Nourishing Choices

First time ever – my four year-old requested vegetable soup for lunch. This was after I told her three times that No, she could not have the leftover waffles from her breakfast. I offered her my home-canned tomato soup and she countered with vegetable soup. I’ll take it.

She helped get everything out of the fridge, chopped, stirred and seasoned the soup. It was SALTY, but when we sat down to our quiet lunch, she was engaged and made up a blind tasting game where we had to guess which vegetables were on our spoon just by taste.

It was a good way to get a daily dose of bone broth into her, and I haven’t enjoyed such a peaceful meal in quite a while. She ate well.

Celebrate the small victories, right?

A Kale Salad That Any Man (With Teeth) Will Love

This is the salad that my meat and potatoes man requests on his birthday. You read that right…he requests a salad.  It’s also the only way my carb-loving nephew will eat something green. I made it once for everyone at deer camp, (you read that right, too) and they were all hooked. At seven-months pregnant, it was the one and only time I went to deer camp. I quietly traipsed through the woods behind the hunters or sat gunless in a tree stand to enjoy the solitude. Then, each evening I cooked up a storm; I think it was part of my nesting phase. Anyway, this kale Caesar salad was the hit of the whole week’s menu. Continue reading “A Kale Salad That Any Man (With Teeth) Will Love”

Bone Broth for the Soul

Bone broth has become as trendy as quinoa, kale and chia seeds. Suburbanites can drive-through a broth stand for their daily dose, and New Yorkers can pick up a mug right alongside their wheat grass shots.

Here in the wild woods, we make it the good old-fashioned way: with Lake of the Woods fish carcasses or Minnesota whitetail antler and bones or from young roosters and old hens past their egg-laying prime. We have pork knuckles in the freezer from pigs we co-raised with my parents and stew bones saved from the grass-fed beef we split with one of the neighbors.

I’ve even saved bones from T-bone steaks, BBQ ribs, pork chops and roasted turkey. Pre-cooked bones add an extra layer of flavor to the broth. I’ll also throw in organ meat if I have any for an extra nutritional punch.

It goes without saying that the healthier (and happier) the animal, the more nutritious the resulting broth will be. CAFO-raised meat (confined animal feeding operation) is the least beneficial and can actually introduce new toxins your body then has to contend with. That said, buying organic or farm-raised is too spendy for many of us, or we simply may not have the freezer space to buy half an animal at a time.

Just do your best. Start making broth with whatever comes your way and doors will open up, as they do in all of life when you make the best of what you have with gratitude.

I learned most of what I know from Sally Fallon Morel, author of Nourishing Traditions, Nourishing Broth, and The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care. One of those three books is open on my counter top at almost all times.

Bone broth can help address bone and joint health, skin growths and diseases, wound healing, infectious diseases, digestive disorders, mental health and even cancer recovery. Ms. Fallon Morel carefully lays out the science in her books, as well as provides hundreds of recipes and testimonies. I highly recommend them.

Here’s how I make my broth:

column-51Step 1

Save bones, fat and skin. Cartilage-heavy knuckle and neck bones are a great choice, as well as fish carcasses and pig or chicken feet, but save whatever you can get your hands on. Save the fat and skin you would normally remove from your meat cuts; it will help add extra collagen to your broth.

Save vegetable leavings. I keep a large reclosable bag in the freezer at all times, throwing in my onion skins and roots, garlic skins, carrot tops and peelings, celery ends, ginger skins, unused greens and herbs, basically any vegetable scrap that would taste good in soup.

Step 2

Fill a large stock pot or crock pot with bones, 4-7 pounds depending on the size of your pot. I personally like the flavor of apple cider vinegar but any kind will do. Pour the vinegar over the bones, layer in your vegetable leavings and then cover with cold water. You can also add cracked peppercorns, bay leaves and other herbs at this point for additional flavor. (Don’t add salt; save that for the soup or sauce you make.) Cook on low heat for 6-12 hours. I usually let it cook for as much as 24-36 hours, adding more water as needed to keep the bones covered. In the first few hours, the impurities will rise to the surface, so be sure to skim off any foam or scum.

Step 3

If you’re not using the broth right away, let it cool to room temp, remove the bones and strain out all the remaining solids. Then transfer to your storage containers. (Don’t be alarmed if the broth turns to a thick gelatin; this is ideal. Mine is usually thinner because I keep adding water.) I like to use wide-mouth pint and quart size jars. Fill the jars three-quarters full and then freeze. (I have also canned mine because it’s handy to have unfrozen broth whenever I need it, but Ms. Fallon Morel recommends freezing it to preserve as much nutrition as possible.) Transfer a jar from the freezer to the fridge every other evening, and then start your day with a warm mug of broth. (I like to add sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, a tsp of red chili paste, a sprig of cilantro and a dab of coconut oil. It’s both filling and nutritious, as well as quite tasty.) When I drink broth consistently, I feel great, have tons of energy and sleep better. Use the broth in soups, to cook grains and rice, and to make gravies and sauces. Substitute broth for water in everything that you can and watch your health change for the better.

 

[Published as part of the Tastes of the Angle series – column 51 in the February 21 Warroad Pioneer]

 

Tastes of The Angle

(Column 44 – Published December 13, 2016 in the Warroad Pioneer)

Living so far from civilization here at The Angle, I learned to get creative when craving particular flavors. Greek food, Thai, India, Ethiopian and Vietnamese had all been out of my cooking league when I lived in Seattle BECAUSE I lived in Seattle and had every kind of restaurant at my fingertips. But throw me into the middle of the middle and suddenly I’m brave enough to challenge myself to cooking with widely different spices and techniques.

So, hopefully without stepping on the experienced toes of Dororthy and her Cooks Corner recipes, I’d like to share a recipe or two or seven, as well my sure-to-come kitchen misadventures while making my way through the cuisines I crave living out in the woods far from it all.

The first is a tried and tested recipe I call “Minnesotan Tom Kah Gai” or coconut chicken soup. These are Thai flavors but the base recipe came from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Solutions cookbook. I’ve changed it up quite a bit as most cooks do, making it my own and making due with what we have available in this rural area. I hope you’ll adventure out with me and try some new flavors. This one is great for this wintery time of year.

Minnesotan Tom Kha Gai

  • 1 quart and 1 pint chicken bone broth
  • 2 cans whole coconut milk – I don’t recommend the lite kind
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tsp red chili paste—like like Sambal Oelek, found in the ethnic food aisle.
  • 1 tsp lemongrass paste
  • 1 Tablespoon grated or finely diced ginger
  • 12 oz of canned chicken, or 1 cup de-boned diced chicken, or boiled chicken breast, shredded or chopped
  • 2 cups of baby bella mushrooms, cut in half or quarters. Keep them fairly good-sized
  • Several green onions, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

It’s so worth it to make a big vat of bone broth to have on hand, especially for soups like this. It is the key to the deep, rich flavor, in my opinion. Regular broth or stock will suffice but stay away from bouillon, in my opinion. Bring your broth to a boil, skim off any foam that rises to the top and turn the heat down to Medium. Add the canned coconut milk. Remember that coconut is a healthy saturated fat, so don’t feel guilty about it. Everything we were taught about fat in the 80’s and 90’s was wrong. The lite version of coconut milk isn’t as healthy even though it has less fat grams and calories – honest! See the book Nourishing Solutions for a much better explanation.

Add the lemon juice, chili paste, lemongrass paste and ginger, and stir. You can find tubes of lemongrass and ginger paste in the produce section refrigerators, which makes this one step easier. I’m sure you lose a smidge of the freshness factor, but hey, this is northern Minnesota. Flavor in a tube will do just fine for our stunted taste buds.  The red chili paste is the heat, so please add it slowly if you’re not familiar with it or are nervous about spiciness. Turn the heat down to Low, add the chicken, mushrooms and green onions and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the fish sauce and stir in the cilantro, or ladle out the soup and garnish with the cilantro. I love cilantro, so I add tons and throw it right in, even though it turns an ugly, dead brown color.

Speaking of dead and brown, don’t forget the fish sauce. It smells wicked on its own, but it’s critical to the end-result. A generous amount of sea salt will work in a pinch but fish sauce is by far the best option. You can find it in both Roseau’s and Warroad’s grocery stores.

This soup tastes surprisingly authentic and the few items you may need to buy are used in most other Asian dishes, so you’ll have the start of a decent Asian pantry. I’ve never been able to find galangal or kefir limes, which are in the authentic Thai recipes. Ginger and lemon juice do just fine for my Midwest palate.

I swear by it to help fight off a cold or sore throat, and it’s also a wonderful appetizer to serve before an Asian feast! The broth is the focus, hence the small amount of chicken. You could always add more chicken and mushrooms if it’s going to function as a full meal.

I haven’t served it to a soul who didn’t love it.

If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it went over with your family.

Next recipe column, I’ll share my bone broth process.