Barbacoa and Plantain Tortillas

Let me give you a disclaimer. This first paragraph has nothing to do with barbacoa or plantains or any food in general. If you don’t care to know any of my personal life feel free to skip down to the recipe because trust me, it’s a damn good one. For a minute I’m going to talk about loss and acceptance (if that’s what you want to call it) and the strange ability for us to move on with our lives once certain hopes have been crushed to bits.  As of yesterday, my momma has been gone for a whole year.  A whole two years since she was diagnosed.  It seems the time flew by but at the same time has involved some of longest days and worst nights of my life.  When she was first diagnosed, it was unreal. Completely unfathomable that there was any chance she could be gone so soon.  I didn’t believe it and knew she just HAD to beat it.  There was no way I could raise myself at the age of 26, let alone a child, without her.  Here we are, 2 years later and it’s been a year since I’ve been able to call her when I need advice or a favor, stop down at her house when I needed to hang out with her, or have her around as a grandma to my son. Last night, Evan was jumping on the bed singing “5 Little Monkeys” which she taught him and I thought about how unfair it was that she isn’t around to see it. Anyone who has lost a loved one too early knows how it feels to go from lightness to darkness to lightness and knowing there will always be something missing.  Meanwhile through all of this, you become stronger to carry on for yourself and your family because when you are a parent you have to.

I know that’s some really heavy reading to follow up with a recipe and there isn’t any way to go about it smoothly so I’m just going to give it to you.  I don’t think the fiance has ever been so happy eating dinner. Even the little man was all about it.  Chipotle, watch out.

Barbacoa:

A 2 lb eye of round roast, cut into 3 pieces

Salt (I used smoked sea salt)

Black pepper

Rub all sides of meat with salt and pepper, sear in skillet on all sides. Move to crockpot.

Mix in food processor or finely chop:

2 Tbl apple cider vinegar

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano

pinch of ground clove

2 canned chipotle peppers

1 tablespoon adobo sauce

1/2 cup chicken or beef stock

juice from one lime

Once combined, add to the crockpot.  Also toss in a few bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 6.  Once meat is tender, shred with fork. Keep all the juice and mix it with the beef and top with lots of cilantro.

Plantain Tortillas:

2 large plantains, peeled and chopped into small slices

juice from one lime

1 egg

2 Tbl lard or coconut oil plus some for frying

Salt to taste

Heat the extra oil in skillet and add the plantains.  Fry until lightly gold on both sides.  Let cool and add to food processor or high powered blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree until a sticky batter forms.  Roll into balls and then press into circles on a greased baking sheet (you may need two).  Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350. For chewier, soft tacos, make the dough a little thicker. For crunchier tacos, roll it out thinner.

Fill your tortillas with the barbacoa, some avocados or guacamole, salsa, etc., eat, fall in love.

barbacoa

 

Weekly Meal Plans

After battles with a notebook, pen, and my brain for months when trying to write a full weekly meal plan, I’ve figured out something a lot less complicated.  I would sit for an hour at a time trying to come up with breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for the week as well as shopping lists to go accordingly in order to save money and waste less. The breakfasts usually got changed anyways, the lunches were half-assed based on work schedules, and sometimes the dinners went according to plan.  I’ve decided that an hour is a lot of time and energy to waste on something that doesn’t really get used.  Recently, we’ve come up with a weekly layout that we try and stick to for dinners only.  I usually stock up on eggs, bacon, avocados, flax/chia meal for hot cereal, yogurt&fruit , kraut, etc. for breakfasts and combine them with leftovers for lunch and put all my real effort into dinners. We now have a guideline to follow which is based on this:

Mondays: Poultry

Tuesdays: Burgers or Tacos

Wednesday: Ethnic or Exotic/Offal Meats

Thursday: Pizza/Pasta Night (recently changed from Fridays because of fish specials at work)

Fridays: Seafood

Saturday: Date Night

Sunday: Leftovers,  Comfort Foods, or Dinner with Family

This has made it SO much easier to sit down and figure out what I need for groceries.  Every other week or so, on Mondays we do a whole chicken and use the leftovers for lunches, make stock, and soup for the week.  Of course there are days I work until close and we don’t get to do dinner together and we just work around it.  I write down what I plan on having for dinners for the rest of the week usually on Sunday night and grocery shop on Monday.  I know when to pull what out of the freezer and what I can use in different meals to save from having to throw anything out.  We also enjoy vegetarian meals from time to time so the pizza and pasta night gives us a ton of room to play with either a tapioca pizza toppings or some zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with a ton of fresh vegetables.

I hope this helps if you are a meal planner like me and if not, give it a try! I promise it will save you money and make life less hectic whether you’re just cooking for yourself or a family.

The Ancestral Table Book Review

I’ve been following The Domestic Man’s (aka Russ Crandall) blog and Instagram for a while now and I’ve always thought he had something a lot of other food bloggers didn’t have, especially in the paleo/primal community.  Maybe it was because in a world of desserts and baked goods his posts always had something different about them, a sense of fresh thinking on old authentic dishes with real food, real meat, real vegetables. When I found out he was coming out with a cookbook, The Ancestral Table, of course it was ordered almost immediately after release.  I don’t get too incredibly excited about cookbooks nowadays.  Usually they contain a few recipes out of a hundred or so that I actually have tried and even fewer that I use on a regular basis.  There are a lot of quality books on the paleo lifestyle that are GREAT for beginners, for those who haven’t had much experience in a kitchen or how to cook your everyday cuts of meat.  With having quite of a bit of experience already, I don’t find many cookbooks useful in my household.  Maybe I’m just a jerk, it’s possible. The one thing I have been trying to do is dig into some ethnic dishes from different parts of the world and I think I’ve found my main resource.

Every recipe is different.  He takes traditional dishes from all over the world and makes them easily accessible in our own kitchens.  Only after having the book for a couple weeks, I’ve already tried out a number of dishes and LOVED EVERY SINGLE ONE.  The Ancestral Table is both for chefs with years of experience and beginners who are ready to dive into a world of pure culinary awesomeness.  

The other aspect of the book that differs from other paleo lifestyle books is his use of rice, dairy, and potatoes.  These three items have been staples in the human diet for thousands of years and today remain an inexpensive way to feed our families.  I do not use rice incredibly often, but we have it on hand for days we are low on protein and vegetables or are just straight hungry for a starch.  I think it’s great to include these in some of the recipes for those of us who can consume them without an detrimental effects to our health.  

So far, we have tried the lamb tagine, crab cakes, pizza dough, tostones, butter chicken, pesce al sale, and have used his methods for preserved lemons and mayonnaise.  We have honestly loved every one of them.  Image 

And yes, I’m holding two copies. 

I highly suggest whatever diet you follow to check out Mr. Crandall’s book.  Here you can order it on Amazon.

 Thanks to Russ for giving us all something to learn from and enjoy at our dinner tables.  I can’t wait to cook all the way through your book.

Some New Favorites

I have been a bit stricter about my eating habits as of lately and I’ve come up with some great recipes to use often that are both versatile and delicious.  I won’t be doing too much talking on here today because I have a 4 year old who is very anxious to get started on his Valentine hearts so here they are! I hope they become regulars in your household as well!

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First up is my Ham, Broccoli, and Chevre Frittata.  You can use pretty much whatever vegetable/meat combo you have going on in your fridge at the time but these two together are a classic.

You will need:

4 Eggs

coconut oil, ghee, or butter

1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 cup diced ham (I still have some left from our pig from Jim Berger, owner of Green Vista Farm)

A handful of crumbled chevre (goat cheese)

Chopped fresh rosemary and parsley (or one or the other)

Preheat oven to 350.  Melt fat of choice in a skillet and toss in your onions.  Add in your broccoli and ham and a small amount of water to help everything steam up and put the lid on. Meanwhile, whisk your eggs in a small bowl.  Once broccoli is tender, add the eggs to the skillet. Sprinkle chevre on top and cook on low for about 5 minutes until the bottom is set.  Pop in the oven for another 7-10 minutes until the eggs are cooked through.  Top with herbs and cut into 4 wedges. This serves two but if you are looking for a larger amount, just add some more eggs and extras and cook slightly longer in oven!

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Baked Collard Rolls

These are another thing you can fill with anything you’d like.  The first time I made them I used a Creole style cauliflower rice alongside crawfish and the second time I filled them with a Mediterranean cauliflower rice that was loaded with great earthy flavors. Here are the instructions on how to prepare your rolls along with the two fillings I made.

First, you need to blanch your greens.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add in your leaves. Cook for only about two minutes and pull out of water. Lay flat on your work surface. I cut the thick part of the stems out to make them easier to roll. Meanwhile, get your filling cooking in a skillet. 

Creole Style Cauliflower Rice:

1/2 head cauliflower, grated (come on jerks, use your grater instead of a food processor. It’s like a free forearm work out)

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

3 bay leaves

3 slices bacon, chopped small

1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves

a pinch of cayenne if you like things spicy

salt and pepper

Fry the bacon up, then add the rest after some fat renders out.  Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower becomes “al dente”.  Take out the bay leaves and fill your leaves.

If you want to go a Mediterranean route, use this filling:

1/2 head cauliflower, grated

1 Tbl butter or coconut oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

zest from one lemon

a handful of fresh parsley

And a couple pinches of the following spices:

cumin

coriander

nutmeg

salt and pepper

Melt the butter and cook the all of the ingredients as stated above.

How to roll. (Can’t help singing “they see me rollin, they hatin’..” which leads me to the Nelly song I heard earlier on the radio. Something about smoking L’s. I know what smoking J’s are, but L’s? Someone fill me in here). Anyway, fill each leaf with about 1/4 cup of “rice”. Roll like a burrito (bottom up, sides in, roll to the end).  Place on a baking sheet and put a small dab of butter on top of each.  I salted the tops of mine with my applewood smoked sea salt because it’s just so good I put it on almost everything. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until the bottoms turn slightly browned and crispy. 

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Chocobanacado Pie

I don’t do a lot of desserts on here but I think this one is definitely worth posting. Not only does it not use ANY added sweetener or nut flours, it contains gelatin.  PLUS, you get to use up ripe bananas and avocados. We all know how often those come about in a primal kitchen.  I’m proud of myself for coming up with this all by myself. Usually for desserts I have to base them off of other people’s recipes. Nope, not this one. This one is all mine. 

For the crust:

Pulse 2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes with 2 Tbl of cold butter in a blender or food processor.  Press into pie tin and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 until it’s nice and toasty.

Chocobanacado filling:

2 1/2 ripe bananas

1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup dark cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 coconut milk (canned preferably. And preferably Native Forest brand)

1 Tbl unflavored gelatin powder

cacao nibs or whatever you want to top it with 

Heat the coconut milk up gently until it simmers. Stir in the gelatin and simmer for a couple minutes, remove from heat and let cool slightly.  In a a blender or processor, blend the remaining ingredients. Add the gelatin/coconut milk mix and blend until smooth. Pour into crust and top with cacao nibs. Place in fridge for at least an hour to set. 

Now I need to go make Valentines with my main little man before my house gets destroyed by him and the 3 dogs running amok.

Be on the watch for my Wild Boar roast I’m making on Wednesday.  

Beef Tongue, Anyone?

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In the corner of my freezer sat this little guy.  For months.  I finally got up the courage to try it out.  The results were phenomenal.  Now, I know some of you are thinking I’m disgusting (tongue, really?) but think about it.  It’s just a muscle.  A very tough muscle covered in tastebuds (but you get to peel those off anyway).  I got some flack from a fiesty vegan when I posted this photo on Facebook (even deleted when I didn’t feel like debating my eating habits.. Oh no!).  My other vegan/vegetarian friends all respect what I do (or at least don’t try to argue with me) because I do it the best way next to raising and slaughtering my own animals.  This tongue was from the cow Matt’s family split up amongst everyone (thanks for giving us the tongue, future Mom and Dad!) that had been fully grass-fed on a family farm about a half hour away.  I use all the parts of animals possible.  I even saved the stock that was left in the pot after this cooked.  So angry vegans, please save your shit for someone less educated than I am.  I put a lot of time and energy into the meat I cook.  I buy and cook it with respect.  I also respect others’ diets. Ok well maybe not respect, but am more indifferent towards them unless of course they want advice.  Ok onto the tongue..

You will need a good 5-6 hours for this baby to cook.  I saw a few recipes with it cooked less and sliced for sandwiches but I decided to go more with a pulled beef sort of texture which requires a longer cooking time.  

First I rinsed the tongue off under cold water. It had been in a plastic freezer packaging and it just seemed like a good idea to do so. Then get a stock pot, some water, and whatever you usually make stock out of.  I threw in some onions, carrots, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, cloves, and some salt and pepper. I tossed in a little apple cider vinegar as well.  Bring the pot to a boil and with the lid on, simmer for about an hour or so.  Preheat your oven to 300. Remove your tongue and set on a cutting board.  At this point it will feel like a big piece of rubber.  You may be a little disheartened at this time but seriously, keep going. Now try to peel off the outer layer of skin and use a knife where it sticks.  Place the tongue in a roasting pan and add some red wine and enough of the stock that you originally simmered it in to cover.  Throw in some cloves of garlic if you wish. Roast in your oven with the lid on for another 4 hours or until the meat is shreddable.  

Mine was served with a little of the stock and fresh parsley with some roasted thyme whole carrots on the side. I know that tongue tacos are a big thing and I think it would be awesome as barbacoa. If you’re wondering how it tastes, it’s honestly just like a beef roast from a very lean meat.  Once it breaks down and gets tender, it’s delicious.  I saved the stock and had some leftover meat so I may make some type of soup or chili with it.  

Have fun and don’t be afraid of less common cuts or parts of meat.  You’ll be helping put all of the animal to good use, saving some money, and experimenting with awesome dishes!  My four year old son even liked it and asked for seconds.  And he DID see it before it was cooked! 

Homemade Coconut Milk and An Experiment in Joint Pain

I woke up this morning, like many mornings, with soreness in my shoulders and back.  Some days the pain flares up to where it feels like fire in my shoulder joint. I have severe grinding in both of my shoulders when I roll them.  I have always attributed the pain to the constant motion of my shoulders at work.  It started years ago in the kitchen when I did a lot of prep work (cutting and stirring motions all day) and have had it so bad at times I can’t lift my arms even to the straight out position.  I figured I had some type of rotator cuff or tendinitis that came and went with my activity level.  I’m too stubborn to go to the doctor for these types of things and just kind of thought it’d always be there because of my work atmosphere and I’d just have to deal.  I haven’t had any of the excruciating rotator cuff pain lately, but I have a burning inside my shoulder that comes and goes.  I also have been waking up with soreness in other joints, my hips especially.  When I woke up this morning and felt like my body had been run over by a truck, I decided it was time to experiment.  I looked back on the last few days and realized I had been eating a large amount of nuts. Two mornings worth of almond flour muffins, pecans as a snack, walnuts on my salad, and a box of some gluten free nut crackers.  I already knew nuts, nightshades, and egg whites were problematic for people with autoimmune conditions, but never thought they would be for me. After doing some research on chronic inflammatory disease, I seem to have a lot of those symptoms.  I’m not self-diagnosing but feel like it’s worth checking into.  So for the next couple weeks I’m going to avoid nuts and nightshades (which SUCKS because I love spicy stuff, chili powder, and paprika). Hopefully it’ll just be the nuts that are causing the issue.  

One item I’m determined to get more of into my diet is coconut.  For a while I consumed more coconut milk than I have been lately, but every carton or can in the stores contains additives to emulsify it. Coconut milk in the carton is made from rehydrating dried coconut.  Coconut milk in a can is thicker and made from pressing fresh coconut meat.  Coconut milk in a can is delicious and an awesome replacement for dairy and can even be whipped into cream, but often times is in a BPA lined can and contains guar gum or other additives.  Native Forest is a brand with a BPA-free lining and does contain guar gum (can be problematic for people with intestinal issues) but otherwise no other ingredients.  In this post, I’m going to teach you how to make the carton kind, adding as much or little water as you want for desired thickness.  It’s super easy and cheap.

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You’ll need:

1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes (I get the organic package from the health food store, about $3-4)

3-4 cups hot, filtered water

A blender (I used my Blendtec)

Cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer

How to do it:

Soak dried coconut in hot water for about 10 minutes. Add to your blender and blend for about 2 minutes.  Strain into a mason jar from the cheesecloth leaving a little liquid in the blender.  Take your strained coconut flesh and add back to remaining liquid and blend again.  Strain once more and squeeze remaining liquid.  Let it cool without a lid on and then stick in your fridge. It won’t stay as long as the store bought kind since it’s free of all the other crap so use it within a few days. Once it cools, some of the fat might rise to the top and harden. You can either stir it back in or use it as a creamer in coffee.  

 

Holiday Recipes! Duck and Butternut Squash Stuffing

First off, let’s start with some personal stuff.  I recently got a new job at Earth Fare in the meat department, something I’ve been trying to do for a while.  I finally convinced the manager after some good words put in by a girlfriend of mine who works in another department.  I absolutely love it.  I’m learning new things, am working for a company that I’m proud to work for, and will have good benefits after my first 90 days. HALLELUJAH! I saw an hour of sick time on my first paycheck, holy CRAP. This is a first for me…ever. And I’m not standing in a greasy kitchen with a pan full of fries constantly in front of me screaming EAT ME all day long.  Everyone seems eager to teach me to be a cutter and I seem to be picking it up pretty quickly.  Plus, dealing with the public isn’t even as bad as I imagined. 

On another note, today is Evan’s birthday! He is now 4 and time is going by so very quickly.  Even though today will be about him (as has most of this week) there is still an underlying sadness that Mom isn’t here this year. I suppose all holidays will be like this from now on.  I just still remember her being by my side throughout my entire labor, wiping the blood up off the floor as I walked to the bathroom after he was born. I know that is probably too much detail to share (get over it, it’s a natural part of bringing a child into the world) but I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve done that. Anyway, back to the post and no more about post-labor bleeding.

I was really in the mood to get a duck so I looked a few places and found one at Duma Meats.  It was surprisingly inexpensive, only $16 for a 4 pound bird.  It was supposedly family raised and from Indiana.  I checked into a few recipes to roast it but ended up sorta using this one, I think the first site that comes up if you type in roasted duck into Google. My roasting time was shorter and instead of roasting at 300 I did 325.  Since I am too lazy to type out every step, check out those super detailed instructions. I also glazed my bird with a mix of honey and balsamic vinegar rather than the one they use. Also, check out what to do with the giblets under the photo of the duck before going about the roasting process. We all know I don’t like to waste anything.

Here was my final product when it first came out of the oven:

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I was happy with the crispiness and the amount of fat I was able to keep after. Here’s what I did with the neck and giblets (all but the liver…that’s still in the fridge for the fiance)

Chop neck with cleaver into 1 inch pieces.

Chop 1 small onion, 1 carrot, and 1 stalk of celery and heat with a little oil or butter in a pan. Add neck and giblets. Add two cups of water to cover and a bay leaf and simmer for about an hour and a half to create a stock for the gravy.

Meanwhile, while your duck is roasting (F is too close to D for this post. Duck turns into another word too easily) prepare your stuffing!

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2 in cubes

Toss squash in melted butter (or steal some of the duck fat from the pan, even better) and roast oven for about 20 min until just started to become tender (don’t overdo it, it’s going back in the oven)

For the rest of the stuffing you will need:

1 small onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery chopped, some leaves included

1 teas. each fresh chopped sage, thyme, and rosemary

2 Tbl fresh chopped parsley

1 cup almond meal

2 eggs

1 cup dried cherries or other dried fruit

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chicken stock

salt and pepper

Saute celery and onion with some more duck fat. Once translucent, transfer to baking dish.  Add the squash plus the rest of the ingredients and toss together. Bake covered with foil for the last 25 minutes of the duck being roasted. Uncover and brown for another 5-7 minutes.  

This stuffing was SO good. The squash takes the place of the bread but it still carries the traditional taste everyone loves.  You could add some sausage if you wanted, but I wanted to keep it meat free. You could also stuff it into the bird and roast it that way. 

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Ok so there are a few more things to take care of.  Your giblet stock should be nice and reduced by now. Save the fat in the bottom of the roasting pan (so good on anything) and use a red wine to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazed stuff to your giblet stock. Boil rapidly until reduced to a nice slightly thick gravy.

I am the most horrible bird carver ever so it was a little mangled, but save all your bones! Break them with your cleaver and toss them into a stock pot with some celery, onion, carrot, and bay leaves. Read my previous post on making stock here. Getting all that you can out of the bird is so important for both health reasons and to save money. 

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First jar is some duck fat (I had already used some) and the other two are of stock that I can use in soups or casseroles or just drink by itself because it’s delicious.

And remember, you don’t have to save the good birds just for the holidays!

Getting Kids to Eat Their Veggies (and egg yolks, and cod liver oil..)

I feel like I have it pretty lucky with my son.  He loves salmon and kale chips and I usually don’t have a huge problem with him trying new things.  We have a rule that he has to at least try it.  If he doesn’t like it, that’s fine.  I don’t force him to eat things that I know would be cruel to any child.  If I know I’m making something for dinner he doesn’t like, I will make a simplified child version just for him (instead of a frittata with eggs and veggies, he’ll have scrambled eggs and a few pieces of broccoli or asparagus on the side. Even though you and I both know that really it’s all the same thing, kids don’t see it that way.)  I don’t believe that making them sit at the dinner table until their plate is clean will get you anywhere or get the kid to like the food. In fact, I think it might make them hate it even more.  Like I said, the rule in my house is you have to at least try it and a lot of times after a little fight that involves the covering of the mouth and screaming, he ends up smiling devilishly and liking it.  Even though I have pretty good luck with that method, there are certain things I just can’t get him to eat such as fresh leafy greens or the yolks of eggs unless they’re scrambled.  He loves the whites of hard boiled (or medium actually) eggs, but wants nothing to do with the  nutrient dense yolk (I was the exactly the same way when I was a kid, but now am convinced it was because of the 20 minute boiling that would turn the yolk into chalky sulphery grossness. Please don’t do that to yourself of your children.) I have the ultimate solution that I’m sure a lot of you have already figured out but in case you haven’t:

SMOOTHIES!

Yep, blend it up with a banana or blueberries (just don’t overdo it on the sugar) and wait until after they drink it to tell them what was in it.  Some things I like to throw together are bananas, blueberries, kale or spinach, avocado (this makes it super creamy and takes the place of yogurt or milk as well as being high in healthy fats), I may even sneak some liquid lemon flavor cod liver oil in there. 

Another thing is kids are very into the way things appear.  I once made roasted sweet potatoes, cut into 1 in cubes. He wanted NOTHING to do with it.  Then one day I made them into fry shapes and he ate them up.  We also like to pretend food is other things, broccoli is of course trees for the dinosaur or giraffe to eat, fish is fish trying to escape a big shark from eating it, etc. 

Have fun with your kids and their meals.  It doesn’t always have to be torturous.  We don’t have to shove food down their throats that they don’t like but starting them early on a healthy and balanced diet is key to future health!

The Magic of Bone Broth

Don’t let the term bone broth scare you.  It’s just another word for stock made from leftover animal bones just like your grandma made (or at least mine did).  What every chicken broth is based off of.  I am not a scientist or health and nutrition expert. I am just a regular mom who has worked in kitchens her whole adult life and has studied books on primal nutrition and spent hours on end in her own kitchen creating food and recipes to share with you all.  With that being said, I will leave it up to the experts to do all the big words and scientific stuff about how bone broth is one of the most healing foods on the planet.  However, I don’t think you have to be an expert on the subject to realize the healing power of a bowl of homemade soup.  Even up until last year, my mom would bring me a bowl of homemade chicken noodle or rice soup when I was sick.  Now I have grown up to be the weird family member that asks for the turkey carcass at Thanksgiving if it’s just going to be thrown out.  I mean, why would you WASTE such a beautiful thing?! Here are some things that will make you reconsider next time you think about chucking the bones of your next roasted chicken (or turkey, or pot roast, or pork shoulder):

1. It’s free. It costs absolutely nothing to throw it into a pot with some water and boil away.  We usually want to add a few things for flavor and maximum benefits but if it was all you had you could still do without those.

2. Glucosamine, gelatin, and glycine. All in one bowl (or coffee mug on the go), no pills necessary.

3.  You may think, “I could just buy it from the store and save myself the two seconds it takes to throw it on the stove and let it simmer for a few hours while I’m doing something else…”. True. You COULD buy it from the store.  There are two reasons I think this is a horrible idea.  Numero uno: it costs money. Duh.  And secondly, EVERY brand I’ve come across has additives.  Even the organic ones.  Sugar and thickening agents (cornstarch, guar gum, carageenan) NOT what you want when you are trying to heal your body.

Do I have you convinced yet? I hope so.  Here is my usual go-to recipe for a quick chicken stock.

1 organic, pastured chicken carcass (leftover from a roast or after breaking it down for separate meals)

3 stalks organic celery

2 or 3 cooking onions, roughly chopped, skin and all

2-3 carrots, scrubbed and unpeeled

1 bay leaf

1 Tbl apple cider vinegar

salt to taste

Break the bones with a cleaver if you have one.  This helps expose the marrow.  Place all ingredients except salt into stock pot.  Add cold water until everything is covered.  I don’t have a magic number for cups of water, but I usually fill it up about 2-3 inches above the bones.  Bring to a boil (uncovered) on the stovetop and lower heat until just simmering.  Now you can walk away for a few hours.  After it’s been reduced by about half add some salt and taste.  If it tastes weak, continue boiling.  You will know when it’s ready.  Strain all solids and store refrigerated in glass containers when cooled.

This is a very basic, quick stock.  I use it mostly in soups.  You can also simmer your bones for up to 24 hours (wait until the last few to add vegetables if you are) to make a very dense nutrient-rich broth.  Keep adding water a little at a time as it evaporates.

Good luck on your bone broth adventures.  I promise after some practice, you won’t even think twice about tossing your bones before getting every last bit of nutrients you can from them!

Long Drives Home at Night

Death.  It’s something I haven’t really had to deal with until recently.  Of course I’ve had grandparents pass away after living long and happy lives and have had acquaintances pass away over the years.  Then in the early months of 2012 my mother was diagnosed with liver bile duct cancer and given a pretty grim outlook.  This is not a story most people know in detail.  Every one of these memories haunts me daily, and they especially get to me when I’m driving home from work at night after a long day.  I remember the day she came over to help move a new refrigerator into my house.  She went into the bathroom and asked me if I thought her eyes looked yellow.  My answer was yes and after days of begging her, I got her to go to the doctor.  I remember being at her house the day they came home from the doctor appointment where they heard the news.  We had gotten there a little early and I let myself in through the key pad on the garage.  She came in only a few minutes later and I could tell she had been crying.  She came into the living room and sat me down holding my hands and told me.  6 months to a year.  The shock of it was overwhelming and I cried like I’ve never cried before.  Everyone gave us positive thoughts.  “Oh they are wrong about these things ALL the time.” “I’ve known someone they told 6 months and 5 years later they’re still here”.  And still, I had a gut wrenching feeling the doctor was right.  After refusing to take only one doctor’s opinion into consideration, eventually she was accepted at the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Philly where she would fly out for one night a week to receive her treatment.  They gave us hope. They don’t give timelines.  The chemo she initially had seemed to be working.  She even found a doctor in Ohio that worked with the treatment center so she could receive her chemo here.  After a few months, it started making her sick so she took breaks inbetween treatments.  They also started radiation on the inoperable tumor which led to longer bouts between chemo.  She ended up with a blood infection from her line in which she received the treatment.  While in the hospital, they found a small mass in her breast which was removed.  I went to see her and something was wrong.  I thought maybe it was just the pain meds they had her on making her spacey and tired.  A couple days later while walking in Home Depot with Matt and Evan I got the phone call from my brother.  There was nothing else they could do, it had spread too far and she was too weak to handle further treatments.  I was faced with choosing Hospice options and handed manuals on “dealing” and “what to look for near the end”.  About my mother who was always so strong.  About my mother who only months prior was babysitting Evan and attending my brother’s wedding looking as if nothing was wrong.  All the while this is going on my brother is also receiving chemo for colon cancer and being diagnosed with Lynch Syndrome, a genetic condition that I have talked about in prior posts.  I don’t know why I feel the need to share all of this.  I don’t think people see this side.  I try not to think about it while doing every day activities.  It hits me the hardest when I’m alone.  I think of how terrified SHE must have been.  How badly she wanted to be around to watch Evan and any future grandkids grow up.  How she cried when forcing me to take money from her to buy Evan clothes because she just couldn’t do it anymore.  When she said “Why can’t I just have a new body? I don’t want this one anymore”.

I get so angry. Angry to the point that I scream at the top of my lungs in my car when no one can see or hear me.  I assume this is normal when dealing with the loss of someone close.  I recently got a new phone and when putting in the contacts, skipping her was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.  Not because it’s a phone or a number, but because it symbolized moving on…without her.  I can cry and whine all I want because it isn’t fair when there are children dying everywhere and people much younger dealing with cancer. But really, it isn’t fair.  Not when I see the shitty people that get to live out their lives in full and a beautiful person such as my mother gets the short end of the stick and Evan has to grow up without her.  I worry that he wont remember her.  Someone who did everything she could for him and loved him so goddamn much and he might not even remember.

I was going to make this post partially about Lynch Syndrome, gut health, and fermented foods but I think I’ll save that for a later day. This is for her.  I miss her each and every second of every day.

Here is a photo from Mother’s Day 2012, only a couple months after her diagnosis.

mothersday2012