Monday, July 17, 2017

Recipe: Veggie Broth

It's no mystery. I thought it was.

As a young wife and mom... <REPHRASE> As a young cook discovering her creative juices, I would spend money on cans and waxboard containers of chicken stock, beef broth, veggie broth, seafood stock thinking it must be a difficult, all-involving task to create. 

Nope, it's not. 

Applied knowledge is power!

We all know water adds no flavor when cooking and boiling. Grains like rice and quinoa absorb the water yielding very little flavor. Substituting broth in the place of water creates depth or layers of flavors. Suddenly, you're not trying as hard to make the bland potato tasty by adding tons of salt, because it has absorbed the flavorFULL broth!

Summer's fresh vegetable bounty is a perfect time to create a savory broth or stock to freeze until the chilly winds of fall and winter call for steamy soups and hearty stews. Making your own broth is as easy as... 

Oh, wait. The difference between stock and broth?

First, STOCK"Livestock makes Kitchen Stock." Stock is made when the bones (sometimes, with the meat attached) are covered in water and cooked for hours until the flavor and gelatin from inside the bones is rendered. It's just this simple: Chicken Bones = Chicken Stock; Turkey Bones = Turkey Stock; and Beef Bones = Beef Stock. Same for fish. For seafood stock, I have boiled the shells and shrimp heads after peeling raw shrimp to make a broth. Purists may choose to cook the bones without adding herbs and aromatic veggies, such as onions and garlic. <meh>... to each her own. 

Vegetable Stock vs. Vegetable Broth. Keep reading...

Next, BROTH. Broth is the clear-ish liquid after the bones and extra flavor (aromatic veggies and herbs, etc.) have been strained out. Purists will be militant about clarity. If that's you, use cheesecloth to strain the broth. Not being that picky, I opt for a colander with small holes or mesh strainer over an empty container to capture the flavorFULL liquid, which may be slightly cloudy. 

How did I make my latest batch of VEGETABLE BROTH pictured in these photos?

Into a large pot or "stock" pot, I tossed in the following:

Fresh Corn Cobs. There's flavor in the cobs! I cut off the corn to use in recipes.
Root ends and tops of green onions wilting in the fridge. I sautéd the white and light green parts in a different recipe.
Bell Peppers that were soft with some bad spots. I cut out the bad spots, removed the stem, seeds and white membrane leaving the peppers in big chunks.
Large Onion or 2 cut in half with the skin and root bottom. It's all gonna be strained out.
Garlic cloves. Whole or crushed? I don't remember. Maybe, cut and tossed in.
Celery Ribs. Leafy tops and all, cut, and washed, first.
Carrots cut into big chunks.
Rosemary Stems with LeavesIt's my favorite herb.
Whole Peppercorns. I had 'em, so I used 'em.

I added enough water to cover the veggies. TIP: Do not add salt. I placed the lid loosely on pot and walked away. The veggies simmered or lightly boiled for a couple of hours. My house smelled delicious!

I let the stock cool completely, and, then, strained out the veggies. I prefer to freeze my broth in either freezer zip baggies, doubled, or in clean jars. If this is your choice, remember: Do Not Fill to the Rim. The freezing liquid expands with enough power to break a jar...in the freezer...creating a mess and splinters of glass. All your hard work of capturing a flavorFULL broth will have to be trashed. Learn from my mistake.

This cold weather season, when you start thinking soup would be perfect, take the jar(s) or baggie(s) of broth out of the freezer, place on a kitchen towel or in the sink to let thaw. Use the thawed broth  --that broth YOU made with your own two creative hands--  in your favorite recipes for a truly homemade taste! Now, you can add the salt.

FYI: Onion, bell pepper and celery are known as the "holy trinity" in Cajun cooking. GO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Meditate

Meditate.

If this word has you wigged-out because of associating it with a weird, mambo jambo of emptying the mind while listening to a zithy sitar and tabla drums, rethink the word

How about we look at it as thinking?

One of the first Bible verses I memorized as a child was during a summer VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my home church in Louisiana:
"...his [or her] delight is in the law [precepts, command, directives] of the Lord; and in that law doeth he [or she] meditate day and night" Psalm 1:2 (KJV). (emphasis mine)

Of course, it was in the King James Version! It would not be until several years, later, when I would be introduced to the American Standard Version (ASV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) and actually understand what I was reading.

In the above scripture, the psalmist understood the value of meditation. There are many references in the Bible to meditating. In each passage, the person was engaged in study or intentional thought instead of the ever-increasing mainstream practice of a transcendent disengagement whereby the practitioner hopes to move into a place of nirvana.

The following represents my opinion and experience of two types of meditation:

ACTIVE MEDITATION is "devoted thinking" in which the person is consciously engaged in reflective thought offering words of praise and thanksgiving. Active meditation might include a prayer list or deep study.

I recall a few years back of actively meditating in a word study in an Old Testament passage to better understand current news. The study within cultural context brought clarity and perspective.

Not to be confused as the opposite of Active Meditation, INTENTIONAL STILLNESS is simply a different conscious engagement. For me, this time is best described as being still and quietly adoring the Lord. In devoted awareness, I listen for His voice. I have my journal handy to jot down thoughts, words and doodlings with arrows and dialog bubbles and diagrams back to correlating thoughts. Sometimes, this meditation is more difficult to concentrate when I have a To Do list that keeps interrupting. When this happens, I actively order my thoughts back to the present by reading a Psalm or listening to worship music until my restless --and caffeinated-- brain focuses.

In both types of meditation, I am consciously engaged. My mind is full, but with different purpose. Peace isn't something hoped to move into, it is a result of spending personal time or meditation with the Lord. Just like a lingering fragrance, His peace prevails even in times of chaos and stills my mind even when I cannot immediately withdraw to aloneness with Him.

Limit your distractions. You know the best time to pull or push back to create a sacred boundary for precious time. Would you be willing to get up earlier in the morning to meditate? Turn off technology. Sure, you could let your thumbs swiftly type out prayers on your cellphone, but would the pop-up notifications break into the holiness of the moment?

Shame and guilt should be banished from this sacred space. The fact you want to spend time with God should not compete with feelings of inadequacy. Young moms and caregivers to ailing parents are in a season when meditation comes in snatches of time between naps and feedings and schedule demands. 

I remember the early years of being a new mommy, when folding warm, fuzzy towels fresh from the dryer was an active time for my mind to breathe prayers or reflect on His goodness. Spiritual and emotional strength would infuse my weariness in the minutes it took to empty the basket, fold and stack the laundry. God knows the heart. Posture of the soul matters so much more than the posture of the body. He honors those who seek Him in humility and in confidence.
"God's there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it" (Psalm 145:18, The Message).

Imagine the creativity and productivity flooding from a relaxed body. Imagine resolve emboldened by confidence from our Creator. Imagine meditation so sweet the effect is noticed by others throughout the day. Imagine this being you.

Right now, while this is fresh, set a time to meditate. I would love to hear back from you.

--"Sam"