Homemade Chicken Stock: The Easy Way

A few nights back I made chicken stock at our new house for the first time. This was a much needed step because we were out in the freezer and I’ve become stubborn when it comes to buying it at the store.

I had multiple friends and readers ask for my recipe. In all honesty, this shocked and flattered me. There are bazillion tutorials on this, but I thought hey, why not take the time to add my process to the mix?

If you don’t like it find another one. Seriously, this is JUST how I DO IT. It’s a compilation of other methods over time. 

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First off, here is why I make my own.

1) The “good stuff” is expensive ranging from .75 – $1 a cup.
2) The not good stuff will say things like “chicken flavored” broth and include food dyes, which no one needs.
3) It makes our house smell amazing and I end up feeling like a mighty, resourceful pioneer warrior.
4) The flavor is amazing.
5) Ridiculous money-saver.

Also here is the difference between broth and chicken stock. Basically chicken stock is a lot more flavorful and better for you as it contains the gelatin from the bones. The longer it simmers, the better it tastes and the more it will do for your health.

Ideally you start with a chicken you roasted yourself, which is free range and all that jazz. These birds are unarguably better for you and generally $10 or more. If this is in your grocery budget, I’d do it.

It’s not in ours so generally I get a fryer from the store (a roaster will also do. Here is the difference between them) or I cheat completely and buy a rotisserie chicken from the deli. This was the instance with this particular stock, they are $5.99 at our local Meijer and for an already-cooked, versatile and relatively healthy main you can’t go wrong.

If you’re roasting yourself, this is my favorite recipe. Yes it’s Ina Garten but it’s not fancy, just use regular onions and don’t make the sauce if you don’t have the time. But totally make it if you do… you will not regret it. People WILL propose. It could get awkward. 

Okay, so however it happened you have a roast chicken. Now it eat for dinner or make chicken salad out of it. Either way you’ll have this chicken carcass leftover.

And odds are if you dig into it and give it a once over you’ll find a couple more cups of meat that you missed. And you’ll pop an obscene amount more chicken in your mouth as you pick. (I happen to be VERY good at picking a chicken due to my deli days making chicken salad. You can’t teach this, it comes with time and a willingness to get greasy)

Whatever you find, save it, put it on a salad, use it for soup because FREE CHICKEN! You’re a genius!

So now you have a picked clean carcass. I realize I’m already almost 400 words in but this part really isn’t that hard. You just need to get to carcass stage.

Now get your largest pot. I like this one and got it on a mother’s day sale for about $60 I think.

You will need the following
Chicken Carcass
Celery
Carrots
Onion
Bay Leave
Peppercorns
Salt

celery and carrots

Big chunks and no need to peel.

1) Throw in your bones and carcass.
2) Grab 2 big carrots, 2 celery stalks, a large onion (quartered) 2 Bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns and a tsp of salt. (Honestly? I eyeball ALL of this)
3) Cut your carrots and celery into big chunks, throw em in the pot along with your peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Add some smooshed garlic cloves if you’re feeling it.
6) Put the pot in your sink and fill to the top with water.
7) Place it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn it down to a simmer.
8) If you see a film on top, skim it off with a wooden sppon. This is fatty grossness and you don’t need it per say. Feel free to do this several more times.
9) When the water gets low, add more.

Let it simmer until you go to bed. Then turn it off and put the whole thing in the fridge (use a pot holder. Don’t melt your fridge) because it probably has only been going for four hours or so and needs more time to become awesome.

The next morning throw it back on the stove if you have time (you can also do this the next evening) and let it go for about 4 more hours or so. If it looks gelatinous when cold this is a good thing, it means you have thick, hearty broth. You done good kid.

When you’re satisfied with flavor optimization get a huge bowl or another large pot and strain it.

Use your finest strainer, or if you’re like me, use your biggest one first and then strain it more finely as you move it into storage (I do this because I am the proud owner of a tiny, crappy, dollar store mesh strainer.)

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I strain it once to get out the big stuff and then again through a fine mesh strainer.

Now move it into storage. I use off-brand ziploc baggies and store most of it in 2 cup servings which I can use for either soup or recipes. Sometimes I do a 4 cup serving for a soup recipe, in which case I put it in a tupperware bowl with a post-it to label.

Then I make a round or two of ice cube tray chicken broth and throw them all in a big ziploc bag when they’re frozen. This way I can use just a little for those recipes that call for 1/4 cup or some such nonsense.

(With my ice cube trays 3 cubes = 1/4 cup)

Ludicrous Handiness

Ludicrous Handiness

The best part is realizing that you just took leftover bones and turned it into a TON of broth you can use for cooking. It’s not only more more nutrient dense, but it’s ridiculously cheaper.

For instance my recipe yielded 16 cups of broth. 
Chicken Carcass- Free, leftover after already eating the chicken (which yields more than one meal)
Carrots and Celery – $.30
Bay Leaves- $.30
Onion- $.50 (at the most!)
Peppercorns- $.10
Salt- Not even going to factor this in people.

So you spent maybe $1.25, IF THAT and you got 16 cups of much chicken breast that would have cost you about $15 or more in the store.

Store them flat to free and THEN you can put them wherever.

Store them flat to free and THEN you can put them wherever.

Okay, this is JUST how I make stock.

Also, I swear upon the very old table I am working on, that once you get through this once it will become easy and second nature.

It’s just this thing that is happening at your house making your house smell like maybe you are in fact the Pioneer woman herself.

Did I leave anything out? Do you have any questions? Please let me know and I will field them as best I can. I will try to take better pictures and change them up next time I make this.

How to win friends and Influence People. With Guacamole.

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Adorable banner cut by Noelle and created by WildOlive

My husband Kel is one quarter Mexican, at least we think he is (no one really kept track of genealogy in his family.) Regardless of whether or not it’s true, Kel FEELS one quarter Mexican, which is why he is famous for his enchiladas and why he always asks to throw a Cinco De Mayo Party.

Last night was no exception as three families with children and cheese dip in town made their way through the doors of our home to share a meal with us.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

Kids sharing a meal, I love each face and their engagement.

And of course I made a massive bowl of guacamole.

Why? Because we are famous for our guacamole, it gets requested often. Sometimes we theme dinner parties around these requests, seriously. It’s that good.

Our penchant for guac started while I was working at On The Border, a chain restaurant where, if you really want to annoy your waitress you can request to have your guacamole made table side. This is instead of say ordering a less expensive bowl of house guacamole for $3 less.

So as this was a menu item I was trained on how to make great guacamole while chatting up my restaurant guests. It was so good, so fresh, it blew my mind.

So, we started with the On the Border house recipe, without raw onions which are Kel’s kryptonite. 

Then we went on our Honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta and discovered even better guacamole while on a snorkeling excursion on a wooden sailboat. This is not just because we were margarita tipsy, the guac was THAT good.

I snuck down to the galley and bothered the cook with my limited spanish for an ingredient list, which he graciously shared. This is why we now add garlic and onion powder.

So, because I love you and because well made Guacamole is good for the soul I am going to share my recipe with you today.

Let’s pretend you’re making it for 4 people, you can adjust accordingly.

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Some people wear purple medical gloves while chopping spicy peppers. Hi, I’m some people.

1) Slice two avocados lengthwise, using the sharp end of your knife, twist out the pit. Scoop them into a medium bowl with a soup spoon.

2) Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lime over the avocados and sprinkle roughly 1/4 tsp of salt on top as well, while you prep your other ingredients, the salt and lime will break down the avocado while you slice.

3) Dice roughly a shy 1/4 cup each of tomatoes and cilantro and one medium jalapeño pepper, set aside.

A NOTE ON JALAPEÑOS: When you chop them, take out the seeds (the spicy part) or your guacamole will be spicy. If you want it spicy you can leave them in, or add hot sauce, but in my very professional opinion, guacamole shouldn’t be the spicy portion of the meal. Also not a bad idea to wear gloves or at least wash your hands thoroughly after chopping all spicy peppers, some people I know have gotten juice in their eye, at the own college graduation party and cried off all their makeup.

4) Sprinkle a decent amount of garlic and onion powder (powder not salt) over your avocado and then, using forks, spoons or whatever you have on hand start to roughly work through your avocados. Chop them up but don’t mash them as good guacamole is still a bit chunky, creaminess will happen on it’s as tis the nature of ripe avocados.

5) Fold in your veggies until well incorporated and then taste to see if you’d like to adjust the seasonings, I almost always add more salt and lime. Remember that it’s infinitely easier to add more seasoning than it is remedy over-seasoned food. 

6) Serve Immediately with chips to hungry and appreciative guests.

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Ingredient List
2 large, ripe but not overripe avocados.
1 Roma Tomato
1 Jalapeño Pepper
I bunch cilantro
1 Lime
Salt
Garlic Powder
Onion Powder

Bonus 3 Guacamole pet peeves
1) No fresh ingredients, no tomato, no pepper crunch.
2) Adding mayonnaise or sour cream to it. Sorry guys, avocados are creamy and fatty enough as is.
3) Lemons over limes. I even know it’s more authentic but for me, it’s gotta be limes. Sorry.

Do you make guacamole fresh? Buy it from the store? Love it? Hate it? 
If you make this, check back in, I’d love to hear from you.

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Walnut Date Dip, It’s awkwardly delicious.

So, this weekend I was challenged to provide party fare for my son’s second birthday party.  Normally this isn’t a challenge but on the date of the party all my adult party guests were on a church wide fast and the rest were preschoolers.

How was I going to provide food that fasting grownup and their kids would enjoy?  It would be pointless to put out my signature bacon wrapped dates.. but OMG are they fantastic!

There were multiple fasts and strict diets to work around and all dairy, meat, wheat and sugar were out.

No cheese plate
No cream cheese spinach dip
No crackers of any kind…

So, what?

Well I knew I could always fall back on our signature guacamole and blue corn tortilla chips.  Seriously we make the absolute best guac in the world.

Secondly most of our guests love hummus and I already had a batch in the fridge that I made earlier this week, so I arranged in on a platter with some cruidté.

I needed a third dip, something naturally sweet that could be eaten with fruit, I used to make an amazing cream cheese fruit dip but we’re Paleo and our guests aren’t eating dairy so… no.

I did had some homemade walnut butter as well as some date honey on hand that I had made to go with our whole 30 eating plan.  Surely those two would pair well together… with apples, right?

So I whipped the two together and came up with this walnut date dip that my guests absolutely adored.

My friend’s husbands almost accidentally fell in love with me. It was awkwardly delicious.

I was actually informed that I was making it again today for our church group tonight so I just whipped up batch two and wanted to share it with all the Daniel Fast, Paleo and Whole 30 people out there.

It is totally Paleo and Daniel Fast Friendly, it is Whole 30 acceptable as long as you use this as your minimal dose of dried fruit / sweet for the day.

Ingredients

8 oz Walnuts
8 oz Dates
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups of water
pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (other healthy oils could be subbed in)

Add dates, water and cinnamon to a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Simmer until dates are tender and very soft.

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Allow the contents of the pan to cool down a bit and then add to your food processor and blend until totally smooth.  Now you have date honey.

Remove the date honey from the food processor and place in an air tight bowl.  No need to clean your processor bowl as you will be using the date honey again shortly.

Add in all the walnuts and being processing them, just allow the processor to run for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball of nut butter.

Now, slowly drizzle in your oil as the nuts process until you’re happy with the consistency.

Add in 1/2 – 3/4 of the date honey (or as much as desired) that you made and process together until smooth and slightly fluffy looking.

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Serve with fresh sliced apples, rice cakes or smeared on bananas or just stick your face in the bowl and pray no one walks in on you.

Either way this stuff is addictive and just plain YUM!  Yes.. I am a little proud of myself.

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Grandma Verkaik’s Sugar Cookies (a Christmas Cookie Exchange Link-up)

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Today I am going to teach you how to make the Christmas cookies that our family has been making for about 50 years.  And I’m thrilled to share it, and even more thrilled to read all of your heirloom recipes and the stories that go with them.

My Aunts and Uncles have memories of these cookies that extend back into their childhood.  They remember eating them as children and then returning thousands of miles from college to help roll them out and decorate them together.

As for me, I can’t remember a time when these cookies weren’t a huge part of my Christmas.  My dad always made them at home along with 6 other traditional cookie recipes.  He had an affinity for christmas tree shaped cookies, frosted green with green sugar sprinkles. He didn’t like to get crazy with the decorating and I must confess I’m still partial to a good ol’ green tree.

Not only that, but every year growing up my Grandparents would rent a cottage for our family so that we could spend a weekend together over the holidays.  My Dad was 1 of 5 and I have 13 first cousins, so this was no small gathering.

We would play Euchre on card tables, spend hours in the snow and stay up late telling stories and plotting practical jokes.

At some point over the weekend we would roll out these Christmas cookies by the dozens and then spend the next 24 hour devouring them with hot chocolate from a huge thermos.

I love that because of my Grandparent’s intentional living, my cousins and I have these recipes and memories in common. Continue reading

Christmas Cookie Exchange Announcement (my first blog link-up)

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If your family is like mine, you have a thousand Christmas memories, many of which center around the dining room table or plate of treats shared with warmth and laughter.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas for you without the results of these recipes that are tucked as tightly into your heart as they are into your overflowing recipe box.

My Dad loved Christmas, he didn’t go overboard on much, but when it came to Christmas cookies, once a year he would turn our kitchen into a cookie factory.

He made Snickers Surprises, Mrs Fields with M&Ms, Corn Flake Wreaths, Almond Pies and my Grandma’s sugar cookies, brushed with an egg wash and topped with colored icing and sprinkles.

He did it all in one day, batch after batch, using our garage as a cooling room.  There were card tables overflowing with cookies cooling on newspaper.  I’m not sure my Dad even know that cooling racks existed.

He often gave me the job of “shucking the snickers” which was to essentially sit at the table and unwrap about a hundred bite size snickers bars so he could shove them into a ball of peanut buttery dough.

On my worst Christmases I’ve found comfort in making my Dad’s cookie recipes.  For me there are always a few tears of grief in the batter, but when I sit down with a plate of his cookies I feel the tug of all the Christmas that have gone before.

It’s one of the most bittersweet moments of my year.

I bet that you have these heirloom recipes as well, the things that you make year after year.  As you do I bet that you share the stories and memories of the people whose hands taught yours to mix, roll and bake these ingredients into reality.

I love stories and memories, I could sit all day and listen to you talk about your heirloom recipes and family memories.  Because the heritage in these bites goes so deep into our souls that it’s mixed into our DNA.

A part of me can be found in these cookies.

A part of you can be found in your Grandpa’s almond bars or your mom’s chocolate pie.

So would you share these stories and memories with us?

So I’m cordially inviting you to a blog-wide Christmas Cookie Exchange, it’s my first Blog Link-Up, so I’m a little nervous, but like.. nervous excited.

I wish we could actually share a cup of cocoa and share but since there are likely miles between us, lets try the next best thing.

Here’s the info:

On Friday December 7 I’ll write a post about my favorite holiday recipe with a link up option so that you can join in.

Write your own post On December 7 or sometime shortly thereafter and link up with us!  Use the #cookieexchange hashtag to make connecting even easier.

Share your favorite holiday recipe with ingredients and clear instructions. It can be sweet or savory, it’s not cookie specific.

Tell us the story of why it’s so special, where did it come from, who passed it along to you?

Take pictures while you make it, do it at home or go to Grandma’s house, get your kids and friends involved.  These lovely recipes are made for sharing my friends.

I can’t wait to share stories and make new memories with you, eek!  I hope you join in.

Butternut Squash Casserole (AKA The Squash-gasm)

I will always remember the first time I tried this dish, I was at my Aunt Cindy and Uncle Rick’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

After Kel and I had tasted it for the first time we were lost in bliss, I’m not sure we said much more for the duration of dinner other than: “Yeah but that squash casserole is like… wow!

After dinner we sipped white wine and worked on a Christmas craft, a tradition of my Aunt’s that we’ve adopted in our home.  In between dinner and dessert we all sit down together and make something crafty while we chat and digest.  That year we made puzzle piece Christmas ornaments.

I’m sure all I said was:   The casserole!  The sweetness, the creaminess, the crunchy nutty topping!  

I would have skipped pie and just eaten an 7th helping of this Butternut Squash Casserole if there was any left.  That’s the thing about this recipe, when you make it, there’s rarely any left.

So from my Aunt Cindy’s kitchen, to mine, to yours, Enjoy!

One third cup butter or margarine, softened
thee quarter cup sugar
2 eggs
1 small can (5 oz) evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of mashed, cooked butternut squash

TOPPING
One half cup rice krispy type cereal
One quarter cup packed brown sugar
One quarter cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla.  Stir in squash (mixture will be thin).  Pour into a greased baking pan such as an 8 x 8 pie plate.  Baked, uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes or until almost set.  Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over casserole.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.

I often double this recipe and then I use a 9 x 11 casserole dish

Last year’s Thanksgiving Feast, Squash is at the bottom of the picture, a little overdone on the edges. You have to watch it, it’s a tricky little vixen.

Letters to my Mom {Day 8} Muffins & Memories

warm muffins on the rug. beautiful kid memories. (The OU footie pajamas are just gravy)

Dear Mom,

Mornings as a mother are insane, this morning I made the mistake of not beating the kids out of bed and I woke to utter chaos.  A flurry of demands dominated the first moments of my Monday: Milk! coffee! cereal! meow! (feed me) I don’t wanna wear panties!  

I have no idea what I subjected you to as a child, I know I was a very crabby little person in the morning, but I would like to take this moment to apologize.  I’m sorry for all the times that I made your mornings unnecessarily hectic with my self-centered impatience.

Now I’m the mama and it’s truly a terrible thing to do to another person.

I know that as a Toddler I would yell for Cheerios to you over the monitor until you got me up and fed me.  “Ooooooos mumma!  Ooooooos!”

I still called you mumma all they way to the end, you loved it.  Somehow it always brought us back to each other.

You were the queen of muffins and breads, you didn’t like to do a lot in the kitchen, but muffins you seemed to enjoy and have a knack for.

I will never forget the bran muffin mornings on the cold winter days on Sally Drive.

You would keep a huge bowl of muffin batter in the fridge and bake up a fresh batch for us every morning.  Such a brilliant idea.

I remember taking two buttery muffins on a paper towel pand eating them on top to the heating register next to the table.  I would put an cream colored afghan over my head for optimum warmth.

Dad would always tease me: “C’mon Leanne, you’re sucking up all the heat!” 

I would giggle under my afghan at that comment, every time.

I miss that, all of it, the teasing and the muffins and the mornings together.  I know that they would be few and far between these days.  Surely, dominated by grandkids and all their demands.

I know you and Dad would love it, the little hands grabbing for muffins on the counter.  I can see Dad throwing them over his shoulder, blowing zerberts on their tummies.

I can’t tell you what a heartache all those dreamlike moments are to me.  Waves of pain accompany imagining all the moments that will never be.  It stings fiercely watching my children grow without you two.

I think I’ll share your bran muffins with the world and stop here, because as the great Forest Gump once said: “That’s all I have to say about that.”

I love you, I miss you,

LeaRae

Sally’s Bran Muffins 

There is nothing like hand written recipe card, crusty with use, to inspire nostalgia and memories

1 Cup Canola Oil (or applesauce to cut on fat)
1 Cup boiling water
4 Large eggs (lightly beaten)
3 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Qt Buttermilk
5 Cups Flour
5 Cups All Bran Buds
1 Cup Raisin Bran Flakes
5 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp salt

1) Combine oil, hot water, eggs
2) Add cereal and sugar, stir.
3) Add buttermilk, baking soda and salt
4) Add flour last (Grandma V recommends 2 cups wheat germ & 3 cups white flour)
5) Add dried cranberries or additional raisins as desired.  (Plump in hot water before adding)

Bake at 400 for 15 – 20 or until toothpick comes out clean.

Batter will stay good in the fridge for two weeks or in the freezer for two months.

Bake a fresh batch each morning for total family bliss.