the things that make cooking intriguing, like butter and sugar.  That isn't to say I haven't strayed now and then but giving up alcohol for a month is a whole other thing.  The rhythm of my life is disturbed a little.  Between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. I have to be preoccupied with something else but it's not a big deal.  It really isn't hard until the weekend comes around and I feel like the label "special needs" would be noted by my name.   I'm reminded of a friend who's way of offering you a libation was to query, "Could I get you a little personality?"  After sitting through a very pleasant meal with in-laws the first weekend of abstaining, I'm thinking how dull I am.  I doubt I was any more so than usual, it's just that I think I'm more charming after a glass of wine.  That just doesn't happen after a cup of green tea.

I noted Time magazine's recent cover, "The War on Delicious".  That's the best title I've ever read for a food related article.  It's about the campaign against bacon, beef, sugar, sausage, frying, high fructose corn syrup, white flour, processed foods, preservatives and just about anything that makes food taste good in favor of  "clean eating" and "super foods" that rely on their naked flavor and well documented nutritional benefits.  Popular wisdom has us culling from vast media campaigns  and ignoring a good bit of science and statistics which begins by reading food labels.  The food industries have to make their product appealing to the masses versus personal responsibility for what you ingest. That takes a bit more time and thought than super sizing at the drive through.

I'm attending a "reveal" party this weekend.  This is an event where the parents reveal the gender of the baby to family and friends.  It seems like the perfect excuse to give in. The thought of passing on pink champagne or Blue Moon is too much  for me.  I might as well stick a pillow under my shirt and pretend I'm pregnant too.  If only I could ask my liver how things are going and are we cleaned up yet.  I can see that my clothes fit better from weight loss; I can see working out improves my figure and fitness; I can see drinking a quart of water daily helps hydrate my skin; I can see a good night of sleep helps everything but I can't see what's going on inside my insides. 28 days isn't much to ask but I need tangible results like stepping on the scales and finding you're another pound lighter. I just want some evidence this is a worth while sacrifice.

One think for sure, I'll think about this differently before I do it again.  Old habits die hard.