Monday, October 20, 2014

How To Make Chicken Stock!

This is a simple and easy stock recipe using your leftover chicken bones.  I tend to roast whole chickens often and I always try to get more bang for my buck by using the remnants from one nights dinner to stock up on this basic kitchen essential.  What's great about making homemade stock is that it's one of those "set it" and "forget it" kind of recipes.  All you need to do is basically throw all the ingredients in a pot

Ingredients:
Leftover chicken bones and skin
3 or 4 carrots (quartered)
1 large (unpeeled) onion (quartered)
3-4 pieces of celery (quartered)
A handful of fresh parsley with stems
2 bay leaves
8-10 peppercorns
2-4 garlic cloves (crushed)
cold water 
Thyme (fresh if possible)
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper

Optional ingredients:
Other herbs
1 Parsnip (quartered)
1 leek, white part only(cut in half)

What you need:
Stock pot or Large Pot
Strainer
Mesh strainer or cheese cloth


Place the chicken, vegetables, and herbs in your pot and fill with cold water. 
I usually follow this basic recipe, sometimes depending on what I have I may add the parsnip or leek to the mix. If I have fresh herbs I will add a few stalks of thyme and even a little oregano or basil.  If not I always add a large pinch of dried thyme and maybe a pinch of the other spices as well.  I have a spice blend "Mural of Flavor" and "Herbs De Provence" that I usually add as well. Really you can tweak the basic recipe however you like.

 

Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a slow simmer.
Allow it to simmer uncovered for at least 4 hours, 6-8 hours will yield the best results and flavor. Add hot water throughout as needed to ensure the water level stays above the bones and vegetables. You can also skim any fat off the top occasionally with a spoon or fine mesh strainer if desired.

Strain the stock.
 I like to strain the stock through a colander into another large pot first.  I find it makes removing all the bones and veggies easier.  Once the solids are discarded I rinse out my original pot, then pour the liquid back into it through a fine mesh strainer. If you want you can strain it even more by passing it through the mesh strainer again or even pouring it trough the mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.

Store the stock.
You can store your stock in a glass or plastic container with a lid in the refrigerator for a few days.  If you don't plan on using it right away the stock can be stored in your freezer for a few months in a plastic container or bag. I sometimes make "stock cubes" for an easy way to add flavor into recipes. 



Tip:
If you want to remove more of the fat from your stock, simply place it in the refrigerator before portioning it into containers for storing.  Once the stock fully cools the fat will rise and solidify on top making it easy to skim off with a spoon.

Chicken stock is a great base for soups and sauces.  I also love using it as the liquid when making quinoa and couscous.  It also comes in handy when I make gravy, mashed potatoes or I want to steam vegetables.  For even more ways to utilize your stock you can check out this list of 25 tasty ways to use chicken stock from Wisebread.com.

What is your favorite way to use chicken stock?


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How To Make Almond Milk!

Many people seem to be switching over to nut milks lately. One of my favorites is Almond Milk! It is a great substitute for dairy milk but is also great all on its own.  I very rarely drink dairy milk these days and always seem to have Almond milk in my refrigerator.  I tend to use almond milk most often for protein shakes and smoothies.  It has a wonderful flavor and a creamy consistency with less fat and calories than dairy milk.

Bonus: Almond milk contains a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals!



 I have been drinking nut milks for some time now and I find myself less and less likely to buy them from a store.  The basic ingredients consist of the chosen nut, water and sweetener, yet its hard to find a brand with that few ingredients.  Obviously they would need to include a preservative to help keep them shelf stable but I don't like buying things, even "healthy alternatives" riddled with chemicals and ingredients I can not pronounce. You may think it would be a hard and time consuming ordeal to make your own fresh almond milk, however it is not. How do you make almond milk? Here is my quick and easy guide to making fresh homemade, creamy, delicious almond Milk! 

Bonus: Aside from avoiding unwanted chemicals you will save money too!

 

What do you need to make almond milk?

You can make as much or as little as you want.  When making almond milk you can choose to use blanched almonds (skins removed) or regular almonds (skin still on). The only difference between using almonds with or without skins when making almond milk is that you may need to strain your milk a bit more if you use regular almonds.  I don't find that it changes much.  For this post I made a small batch. I used one small bag of regular Almonds (about 1 cup)

 

Ingredients
Raw Almonds (uncooked & unsalted)
Filtered Water
Vanilla
 *Sweeteners if desired (dates, honey, agave, maple syrup or cinnamon) 1tsp or to taste

Equipment
Bowls
Mesh Strainer
Blender or food processor
Cheese cloth or Nut bag


To make almond milk there are only a few easy steps.

Soak the almonds.  You want to soak your almonds overnight for at least 8 hours. To do this place your almonds in a container or bowl, then fill with filtered water.  You will want to add about an inch or two of water above the almonds since they will absorb the water and grow in size.

Drain the almonds. After the almonds have soaked you want to drain and rinse them under cool water. 



Blend the almonds. Pour your almonds in a blender and cover with water. I like to use about a 3-1 ratio during this step.  If I started with 1 cup of dry Almonds I would add about 3 cups of filtered water to the blender.  For 2 cups of dry almonds I would use close to 6 cups of water.

Blend the almonds and water on the highest speed for at least 2 minutes. Your almonds should completely break down and the liquid should be white and opaque.  

Strain the almonds. Place a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth over a bowl and pour the almond/water mixture through it.  Once all the liquid has drained through, gather the excess cheese cloth and twist the remaining almond meal into a ball to remove more liquid.  You can continue to twist and squeeze more liquid from the pulp with your hands.



Sweeten the milk. Once you have finished straining all the liquid you will want to taste it.  If you prefer a sweeter flavor you can add a flavoring and or sweetener Pour the liquid back into your blender, add the flavoring or sweetener and blend for about 15 seconds.  For this post I added a tsp of vanilla to my milk.  If you like you can quickly strain the milk again to achieve an even cleaner finished product.

Store your almond milk. You want to store your almond milk in sealed container in the refrigerator.  Your almond milk should last for about 3-5 days since there are no chemicals or preservatives.  This also means that your milk will settle.  You will want to shake the milk up before each use.  If you notice it tastes at all sour you will want to discard it and make a fresh batch. 




TIP: Don't just throw away the remaining almond meal that is left behind.  It can be added to a multitude of things such as cookies, muffins, oatmeal, pancakes and smoothies. You can dry it as well in the oven then freeze for future baking needs.  Stay tuned for posts about ways to use left over almond meal.

Do you drink nut milks? Would you consider making your own?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Homemade Citrus Soda!

Tired of drinking glass after glass of bland water? Since I don't drink soft drinks or fruit juices filled with tons of sugar and calories I am always coming up with new ways to enjoy water!  Don't get me wrong, I love water! Drinking water comes with so many benefits, I think the only disadvantage would be like anything else too much could kill you..lol.. seriously don't worry, that would be hard to do. Anyways.. sometimes you want something different maybe with carbonation or a little flavor! Like with my Apple Cinnamon Water here is another fun way to spruce up your everyday water, this time with carbonated water. Citrus Soda!


All You Need:
  • Bottle of carbonated water
  • Pitcher
  • Sliced citrus fruit (I like to use Oranges, Lemons & Limes)
To Make:


  •  Slice fruit and place in bottom of pitcher
  • Fill with carbonated water
  • Cover with ice
*You can drink it right away but the longer it sits the more citrus flavor it will have


* I actually make this beverage two different ways, you can also just add the fruit to your bottle of water (after removing some of the water of course) which makes it portable.

Tip- If you leave the fruit in your water too long it will take on a unpleasant rind taste.  If you don't finish your soda within 24 hours remove the fruit to keep the flavor from turning.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How To Temper Chocolate!

I never really thought about tempering chocolate.  Even when I started to make chocolate covered snacks I didn't think it was necessary for the recipes I was creating... I was wrong.  The main reason I began to research tempering chocolate was because I couldn't get my chocolate covered berries not to melt within seconds of putting them in my hand.  Aside from raising the melting temperature so your chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hands, tempering has a few other advantages.

  • You will avoid fat and sugar bloom, the unappealing white streaks and or blotches that can unattractively take over perfectly good chocolate.
  • Tempered chocolate cools faster
  • It gives your chocolate a shiny, glossy appearance.
  • Your chocolate will have a clean snap when you break it.

It seems like a daunting task but it really isn't.  Also since I don't make large quantities at a time the heating and cooling process is very short. 
  1. Use a double boiler or just rest a metal bowl over a saucepan with 1 inch of water.  Bring the water to a simmer, then add half of your chocolate to the bowl and stir till its smooth and melted. Put the other half of your chocolate to the side for later. Using a thermometer bring your chocolate to the correct temperature: 115°-120° then remove it from the heat.
  2. Now you want to add the other half of the chocolate you put aside. This is the seeding process and helps to bring the chocolate temperature down. Continue to stir until smooth. 
  3. The last step is to bring your chocolate back up to the perfect temperature, for most dark chocolate it's between 88° and 91°.  To do this just place the bowl back over your hot water and stir till you reach the desired temperature.  Then you are done and ready to create whatever chocolate creations you can dream of.
 *You can also temper chocolate using your microwave like in this instructional video below

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How To Clarify Butter!

What is clarified butter? Clarified butter (also known as ghee) is butter with the milk solids and water removed.  It is a great choice for cooking and able to withstand higher temperatures than regular butter or other oils such as coconut oil.  Clarified butter is one of my favorite things to cook with when eating Paleo, it adds a great mild buttery flavor and is simple to make. literally..
Step 1: Melt
Step 2: Strain
Step 3: Store


While it may seem like a lot of work or a hassle it is quite easy, quick and last for a while. Plus it could help your digestion, improve your flexibility, boost your immune system and moisturize your skin!

1. You want to heat your butter in a saucepan over low heat until it melts. Then allow it to simmer as the white "foam" rises to the surface.  I usually make a pound at a time. (though it is less than a pound once clarified)
2.  Once the all the foam has risen (this takes about 10 minutes) you will have three layers.  All the milk solid sediment will be at the bottom of the pan with a layer of golden liquid under the foam. You can skim the foam off with a slotted spoon but I don't like to do it that way.  If you want to skim it off as it forms i suggest using a mesh skimmer.  I prefer waiting the 10 minutes and then straining it though cheesecloth.



4. Using a rubber-band I just secure the cheesecloth around the opening of my "clarified butter jar" and slowly pour the butter into the jar. You will notice the white foam being trapped on top of the cheesecloth. You also want to leave behind that bottom layer of solids so stop straining when you get to the end of the clear liquid gold.



* Clarified butter will keep for 3 to 6 months in the refrigerator, you can also leave it at room temperature on your counter like I do if the conditions are optimal, or freeze it for a similar length of time.








  • * Traditionally, you will find that you should use unsalted Butter when clarifying butter. While I have made it using both salted and unsalted I traditionally use salted.  I don't find that the salt is intensified after being clarified but it may be because I strongly dislike unsalted butter to begin with.

  • Would you clarify your butter?

    Sunday, January 12, 2014

    Homemade Italian Salad Dressing!

    This is a simple recipe to make your own homemade Italian salad dressing that is also Paleo.  It is a fresh and preservative free take on the same bottle versions you may buy at the store and also works as a great marinade.


    You Need:
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon raw honey
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon dried parsley
    1/4 cup vinegar (white, red wine, or balsamic)
    2/3 cup olive oil



    I like to use a hand mixer to emulsify it all together. You can also use a blender or just combine everything in a bottle and shake it up.  If you can, allow it to sit so the dried herbs soften.  Then just store on the counter. (olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator)

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    Beef Bones For Dogs!

    I have some beef bones left over from a recipe and decided to up-cycle them into a new treat for my dog.  The bones weren't backed or broiled so they wont crack and splinter.  They came from a stew so not only are they still strong but they have flavor cooked in already.

    I pulled them aside and then just boiled them in water to remove the rest of the marrow and meat that was attached
     

    After I removed them from the water I rinsed them under running water to remove any pieces that were still attached.  I had pulled three large bones from my recipe to turn into dog bones but ultimately only kept two.  One of the bones had a lot of course splinters that could not be removed and would be harmful if my dog ingested them.  I DO NOT recommend giving your dog any bones that may break or splinter off.  The bones I kept were both strong, smooth and appropriate for his size.


    It is a very quick and easy process and now Ozzy has two new beef bones that will keep him busy for a long time.  This is the first time I have "made" bones for him.. I think he likes them!



    Would you up-cycle beef bones for your dog?

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