Chicken Stock

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I make a lot of my own stocks or broths and use them frequently when preparing meals.  A delicious stock or broth, can be the base for a never ending possibility of soups which is what I often use mine for.  Stock is also as a prized ingredient when preparing stir-fry’s and pasta and can be turned into a terrific sauce without, or with less dairy or fat than traditionally used.  A luxurious stock is also the star ingredient for making a very fine risotto which in my opinion, must be made using a quality stock – no tetra packs on risotto day in my kitchen.

Benefits for your Health & Budget:

Making your own stock is a super easy cooking project that will have  you reaping the rewards for future meals.  Stocks made from bones, vegetables and aromatics are not only a tastier, healthier, more nutritious option than store bought but also a lot more budget friendly.

Whether you are saving your vegetable scraps or starting with fresh veggies from the grocery store, the resulting broth that is made is packed with both flavor and vitamins.  While just about any firm vegetables can be used, I always start with the traditional mix of onion, celery and carrots.  Be sure to remember to add aromatics like bay leaf and peppercorns.

Did you know?  When you make stock from carcasses or bones the slow cooking process melts the cartilage and is what makes your stock become gelatinous when refrigerated.  This liquid is said to be helpful for maintaining ease of movement in our own joints.  So eat your soup, it’s good for you.

Preparing to make chicken stock:

It seems like I’m always getting ready to make my next batch of stock.  Chicken stock that is.  For beef stock I always buy ingredients fresh and make it the same day.  I usually only make a beef stock about twice a year.  Chicken stock however is always an ongoing project.  I store chicken bones from whole roasted chickens and any raw trimmings from other chicken prep (wing tips, backs) in Ziploc bags in the freezer sorted by cooked or raw.  When I get enough of them, I make a big batch of chicken stock.  On stock making day, any uncooked portions are first roasted on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until browned, sizzling and having rendered some of their fat.  Bones that are already cooked can go directly into your stock pot. Not necessary to thaw first.

Chicken Stock 009Building a basic stock:

In a very large pot put in all chicken pieces or bones

Add rough chopped pieces of 2 onions, 2 carrots, 3 stalks celery.  Vegetables should be washed but not peeled.  These are used for flavor only.

Add a couple of garlic cloves, about 8 peppercorns, 2-3 bay leaves

Cover with cold water to 3 inches above items in pot

Bring to a boil then turn to a gentle simmer, skim a couple of times if necessary

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Simmer at a very low heat, partially covered for 4 – 6 hours

Remove large pieces with spider utensil, let cool slightly, strain

Cool completely.

Reap your rewards!!

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Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

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This is the second time making this recipe from Molly Steven’s book All About Braising.  It is one of my favorite cookbooks and I’ve taken it out of the library about 5 times.   I’m always on the lookout for a copy in Thrift Stores and Garage Sales but am not surprised to never find one as I’m sure once you have a copy of this book it’s unlikely that you will be getting rid of it anytime soon.

Braising is a relatively easy way to cook and taking the time to follow the steps and use the techniques in this recipe is worth it to develop the flavors.  Most all the work is done up front, in fact it is better if it is prepared the day before serving making it an excellent choice for entertaining.

I made this the other night for a dinner party and while it was good, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized I forgot a major ingredient.  There is supposed to be horseradish added to the maple-rosemary glaze that is brushed on the ribs before serving.  I completely missed that step and really wish I hadn’t because it adds an additional brightness and depth of flavor to the dish.  Reminder that it always works better to have all your ingredients prepped, pre-measured and ready to go.

There are two types of short ribs.  The standard rectangle block shaped ones referred to as English style and the Flanken style which are taken by cutting across the bones producing a flatter and often leaner rib.   I used Flanken this time and was happy with my choice.

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

Step 1 – salt ribs at least one day in advance, loosely cover with parchment or wax paper in the fridge.  This tightens the meat and prepares it for searing.

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Step 2 – brown the ribs.  I did this in batches in an enamel cast iron pot (same one used for the braise) however this step can be done in the oven.

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Step 3 – prepare the braising liquid.  Carrots, onion, homemade stock, dark beer, rosemary, bay leaves.

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Step 4 – add ribs to the braising liquid and cook low and slow covered in the oven.

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Step 5 – Ribs waiting for finishing glaze.

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There are about 8 more important steps along the way and these are covered in detail by Molly Stevens in the attached link.

Complete recipe and instructions here:  

http://tinyurl.com/2exktjc

 

 

Banana Walnut Loaf

There were about 6 frozen bananas in my freezer taking up room so, it appeared to be time to make a banana loaf.  To increase the nutritional value and add Omega 3’s, this loaf has walnuts but you could easily omit them or add something else. Banana Bread

I found a terrific Martha Stewart recipe.  The only thing I altered was to cut down on the sugar.  (use your own judgment) I’m not much of a baker so I need to pay attention to what I’m doing when baking.  Martha’s recipes are so clearly written, it helps me a lot.  I also found an excellent technique for dealing with frozen bananas in recipes.  By using Amy’s advice, there is no mess and no mashing required.  It wins a gold star for Arthritis Kitchen easy!

Banana-Walnut Loaf

http://www.marthastewart.com/315106/banana-walnut-loaf

Martha’s recipe was foolproof resulting in a beautiful, moist loaf with excellent texture.  The extra step of toasting the walnuts really makes them stand out.  I recommend doing this in a dry skillet or in the oven.  Just be careful not to burn them.

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Technique for using frozen bananas – so easy!

http://gospelhomemaking.com/banana-bread/

Check out this blog with a foolproof, easy way of using frozen bananas in baking.  By letting the bananas thaw in their skins and then squeezing them out and then draining you get recipe ready bananas without the need to mash or chop.  They fold beautifully into your recipe.

Apple Plum Crumble

 

plums 005We have a plum tree in the yard.  It produces beautiful prune plums that looks like this.  I’m not much of a baker but when the ingredients are in your back yard – how can you resist? There was not a high yield of fruit, just enough for one thing, Old Fashioned Plum and Apple Crumble. A fruit crumble or crisp is about the easiest desserts you can make and it is comforting and delicious served warm with some good vanilla ice cream.

Apple Plum Crumble

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sliced pitted plums
  • 2 cups sliced peeled apples
  • ¼ – 1/3 cup packed brown sugar or other sweetener, adjust depending on sweetness of fruit.
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

 Crumble:

  • 1 cup large-flake rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ – ½  tsp cinnamon (to taste)
  • 1 Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, cubed

 Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F In large bowl, toss together the sliced fruit with sugar, flour, nutmeg and cinnamon; spread in lightly greased 8-inch (2 L) square glass baking dish. Crumble: In bowl, combine rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. With fingers or pastry blender, rub or cut in butter until mixture is in coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over plum mixture. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until topping is golden, and it is bubbly about 50 minutes.

 

Arthritis Kitchen Tip:

This recipe is loaded with cinnamon.  Cinnamon is an antioxidant, thins your blood and can reduce inflammation in the body.  Adding as little as 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily diet is all that it takes to obtain health benefits.

Apple Strudel – Addiction and Rehab

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I been having a food craving recently that I’m shamelessly giving into.  Apple Strudel, the generic store-bought variety.  You know the kind…, rectangles of pastry with a tiny smear of apple pie product in the middle.  They are often not very good but, as I am confessing here, I have no self-control when they are in the house……they’ve been in the house often these days.  Giving into some guilty pleasures I guess.

I’m going try my hand at making them.  How hard can it be?  Store bought puff pastry (or how about something completely different, more whole grains?), then you add apples cinnamon.  I’m convinced I can make something healthier and tastier than the store bought version.  There is a tree of excellent cooking apples ripening in the yard and this is one of the things I plan to do with them.

In the meantime, here’s how to take a generic apple strudel and improve it by adding some fresh ingredients and extra flavor and nutrients.

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Using a table knife pry open the wide side of the piece of strudel.  It should open very easily like a hinge.  Add some jam if desired (I used thick cut orange marmalade), a sprinkle of cinnamon, top with very thinly sliced apples and more cinnamon – to your taste.  Close it up and you have a vastly improved treat.  The crunch of the fresh apples really make it.

Cinnamon 005Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

Have you heard people talking about Cinnamon?  It’s been making headlines as another superfood with some pretty impressive stats.  Cinnamon is one of the world’s oldest spices and medicines.  It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits of this potent elixir.  Just 1/2 teaspoon per day is all that is needed in order to gain the benefits.  Add it to your list of organic spices to purchase and buy in small quantities so it is always fresh.

Some health benefits of Cinnamon:

Cinnamon is a very powerful antioxidant, one of the most powerful of all the spices.

Cinnamon has positive effects on the blood, lowering blood sugars, reducing LDL cholesterol and thinning the blood preventing blood clots and reducing inflammation.  Adding cinnamon to a high carbohydrate food can actually reduce the negative impact on your blood sugar levels!

Inhaling the aroma of cinnamon is shown to increase brain function resulting in improved mental alertness, recognition memory and working memory.  Excellent for boosting cognitive ability.

Adding cinnamon to your daily diet is easy.  Add some into your morning coffee, sprinkle on toast, cereal or yogurt, add to your savory dishes too.  So spice up your life and improve your health at the same time.

An apple a day….?

yard shots july 004Look at theses beautiful apples growing in my yard.  They are part of a very unique variegated tree.  Three kinds of apples all on one tree.  The beauties shown here are the only real producers this year.  They are the Chehalis variety which originates from Washington state and is said to be similar to a Golden Delicious only crisper and with honeyed juicy qualities making them terrific for eating.   I can’t wait to see how they taste.  We will also have a bounty of cooking apples in the fall from a tree on the property and I’m looking forward to using them in all sorts of ways.

An apple a day?  It’s not hard to do if that’s your goal.  And why not?  We all know that apples are good for us, high in vitamin C, a source of fiber and they provide the body with an excellent source of healthy energy.  Apples are also a very versatile fruit and can be added to many styles of cooking both sweet and savory.  The entire fruit including skin, and seeds can be eaten which if doing so, greatly increases their nutritional profile.

If possible buy local when available and choose fruit that has not been sprayed or waxed.

You can easily add to your daily fruit and veg intake by adding apples to a variety of your recipes.  While of course apples are great in anything baked – from muffins, cakes and pies apples are also a nice addition to cold salads such as grated in a coleslaw or diced or sliced for a green salad.  When you pair apples into a dish along with toasted nuts you can really turn it into something special.

Adding apples to a savory dish can add a good balance of sweet and/or acid to the dish depending on the type of apple and how you use it.  Below was a spectacular meal featuring pork chops with sautéed apples and onions with just a hint of cinnamon.  Served with smashed new potatoes and green beans with lemon zest.

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Pork Chops with Apples, Onions and Cinnamon

2 bone pork loin chops

1 medium onion

1 -2 apples

1/4 cup stock, white wine or apple juice

pinches of cinnamon

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Thinly slice apples and onions.  Using a small amount of butter, brown onions first until translucent.  Add apple slices and turn over gently trying to get a bit of a sear on the apple slices.  When sautéed, remove to a plate and keep warm.

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Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper.  Sear well on all sides, including any exposed bone.  Use the same pan used for the apples.  A cast iron skillet works great for this.

When chops are almost done, remove from pan and keep warm.  Deglaze pan with stock, wine or apple juice (I use chicken stock) and using a wooden spoon, scrape up all browned bits.  When liquid has reduced to 1 Tbs, return chops to the pan and top with the apples and onions.  Gently sprinkle cinnamon on top, cover and simmer for 5 – 8 min until pork is your desired doneness.  Remove chops to a plate to rest keeping apple/onion topping in place.  Reduce remaining liquid to a sauce and spoon over chops when serving.

Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Salmon & Asparagus

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It feels so good to do some simple, basic cooking to create a comforting meal.  Last night it was oven roasted salmon and asparagus with mashed potatoes.  The entire dinner can be prepared in 20 minutes and that includes time to heat the oven.

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

For the asparagus, line a baking sheet with foil, wash and trim asparagus, dry with paper towel then toss with olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt.  Place in oven for 10 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks.

For the salmon, I like to use a shallow glass pan.  Line the bottom with thinly sliced lemon, place fish on top, skin side down.  Season well with salt and pepper and fresh lemon zest or finely minced herbs such as dill, parsley, chives.  I only had lemon zest this time.  Place 1 tablespoon of white wine (or water) in bottom of pan and roast in the oven for 8 – 12 minutes – depending on thickness of fish.  You do not want to overcook salmon so watch it carefully.  These pieces were quite thin and were baked for 9 minutes – they were perfect.  Be sure to serve with a big wedge of lemon!

Pair with a side of your choice and enjoy a healthy, comforting, easy to eat delicious dinner!

 

 

It’s your health – pay attention, be involved.

I’ve talked before about how important it is to be an educated, active and informed participant in your own health care.  This could not have been more evident and re-enforced during my treatment planning visits with my Medical Oncologist.  It turned out to be a couple of very important appointments.

Based on the aggressiveness of my recent breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment options available, we chose to go the AC route, for the type of chemo.  My Oncologist is great and takes the time to cover all information during the visit.  When the explanation of possible concerns with the heart when the AC is used came up, it was a red flag for me.

As perfect timing would have it, I had recently attended a Web Conference put on by the Arthritis Research Centre of Canada – ARC. http://www.arthritisresearch.ca/ The focus of the conference was heart health and specifically its impact on those with inflammatory arthritis.  Because of this, heart health was top of mind and it prompted me to ask my Oncologist specifically about any impact or concerns re: this chemo protocol and heart function, reminding her of my long term, severe RA.  That led to a discussion and decision to have a MUGA scan done, a test to measure how efficiently your heart is pumping.  The test was promptly ordered and we went ahead and had treatments on scheduled to start the within 10 days.

Great, I heard back in 2 days with an appointment.  So happy… this is what I’ve been waiting for, a start date for treatment.  My appointment set to start my 1st chemo next week.  I’m to see my Oncologist on Wednesday then treatment begins on Thursday.  Finally I can make a schedule, I can have a plan, I want to get started so I can get it over with!!

My Wednesday appointment goes well with the Oncologist.  Great news, final pathology on the nodes is in and again is clear.  We are going over details and getting everything sorted out for starting chemo tomorrow and I’m getting a big list of new before, during and after medications to get filled.

I’m then remember my new found education in heart health from the ARC seminar and it prompts me to inquire on the results of the MUGA scan we talked about and ordered last visit.

It is then that my Oncologist checks the results.  Wait, this is interesting……while not alarming or anything of great concern, it turns out my results were out of the expected range and my Dr would like to run an echocardiogram to investigate further so that we can make the best decision of which duration of treatment I should take.  So, my chemo is cancelled and I’m booked in for one final test.

Of course it’s the right thing to do, of course it makes sense.  However…………..do I have to tell you how disappointing this was.  On a couple of levels actually.  First of all, I’ve been waiting for months to get this going and dealing with all the emotions that go with riding the roller coaster during the waiting game.  Secondly, I was feeling disappointed and annoyed that it was me that had been the one to ask the question “so what about those test results from the recent heart scan and my RA and all that…where are we at?”

Well thank goodness I did ask.  While I had been initially annoyed that my 1st chemotherapy session had been cancelled and it felt like a wasted trip (3 hour drive) to see the Dr that morning for what I felt should have been able to be handled over the phone.  However after digesting all the new information and thinking about what had actually happened, I couldn’t be more pleased or proud of the outcome and how I navigated through the situation.  While the situation with my heart may or may not have anything at all to do with my RA,  the education that I had received made me more vigilant, confidant and aware and therefore I asked an important question.

While I had been psyched up and ready to go, just as on a launch pad before a rocket takes off on a space mission, should there be any reason – large or small that warrants a second look, verification, tweaking or fixing we certainly want this identified and dealt with BEFORE the start of the journey.  Not after, as a missed opportunity to change course.

It’s a great reminder to pay attention and to speak up.  I’m looking forward to my appointment with my GP and Rheumatologist tomorrow so we can along with my Oncologist, review the specifics of my situation and make the best choices for my care.  I’m happy to be part of my awesome team of health care professionals and tomorrow is going to be another busy day along the journey.

Chicken Breasts with Turmeric, Shallots and Orange

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Turmeric is said to be one of the spices that are most helpful in reducing inflammation in the body.  Eating to reduce inflammation is not only beneficial to those with an inflammatory auto immune condition but also plays a large role in cardiovascular health.  So be bold and add some turmeric to your food.

This recipe has a bit of a Moroccan flavor to it with the use of both turmeric and cinnamon.  Pairing with the oranges and fresh herbs balances out the flavors for a savory dish with just a touch of sweetness.

 Chicken Breasts with Turmeric, Shallots and Orange

4 bone in chicken breasts (or thighs)

2 large shallots, minced

1 clove garlic

2 teaspoons olive oil or butter

2 oranges in total (one for zesting and juice and one for slicing)

Juice from zested orange

1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves (or parsley)

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp cinnamon

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Splash of soy sauce

Method:

  • Chop shallots, garlic, thyme (or parsley)
  • Peel and chop zest.  This is one of the rare times I do not use a microplane for zest because I prefer the coarser texture.
  • In a very small pan heat oil or butter, then add shallots, garlic and zest.  Sauté on low heat until shallots begin to soften.
  • Add spices and combine, heat until fragrance is released.

Put mixture aside to cool.

Slice the other orange into very thin rounds

For each chicken breast or thigh, lift up the skin and put 1 teaspoon of the shallot mixture under each piece.  Then add two orange slices under the skin, on top of the shallot mixture.

Seasons breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.

Brown chicken pieces in a heavy pan then bake on a foil lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of chicken pieces.  Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness.

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While chicken is baking prepare the pan sauce.

Heat pan that was used to brown chicken.  Deglaze with orange juice and the soy sauce.  Reduce to desired consistency and set aside.

When chicken is done, remove from oven, place on a platter and rest for at least 10 minutes.  Pour any juices collected at bottom of platter into your sauce.

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Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

  • To avoid staining, keep your Turmeric in a small container with a shaker top.  Also makes it easy to use.
  • Sautéing the aromatics and the spices brings out the natural oils in the spices and enhances their aroma and flavor.

Beet Soup – Classic Borscht

Beet Soup 013I’ve always been a fan of beets.  We enjoy them in salads, either grated raw or roasted.  Pickled beets are a nice side or condiment and beets are also great when steamed.  Turning these bright red nutritional rock stars into soup however is a labor of love that rewards you with such an amazing taste treat that is also really beautiful.

Beet soup or Borscht as it is often referred to is a traditional Eastern European delicacy.  Using a recipe from The Soup Bible as an inspiration, the following is a silky luxurious soup.  Served with a thick slice of challah this made for a complete, rich and satisfying meal.  Not only was this one of the tastiest soups I’ve had in a long time but when I started to read about beets and their unique nutritional profile I got excited.

Beets score extremely high points for being a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and are also assist with detoxification.  The reason for this is the high concentration of the betalain pigments that give the beets their vibrant red color.  While these reds are present in other foods, they are much more concentrated in beets.  Beets belong to the chenopod family of foods that also include spinach and quinoa which are said to have unique and powerful health benefits not found in other types of foods.  Please note that these nutritional benefits are depleted somewhat during long cooking times.  See Arthritis Kitchen Tips below for cooking guidelines.

Borscht

1 onion chopped

1 lb raw beets – peeled and washed

2 – 3 celery stalks – chopped

1 small red bell pepper – chopped

4 oz mushrooms – chopped

1 large apple – chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

2 litres/9 cups stock or water

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp dried thyme

1 large bay leaf

juice of ½ fresh lemon

Salt and pepper

To Garnish:

Sour cream, Fresh dill

Directions:

Heat olive oil in large saucepan, add the chopped vegetables and apple and briefly sauté.   Add about 3 Tbs of the stock or water, cover and cook gently for approximately 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the cumin, and thyme, sauté for 1 min then add remaining stock, bay leaf and juice of ½ lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and gently simmer for about 30 minutes.

Strain the vegetables, reserving the liquid.  Process the vegetables in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.  Return to pan, add the reserved stock and reheat.  Check for seasoning, adjust as needed.

Divide into individual serving dishes.  Garnish with swirls of sour cream and a few sprigs of fresh dill.

Serves 6

Arthritis Kitchen Tips:

  • Do not overcook.  In order to preserve their nutritional content beets should only be steamed for 15 minutes or if roasting, under 1 hour.
  • Beets can stain your hands when working with them.  Wear gloves if you wish or, clean up right away using some olive oil and salt!
  • Beet purchased with their green tops attached are generally fresher and younger than beets purchased loose.