Categories
Food

Art of Disguise: Sneaking Vegetables Into a Carb-Lover’s Diet

I might as well be watching Game of Thrones, blasting EDM and owning a cat I so hardly recognize myself: for the last several months, I’ve eaten ZERO vegetables. (Fine, zero may be an overstatement, but it’s been capped at, like, six total bites.)

Once a staple of my diet – I’ve literally been known to call kale chips my favorite food – vegetables have totally lost their luster for me this winter. And you can’t really blame me: New York City isn’t particularly known for its farm-fresh produce this time of year.

The farmers’ markets have been hawking nothing but cabbage, onions and last fall’s potatoes, and the perfect summer tomato is still a full fiscal quarter away. (Don’t @ me. I know its actually a fruit.) I even asked my west coast bestie to stop sending me salad recipes calling for “fresh spring greens” out of crippling jealousy. Bib lettuce may be paving the streets of San Francisco but it’s still an unattainable luxury in this concrete jungle where it definitely doesn’t yet feel like May.

But I’m wearing my spring bandana!

But (wo)man cannot live on carbs/meat/dairy/fruit alone, and I know I’ve got to find a way to add more veggies into my diet whether or not the arugula seeds I planted in my upstate garden ever poke through. Even if the off-season variety is boring as all heck, they’re still crucial for the fiber, nutrients and reduced risk of chronic diseases they provide, and I’ve got to convince myself to eat some.

So I’ve been doing everything I can to add more vegetables into my diet, or — let’s be honest — treating myself like a four year old in a bid to disguise all the healthy stuff I’m sneaking past my lips. For example:

  • To trick myself into eating carrots, I made this “carrot cake” smoothie, which, weirdly, was surprisingly good.

  • To trick myself into eating cauliflower, I made this cauliflower-crust pizza, which would have been better covered in pepperoni and/or build on top of a real pizza crust.

  • To trick myself into eating kale and sweet potatoes, I doused my Dig Inn “salad” in mac and cheese (no regrets.) 

Fortunately, my local upstate farmers’ market reopens on Sunday after a dark four-month hiatus, and hopefully it inspires me to love green things all over again. But in the meantime, at least I’ve been getting my green in other ways…

How do YOU sneak more vegetables into your meals?

Categories
Food

Oh, Farro Farro

Nearly everything these days makes me feel positively ancient:

  • Re-listening to Rent and siding with Benny.
  • The unfair degree of hangover now induced by two glasses of wine.
  • Spotify putting the Dawson’s Creek theme song on a Good Times, Great Oldies playlist.
  • Realizing some of my co-workers are literally 30 years younger than me.
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But how are her benefits?

But while I wish “ancient” weren’t the right adjective to describe my taste in boy bands (BSB4Life) or my understanding of Snapchat (Is it a snap? Is it a chat?), I don’t mind it when it’s paired with my all-time favorite food group: grains.

That’s right, folks. Today, we’re talking about ancient grains.

Ancient grains seem to be the hot new thing for clean eaters everywhere, but there’s nothing new about them. This family of whole grains has been around for centuries, with most varieties largely unchanged for at least the last several hundred years, according to the Whole Grains Council (which sounds like a delicious place to work.)

After doing Whole 30 last year, I’ve tried to remove from my diet most refined grain products, like white flour and processed crackers. But I don’t want to drop whole grains altogether — I don’t seem to have a problem with them and they’re great for carb loading — so I’ve been working to replace old American staples like white rice and pasta with a rainbow of ancient grains, from quinoa to buckwheat.

Now I’ve tried several of them, and my favorite, hands down, is farro. Farro, which sounds like Joseph of Technicolor Dreamcoat fame’s boss, is a whole grain that’s nutty and chewy like an al dente wild rice or barley. It’s high in protein, iron and fiber, and it’s been popular for so long it has honestly been found in Egyptian tombs.

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Also in ziplock bags in my fridge.

If you can’t do gluten, farro’s not for you, since it’s an ancient relative of modern-day wheat and will mess with your Celiac disease. But if you can handle it, stock up on farro in your bulk food aisle or buy the packaged stuff from Bob’s Red Mill, and start throwing it into your soups, casseroles and risottos for an extra boost of nutrition when rice just won’t cut it.

It’s easy to make: add water or broth with farro to a pot at about a 2-to-1 ratio, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until grains are tender (about 30 minutes) before draining off any excess liquid. Then I partition it out in half-cup increments, pop in the freezer and defrost individual bags as needed for easy grain bowls, salad toppers or stuffed-pepper fillings at the blink of an eye.

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Mmm.

Maybe it’s an ancient grain, but eating it in a nutrient-packed lunch today made me feel almost young again.

Young enough to drink two glasses of wine without a hangover? Maybe not, but at least I’m now wise enough to remember sun protection the next morning is an absolute must.

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Keira and Lucille-ish.

Do ancient grains have a place in your kitchen? 

Categories
Food

Celery? More Like Hellery

I try not to get political on this blog, so I’ll leave her position on the minimum wage, carbon emissions and whether or not The Lion King is `gay propaganda’ out of here. But regardless of your personal leanings, I think we can all agree former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has the most controversial and offensive favorite food of all time.

It’s celery. Barf.

I know, I know, celery is supposedly “the healthiest food in the world,” and its marketing team has done an excellent job convincing consumers they burn more calories chewing it than they take in. But let’s be real here for a second: It’s terrible. It’s fibrous and stringy and smelly and gross, and unless it’s doused in ranch dressing or peanut butter or cream cheese with raisins, it should be avoided at all costs.

Much like trying to do floor stretches when you live with a needy Swiss dog.

At least, that’s my take. Apparently the rest of the world doesn’t despise celery as much as I do, making me wonder if celery is my cilantro — a totally innocuous flavor for most that for some reason tastes to me downright offensive. I can handle it raw, like in a tuna salad, but throw celery into a sofrito or a stock or a mirepoix, and I swear it overpowers the entire thing. Sorry, world: This vegetable gets no love in my book.

So imagine my distress when I opened my CSA two weeks ago to discover the biggest head of celery this blogger has ever seen.

Stalks have not been enlarged to show texture.

I pride myself in successfully polishing off each CSA fully before the next one arrives, so when I first saw that bad boy 11 days ago, I put my disgust aside and came up with a game plan to put it to good use. After googling “celery recipes for people who don’t like celery,” I decided to make several celery-starring dishes to hopefully discover I’d been wrong about it all along. I found these three, which seemed totally out of the box and maybe just the kick I needed to finally understand this vegetable’s appeal:

  • Braised Celery with Tomatoes, Chickpeas & Bacon (link)
  • Challah, Mushroom and Celery Stuffing (link)
  • Celery and Fennel Gratin (link)

They were going to be delicious! They were going to be life changing! They were going to change my mind about celery once and for all!

They didn’t happen.

My next CSA comes tomorrow, and for the first time this summer, I’ll pick up a new box with one giant, unused vegetable still sitting in my fridge. To be fair, it hasn’t gone totally untouched: in addition to the above photo shoot, I also tossed a handful of the leaves into a veggie broth this weekend as an act of good faith. Of course, that made the broth taste like death, in my humble opinion, and I immediately regretted the decision, but at least a little of the celery went used.

So I’ve got to know, good people: is there a way to cook celery that honestly tastes good? I suppose I’d scarf it down if I filled it with shredded buffalo chicken and blue cheese (mmm brilliant idea, Anne), but I’d love to find a use that doesn’t completely negate the health benefits of the ingredient itself.

How do YOU celery-brate this unloved vegetable?

Categories
Food Recipes

The Incredible, Edible Egg Substitute

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but the older I get, the more affinity I find with Disney villains.

  • Like Scar, I have less patience for idiots.
  • Like Shan-Yu, I’ve conquered Mongolia.
  • Like Cruella, I like to be covered in dog fur.

But the bad guy whose characteristics I’ve most embodied isn’t Hook (though I also hate ticking clocks) or the Queen of Hearts (though I’m also bad at croquet) or Snow White’s evil stepmom (though I also choose my apples carefully.) The villain I most resemble these days is none other than provincial French playboy Gaston.

Why, you ask? Because I. Eat. So. Many. Eggs. (Don’t worry, I skipped the rampant misogyny part.)

If you haven’t watched Beauty and the Beast recently (cough cough fool), I’ll remind you that a line in Gaston’s big showstopper goes a little something like this:

“When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs

Ev’ry morning to help me get large.

And now that I’m grown I eat five dozen eggs

So I’m roughly the size of a barge!”

Gaston’s 60 eggs a day IS a bit excessive, but I’m definitely eating more than that each month. While in childhood my egg consumption peaked around Easter time and Sunday morning breakfasts, my adult self has found eggs aren’t just for special occasions. At about 70 calories apiece, they’re packed with six grams of protein plus iron and nutrients, so if you don’t have cholesterol problems or follow a vegan lifestyle, they’re a great, inexpensive way to fuel up.

I eat eggs all sorts of ways — quiches, breakfast burritos, over grain bowls, mixed into cookie dough — but most of my eggs are made into veggie frittatas. No normal person has time to fry up an omelet before work, but you can cook a 10-egg frittata on Sunday night, cut it into five pieces, and heat it up at work for an easy, protein-packed breakfast on the go.

That’s what I’ve been doing every single Sunday since I finished Whole 30 more than a year ago, and it’s helped me avoid the sugar-laden cereal wall at work and start my days on a positive note. So imagine my horror when I opened the fridge last past Sunday to find the egg drawer bare.

I debated a grocery run, but with no cash in my wallet and a lonely bernese begging me to stay home, I decided to forgo my normal Sunday routine and search for something else protein-packed for my weekday breakfasts instead. I dug through my fridge drawers looking for chicken sausage or smoked salmon or anything remotely resembling an egg, but the only protein source I found was a block of extra-firm tofu.

Challenge accepted.

Although the tofu didn’t do much for Lucille, some quick googling revealed vegans have been making breakfast dishes with soybean curd for decades. Like eggs, tofu is high in protein and low in calories, making it a good base for my emergency mock frittata.

After draining it (note: something it took me years to understand was critical to proper tofu preparation), I added some soy sauce and cornstarch and spread it into a cast iron pan already full of caramelized onions, sautéed peppers and — fine — several tablespoons of bacon grease. (Hey, I said it was vegan inspired, not vegan.) Then I moved it to the oven to finish, like I would a traditional frittata.

Voila.

It may not look like much — tofu frittatas don’t look very yellow unless you add turmeric — but it tasted delicious. Sure, that was probably mostly due to the bacon grease and roasted peppers, but I’ll take whatever wins I can get.

Have you ever worked tofu into your diet in surprising ways?

Categories
Food Recipes

Carrots: Part II

No to toot my own horn, but I feel I’ve written a handful of moving and memorable blog posts these past five years. There was the August 2013 entry about embracing change. The October 2016 one on street harassment. The inaugural post in January 2012 that started it all.

But for all the thousands of words about hope and persistence and determination I’ve written on these pages, the blog post I get the most comments about — hands down — is this one on how to use up a surplus of carrots. #deepstuff

Don’t believe me? My 90-year-old grandmother (now hours from 91!) emailed the evening I published to propose a carrot, walnut and raisin slaw. I also got a blog comment praising juicing and another suggesting carrots may help regulate excess estrogen. The post even made its way into a me-themed Cards Against Humanity (er, “Hum-Anne-ity”) deck, designed by my thoughtful sister for my bachelorette party last November.

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(My maid of honor beats your maid of honor.)

I thought I’d said everything I had to say about orange roots in that original 2016 post. But just this week, I tried preparing carrots in a whole new way. I thought about keeping the news to myself, but who am I to deny the people what they want? So here’s another carrot recipe blog post, brought to you by everyone’s favorite vegetable.

This week, I made carrot pasta sauce. And DAMN it was delicious.

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And you know something so colorful has to be good for you.

I got the idea from my aunt on a recent 20-hour stopover in Rhode Island. She’s been making a tomato-free sauce this summer from a night-shade-free cookbook, and it sounded like a perfect way to use up the hundreds of thousands of pounds of CSA carrots (perhaps an exaggeration but I can’t be sure) sitting at the bottom of my fridge.

I didn’t follow a recipe, but I know enough about flavor combinations to build something delightful. First I sautéed onions in olive oil til translucent. Then I added several cups of coin-sized carrot slices. When the carrots started to soften, I threw in copious garlic, an ice-cube or two of frozen chicken broth, stems from a wilting parsley bunch, and plenty of salt and pepper to taste. I deglazed with rosé — because, you know, summer — and let everything cook through. I then moved the pot contents to a blender, added some starchy pasta water to thin it out, and blended until it was sauce consistency.

And then I tossed it with buckwheat noodles, roasted up some Italian sausage and fennel, and called it lunch. And, my god, it tasted so good. Who knew carrots were living a double life as secret pasta topping?

Kind of like Keira’s secret life as a personal-masseuse tester. It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it.

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“A little to the left, please.”

How are you using carrots these days? To store your fine jewelry, perhaps?

Categories
Food Weight Loss

“Don’t Reward Yourself With Food: You Aren’t a Dog.” (Or are you?)

I could point fingers any number of directions, but I most blame my tendency to reward myself with food on Pizza Hut’s early 90s BOOK IT! reading program.

My fellow Millennials know the drill: you’d read five non-homework books a month, have an adult drive you to your local Pizza Hut franchise and collect a personal pan pizza to reward your extracurricular scholarship.

Of course, this wasn’t the only place I was rewarded for good behavior with delicious, pepperoni-topped calories. From infancy through college, I was subconsciously taught food is an appropriate payment for a job well-done, and I bet you were too:

  • Finish your dinner, get dessert
  • Visit the doctor, get a lollipop
  • Win the canned food drive, get a pizza party
  • Perform a successful Christmas concert as first-chair clarinet, go out for ice cream with your dad because first-chair clarinetists tended to have very few friends

(I’m just kidding. Even nerds have friends!)

Old habits die hard, and I find I still reach for consumables as reward well into my 30s. Made it through a tough workday? That calls for take-out. Took a hard yoga class? I deserve a bagel. Raced a 10k? Let’s get softserve.

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(To be fair, this was an ice-cream themed race, so they kind of forced it on it.)

Food-based rewards make sense when you’re training, say, your Bernese mountain dog to use stairs, but they aren’t the healthiest choice for someone trying to cut calories, rein in mindless eating or — mostly importantly for me — rewire an emotional attachment to food.

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Lu’s favorite reward: coffee, two sugars.

So this summer, I tried an experiment. I’ve been trying to break my 2 p.m. dark chocolate addiction for months years ever, but after six hours at my desk, I always feel I’ve “earned” my sugary (antioxidant-filled!) treat. So I hit up the bulk food section at my office, inhale a half cup of almondy goodness and then find myself wondering the rest of the workday whether that was really the best use of my calorie deficiency.

Looking to break the chains (#redrising) of sugar addiction, I decided to see if anything could overpower the pull of food as a reward. So I went to Runners World’s website, found a cool tank top I’d been eyeing for months, and ordered it for myself. And when it arrived in the mail, I did the unthinkable: I didn’t open it.

Instead, I told myself I could have the shirt if I went all June long without touching the almonds. And you know what? I did it! And it wasn’t even that hard. Knowing I had a reward — a non-food one — waiting for me if I pulled through, I was able to beat the craving and make it through the month. (Of course, July marked a massive backslide, but baby steps.)

A running shirt worked for me, but it might be a different non-food reward that inspires you to make a change. Maybe you promise yourself a massage after a month of marathon training, or a manicure if you eat all your veggies this week, or you buy yourself a bouquet of flowers for taking the stairs, or treat yourself to a bubble bath for a day without sugar. Find what works for you, and give it a try.

Who know? You might break a habit once and for all. And if you don’t, at least you’ll have a cool new tank!

 

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Running IS a natural high! Thanks, shirt!

How do you reward yourself without reaching for a New York slice?

Categories
Food Recipes

Spicing It Up

They say variety is the spice of life, but I think it’s really garlic salt. Or basil. Or za’atar. Or any number of other dried herbs and seasonings currently crowding out my kitchen cupboards.

Spices are crucially important, and not just because the search for them inspired Columbus to sail westward some 500 years ago, reshaping the future of the Americas forever. They also taste really, really good.

From cumin and dillweed to paprika and cloves, spices have the potential to transform an otherwise unmemorable dish into something you’ll make time and time (thyme and thyme?) again. Heck, there’s a reason Simon and Garfunkel harmonized about parsley and sage instead of bland, boiled chicken breast.

I’m a true spice believer, but it hasn’t always been that way. Much like every other former-22-year-old I know, I moved to New York City nine (nine!) years ago with little more than a suitcase, a laptop and a plastic bin of sad kitchen supplies salvaged from my senior year apartment. I had a wooden spoon, a plastic cereal bowl, salt shakers and some dried onion powder. I did a lot of embarrassing things my first year in Manhattan, but I’d say my “cooking” took the cake.

Also this hat. Hello, 2009!

But as I grew more interested in healthy eating, I started to expand my spice rotation. As I cooked more recipes, I learned that the secret to tasty meals wasn’t necessarily more oil or salt or sugar or bacon (though, let’s be honest, those things often help), but a better use of seasonings. I started with accessible things, like pumpkin pie spice for my oatmeal, but quickly expanded as my palate broadened, adding first rosemary and bay leaves, and then more complex flavors like garam masala and Thai red curry paste to the mix.

I now have more than 50 spice jars at home (mostly made by McCormick, because you can’t take the Baltimore out of the girl), plus hot sauce and a tub of Indian Achaar pickles on my desk at work. And my food is more delicious than ever before. With just a little creative seasoning, I can transform three pounds of veggies into a ratatouille I’ll want to eat all week long or a raw chicken into a garlicky-roasted masterpiece.

And that’s key to healthy eating: actually wanting to consume the nutritious lunch you packed for work instead of leaving it to wilt in the staff fridge and hitting up the sandwich cart downstairs. Cooking for yourself lets you better control your portions, manage what’s going into your body and ultimately saves you money. No wonder the three wise men carried frankincense and myrrh. They knew spices = the original health food.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to start a little experiment: growing my own indoor herb garden. Dried spices have a lot of benefits, namely storability and shelf life, but there’s something extra wonderful about snipping a sprig of parsley in real time to pump up the flavors. There’s also something soul-nourishing about cultivating new life at a time when so much in the world just feels hopeless and dark and sad.

But whhhhhy is my bowl empty?!

So I ordered a little garden planter on Amazon, bought some potting soil, and stopped by the farmers’ market to pick my plants. I went with parsley, basil and sage, three staples in my everyday cooking. I would have bought oregano, since 1. It’s so flavorful fresh and 2. It’s hilarious to hear a Brit say it, but the farmer only had it in big pots that wouldn’t fit into my diminutive blue-toned planter.

And look at them! They’re so darn cute!

Who knows if they’ll grow — there isn’t much room for roots to expand and lord knows whether the sun’s right — but I’m looking forward to trying. Even if I only get one batch of pesto out of them, my babies seedlings have already done much to lift my spirits.

Or maybe it was the dog hugs.

 

Who wouldn’t love this chihuahua-toy-poodle mix? 

 

What flavors spice up your cooking? And what the heck is marjoram? Still haven’t figured that one out. 

Categories
Food

Chicken Broth, Part Deux

Congratulations! You’ve now made your own chicken stock!

(That is, assuming you treat my blog like a life coach and did exactly what I suggested in last week’s post. And if you DO do everything I recommend in my blog, you should probably rethink your life choices… and return that golden doodle you stole.)

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“Nah, I’m cool here.”

But really, this is the question I find myself grappling with every time I make homemade chicken stock. Now that I have it, what do I DO with it?

We all know chicken stock is great for us — it aids digestion, it’s rich with minerals, it helps beef up immunity against colds — but finding ways to use it beyond chicken noodle soup sometimes takes a little creative thinking. Fortunately, I’ve done it for you. Hashtag you’re welcome.

Here are a few ways I use up a big batch of broth, and I’m open to all your additional recipes and suggestions, because lord knows I can always use more.

  1. Cook a giant batch of grains in it. We’re talking risotto, rice, quinoa, couscous, farro, bulgar, kamut, sorghum, boogabooga, or any number of other funny-named foodstuffs that are now in vogue. [Note: One of the words in that list is made-up. The rest are, amazingly enough, real words.] A big batch of quinoa cooked in broth tastes a million times more interesting than a batch cooked in water.
  2. Boil up some lentils. The UN General Assembly declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses, and for good reasons: these little nutritional powerhouses are packing a healthy punch. Dried lentils are some of the most economic and greenest protein sources out there, so throw them into a pot of broth with a bay leaf and some spices, and let them amaze you.
  3. Make some soup. But it doesn’t have to be chicken noodle! This butternut squash/pear soup from my mama’s repertoire is a delicious way to put your homemade broth to good use. Or try this paleo sausage and kale soup, which has graced our kitchen table at least forty-five times this winter.
  4. Freeze it. When in doubt, load your broth into freezable containers and deal with it later. In addition to freezing cup and quart size batches, I also recommend freezing an ice cube tray worth of chicken broth. You can defrost these tiny portions quickly for when you need to deglaze a pan or braise greens or want to make a miniature bowl of soup for a mouse.

How do you put your wholesome chicken broth to good use? “I use it to lure away unsuspecting golden doodles” is a fair answer.

 

Categories
Food

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.

stock

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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#storagesolutions
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!

Categories
Food Recipes

Ho-Ho-How to Avoid Santa’s Belly

Growing up, I never thought I had a sweet tooth. Sure, I liked Klondike bars with the rest of the 80s kids (and I guess I’ve already revealed my propensity for cereal) but set me free in a candy shop and I’d usually gravitate not toward the jelly beans but to the single bag of salt and vinegar potato chips up by the register.

Salt, not sweet, has traditionally been my flavor of choice, so it’s been strange to me that in the weeks since the wedding, I simply can’t stop craving sugar.

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Mine! All mine!

Normally my survival strategy for avoiding unhealthy foods is to just keep them out of my reach: the old “no cookies in the house, no cookies in my belly” diet routine. But there’s one time of year when that’s simply not an option, and it’s upon us: The holidays!

Nutrition bloggers the whole internet over will give you tips for keeping your sugar intake down between Advent and Epiphany, and I’ve even joined them in holiday seasons past. Some of the tips are good ones, like avoiding non-special holiday food (i.e. tree-shaped pretzels) you can eat any time of year, but other tips, like not even letting baked goods into your home, simply don’t make sense.

Why, you ask? Because I like baked goods! And I like holiday flavors! And I like sugar! And if someone gifts you a plate of homemade cookies, you’d be a real Grinch to decline.

That said, there are ways to have your cake and eat it too, or — since that idiom never made any sense — have your holiday treats and keep them from being total and utter sugar bombs. How, you ask? Cook them yourself.

Now I know between all the wrapping and caroling and decking the halls you won’t have time to bake all the holiday classics alone, but even opting to bring one (slightly) lighter dish to your next seasonal fête can be a smart move in waistline preservation. And that doesn’t always mean starting with a Cooking Light recipe. Sometimes, with a little practice and experimentation, you can take a traditionally heavy recipe and lighten it up with a few key substitutes.

When choosing what dessert recipe to make, I always look for three things:

  1. Can I swap out any of the white flour for whole wheat flour?
  2. Can I swap out any of the vegetable oil or butter for applesauce or yogurt?
  3. Can I find a way to incorporate fruit or nuts, even if they aren’t in the original recipe?

Now I know some bakers are turning in their graves, because these swaps won’t work for every dish. Some delicate nibbles would get too heavy with whole wheat flour, and some classic cookies wouldn’t crisp up without good old fashioned butter. But other recipes are pretty forgiving of swaps like these, especially bars and loafs with a little more give.

Take, for instance, the gingerbread I made last weekend from a Food & Wine recipe:

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Thanks, F&W! Copyright here.

I was first drawn to it because it already meets requirement three — it includes fruit. And since it’s in loaf form, I knew it would take more kindly to swapping out half of the flour for whole wheat flour. (I chose to do a mix to keep it from getting too dense while also getting most of the fiber and nutrition the wheat variety brings.) Canola oil is already one of the healthier vegetable oils, sporting low saturated fat content and some Omega-3 fatty acids, so I only swapped half of it — substituting one 1/4 cup for the same volume of unsweetened applesauce. And obviously, I kept the sugar content at full tilt. I’m not a monster.

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Bonus view of my new country house kitchen!

Now I didn’t remember to take a photo of the end product, but it was delicious indeed. And while no one could argue it was the healthiest dessert, knowing that some wholesome goodness went into it made me feel a little less guilty about having a slice of gingerbread smothered with beef stroganoff for breakfast the next morning. (No, I’m not pregnant; I just have unique tastes in food.)

It’s only December 17, so why am I giving you my holiday post today? I’ll tell you why: because I won’t be anywhere near a computer when actual Christmas week rolls around. Ben and I will be on our honeymoon down under, putting all my good advice aside and consuming our weight in beachside cocktails and kangaroo burgers. Don’t worry: I’ve arranged a guest post to publish on Boxing Day to give you a little taste of running inspiration while I’m out of pocket.

In the meantime, have a very happy holiday, folks! I know I will — I’m seeing this babe during a layover in Hawaii tomorrow!

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