Friday, October 16, 2015

Clean Eating On A Budget - Turkey Stock, the Great Experiment, and The Avengers

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

One of the ways that I like to get seriously delish whole foods, whilst also sticking to my budget, is to ask friends and family if they are going to use their turkey bones.  It's amazing how many people don't know how delicious turkey stock is, and how nutritious it is, let alone ever make it!

Thing is, it's just as easy to make turkey stock as it is to make chicken or veggie stock.  I hear seafood stock is easy to make too, but I haven't made it yet (though I'd imagine it would make delicious soup!)--maybe that's a discovery I'll come to sometime in the future!

Anyway, this year I wasn't able to score the bones for free, so I decided to budget to buy a "small" turkey.  The one I ended up getting was about 10 kg/13 lbs.  Not huge by turkey standards, but it will yield a lot of dinners for the $24 and change I spent.

The key to making good turkey stock, other than simmering for a loooooong time, is to season the bird with all the herbs and spices you would want to include in the stock.  It took me a few years to realize that I was wasting money (albeit only a little) and time, adding the seasonings to the pot instead of to the bird.  Since the turkey roasts for so long, on a low temperature, the flavours infuse the bird and thus will infuse the stock.  I don't normally eat the skin, unless it's very crispy (it's a texture thing), so all the seasoned skin goes into the stock pot.

Fully Seasoned Cooked Turkey
This time, I seasoned the bird with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, dehydrated onion and
garlic bits (you can use powder or fresh garlic if you like), poultry seasoning, sage (I like sage a lot, but if you don't, then skip the sage, as there is sage in the poultry seasoning).  If you have it, putting fresh sprigs of herbs like sage, thyme, rosemary inside the bird, along with salt, will season from within, as you season from without.

Be sure to sprinkle some of the seasoning in the roasting pan too, to season your gravy!

The pic doesn't really do it justice (darned camera phone!), but you get the idea.  This is the cooked product.

Keep in mind that cooking the turkey, and making the stock, takes many hours, to be sure to make the turkey one day, and stock the following day.  It's just much nicer to not have to be watching the clock constantly, isn't it?

So I made the turkey yesterday, (here's a link to how long to cook a turkey for), and put it in the fridge overnight.

Turkey Breast
I also made super easy gravy from the drippings.  Since it was already seasoned, all I did was strain it with a fine mesh strainer into a glass measuring cup, and let it sit for about 15 minutes, so some of the fat rose to the top.  I scooped most of it off, and poured a bit into a bowl.  To that I slowly added some whole wheat flour, whisking constantly until it was completely combined.  Then I poured that into a sauce pan, with the rest of the drippings, and set it to simmer on medium-low (or more or less depending on your stove).  Be sure to whisk it in the pan regularly.

Today, I sat down to watch The Avengers (I'm still watching it lol), and picked apart the turkey.  I put all the breast meat into a container to put in the freezer, and set aside all the rest (including the skin, and the legs and wings) to make the stock out of.
In the Instant Pot

I didn't remove the dark meat from the legs and thighs, because I wanted it to add flavour to the stock.  I'm not a fan, for whatever reason, so I'm happy to use it to make my stock yummy!

Right now, on the TV, Loki is learning about the cage he's been placed in, which will be dropped 30,000 feet if he's naughty.  Meanwhile in the kitchen, I have both my Crock Pot and my Instant Pot cooking away making stock, since there wasn't enough room in one LOL.  I have a big stock pot, but I can't find the lid, so 2 batches works fine.

In fact, it inspired an experiment--what is the difference between doing the stock in the Crock Pot the whole time (probably around 6 hours), vs using the "Soup" button in the Instant Pot, for say 3 hours?  
In the Crock Pot

I set the IP to "Soup" to cook for 1 hour, and set the CP to "High" for one hour.  It's very important to start any meat stock off by heating it to high temperature quickly, so it doesn't spend much time in the "danger zone" for bacteria growth.  This is doubly important if you're cooking meat from raw
in any kind of slow-cooking way--the raw meat cannot sit between 40F and 140F for long, as that's the preferred temperature for them to get their boogie on, and start making bacteria babies.  Which is very bad for YOU!!

For this first hour, I'm simply cooking the turkey bones in water. When you fill either your slow-cooker or your Instant pot, be sure to NOT fill it up to the full-line--remember that it needs room to boil (for the slow cooker), and both will have veggies added in an hour, so there needs to be room for that.  If you find you didn't add enough water, after you add the veggies, go ahead and add more.  No sweat!

I'm cooking it for an hour first, because I want it to fall apart a little, to make room for the veggies I'm going to add--seriously, who knew that such a small turkey would actually be so big?! LOL  Good news is it'll make a lot of meals!  In addition to stock and soup, I think I'm going to try making Turkey A La King.  I've never made it before, though I understand it's easy.  I haven't had it since I was a kid, but I remember really liking it.  I found this recipe that has real ingredients, which I'll follow, but I won't use the sherry (unless I can use rice wine?  That I have in my pantry), I'll be making half the recipe (3 servings instead of 6), and probably use 2 tbsp butter, and whole/homo milk.  I'm sure 4 tbsp butter is delicious, but that's kinda a lot for 3 servings LOL.  It should be delicious, since I'm using home-made turkey stock!

Time now to check on the progress of the stock in the 2 pots.  On The Avengers, Thor made Hulk angry (don't make Hulk angry!), and now he's trying to get Hulk to listen to reason (LOL!), while Tony and Captain America are trying to play nice and save the airship.  So much drama.  Why can't they all just get along?  Go for shawarma?

Turns out the CP still hasn't come to a boil, despite it being an hour and it's on high and I used hot water (even more of a reason to put it on high not low for the first while in your slowcooker!), and the IP is currently venting.  Venting the Instant Pot when it's full of water means slowly releasing the pressure--you don't want that hot broth spewing out the release valve!  Once it's fully opened, it takes about a minute to fully release so you can open it.

L - Crock Pot  R - Instant Pot @ 3 hours each
It's been an hour, and it seems that the slow cooker on the left, is not as far along as the IP on the right.  That's to be expected, though, since the slow cooker will be cooking for twice as long as the IP will.

Between the two pots, I added 1 coarsely-chopped onion (I used a yellow cooking onion, but any white or yellow onion will probably do), 3 coarsely-chopped carrots, and 4 coarsely-chopped celery stalks.  You can add any number of types of veggies, really, but these are the 3 I like to add to my stocks, and they are also the 3 I had in the fridge!

At this point you may also like to add a stock cube, depending on your taste.  It will be plenty flavourful on its own, but if you decide you want to, make sure that it's low in sodium.  Most stock cubes are SUPER filled with sodium, and you really don't want to do that to your healthy stock!  If you need to add sea salt for flavour later, that's fine, but 1000mg + is WAAAAY too much.

My slow cooker isn't boiling yet, so I still have it on "High".  Once it's boiling, I'll put it on low for the remaining time.  The IP I've set for another 2 hours (shows as 120 minutes) on the "Soup" setting.  Once the IP is done those 2 hours, I'm considering it done, and will strain it and then put it in the fridge to cool.  Hopefully it cools in a few hours, because I want to skim the excess fat AND make soup tonight, for lunch at work tomorrow.  Tall order?  We'll see.  It's 1:49pm.

Delicious Soup!
Turns out, yep, tall order. Too tall in fact--the stock wasn't even very cool by the time I went to bed, so alas, no soup that night.  Drat!

However, soup was made the following day.  What you want to do, when cooking any kind of bone broth/stock, is allow your stock to cool overnight in the fridge, and then skim any fat which has collected on the top.  It hardens in the fridge, so it's easy to remove!  Depending on what you're using, it could be a quite thick layer to remove.  I once had it come up in just 2 pieces.  Can't get much easier than that!

To about 4 cups of stock, I added a bit of light soy sauce, a drop of sesame oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and chopped and added a couple of carrots, stalks of celery, some chopped onion, and a handful of mushrooms.  Simmered for about 15 minutes, and ate.  Simple, and delicious!

Gorgeous Turkey Broth
Feel like adding different veggies?  How about some pasta?  Some rice?  Or some barley?  Go for it--all good choices!  This kind of soup you can add a lot of different things, just keep an eye on the stuff cooking in your pot--if you add things like peppers to things like carrots, you'll want to add them in the final 5 minutes or so of cooking, so they don't over cook and end up gross.  How upsetting would that be?!

The remaining stock, I froze in ice-cube trays, which I will transfer to a container in the freezer.  They're super handy when you're cooking--just thaw and use, or if you're using it for something like seasoning rice when it's cooking, or using it as seasoning in a stir-fry, just add it to the water or to the pan.

As for The Great Turkey Stock Experiment--turns out that 6 hours in the slow cooker was VERY similar to 3 hours in the Instant Pot.  Good to know!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Last weekend, I picked up some lovely fresh and perky jalapeno peppers for $2 for a half-pint
(worked out to 8 decent-sized peppers).

I had the idea that I could keep a couple fresh, while harvesting the seeds from the rest, to plant in my first-even community garden plots next year (free seeds!), and dehydrate the peppers to grind up, and add to sea salt and some seasonings, to make a custom home-made flavoured salt.

Great idea, right?  Yes, it is...except I decided to dehydrate the peppers with the seeds in (my thought was that it would dry out the seeds, and they wouldn't get moldy or rot, as I was waiting for them to dry, since it's quite humid here), and I had to use a pair of scissors to cut into them, to get out the seeds.

So what right?  Yes...except that I didn't wash my hands as thoroughly as I thought I did, afterward, and then put my hands to my face.



I ran screaming and coughing into the bathroom, and scrubbed my hands and my face with cold soapy water.  Once the water was off my face, my face started feeling like it was enormous and inflamed.  It felt like my face was distended by an inch!  When I looked, it was normal, but OOOOOOH THE BURNING!!

For the next hour, I continuously rubbed iced cubes all over my face and lips.  It worked, but as soon as I stopped, the burning returned.  FINALLY, the burning lessened, and I added raw coconut oil to my face (which I normally use for moisturizer), and the burning went away.

Silver lining?  At least I know the peppers weren't duds!  They should make a great seasoned sea salt, if I ever get the nerve to make it...and then eat it.   

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This time last year, I embarked on a 70-day processed-sugar-free challenge, and made it the entire time, despite (or perhaps because of!) it being over Valentine's Day, and Easter, and All Junk On Sale Week.  I passed it with flying colours!

This year I decided to do it again, starting February 9th, and this time for a full 100 days.

Yes, you read right--100 days, 100% processed sugar free!

I don't know if I'm remembering last year with rosy glasses or not, but this year seems to be a bit more of a challenge (I'm just over a week in).  Not that it's horrific, but my mind has been doing a lot of, "Ooh look at that!", "That looks yummy!", "It's so pretty!  I wonder what it tastes like?" etc.

Of course I'm in control.  Right?  Yes, I'm in control.  Yes.  Just repeating to drive the point home LOL.

In all seriousness I am in control.  And I know how my body reacts to processed sugar--basically I feel like a big pile of crapola.  And I'm bitchy.  Whoa nelly do I get mood swings eating processed sugar!  Beware ye people on the street, daring to be in my path!  Beware the cold for being too cold and the hot for being too hot!

I'm doing well.  Yes, the little sugar voices in my head are whispering, but I just don't speak their language.  No speekee sugaree!

On a completely different note, in the next few weeks I'm going to start a juice and chew feast as inspired by Cookie Taylor at Reach4Raw!  I have to figure out the details, and I definitely won't be doing it until May or June (aka until it warms up...seriously it has been literally PAINFULLY COLD here!) and things start to get cheaper and in season.  Makes sense, right?

I'm also going to rope a friend into doing it with me.  I approached her way back in January about it (was it really just last month?!) and she said she was interested, but we didn't talk about it after that LOL.  I'll remind her when I've figured stuff out.

Excited!  Moving onward with my journey back to health!  Operation 2015!!  Ain't this picture sexy?  Hot damn!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

WOW, OK so it's been a long time since I blogged!

Here's a quick update on what's been happening lately.

For the new year, I, like many, decided that things needed to change.  The thing to start the changes (and there will be many over this year), is to start with LIVING the person I always wanted to be, rather than DREAMING of being that person.

I had a little moment as 2014 ended, saying goodbye to the old me, thanking her for what she's done for me, and releasing her.  It sounds kind of corny, I know, but I really felt that I was releasing a part of me that had been holding me back in a lot of ways, and releasing her was also releasing a lot of old wounds and other hurts.

January 1st-9th, I started easing back into being more active, walking a little more, eating a little better.

January 10th-16th, I was in Jamaica, at an all-inclusive.  Now, you may well be thinking, "DUN DUN DUUUUUUN", but you see, I had a PLAN.  Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say!

I wanted to have a good time, soak up some rays, and not worry about what I was doing, BUT I also didn't want to come back home resenting myself for going bat-shit crazy.

So, my plan was to wear my Spark Activity Tracker each day, which shows me through lights, how
close I am to my goal of walking 10,000 steps per day.  And of course walk those steps!

I also planned to have drinks, but decided to only have alcohol when I was eating, and only eat 3x per day, unless I was starving.  That's still plenty of opportunities!

In addition to that, I decided that I would eat fresh fruit with as many meals as possible, at least a salad-plate amount.  That would allow me to eat lots of fresh fruit, which is amazing in January, and also fill me enough that I may not want dessert.  Win-win!

At the end of my vacation, when I got home, I sync'd my tracker up to Sparkpeople, and lo and behold, I'd walked 68,000+ steps during that week.  Insane!  And I didn't gain an ounce.  Also amazing!

Rejuvenated by my vacation, and with a wildfire in me from my steps success, I decided to make up a plan for 2015.  I also committed to join the Reach 4 Raw Marathon Fun Run, and walk a half marathon on October 25th.  How's that for motivation to keep going?!

My plan to train for walking a half-marathon (for the second time!) is laid out in 3-week increments until April 4th, then in 2 week increments since I'm following a marathon training program for walkers, and since I have time, I'm doing each week for 2 weeks, thus getting even more prepared.

The first 3-week phase finished 2 days ago, and I did great!  My plan was to walk 10,000 steps per day, 5 days a week, with a bonus challenge of walking 60,000+ steps each week, thus getting a Spark Activity Gold Medal.  And I did it!

It's a bit of a challenge to get the steps in each day, since it's the middle of winter and very cold, which makes indoor walking desirable.  Very desirable!!  But I'm doing it, come hell or 10 feet of snow.  I want my experience walking the half marathon to be an enjoyable challenge, not full of pain and anguish. :)

On the food side (this IS a food blog!), things are going well.  I'm learning that I don't have to be 100% clean, that in fact it doesn't work for me at all, because then I start thinking in terms of what I can't eat/drink, instead of what I can, and I fall off the rails.  Now, my aim is to eat well most of the time, work on eating lots of fruit and veg, juicing, and just not worrying about it if I eat or drink something a little unhealthy occasionally.  It's about what I can do long-term, not short-term.  

I've been trying new recipes, including an AMAZING, authentic jerk-chicken recipe, which I will share soon.  Delish!!