October 31, 2011

Stocking Up for Winter

I love Sundays.  Especially during the colder months.  For me it means that my husband and I are usually both home for the entire day.  Him watching football and me doing stuff around the house.  This past weekend was no exception as I spent the majority of the day in the kitchen making chicken stock, soup and fresh bread.  Due to health reasons we have recently had to make the change to a low sodium diet.  I don't know if you've done any research on the topic, but it doesn't take much for an average person to go over their daily sodium allowance of 2300mg.  That's only 1 teaspoon people.  I've learned the harsh reality that if you want something done right you have to do it yourself, so that means making what ever I can from scratch.  Don't get me wrong, this is something I love to do anyway, so now I just have a little added incentive.  Making stock is easy, cheap and very rewarding in the end.  All it takes is a few ingredients and some time and you'll be making some of the best soups you've ever had.  The total cooking time is around 4-5 hours but the time you actually spend in the kitchen is around 45 minutes.  I would like to start by saying that this is not exactly the traditional way to make it, but it's how I do it and it turns out delicious.  To start you need a whole chicken, about 3-4 lbs.  Rinse the inside and outside with water and put in a large stock pot (don't forget the neck and gizzard!).  Next, you want to add water until the chicken is covered by about 2-3 inches. Move the stockpot to the stove over medium-high heat so you can start adding the veggies.

From this point, the recipe is pretty forgiving so if you don't have exact amounts it's no biggie.  Roughly chop carrots, celery, onions, garlic and green onions.  When I say garlic, I mean the whole bulb, cut in half lengthwise, skin and all.  I know this sounds weird, but I like to think of it as my secret ingredient. 

Everybody in the pool!
Put all the veggies in the pot with the chicken and add palm full of whole peppercorns, several sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  Don't forget those bay leaves!  As I said before, we are on a no salt diet around here so I don't add any to the stock, but if this isn't an issue to you than feel free to add some here. Or, you can leave it unsalted and when you decide to use the stock for something, add it then.  Depending on what you're making, it may already have a high salt content.

Cover the pot and let the bird do it's thing for about 30-45 minutes until it's fully cooked.  A good way to tell the chicken is cooked is when the bird floats from the bottom to the top of the pot.  Remove the chicken and move to a cookie sheet to let cool. 

Lower the heat on the stove to medium-low and cover.  When the chicken is cool enough to touch, you need to start breaking it down.  I put the meat in a tupperware for later use in a soup, the bones go back in the pot to continue simmering and the skin goes to the doggies.  They love when momma makes soup! 

Continue simmering the stock for 2-3 hours.  When the stock is done, remove it from the heat and start removing as much of the bones and veggies that you can using a tong.  From here, there are a couple methods of straining you can do.  One is if you have another large pot, you can take a strainer and pour all the stock over it in to the other pot.  The other option that I like to use is to take a strainer and a large measuring cup and strain into individual containers for freezing. 

Depending on the size of the chicken you use, the amount of stock you get varies.  With this particular batch, I was able to freeze 5 quarts, plus use about 2 more for the soup I made later that night.  For fun, I'm adding a cost break down so you can see the affects this has on your wallet.

Whole Chicken - $3.43 on sale for $.89/lb
Onions - $1.89
Carrots - $1.09
Celery - $1.09
Garlic - $0.40
Green Onions - $0.59
Peppercorns - $0.50
Thyme - $2.00
Rosemary - $2.00
Bay Leaves - $0.50

Total cost for about 7 quarts of stock is $13.49 compared to if you purchase the boxed stocks at the grocery store for $4.25 each (totaling $29.75).  That's a savings of $16.26 which is over half the cost!  The pride you take in making your own stock is amazing, but when you add in the money you save, it's a win-win! I hope you enjoy making this recipe for your family as much as I do. 


1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
4-5 medium onions - quartered
5-6 carrots - roughly chopped
5-6 stalks of celery roughly chopped
1 whole garlic - sliced lengthwise
1 bunch green onion - cut in half
2-3 T whole peppercorns
2-3 large bay leaves 
10-12 sprigs thyme
1-2 sprigs rosemary
25 C water (give or take a few)

Rinse chicken under faucet and remove the innards.  Place the chicken and innards in a large stockpot and fill with water until the chicken is covered by about 2-3 inches.  Move to stove over medium high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, green onion, peppercorns and bay leaves.  Using kitchen twine, tie the thyme and rosemary sprigs together and add to pot.  Cover and bring to a low rolling boil for about 30-45 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and place on a cookie sheet to cool.  Lower heat to medium low and replace cover.  When the chicken is cool enough to touch, separate it  and place the bones back in the stock and reserving the meat for later use.  Simmer for another 2-3 hours.  Remove as much of the bones and veggies that  you can and skim the fat off the top.  Strain the remaining stock into a large pot or individual containers to freeze for later use.  Makes roughly 7 quarts.

October 24, 2011

Just Bakin' Some Bread

Over the weekend, I tried my hand at baking bread from scratch, kneading it with my bare hands and everything.  I'm happy to inform you all that it was a success!!  When I added the yeast to the sugar water it foamed up like it was supposed to.  After kneading the initial 10 minutes I let it rise for 2-3 hours until it doubled in size.

After kneading for 10 minutes

After 2 hours

Then gave it the ol' 1, 2 punch and kneaded it another 3 minutes.

Next I shaped them into 2 loaves and let them rise another 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes

Tossed them in the oven for about 40 minutes and VIOLA!  Fresh baked bread!

Whoops, forgot to take a pic before I dug in!!

I'm not sure what I was so afraid of all these years, it was pretty easy peasy.  Since it turned out slightly denser than I would have liked, there are a couple things I will change for the next time, like letting it rise in a larger bowl for a little while longer, and doing the initial kneading a little bit longer.  I was flipping through my Blue Ribbon Baking book and the always lovely Marjorie Johnson was kind enough to offer me a few tips for next time:
  • She likes to let the dough sit in the microwave oven while it's rising.  Close the oven door, but never have the microwave on while its raising.  It's the perfect place to raise dough, no drafts and you can get the temp to 80-85 degrees (the perfect temp) by heating water for 3 minutes and leaving it in the microwave while the dough rises.
  • After the dough has sat for 2-3 hours and doubled in bulk you can test to see if it is ready by poking 2 fingers into the dough.  If the dough has risen enough, it will leave two holes where your fingers have been.  If it closed, than you need to leave it a while longer.
  • The bread is done baking when it reaches an internal temp of 190 degrees.
Smart lady, that Marjorie.  It's no wonder she's won over a thousand blue ribbons with her baking.  This weekend I think I'll give her wheat bread a try.  Mmmmm.

On the knitting front, I was able to complete a sock for my mom's beau, Tom. 

I'm hoping to have the other one done by mid-week.  The nice thing about having this blog is that I can easily keep track of what I've already made and what I still have to do.

Mom - Sweater - DONE!
Tom - 2 Pairs of Socks - .5 down 1.5 to go!
Kenny - 5 Pairs of Socks - 1.75 Down 3.25 to go!
Caroline - Cowl - Have yarn, need to knit
Judy - Fingerless Mittens - Need to buy yarn
Julie - Sweater - Need to buy yarn

Sheesh.  Lots to do!  Good thing there is a 14 hour car ride each way to Tennessee in the very near future for me...

October 20, 2011

Changing It Up

I've been pretty absent from the blogging world and I'm going to make a solid effort to change that.  You may notice a new title for this little blog of mine.  Since I find myself with a lot of extra time on my hands due to my hubbys bustling fishing career, I've decided that instead of focusing on knitting, I'd like to start covering all aspects of the things that interest me.  I LOVE to bake and this weekend I'm going to try my hand at baking my first loaf of bread.  I'm not using a bread machine or even the fun dough hook that comes with my mixer.  Just some good old fashioned manual labor.   Yup, I'm going to knead it all with my bare hands.  This could turn out to be an epic failure, but if you don't try than you don't know where your going wrong and how to fix it.  So stay tuned for all those shenanigans....

On the knitting side of life, Christmas presents are in full swing!  So far I've only made a sweater for my beautiful momma!  Would love to post some pics, but she may be reading this and it would ruin the surprise.  Since she picked out the pattern and yarn, I can tell you it's the Lore Hoodie by Cirilia Rose.  It is a great pattern and a fun project for my first sweater.  On deck is another sweater for my amazing mother-in-law, a cowl for my stepmom-to-be, some fingerless mitts for my other fabulous mother-in-law and about 10 pairs of socks going to various members of the fam.  Let's hope my hands don't get carpal tunnel by the time Christmas rolls around.

Hmmm, what else can I update you on?  Some girlfriends and I have started a book club.  Our first meeting is on Nov. 2 and we have chosen to read In Leah's Wake.  I'm only about 80 pages in, but so far it's a pretty good read. 

Gotta run for now, I'll try to post an update on my bread baking skills this weekend.  Wish me luck!!