Saucy Saturday: Let’s Talk Bone Broth
Is this hype or truly healthy? Is it a super-food or a super-trend? Bone broth has had a place in the typical human diet for ages. It’s been in your grandma’s repertoire for health and healing and there is certainly something to be said regarding those tried and true methods to nurse us back to health. With modern scientific influence looking at components in food rather than the food as a whole item, we now know more about why certain foods (or rather, certain nutrients) are so good for us. I would conclude that bone broth is a super-food and though it is super trendy right now, it’s a bandwagon worth jumping on, and here is why:
Bone broth is very nourishing and tolerated by almost everyone. So how do you make it?
I like to save the carcass from a chicken or turkey in the freezer in a large ziplock bag until I am ready to make my broth. You don’t need to make it the same day/night or even the next day from the roast chicken you made. Save two carcasses even and make a large batch. I also like to save the extra nibs, bits and peels of vegetables over a few weeks. As I cook dinner I will store the carrot tops and ends of celery, ribs from bell peppers, etc and I throw them into a big zip lock back and let the collection grow. Once I have a nice collection of bones and vegetables I know I’m ready to start a batch of broth.
You can also go talk to your butcher and get bones that may otherwise be thrown away. It is a super cheap way to source bones to make some broth. You can use beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, venison, fish, really most bones can make bone broth. It’s good if you can source some chicken feet and neck to increase the gelatin in the broth. But beware, adding a lot of chicken feet and forgetting you put them in the pot can make for a horror movie scene when you go to check on your broth. Okay let's get started:
1: Get out a large pot for the stovetop or uncover your crockpot. Place bones in to the pot or crockpot and cover with water. If you are making a lamb or beef broth, it’s nice to brown the meat/bones before starting the broth. Throw in the vegetables you would like to add (you can also add half way through cooking) Add some extra water over the bones, to allow for evaporation. Don't worry so much about how much meat, water and veggies, just get it in the pot and add some water. You can't mess this up.
2: Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking. This is so important to pull minerals and nutrients from the bones.
3: Bring the broth to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer for at least 6 hours. Skim the fat off the top as it rises. I recommend cooking for 16-20 hours for optimal nutrients. You can cook longer, many people say low and slow… however, if you cook too long you can have high levels of glutamate which is not optimal. So low and moderately slow.
4: Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard solids and strain the remainder through a colander, I also like to strain through a cheese cloth to get all the floaty bits out.
5: Let broth cool to room temperature, cover and chill. Use within a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
You can sip this broth, but I like to also use it to cook and incorporate in meals for my whole family (not everyone is willing to sip a mug of broth every day). I like to add the broth to cook my grains like quinoa, rice, barley, and spelt. I use it as a base for soup or to make a gravy. I use it in curries and noodle bowls like a pho knock off.
Many of my clients lately have expressed difficulty with meal planning. I realize I may not be a normal segment of the population who has fun thinking about what to cook for dinner Monday so that I can use components from that meal again on Tuesday, and so on. I get that I’m not normal, but I figured for those of you who view it as a chore or find it overwhelming, boring or a time consuming task, we could strategize some tips to arm yourself with.
First of all, meal planning supports your health goals and sticking to a grocery budget. More than half of Americans don’t know what it is they will be eating for dinner when they wake up in the morning. Without a plan, those with busy lives can easily be tempted to reach for easy, less healthy options. I’d like to help you become a better food planner. You will cut down on food waste, save money, reduce cooking time, dirty less dishes, and may even eliminate some stress(not to mention last minute trips to the store for items you didn’t know you needed when you shopped without a plan). So without further ado, let’s try to lessen those obstacles in the way of you and your plan for next week!
Tip #1: Shop in your pantry first! Do An Inventory
Look through your fridge, freezer and pantry for items that will expire soon. If you have roast meat in the freezer, or ground turkey in your fridge, write these items down so you can look for recipes centered around what you already have in your kitchen. This will help you reduce food waste and avoid unnecessary extra spending at the store.
Tip #2: What Are You Craving? What Inspires You?
This week I saw a recipe for tortellini soup and I wanted it so bad! So, I looked in my pantry and saw I had beef broth, tomatoes canned, and in the fridge I had celery, carrots, and some diced onion. All I really needed was the tortellini at the store! I wanted that soup so badly, I cooked it up as soon as I got home. I found a recipe on pinterest. Think about foods you may have wanted over the last week, whether it is a pesto chicken dish or a savory soup and look for recipes that seem easy enough for the amount of time you would like to spend cooking. If you go with what you have been craving or what inspires you, then you won’t be in a position on Tuesday wishing you were making sausage and peppers when all you’ve wanted since Sunday is taco salad.
You can decide on your meals for the week depending on the inventory you saw in tip 1, what may be on sale this week(call you butcher at the grocery store and ask what organic, well-sourced items are on sale – that way you can know as you are building your grocery list). Areas to look for inspiration are: cookbooks, magazines, blogs, pinterest, even facebook these days, there are videos showing up in my feed all the time of people making food.
Tip #3: Consult You Calendar
Consider who will be home what nights, if Johnny is at soccer on Tuesday and Thursday consider a meal that could be in a crockpot that everyone can grab on the go that night. Consider if you are all going to be away from the home one night, so you don’t over purchase items that won’t get cooked and may be wasted. Look for when you will need quick and easy meals, and when it’s okay to sip on a glass of wine and cook for an hour or two (oh, no one else does that?).
The main thing I would suggest in this section is to try to make two meals out of every meat selection, so you can buy in larger bulk, that way you can save some money. So ground turkey can be apart of turkey burgers AND taco night, or turkey chili and healthy turkey lasagna. You get the point. Try to pair of meat nights back to back. You can even do something like greek turkey meatballs on Monday and spaghetti and meatballs the next night. As you make the meatballs use two bowls when you get to the seasonings, in the Italian mix use basil, oregano, and garlic powder. In the greek use parsley, oregano, and thyme.
Tip #4 Write It All Down
Right out the meals like this:
Monday: Arugula Salad with Strawberries and Grilled Steak
Tuesday: Steak Fajitas
Wednesday: Greek night with Pitas, Hummus, and Turkey Meatballs
Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs with a Ceasar Salad Kit
Friday: Salmon, Rice and Asparagus
Saturday: Going Out
Sunday: Stuffed Bell Peppers (use left over meatballs, rice and anything else)
Tip #5 Plan Your Healthy Snacks
You can leave your list vague like: 2 kinds of fruit. Then when shopping look for what is on sale. But, even if you have a vague plan, have a plan. This will help you to avoid forgetting to pack a snack and instead grabbing a snickers out of the vending machine at work, or making a stop for an expensive treat at a local coffee shop where you will waste money and calories.
Tip #6 Keep It Simple and Be Easy On Yourself
Just like anything, the more you practice meal planning the better you will be at it. I suggest saving your weekly menus. Once you develop 4 or 5 weeks worth consider rotating them. That way you can just redo your shopping list real quick and the work is already done for you. You can also involve your family or room mates. Ask them what they are interested in eating this week. Maybe your partner is just waiting for you to make that delicious Indian Curry recipe again. Ask them, they will tell you.
Tip #7 Be Flexible
Some nights will inevitably not go as planned. No problem! Quick meals can be easy and healthy enough, you can always make an omelet or a quick soup or stir-fry whatever protein you have with a couple veggies. I like to always keep some easy to whip up items around so that when life gets hectic, dinner doesn’t have to be. It could be an already prepared tomato soup, and you make a quick cheese quesadilla to go alongside it with those whole wheat tortillas you are making lunch wraps with. That won’t take you more than 5 minutes to do.
Tip #8 Batch Cooking
I find this to be the best piece to meal planning. If you know you will need brown rice twice this week, why not cook it up while you are putting away groceries on Sunday afternoon. You can cook up batches of lots of things to make dinners or even packed lunches an easier task during the week. Consider cooking batches of chicken breasts, eggs, quinoa, lentils, veggies, you can pack salads at the start of the week with dressings on the side. A large pot of soup made on Sunday can be made into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays packed lunch. When you are putting it away, put it straight into the pyrex or Tupperware you will bring to school or work. You can even freeze extras in small, air-tight, labeled containers.
You can also buy bulk from places like Costco or when you see chicken breasts on sale. Then just freeze some of these bulk items. I like to keep a list of what I have put in my freezer, because sometimes it has a way of eating those items up and sending them to the bottom never to be found again. If you have a list, you can always know what to be searching for.
What other tips do you have and use? Please comment below or on facebook.
I’d like to start a series on cooking techniques. I hope to cover information that is helpful for the home cook. How do you choose a certain knife to cut bread, versus fruit or cheese? Which pan is best to cook fish in, or an egg, or pot roast? Why would you put meatballs back in the fridge before cooking? These will be bite-size lessons that will help you refine your skills and be more confident in the kitchen.
The first topic I would like to cover is called “mise en place”. My favorite college professor and the one who taught my cooking classes Dr. Arlene Grant-Holcomb (she also joined in at my graduation party and wedding celebration – talk about an incredible teacher!) would always instruct that a good recipe always starts with mise en place. So what does it mean? It literally means “set in place”. It’s exactly what you see done on all the popular cooking shows where the ingredients and tools are all set out and ready to go. You need onions diced for the recipe? They are diced ahead of time! You need two tablespoons of chili powder, measure it first! The point is to set it all out and then when you are reading through the recipe and doing each step in order, you always have that next ingredient at the ready.
One of my favorite things about Mise en Place is pretending I am a celebraty chef, and say things like "now we will just pour in two cups chicken broth" (then I pour in the two cups of premeasure chicken broth) and I FEEL LIKE A STAR! You may be thinking I'm crazy, but try it, I know it'll put a smile on your face. Even if the dog is the only audience member in the room, he will enjoy the lesson.
As you grow and develop in your cooking skills a strict mise en place may not be as necessary because you will know that you can measure spices as your onions brown, or you will anticipate needing to put an ingredient in the oven to roast for 20 minutes which will allow ample time to measure something else, however for a less experienced cook, or one who is not as confident, setting all the items in order is a crucial first step for any dish. Many times you can even do it HOURS ahead of time or even in the morning or night before to save yourself time when you actually prepare the dish. You’ll just need to be mindful of safe storing practices. Here are some simple tips I use:
COMBINE WHERE POSSIBLE
If all the spices are added at the same time in a recipe, just combine them all in one bowl as you measure.
If you add carrots, onion and celery to a recipe at the same time (or any mixture of veggies) just throw them all in the same bowl.
PEEL, CUT, CHOP, DICE, MINCE
Rinse your fresh produce, and do whatever cutting needs to take place before the recipe.
Measure all dry ingredients, spices, etc.
Measure any liquids, oils, butters, you need.
Look at the recipe and organize your ingredients based on where in the kitchen you will use them or when in the recipe you will use them. For instance if you are prepping chili – the spices should go near the pot.
BLANCHE AHEAD OF TIME
If the recipe calls of vegetables or fruit that is already slightly cooked, make sure this is done by the time you begin the recipe, nothing will slow your groove more than having to stop an entire process to go boil and blanche some broccoli.
Preparation is key to cooking a great recipe, selecting meals for the week and getting the most bang out of your buck at the grocery store. Mise en place can make home cooking more enjoyable as you are actually preparing the dishes and way more enjoyable to eat. It can save a dish that might have been burned while you were prepping other materials, and instead turn it into the most fabulous feast!
Do you mise en place? Take a photo and post it to my facebook wall.
Caitlin Johnson is a dietitian, wife, lover of ice cream, chef wannabe, California-girl, Christian, liver eating, "food-avore."
218 W. Carmen Lane, Suite 108
Santa Maria, California 93458
Hours: Tues and Thurs 9-5 PST