Goodbye my Friend – R.I.P.

It was a sad day last week when I went to prep the crust for my pumpkin cheesecake and my trusty and well loved food processor took its last whirl.  I knew it was coming, I had been treating her with extra TLC for months even buying her a new bowl.  Alas I knew her days were numbered and I must soon find a replacement.

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With a heavy heart I went to Williams and Sonoma to view the new models knowing none would be like her.  Sure enough they had changed; some were of similar size yet fancier but none had the charm and simplicity of my first love–the Cuisinart Little Pro food processor. Like so many other things they just don’t make them like that anymore. Light bulb moment–let’s check Ebay.  As much as I hate technology I do love the internet.

Wow, I found almost the exact same model, preserved in the original box and never used. And it was only $40. A fraction of what the new ones cost–what a steal!  So I purchased it and it resided in my pantry knowing that eventually the day would come.

I got at least 9 more months out of my original Cuisinart little pro which I purchased in 1986. 29 years of use out of that baby; and I used it — a lot.  It’s the perfect size for a family of 2 yet big enough for my annual pumpkin prep.

Back in the day I gave pumpkin pies as gifts to family and friends every Thanksgiving.  That was before owning my own business and only working 36 hours a week.  It was not uncommon for me to make 15 pies each season so that little Cuisinart pureed quite a few pumpkins for a couple of decades.

The Jag had been on me the last 4 or 5 times I used the old one as her motor began to squeal.  “You’ve got a brand new one, that thing’s almost 30 years old why aren’t you using it”.  I will I said but there’s still life left.  Sigh, after the second use with the motor squealing I had to admit the time had come.  I still had 3 pumpkins to go that day — she’d given me everything she had, time to let her rest.

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I set her aside and broke out the ‘new’ one.  Whiter and brighter as my old one had yellowed with time.  A nice straight spatula, the old one had flipped in the dishwasher and it melted on a coil distorting the handle.  This model looked and operated exactly the same with the addition of a juicing attachment.  Good, culinary life will go on.  I plugged her in and away she whirled making short work of the gingersnaps and the pumpkins were pureed smooth in a matter of seconds.

I looked over at the counter at my old baby with sadness.  Bittersweet. I cleaned her up lovingly washing all her parts gently in warm soapy water and I just couldn’t throw her away. I packed her neatly in the box the new one came in and found her a resting place in the garage for now. R.I.P. Maybe with time.

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So if you’re looking for a food processor I highly recommend a Cuisinart.  29 wonderful years together.  I’m hoping for the same with the new one!

Turkey Stock (and soup)

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving:  Day 11

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The meal was a huge success, the hard work is done, you and yours spent a day eating, watching football and being thankful for all that you have.  The leftovers have been put away and the kitchen has been cleaned, it’s now that famous shopping holiday called Black Friday but wait, don’t throw that turkey carcass away. . .

Before you head out to your favorite shopping mall or haunt cut it up, throw it in a saucepan along with some carrots, onion, celery and black peppercorns, cover it up with filtered water, bring to a boil, skim the surface, turn it down to a simmer and cover.

Then the guys are in charge.  So tell your husband, BF or brother in law that while they are wiling the day away watching football and consuming libations they must occasionally stir the pot.

When you return all that is left is to strain and drain and feast on leftovers.

3. 2. 1. . . GO SHOP!

Chicken Stock

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Chicken soup is amazing; I truly credit it to the fact that we rarely succumb to winter colds and flus.  Known as “Jewish penicillin” there’s more fact than fiction to this traditional folk remedy.  The immune boosting properties of good bone broth are innumerable and with the addition of meat, veggies and sometimes a healthy starch it makes a satisfying and warming meal on cold winter days.  And yes, we even have those in Florida.

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Ok maybe you’re not so lucky to be able to find the heads and feet but if you can they are a great source of gelatin.  These often forgotten and miscellaneous parts of the chicken will do wonders for your stock.  They are not much more than tendons, bones and cartilage yet a lot cheaper than the supplemental form of  glucosamine chondroitin, collagen and trace minerals that you would purchase in a health food store.

They can be a little challenging to find as your local grocery store won’t likely carry them.  But if you source out your pastured chicken from your local farmer he’ll likely throw them in for a most reasonable price.  You can use a whole chicken cup up along with wing tips, backs, roasted bones and whatever else you have saved up for your stock making.

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What else to put in out stock?  I keep a green bag in my freezer and in it I save my onion tops, celery that’s on the ‘edge’ and anything I else I know will lend nutritional value and flavor. Today I had just bought some fresh carrots that had the tops on them so I also added some of those.  I really hate to waste food.  Each batch will be just a little different but just as nutritious.

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So load up with what you’ve got.  Then cover with fresh clean water; generally 4 to 6 quarts depending upon how big and full your pot it.   Add in your vinegar and allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutres to draw out the minerals. I had a lot of chicken parts I wanted to use up this time so I made 2 pots.

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Turn the heat on and allow the water to come to a boil.  Skim off any scum that surfaces and then reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and go about your day.  That’s part of the ease of stock making; it may take awhile but doesn’t require constant supervision.

There are different thoughts on how long the stock should cook.  I’ve seen and tried everything from 3 to 24 hours.  I’ve cooked less, I’ve cooked more and for me 5-7 hours seems to be the magic number.

When it’s done, turn off and allow to cool.  Line a colander with cheesecloth and strain the broth into a large bowl.  Discard the bones and veggies and if desired reserve any meat for another use.  Using a ladle, measuring cup and funnel I transfer mine to 8, 16 and 32 oz mason jars and freeze until I am ready to use.

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I label and date them and whenever I need stock and in whatever amount it’s handy and ready to thaw!

Enjoy & stay healthy!

Recipe & Ingredients

1 whole cut up pastured chicken or a large amount of parts (such as necks, backs, roasted bones, wings, feet, heads) or a little of both
2-4 stalks of celery coarsely chopped
2-3 carrots coarsely chopped
1 whole onion (I use skin and all) coarsely chopped
6-10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
several sprigs fresh thyme*
4+ quarts cold filtered water
1/4 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar**

*you can make a bouquet garni which is a piece of cheesecloth made into a little bag for all your spices to fit into and tie off with a piece of string; makes it easier to remove but I usually just throw it all in my stockpot as I am going to strain it later anyway.  The bouquet garni will lend to a slightly clearer broth.
**this will help to leech the minerals from the bones; the milder flavor of apple cider vinegar will not affect the taste of the broth

 Preparation

Place chicken, bones and all parts being used into the stockpot, add your vegetables and spices.  Cover with filtered water and add in vinegar.  Allow to sit for 30 minutes.  Turn on the heat and bring to a boil; skim off any scum that arises.  Reduce the heat to just a simmer cover and cook for around 5-7 hours.

Turn off the heat and allow the stock to cool slightly.  Line a colander with cheesecloth, place over a large bowl or another stockpot and ladle everything in allowing to drain well.  If you used a whole chicken save the fowl for another use (such as chicken salad, soup etc) and discard the bones and cooked vegetables.

Transfer the broth into Mason jars or your preferred method of storage.  If using broth in small amounts putting in ice cube trays will also work and then you can store the cubes in Ziploc bags.

The ‘Perfect’ Boiled Egg

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Boiling eggs is pretty basic but there a few guidelines that can make them turn out as close to perfect every time with neither over or undercooked eggs.  Under cook them and they will be raw or runny in the yolk’s middle. Cook them too long and you will see a green gray color form on the outside of the yolk where it meets the white.  That is the formation of ferrous sulfide; the reaction of the sulfur from the egg white and the iron from the yolk.  It’s relatively harmless but they won’t look as pretty or taste as good if the cooking time and temperature are not just right.

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Start with free range pastured eggs from a local farm where they were allowed to run around and eat bugs and if possible not given any soy in their feed.  It’s worth sourcing these out.  As with anything we consume the damage is cumulative and we not only eat this ourselves but feed it to our families.  First time I got pastured eggs I was shocked at how much bigger the yolks were and the deep orange yellow color of them.  And the taste — amazing, you won’t go back.

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Put your eggs in a pot big enough to give them a little room, otherwise they will bang into each other and crack.

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Add water to cover by at least a half an inch.

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Slowly bring the eggs to just barely a boil.  Cover, remove from heat and let “cook” for exactly 17 minutes.

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Drain off the water and immediately cover with ice and a little cold water to prevent further cooking.

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I’ve found the fresher the egg the harder it is to peel so you’re better off using eggs you know have been at least 1 week out of the hen.  Don’t wait too long to peel the eggs.  I let them sit in the ice bath for about 10 minutes and then I peel finding it easiest to do so under cold running water.

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There you go — yellow all the way around!  And FTR eat the whole egg just the way the chicken laid it, nature makes no mistakes.

 

Stock the Larder & Beef it Up!

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Take stock!  Pun intended. You make it through your workouts on a daily basis don’t tell me you’re going to let a stockpot intimidate you? I didn’t think so.

Even in Florida it will soon be officially fall. I smell cooler days and beef stew simmering on the stove, shepherd’s pie, pot roast and other savory seasonal delights. Most of these dishes will require beef stock. You can buy some but the conventional brands will be loaded with msg, chemicals and who knows what other laboratory made toxins. The organic brands found in health food stores are better and will do in a pinch but nothing beats homemade. . .

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Pick a weekend day you’ll be hanging at the house. Start with some beef soup bones (meaty ones, knuckle bones, marrow bones, a combo is best and preferably from a grass fed cow). Roast them at 425 for about 30 min turning once or until they are nice and brown along with a large onion and about 3 cut up carrots. Reserve any juices.

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Place the roasted bones and vegetables along with the reserved juices into a large stock pot. Add 2 coarsely chopped celery stocks, 2 cloves chopped garlic, 6 black peppercorns, several sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, approximately 12 cups of filtered water (or enough to cover) and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (to draw out the minerals). Let sit for 30-45 min. Bring the stock to a boil, remove any scum that surfaces to the top and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 6-12 hours.

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Strain the stock using cheesecloth and pour into Mason jars. Discard the meat and vegetables or reserve for other uses. Let cool. I store in 1, 2 and 4 cup mason jars in the freezer that way I have them available for whatever quantities I may need. Some people prefer to refrigerate overnight and skim any fat off the top. I personally like the flavor that a little fat imparts into my stock.

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Recipe & Ingredients

5-7 lbs of meaty grass fed beef bones*
4 or more quarts cold water
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1-2 onions, quartered
2-3 carrots, cut into1-2” pieces
2-3 celery ribs w/ leaves, cut into 1-2” pieces
Several sprigs fresh thyme tied together
6-8 black peppercorns
1-2 bay leaves
1 bunch fresh parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425; place all meat and bones along with the carrots and onions in a shallow roasting pan. Roast for about 45 mins, turning once halfway through until nicely browned. Once browned place into a large stock pot along with any accumulated juices. Add the vinegar and the water. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile take ½ cup water and add to roasting pan. Place over 1-2 burners on low heat and stir with a spatula to loosen any browned bits. Add to the stock pot.

Add the celery, thyme, peppercorns and bay leaves. Put the heat on high and bring the pot to a boil. Spoon off any scum that rises to the top. After skimming, reduce heat and simmer stock for at least 6 hours and as long as 12. Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes.

Praise the Lard

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Once upon a time the majority of Americans were virtually free of heart disease, cancer, obesity and other lifestyle related diseases. They hunted their own food, ate the whole animal, grew their own fruits and vegetables and cooked the majority of their meals themselves. They ate and moved throughout the day as nature intended.  They were healthier and happier than today’s Americans.

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Photo credit Wikipedia

Around the beginning of the early 1900’s and probably even sooner this all began to change. There was an evil villain called Proctor and Gamble that made their living by harvesting cotton. Nothing wrong with that; however they had a large amount of a rather bothersome by product called cottonseed. Always looking to increase their bottom line they wondered if anything could be done with this to turn a profit.

They experimented and found that through intense heating and pressing they could extract oil which cost next to nothing to produce. The oil however was rancid and unstable but after hydrogenating it they could extend the shelf life indefinitely. When this oil cooled it looked very very similar to lard. They called it Crisco.

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The evil villains came up with a dastardly clever marketing plan and promoted and touted this product as a healthier alternative to lard. It worked; haplessly brainwashed Americans bought into it. And alas, thus began the steady decline of America’s health and the beginning of the rapid rise in heart disease and obesity.

Unfortunately this trend has continued throughout the past several decades and only recently are more people starting to realize that we need to get back to the traditions of long ago man and only then will the modern day maladies disappear.  Why?  Plain and simple, “real” lard is healthier; it’s a close second to olive oil in mono saturated fats, it’s an excellent source of Vitamin D, it is shelf stable (needs no refrigeration) has a high smoke point making it excellent for cooking, tastes great and it is natural and sustainable.  It’s not rocket science.

Where can you find this fabulous wonder fat? In your local grocery? Sadly no. Lard found in grocery stores today is hydrogenated and from conventionally raised pigs that are not fed the right foods nor allowed to roam freely.  Avoid this lard.

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Best thing to do in source your own and render it yourself. It’s not hard.  For years I have used Peaceful Pastures; a quality farm in Tennessee that delivers to select cities in both Florida and Georgia.  I also found a local farmer that pastures his pigs and feeds them right in my hometown of Tampa  Harmony Hill Farming.

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Ideally you want the leaf lard which is the fat from around the pig’s kidneys. After you locate some it’s very easy to render it. Chop up the lard into smaller pieces and place in a large cast iron or stainless steel pot.

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Place the lard over medium low heat and add about ½ cup of water; this will eventually evaporate.  Go find something to do because this is going to take awhile.

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The fat will start to melt.  Check it every so often–about every 20 minutes in the beginning.

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And about every 10 minutes as it gets closer to being done.  I had 2 pots going if you’re wondering why it’s now in the cast iron one.  I liked to do a big batch, that way it’ll last awhile and I like to give it as gifts.

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It’s getting there but not quite done.  You want to let it cook until only the cracklings remain and there is barely any visible fat.  Careful though, too long and it can actually burn.  What I prefer to do is remove most of the melted fat when it’s a little beyond this stage and then let it cook down a little more.  That will produce a slightly darker lard which I will label as savory lard and store it in a separate jar.  It will have a little stronger flavor and I reserve it for cooking stews, pot roasts and things of that nature. The pure white lard will not impart any flavor to your foods and is excellent for baking.

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After the majority of the fat is melted down carefully transfer to Mason jars.  I use a strainer lined with cheesecloth to prevent any small pieces of cracklings getting through.  The lard will be a light golden color as you see far left.  As it cools and begins to harden it will lighten (far right).

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After it solidifies it will be a beautiful snowy white.  You can store in it in your pantry for 3+ months, the fridge for 6+ months or in the freezer for a year.

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The lard makes an excellent fat to cook with; I saute my vegetables in it, use it interchangeably with butter, season my cast iron with it and as a general all purpose cooking “oil”. While we’ve yet to fell the evil villains we can do our part by eating for health and performance not to mention taste.


If you’re nothing to do while rendering your lard or want more details; check out this video from a few years back when my friend Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist and I spent a Sunday afternoon rendering lard. And my husband was kind enough to film it during a football game.