Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet, Savory, and Slow

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Every month around the 20th my Better Homes and Gardens Magazine arrives, it always puts a smile on my face! This month I saw this recipe and puckered up and thought "YUCK"!! But then I realized all of the ingredients were family favorites so I thought I would give it a try. As I move further away from packaged food, I am finding some of the best dishes are where I risk combining flavors I wouldn't usually put together. You can only "garlic and herb" so many things! This recipe is tangy, sweet, and savory. Simmering away while we were out, this dish had our mouths watering as soon as we opened the door. This meal is a little "fancy" for coming out of a Crock Pot, so pour yourself a glass of wine or kombucha and enjoy!


I've edited it to my own likes...because that's what I do! This will feed a large hungry family or make a good sized family some leftovers...you will soon find I love leftovers. They are home cooked meals without the work! Here it is:


Slow Cooker Chicken with Olives and Dried Plums


3-4 lbs organic or pastured chicken preferably boneless thighs*
4 cups of homemade chicken stock (recipe)
2 TBS of italian seasoning
4 garlic cloves pressed or 1 tsp of garlic powder
14 oz jar of pimento stuffed green olives
8-12 oz pack of prunes
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar (I love the pomegranate infused one!)
1/2 cup of honey


Drain liquid from olives. Add all ingredients to Slow Cooker. Turn on high setting for 4 hours or low for 6+ hours. I like to sometimes start my Slow Cooker on high until it comes to a light boil and then cut it down to low if I need it to stay in there longer or if I forgot to thaw my meat and need to jump start the cooking! Serve with rice or quinoa.


*Boneless Breast will work, but will be a little dry. They don't take well to slow cooking. There is a lot of sauce, so you can sop that up with the dry meat, but thigh meat would be perfection. Thighs or legs with skin and bones would be okay too. You will just have to fish out the bones.


Let me know what you think if you try it. The next time I make it I will take some photos.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Homemade Stock

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There is nothing quite as nourishing to the stomach, or soul, as homemade Chicken Soup. The best Chicken soup starts with real homemade, simmer all day, Chicken Stock. It is much simpler than you think, doesn't require much work, just a little planning ahead. I started making my own stock about 4 years ago when I read "Food to Live By" which is a cookbook written by the owner of Earthbound Farms--Myra Goodman. I've made it a million different ways since then, only making significant changes when I found the Weston Price Foundations and embraced the Traditional cooking methods of 
Simmering Away
bones. In traditional cooking the addition of an acidic liquid purges the minerals from the bones and makes the readily available for you to

absorb. These include real, natural
gelatin and you will see the difference in the gelatinous texture when cooled. Without access to Chicken feet, which I don't think the average person has, this is the most nutrition-packed recipe I could concoct. Once you taste the real stuff you will never buy another can on Swanson! I have included three versions, these all make amazing stock you can use for much more than soup.



Chicken Stock With Meat


Ingredients


1 whole organic or pastured Chicken with Gizzards if possible
5 carrots, ends cut off
1 large yellow or Vidalia Onion, peel removed, cut in half
2 Garlic Cloves (more if you love Garlic)
The center part of Celery (the part with the skinny stalks and leaves)
Any other extra veggies you have lying around*
1 TBS of Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar


Optional: Fresh herbs if available--Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, or Parsley
if not:
1 TBS of Italian Seasoning
1 tsp of ground Sage dried


Get the largest pot you have. If you are lucky enough to have one with a pasta insert, this will save you a lot of time at the end. Add all of the ingredients, then cover with cold water. (Very important that it is COLD!) Leave room at the top for foaming. Bring to a boil on high, removing foam as it appears on top, and then cover and reduce to 2 settings higher than low (3 on my stove). Let simmer as long as possible, but no less than 3 hours, all day if possible. Maintain the stove setting so it does not boil over. If you need to be away from the house and don't want to leave your stove on, you can do all of the above with a Crock Pot, use the high setting for an hour or two if possible and then cut back. In the Crock, it will need to simmer all day, if possible as long as 24 hours. I don't like to use the Crock when I am making stock from a whole chicken, because sometimes the meat is soggy and can't be used for chicken salad. But when making stock from only bones (next recipe), the crock is fine.


When done simmering, pull all ingredients out. This is where you will be thankful if you have a pasta insert. Discard all veggies except the carrots, and all gizzards except the liver. With a potato masher, or your fingers, mash the carrots and liver into a pulp and add back to the liquid. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the chicken and reserve for soup, casserole, or chicken salad. If you let the meat get cold or store with the bones in, in the fridge, it will be very hard to pull off the bone later. You can store stock in the fridge for 3-4 days, and freeze extra after that. I am experimenting with ideas to freeze different portions of stock...blog post to come later.


Look at that color!

Here's another option:


Chicken Stock with Bones--Roasted or Smoked


During the cold months, my favorite thing is to Roast Chicken. In the summer, I send all my whole chickens to my husband and his smoker. This leaves me with a lot of flavorful bones. The stock that comes from that rich flavor of Chicken that has been roasted or smoked is not to be missed. Save the bones by freezing them if you don't roast enough Chicken in one week. You can also use bones from Chicken you have Grilled.**


Ingredients and Directions same as above, substitute the bones of 2 or more chickens or equivalent parts for 1 whole Chicken in the recipe above. If using Smoked Chicken only add onion, the smokey flavor will not allow any of the veggies to come through.**


Benefits of Homemade Stock


1. Using something you would normally throw away.
2. The addition of vinegar breaks down the Calcium and Phosphorous in the Bones making it readily available for your absorption.
3. Good Stock will do most of the work for you in a recipe. Rice, Quinoa, or Polenta cooked in homemade stock will rival anything you can order at a restaurant.


*I know this part isn't specific, but anything you don't think you will eat before it spoils, throw it in..broccoli is the only thing I've put in that I was disappointed with. Bell Peppers, Beets, Green Beans, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes...all of these will add dimension and flavor to your stock without overpowering it.


**Grilled Chicken won't change the flavor that much unless there is a considerable amount of charred meat or bones. Smoked Chicken makes a stock very unique to itself. My favorite way to use Smoked Stock is to cook beans or greens in it, add it to my barbecue sauce, or use it to supplement the smoky flavor of a dish I am putting Bacon or ham in.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Blog?

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Over the last few years I've had the blessing of sharing a lot of myself with people. My food, my experiences in parenting and homeschooling, my advice, my exhortations...the list continues. After heaps of encouragement from friends and family, I decided to record some stuff here online to share with anyone who's interested. If you know me you know my passions. My God. My family. And FOOD!! If you want to hear me talk for 30 minutes without taking a breath, go ahead and ask me what I've been doing in the kitchen lately! Whether it is experimenting with new flavors, trying to conquer a new skill, or just fighting to keep healthy reasonably priced food on the table each night, it is my favorite subject.


About a year ago, I signed a letter to a farmer friend of mine "Love and Butter" and she was so tickled with it. I chose that as my blog name, because any thing that comes from my kitchen comes from my heart, to fill yours with joy...and it almost always includes butter!! I'm no Paula Dean...I would never use white sugar or flour in a recipe. But I do believe butter is one of the most wonderful things our Creator made for us. And that introduces the simplicity of my philosophy on food: God made our bodies and God made food. My family's journey is to eat food as close to the way it was created.


So we will start here on a journey. I'll welcome you into my kitchen...and via blog I won't have to do the dishes! Each week I always try one new dish, and I will pledge to share that with you along with any seasonal activity I'm doing, like freezing, canning, or gardening. Thanks for joining me, I hope you find something tasty, helpful, or challenging in the weeks or months to come.




Love and Butter,




Mishelle
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