Taking Stock (Well, Making Stock)

Anyone can make something from something. It’s making something from nothing that really impresses me.

That, and octopuses that can unscrew themselves from the inside of jars. You gotta admit that’s impressive, even with the eight-leg advantage.

When I say making something from nothing, I’m not talking about Kardashian careers or some dubious reporting on the worldwide web. I’m talking about making chicken stock.

For years, I purchased my chicken stock in tin cans from the local grocery store, aware that my recipes called for it but unaware that the store bought stuff wasn’t always so great. Often high in sodium and full of chemicals, commercially produced chicken stock isn’t necessarily the nutritional powerhouse I thought it was. If you don’t believe me, check out this ingredient list from Swanson, including MSG and corn syrup solids. Mmmm. Hydrolyzed soy protein.


As I became more aware of where my food comes from and why that matters, I started to make my own chicken stock. At first, I followed recipes from the internet that called for virgin ingredients like a pound of chicken wings, or a bag of carrots, or eight stalks of celery or two sliced carrots. Some even called for an entire, uncooked chicken, no joke.

But then I realized that that was a huge waste. Why use perfectly good food to make chicken stock when you can make something just as wholesome and nutritious using the (read: free) food scraps that you produce in the normal course of cooking anyways?

That’s right, folks: you can make stock totally out of leftovers, and your tastebuds won’t even know the difference. (Though your wallet will.) Here’s how it works:

1. Put an empty gallon sized ziplock bag in your freezer.

2. Every time you use an onion in your kitchen, add the onion skins and scraps to the ziplock bag. Every time you use celery in a recipe, add the leftover hearts and leaves to the bag. Every time you peel a carrot, add the peelings to the bag. (Though I mostly just wash my carrots, instead of peeling them, but that’s a blog post for another day.) In my experience, here are the veggies whose scraps are worth saving:

  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • celery
  • onions/leeks/scallions/chives/shallots aka all the alliums
  • winter squash
  • herb stems, especially the ones Simon & Garfunkel sing about
  • mushroom stems, though not the ones Led Zeppelin sings about
  • potatoes
  • garlic
  • corn cobs (seriously)

Skip anything really fragrant (I’m not mad about fennel or broccoli, for example), or anything close to rotting (don’t forget you’re going to eat the results), but most anything else is worth experimenting with. If you do a lot of cooking, you’ll be amazed at how quickly that bag fills up.

Onion skins! Thyme stems! Parsnip ends! Oh my!
3. On the day after you’ve roasted a bird, or bought a rotisserie chicken, or somehow come across a bag of bones some other [legal] way, put the picked bones into a large pot. If you don’t eat meat, skip this step and just use the veggies.

Bonus points if you can convince your chef friend to carve it for you.
4. Add the frozen veggie scraps – several cups worth, hopefully – and anything else flavorful you have hanging around, like a few black peppercorns, a bay leaf or some garlic cloves. Skip the salt for now.

5. Cover the bones and scraps with cold water. I always add a splash of vinegar at this point, since I heard once it helps extract more nutrients from the bones, but I’ve never fact checked this and don’t intend to start today.

6. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook on low uncovered for at least an hour, but go for 2-3 if you have the time and all your liquid hasn’t evaporated.

P.S. Everyone should register for a Le Creuset stock pot. I freaking love this thing.
7. Strain the broth (I pour into the sink through a colander into a bowl to catch the liquid below) and throw away the bones/veggies, which have now been leached of their nutrients and aren’t worth reusing again.

8. Once the broth is cool enough to handle, I recommend pouring into 1-cup freezer containers that can be defrosted easily when you know you’ll need it. Other people store in plastic bags, which lie flat, but I’m not that fancy. Or, if you don’t want to freeze it for later use, cook with it immediately!

And, of course, step 9: Wonder why you’ve been buying chicken stock all this time when it’s so easy/cheap/hand-off to make yourself.

Do you make your own chicken stock? I’d love to hear from a convert who has finally taken the plunge!


Run Down Runner

If I were to compile my most-searched phrases on Google, it would probably look a little something like this:

  • Weather at 6 a.m. in Queens tomorrow
  • Crockpot meals that can cook for 12+ hours because who honestly is only gone from home for 7-8 hours a day?
  • Photos of sheep in sweaters

And, of course, my undisputed No. 1 search term:

  • Can I still go for a run when I’m sick?

I probably search that last item at least once a month, even though I already know the consensus internet response by heart: “If it’s above your neck, run. If it’s below your neck, stay home.”

What that means in layman’s terms is a stuffy nose or some sinus pressure shouldn’t be enough to keep a runner inside. Of course, dial back your exertion levels, keep hydrated and stop if you feel woozy, but in general, a little head cold shouldn’t sideline a runner for long.

If it’s below the neck though, that’s where the advice seems to change. When it’s on the lower part of your body — stomach pains, bronchitis, organ failure — that’s where you’re supposed to draw the line and focus on getting well instead. (Note: I never know if a sore throat counts as below or above the neck. Do you know? This question is an especially poignant one for giraffes, I’m sure.)

Fortunately for me, 95% of the time I’m questioning whether I’m too sick to run, I’m actually not — I’m just stuffed up and looking for an internet-sanctioned excuse to stay in bed. But not this month. A little whining ahead, so I apologize in advance, but I’VE BEEN SICK FOR SO DAMN LONG! Seriously. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.

  1. First, I came down with a violent stomach flu just two days after returning from my honeymoon (THAT’s one way to lose the wedding weight!)
  2. As soon as I got over that, I came down with heavy chest congestion and a gross productive cough
  3. After 10 days of that, I now have a suffocating tightness in my lungs where I feel like I can’t catch my breath. I finally saw a doctor, who put me on a steroid inhaler and told me, much like the internet did, no running until I feel well. And she said that might be weeks. Weeks!

Normally, doctor’s orders to stay still might be a welcome opportunity to catch up on sleep (or Sherlock…), but the timing couldn’t be worse: I’m less than two months out from the New York City Half Marathon, which I HAD hoped I’d race and maybe even log a new PR. It’s such an inspiring race, looping Central Park, cutting through Times Square and ending by Wall Street, and I’d pictured myself doing track workouts and hill repeats to prepare. Now the only repeats I’m doing are to and from the medicine cabinet at work. (If only that were the only sentence you had to read about cabinets today! #politicsjokes)

Still, I’m trying to make the best of it. Even though I’ve been instructed not to run, I’m trying to keep at least the tiniest bit active, attending a weekly yoga class and still showing up to casual league volleyball to embarrass myself publicly. But it’s not enough, and I feel my muscle mass — and PR dreams — dissipating before my eyes.

I joke, but I’m actually pretty down about it.

But at least I know what to google when I’m down:


How are you surviving the cruelest health season?


Keeping the Weight Down (Down Under)

Starting a piece of writing with a dictionary definition is a carnal sin in journalism, but I’m going to commit it anyways. Here goes.

The dictionary defines “honeymoon” as “a vacation spent together by a newly married couple.”

Honey, I imagine, refers to the sweetness of time passed together.

Moon, I assume, refers to the shape of one’s face after two weeks off a normal routine. Because, holy cow, a honeymoon is a decadent affair.

We’re talking flowing champagne, copious croissants, and more gelato than I’m proud to admit, plus very little incentive to stick to a workout routine, unless that routine involves walking up a hill to the afore referenced gelato store.

OK, fine, or walking up a hill to see this decent view.

And that’s OK. A honeymoon is by definition an indolent escape meant to let the newlyweds relax after the stress and strain of planning a wedding — no small feat, no matter what pinterest leads you to believe. So it’s totally OK to honeymoon and not eat any vegetables for two weeks, or to honeymoon and not do any workouts, or to honeymoon and not drink anything that doesn’t come out of a coconut.

But if your idea of relaxing and feeling good doing it IS maintaining a semblance of health, that’s OK too. I, personally, feel better — and more like me — when I’m at least keeping healthy choices in my peripheral vision, tropical weather and all. Which is why I made some (very modest, I promise you) efforts to be healthier while traveling down under with my husband — efforts that I’m going to share today with you fine folks if you care to read on.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t spend my two weeks in Australia training for a marathon or knocking my leafy green consumption out of the park. But I did make a few small, intentional choices aimed at keeping my body feeling strong and healthy while out of my time zone. These travel tricks are easy ones, and ones any traveler — honeymooning or not — could adopt to return home feeling a little less, well, engorged than might have otherwise been the case. Here goes:

Take a mid-vacation yoga class. Running or biking in a hot climate isn’t much fun, but yoga? That’s a workout made for vacationers. Most gyms or resorts offer free or discounted classes, or find a local studio in your host city. Many lend mats and offer a first class or even first week free, which is perfect for the traveler who will never come round for a second visit. I took two yoga classes in Australia — one on the deck of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club on Christmas morning and another at a swanky Surry Hills studio in Sydney — and my stretched out legs thanked me when I re-boarded that 20 hour flight home.

Downward facing dingo, amiright?

Diversify your routine. Laying on a pool deck is one of my all-time favorite past times, but sometimes you want to work up a sweat while soaking up the sun. So why not rent a stand-up paddle board? Take out a kayak? Borrow some snorkeling gear? You’ll have so much fun taking in the sealife that you won’t even realize you’re burning off your breakfast via non-motorized watersport.

Fact: You burn more calories when you’re terrified of being eaten alive at the Great Barrier Reef.

Explore on foot. Taxis and subways have their place, but if you’re exploring a fairly safe city and you have time to kill, why not venture out on your own two legs? Just exploring Sydney, we walked upwards of five miles a day, which allowed me to justify the many, many days I thought about going for a morning run and then rolled over and went back to bed.

Explore and you might stumble across views like this. Or you might get blisters. Both cool though.

Get caught up on sleep. The experts agree: rest is one of the most important components of any training plan. So take it to heart! Sleep in, get a massage, take afternoon naps, and love every second you get to spend in your borrowed Australian hammock. Rest may not qualify as a workout, per se, but it will help you return to the real world ready to tackle those training plans head on in a way your pre-vacation mind couldn’t have even fathomed.

Shhhh, it’s naptime. (It’s always naptime.)

And if you make it all the way through your vacation without remembering to incorporate any of these healthy tips?

You can always stop by Hawaii for a quick walk with your best friend on your journey home.


How do you keep fit — even marginally — while traveling?