DIY · Dutch Oven · recipe

Chicken Stock in your Dutch Oven

I realize we are living in a world of conveniences and one of those “easy outs” is using canned or boxed broth/stock.

To be honest, I also use broth in my cooking, but I can sincerely say the quality of the homemade stuff FAR outweighs the convenience of the cans. Most of the famous chefs would agree, I’m sure.

But what’s a home chef to do?

Well, you could make your own stock, of course! Actually it’s an so easy–albeit messy–process and it would make full use of the chicken carcasses left over from a nice chicken dinner. If you have Dutch Oven, the process is easier–but just as messy. Sorry!

Are you ready for this? Cuz imma lay it down for ya.

First, you need a cooked chicken.

You can cook your chicken from scratch, like I did with my Chicken in a Dutch Oven or you could use a store-bought rotisserie style chicken, it doesn’t matter. I’m assuming that you have made a meal or two out of the chicken and mostly what is left is skin, bones and some hidden meat. That’s what we want. (The picture above shows a whole chicken I cooked in my Dutch Oven, but I have seriously done this with nearly all the chickens I get from Costco. Go, Costco! Whoot!)

The first step to making your own stock is to throw everything (Really…everything!!) from the leftover chicken into your Dutch Oven. Bones, skin, even that gelatinous stuff that congeals on the bottom of the plastic container. (It’s gross, I know…don’t look at it. Just throw it in!)

Then chunk up a couple of carrots, a few ribs of celery (if you have it–by the way, this is a great way to use up those veggies no longer salad-worthy!) and a whole onion cut into quarters (keep the onion skin on, because it adds color and flavor). Throw all the veggies in with the chicken carcass. Add some salt and pepper, too. Now cover the entire thing with water.

Bring the entire pot to a boil and then reduce it to simmer. I partially cover my Dutch Oven during simmering, so not a lot of the water evaporates. If you are leaving it uncovered, check as you simmer to make sure you haven’t lost a lot of water. Add more if necessary. You are going to simmer this big pot a long time…at least a couple of hours. This is a fun chore for a rainy/snowy day, by the way!

Simmer your chicken a good long while. You can check on it every half hour or so and add more water if you think it needs it. You’re aiming for an entire pot of liquid with a mess of bones on the bottom.

After a couple of hours, the meat and skin will completely fall off the bone and the bone structure will break down, too.

When you see the broth has become golden and your chicken has broken down, turn off your pot and allow to cool. Sometimes I just cover it and let it cool on a cold burner and come back to it later, because the whole mess is seriously hot! Watch yourselves, folks!

Once your ingredients have cooled to the point where you can handle them, head on over to the sink. You will need a big colander and another pot or bowl about as big as your pot. You are going to do the first strain of your chicken stock, so place the bowl under the strainer in the sink and slowly empty the contents of your now cooled Dutch Oven into the colander (this is why you cool it!).

I’m not going to lie. This step requires some practice, but know that and give yourself time. This is a learning process and you will improve. Note, too, that you may have to lift the strainer from time to time to help all the broth get into the bowl. Oh! And do remember to use a big enough bowl under the colander, so you don’t have to put another one there. (It’s an easy beginner mistake)

Once you’ve strained it the first time, it’s a good idea to strain it again. Some of those bones and things tend to sneak by the colander on the first pass.

In the end you should have a colander in the sink full of junk and a big pot of gorgeous, delicious chicken stock. If you are a true dyed-in-the-wool New Englander (like me!), you might pick through the colander for chunks of chicken you missed before the simmer. But that’s not for everyone, so you can just bag that junk up and dispose of it if it grosses you out too much. Work up to it! Haha!

You might notice, depending on how your bird was prepared, that you’ve got a thick stripe of fat that floats to the top of your pan. This happens often when I make stock with my Thanksgiving Turkey, because of the butter used in it’s preparation, but it’s also there on a store bought chicken. If you want to reduce the fat in your broth, place the strained pan of stock in your fridge for an hour or so and then use a spoon to delicately scrape off the congealed layer of fat. I’d you live in a cold climate, consider putting the covered pot on your porch in the winter (!) to accomplish this task. Depending on how the bird was originally prepared, this could be a good half inch of fat you are losing, but don’t worry, because there is still some left even after skimming.

After straining and skimming, you will have several quarts of gorgeous, glorious homemade chicken stock, which can be used to make anything.

Generally I will use half of the stock to make a soup or stew. You could make a simple noodle soup as shown or add your favorite ingredients (barley, rice, noodles, carrots, etc.) and make a more complex main course. Either way, you won’t be sorry you pushed your way through this messy process.

You can store the remaining broth in your fridge or even freeze it!! One tip I got a long time ago from either Julia Child or Martha Stewart (sorry that I don’t remember!) was freezing the stock in ice cube trays and then–when frozen–storing them in a zippy bag for future convenience. If you do this, make sure to put them in a bag once frozen! No one wants to have chicken broth ice cubes in their drink. Plus the stock you worked so hard for will get freezer burn and that would be a shame.

You may want to even water the stock down further if you are making soup. If you are making a gravy or creamy based dish, keep it full strength though.

I hope you will try to make your own broth at least once. It’s very helpful and you will feel so frugal you will squeal with delight (like I do!)

One critical note: As you know I am a dog owner and lover. Please–as much as they might go wild for them–don’t give chicken bones to your pups! They may like a bit of cooled stock–my Odie loved my stock–but never bones!

And that’s it!!

Are you going to try it? Have you already done it and would like to share your thoughts? Please do!!

One final note: I hope you’ve noticed, faithful reader, that I’m trying hard to provide you with lots of fresh and interesting content on my blog. Reviving my blog is one of my New Years Resolutions this year. So could you find it in your heart to become a regular reader and tell your friends about me? It will be super nice to know I have a small following and I’m not just talking to myself. I surely would appreciate it! Thanks!!

life

Leftovers

Let’s talk leftovers.

I came from a far away place called the 70’s. During that time, most moms were “stay at home” and many didn’t have cars. Our moms did their marketing once a week and usually purchased enough for breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire family, which usually included a special meal for Sunday after church. Yes, in that far away place, we all went to church on Sunday morning, even if you weren’t feeling like it!

We rarely went out to eat as this was reserved for “special occasions”. Furthermore, the idea of “ordering out” was just foreign to those of us that came from the 70’s…and I am being totally serious here! On rare occasions, my dad might suggest getting a pizza–for example, if it was just “too hot to cook”–but, even then, he would drive to the local pizzeria, order and bring it home. Keep in mind microwave ovens were just being introduced in most homes then and they were still strange and possibly dangerous, too. One of my neighbors insisted that we do not stand in front of theirs while it was “in use” because, well, “radiation”.

The 70’s was a strange place, indeed. ūüėČ

But–getting back to my point–when I was growing up, food came from your kitchen and was usually produced by moms. Sometimes you’d be lucky and have a mom that was a really good cook or even a bit inventive. Sometimes not. Sometimes moms would have a rotating schedule, similar to a school lunch menu, but usually without an alternate. Your alternate was “take it or leave it” usually. My point being she would churn it out and we would all sit and eat at the same time…no tv, no devices, just conversation and eating. Isn’t that weird?

Invariably there were leftovers. Sometimes it would be just a tiny amount of food, but it was food and we never threw it out; it would be saved. Maybe it would be a spoonful of peas & carrots. A slice of ham wrapped in tinfoil, perhaps. Occasionally there might be some rice no one could eat.

And we kept it all! What’s weird is we never ate these leftovers the next day, because it was Wednesday and it was spaghetti day. So she would collect all these bits of leftovers in tiny Tupperware or Pyrex fridge containers, which would sit in the fridge for a couple of days. And, on Saturday, she would take all the leftovers and heat everything up to go with our hamburgs (you heard me…that’s what we called them) which were cooked in the broiler on a tinfoil wrapped broiler pan that no one liked to clean. It was a potluck of sorts and, I have to tell you, it was our version of being adventurous.

These days I am hearing and seeing dinner being handled in far different ways and it’s sort of scary and strange. What about the leftovers? Where are those weekly “pot lucks” of days gone by? Do people actually throw food away now? What do you eat with your Saturday night Hamburgs?

As a single mom of one child, I must admit I have struggled with the idea of “family meals”. It seems odd making a full meal that your child won’t eat and I have no desire to eat what he does most of the time. Lately I might cook something big–like a pot of soup–and eat that every night for a week, while–at the same time–being a short order cook for MO. It sort of works for us right now, but it does change my ingrained beliefs about leftovers.

I suppose that’s why I get really excited when Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around. Suddenly I can have a conversation with an adult! I can show off my culinary skills! I can have…LEFTOVERS!

Autism · life

Election Day with My Au-some Kid, MO

Sushi
Lordy be!  This child of mine is just too precious for words!

From the moment he awakes–often by jumping out of bed–to when he falls asleep, MO is in motion.  And talking.  Moving and talking.  All day, every day.  He’s got only one setting–ON!

Yesterday–being Election Day–MO had no school. He decided to come with me to vote and do errands.

We vote at a church that is located across from my dear Auntie Anna and Uncle Sal‚Äôs old house.  The neighborhood has changed a lot and I start to reminisce with MO. “Do they live there now?” he asks, to which I reply no.  He’s not interested.  He laughs and says he “doesn‚Äôt need a history lesson”.

When we go inside, nearly everyone knows us from his days in public school, so he delights them by talking about his new school and then turns their attention to the pocket on his too-small shirt. He says he wears the small shirt because it has a pocket and he thinks pockets on shirts are “the wave of the future”!  He also states he prefers his new school, because “lunch is free there–not like in public school–and they serve breakfast, too!”

Finished voting, we set out for the electric company down the street.  Along the way he says he’d like to “visit that place where we got the RECYCLE stickers” (meaning our City Hall) and asks if we “know” the mayor.  I say, yes, we know him.  His name is “Teddy” just like our dog.  He asks me why I don’t run for mayor, because he thinks he would like it if I were mayor.  (Watch out, Ted!)   He likes the idea, because he thinks he would then “know everyone in the city” and wouldn’t that be great!  Plus it would “give me something to do during the day”…because, you know, I simply do not have enough to do!  As he is pitching the mayoral job to me, he exclaims: “Imagine all the paperwork you’d have to do!” as if that were a super big draw for me deciding to run for office.

Arriving at the light plant, he spies a rocky wall and a few trees and asks if he can climb outside instead of going in. I agree. When I am finished, I don‚Äôt see him. But he quickly responded from behind a tree when I call him. He says he needs hiking boots (he does) to climb the terrain next time.  He tries to decide when the “next time” will be.  He thinks maybe Saturday, that is if I can get his new boots by then.

Off we go to the post office, where he climbs one of trees there.  We go inside and he finds a pen, which he puts in his trusty shirt pocket, delighted in his “prize”.

He notices how many Snoopy cards they have on display.  I tell him I love the Peanuts and he replies with great animation: “I know! Believe me, I know!”   He then decides to re-enact the scene when Lucy gets kissed by Snoopy and has a good laugh as he exclaims: “Get the iodine! Get the disinfectant!”

When it‚Äôs our turn, I ask for bird stamps and he inquires if they are sticky backed. He says they must be sticky backed because “he doesn‚Äôt want them to fly away”.  He waits for the postmistress to get his little joke, but she is all business today.  Oh, well.

Leaving the post office, he climbs the tree again and points out another one he thinks he could climb.  He thinks he could break off one of the limbs if he “weighed 200 pounds or so” and then we get back in the car and head for the mall.  Along the way, he asks if we can have sushi and perhaps look for a new jacket, because it’s getting cold out.  He is, after all, wearing his beloved but too small short-sleeved shirt!

At Old Navy, he picks out a vest and tries to convince me he can wear a small.  We settle for a large one in camouflage green with fluorescent orange trim.  Seconds later he found a buffalo check hunting hat–complete with faux fur ear flaps–and refuses to take it off.  I guess we are adding it to the list.  We also find red slipper socks and women‚Äôs pajama bottoms with Christmas sweater wearing dogs all over them.  One is a corgi, so we HAD to get them.  He casually says I can hem them.  At the check out he also gets a pack of Pop Rocks–red–he prefers blue. Could I try to find him blue ones tomorrow?

At the sushi restaurant, he waits very impatiently for his order.  Apparently it isn’t a good thing that they make his food “to order”, because it is taking way too long to be prepared.  He gobbles the four pieces of ebi nigiri (ūüć£ sticky rice with a butterflied cooked shrimp on top) and wants more.  I ask him how much more and he asks for eight more.  Eight more pieces?  So, four orders?  “No” I say “that’s too much” so he settles for 2 more orders, which is 4 pieces.  He wonders why the sushi chef gives him the pickled ginger (Ick!) and carefully removes the ball of wasabi paste and places it on my plate.

After gobbling down EIGHT pieces of ebi nigiri ūüć£  he says he is full and we are headed home.  On the ride home, he decides he wants more sushi. “Can we go again? Maybe not tonight, but soon?  Maybe tomorrow? Okay, how about Friday?”

When we get home, he wants to try out his new stuff.  He decides the buffalo-checked and faux fur-lined hunting cap goes perfectly with his camouflage and orange vest.  He adds a different short sleeve shirt, which also has a pocket because “wave of the future” and all.  For good measure, he dons the new slipper socks and pajama bottoms–“too long, so can you hem them now?”–and decides this will be his ensemble for tomorrow.

It’s only six o’clock the night before he plans on wearing them to school.  With the hat, vest, pj’s, slipper socks and snow boots, he becomes hot.  I suggest he put something else on until tomorrow, but he decides he’d rather turn on the air conditioner.  All dressed up in his new attire, he hunts for his “dog tags” and then proceeds to tell me all about the history of dog tags, in case I didn’t know.

Eventually I convince him to peel off the new clothes and get ready for bed.  Bedtime is the hour or so before he actually falls asleep when he repeatedly turns on all the lights in every room and I follow him around and turn them all off.  It doesn‚Äôt matter how many times I tell him to turn off the lights, he still leaves them on and I still follow him around and shut them off.  This happens every night at least three times before he is ready for bed.

After he wrestles with Ted E. Bear on the bed–with socks on his hands to protect them from random nips–he finally (finally!!) just <boom> closes his eyes and is asleep.  Like I said before–there is no speed adjustment switch.  There is only OFF and ON.  You get one or the other.  Believe me, I’ve checked!

Are you tired?  I know I am and I haven’t even included all the things I did around him!  I wonder what other people do with twelve year old, autistic boys on their days off.  But I also think about how boring my life would be without him. He sure is colorful!

I thank the Lord for such an energetic child and think about “all that paperwork!” I might be trying to do as the elected mayor.  I’m happy to let Ted take care of it for a few more years!

Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 2: My dilemma

If you read Part 1 of “The Big Reveal”, you know that I gave you my “In a Nutshell” story of how I got to this place in my life. ¬†If you forgot already (or didn’t read the first part, in which case “shame on you”! ¬†Just kidding!), I’ll “bottom line” it for you: ¬†I spent about 45 years not knowing I had Asperger’s AND I am the very proud mother of a 10 year old boy, who also has autism. ¬†Oh, plus, I am a dyed-in-the-wool crafter (now being called “maker”) and¬†have been since I was a kid. ¬†Plus I am a rabid fan of corgis! ¬†<—“rabid”…heehee…get it?

So here is the dilemma: as someone who was diagnosed late in life, I don’t just naturally think about Asperger’s and autism. ¬†Truth be told, I don’t think about it all that much until I run into a situation I can’t figure out and then I have an “Aha!” moment.

No, mostly I think about what I can make or do…or cook…or clean…or organize.

I suppose it might be a little bit “Aspie” of me that I have a need–a compulsion, really–to analyze things that grab my curiosity and figure them out.

Yeah. ¬†I’m that person.

I’m the lady that looks up word origins for the fun of it. ¬†The gal who sees something odd–like: “Hey! Why have all¬†the Hess gas stations changed names? And: “Now where am I going to get my annual Hess Truck?”–and must research it and find out “why”! ¬†(Here’s the why:¬†Hess decided to get out of the retail business in New England, so you have to buy the annual truck online if you live around here.)

Thing is…I always thought everyone was like I was. ¬†I mean, how can you just look at something and not think about it?!?¬† ¬†It is part of my very core to find out the “back story” of everything…and EVERYTHING has a back story. ¬†Hardly anything is happens for NO reason at all. ¬†Believe me…it doesn’t. ¬†I researched it. ¬†LOL!

And that’s¬†one of the reasons¬†why I simply ADORE my son, Master Owen (aka MO)! ¬†He thinks just like me; he was blessed with this insane need to find out the “whys” and “hows” of life. ¬†Because, honestly? ¬†Having this drive of curiosity is the BEST¬†way to live life, especially in the digital age when you can find out anything online. ¬†It makes life a ginormous ADVENTURE.

Only…I now realize not everyone is “so blessed”. <big grin> ¬†Some people are content with not knowing the history of the Patriots mascot. ¬†(You are now dying to know, aren’t you?)

Some people can actually admire someone’s work without asking: “How did you do that?”

It was a shocking revelation to me and, quite frankly, something I still struggle with.

And–take it a step further–how am I suppose to maintain a blog simply about autism?¬† Won’t that get boring or whiny? ¬†Seriously…autism¬†is part of who I am…of course it is, but it is NOT all of me. ¬†Of course not. ¬† I am so much more! I am the mittens I knit. ¬†The birthday banners I design. ¬†The tote bags I sew up. ¬†The lobster pie I make. ¬†The dog poop I diligently collect and dispose of <gross, I know!> ¬† I am all those things and more. ¬†I can’t contain myself. ¬†And, what’s more, I won’t contain myself.

And, so, the¬†“Big Reveal” is I NEED¬†to blog about, well, everything.

Corgis, LEGO sets, Cricut crafting, knitting, sewing, soap making, DIY…and, like I said, everything. ¬†You name it and I’m giving myself permission to write about it. ¬†I can’t be a one woman show. ¬†It’s too restricting. ¬†And I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to fit into everyone else’s ideas of who I am.

Is that all right with you, dear reader?  Will you come along on a journey with me?  Or at least tolerate it when I just want to gush about my latest project?  I do hope you will, because I want to share it all with you!

Let me know in the comments below, won’t you?

P.S. I write like I think, so I sometimes have run on sentences.  Plus I use a lot of exclamation points and ask a lot of questions.

P.P.S. I’m a HUGE fan of the “P.S.”