Sunday, August 10, 2014

Freezer Cooking 2014: Broth

Did you enjoy my post yesterday talking about prepping meat and organs for quick and easy dinners? I hope so. Today we are talking about BROTH! 

Besides getting wonderful meat, organ meats, and tallow from Indian Creek angus, I also get lots of bones. Speaking of bones, I am a fan of any type of meat that is bone-in that require a long slow cooking time. Because the bones add lots of flavor and tenderness to the meat, it adds minerals, and dissolving the connective tissue in the cooking process fills the dish with easily absorbed amino acids and soothing collagen that benefits our skin and joints. Seriously, you are missing out if you only eat boneless skinless meat!

Okay, back to the bones. I had an assortment of marrow and joint bones that I wanted to use to make broth. I was excited because they had lots of fat and connective tissue. First I loaded them into two pans and roasted them for an hour and a half at 375 F. Roasting gives them a great flavor, and renders off some of the fat. After roasting, the bones were placed into a large stockpot filled with water and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (to help get the minerals out of the bones). The rendered fat was put in a bowl and set in the fridge for later use. 

Beef bones are so thick that they require a longer cooking time. I made 2 batches of stock with the same bones, cooking each batch for 36-48 hours. I was home most of the time so I could let it simmer all day. When we were sleeping I turned off the stove and turned it back on when I got up in the morning. 

During the cooking process, more fat came off the bones. Rendered beef fat, or tallow, is very valuable to me. So, I took a couple of extra steps to save it. 

After straining the broth into a smaller pan, I let it cool and then placed it in the fridge overnight. 

The next morning the fat had solidified on top and I scraped it off with a spatula and set it into another bowl. 

This was my first batch. 

I could tell it was really good broth because it completely gelled in the fridge. That means it is full of collagen, gelatin, amino acids as well as lots of minerals and vitamins. Did you know broth is a superfood?

There was still life in the bones after straining out the first batch, so I loaded up the stockpot with more water and a few more tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and let it go for another day and a half. This is a picture of my second batch after scraping off the fat. 

The broth was so gelled that I couldn't get it into ice cube trays so I heated it a little and then scooped it into trays. 

I ended up with 3 gallon size zip locks full of homemade beef bullion cubes. I like to heat up a few cubes with water and spices and drink it plain when I feel like I need some nourishment. Sometimes I will even drink it instead of coffee in the morning. Besides drinking it plain and putting it in soup, I also like to add broth cubes to rice, pizza sauce, veggies, etc. I try to get it in wherever I can!

Once I strained out the second batch of broth I picked through the bones and pulled out any remaining bone marrow and connective tissue. Which may sound gross, but the stuff is like gold. Like I said earlier, not only does it give a good flavor, it is full of nutrition that can help to soothe an inflamed digestive tract, it helps you absorb fat soluble vitamins, and it is a good source of easily assimilated protein and collagen. I didn't want any of the good stuff go to waste. 

So, I put it in a bowl with a little bit of broth, blended it, and froze it in ice cube trays as well. These will be a great addition to soups and rice to give a richer flavor and texture. 

Then, after the broth and marrow were taken care of. I still had a bowl full of delicious rendered beef fat or tallow. It still had little bits of broth attached so I took the whole bowl and put it into the toaster oven on low for a few hours to melt it all back down again. This allows any water and other bits and pieces to sink to the bottom. 

After it had melted, I put it back in the fridge to solidify. 

 I inverted it onto a plate and scraped off the broth on the bottom. 

I cut it into pieces and bagged it up. 

It filled a quart bag. 

I am so happy to have the added bonus of getting extra tallow from making broth. I use it as lotion mixed with lavender and lemongrass essential oils. I use it with flour and buttermilk to make the most amazing biscuits. I also use it to make soap. It is lovely fat, and I love that I can render it right here in my kitchen. I also love that a 10 pounds of bones got me 3 gallons of broth cubes, 1 quart of tallow, and a quart of marrow cubes. 

To make chicken broth with the leftover chicken bones from yesterday, I put them in a pot with water and a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and let it simmer for 8 hours. Chicken bones are a lot smaller than beef bones so don't require as long of a cooking time. Also, I have found that when I cook chicken bones a long time it tends to have a rancid smell. I have no idea why, and it may not happen to you, but keep that in mind. I think 6-10 hours is plenty of time to get the goodness out :).  I strained out the bones, reduced it, and froze it in cubes as well. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about making broth. I am not good at keeping a pot of broth going on a  regular basis so I decided to make a bunch at once! I know that these are the types of foods that will get me through the semester healthy and happy and nourished :).

Freezer Cooking 2014: Meat and Organs

I hope you guys are ready for a slew of posts in the next 7 days. School starts back a week from Monday and I have been cooking up a storm and doing everything I can to get ahead for when things get crazy.

That means that it is the time of year for freezer cooking!! I have done this every year for the last 3 years. You can read about freezer cooking 2012 (Part I, II, III, IIII) and 2013 by clicking on the links. I somehow accidentally erased the second freezer cooking post from last year. Oops. 

As you can tell from those posts, normally I make a lot of sauces, some blanched veggies, and lots of chili and spaghetti. This year I am doing things a little differently. 

Many times, when I am scrambling to figure out what to make for dinner, it is because I haven't defrosted any meat. Generally, with frozen and easy to prepare veggies and starches, meals are easy on the fly, except for the meat portion. Chris can only take so many eggs for dinner, so having an assortment of pre-cooked meat options ranked high on my priority list for this years freezer cooking checklist. 

Also, I am very passionate about the health benefits of eating organ meats. When I am pressed for time, the first thing that I reach for is definitely not tongue or liver. haha!! So, I thought that having it pre-cooked would make it easier to get these nutritious foods into my diet on a more regular basis. 

Quick plug: I get all my beef and pork from a local farm, Indian Creek Angus. They do a wonderful job and all their products are absolutely delicious!

Okay, I did the bulk of the cooking last Monday and prepared the night before by pulling meat out of the freezer to defrost. Here I have 3 lbs. ground beef, 1 lb sausage, one beef tongue, liver, oxtail, beef cheek, rump roast, stew beef, pork shoulder, and 2 packages of ham roast. 

I started with the oxtail. I seared it in a dutch oven to give it some color. 

I followed THIS recipe from the Cooking Coach and added onions, beer, garlic, mustard, bay leaves and some spices and let it simmer on the stove for 3-4 hours. 

Then I separated the meat from the bones, chopped it and put it in a quart freezer bag. 

With the pork shoulder, I put it in a crock pot with salt, pepper and onions and let it cook for six hours on low. 

Then I deboned the meat, shredded it and mixed it back into the onions. 

We ate some for dinner and I bagged the rest up for the freezer. 

For dinner I mixed it with some shredded zucchini, collards and BBQ sauce and simmered it until the veggies wilted. I served it with green beans and rice. I love adding shredded veggies, like carrots, onions, zucchini, etc., to slow cooked meat. Many times you can't even tell it is there and it helps to stretch the meat!

While the meat was cooking I worked on making some beef and liver meatballs. I used 1 lb. of liver to 2 lbs. of ground beef. I blended the liver with 2 onions and 4 cloves of garlic in the food processor. 

I poured the liver blend into the bowl with the ground meat and added 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes and mixed it really well. 

Then I used a mini cookie scoop to make meatballs and baked them in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. I think they turned out really good! This is the best way I have found so far to hide liver. 

I loosened them on the tray and placed the tray in the freezer. Once they were mostly frozen, I put them in a plastic gallon ziplock. I can use these in a lot of dishes. Meatball subs, spaghetti, chopped up and put onto pizza, served with pesto over rice, etc... 

Then I cooked and prepped tongue. I am not going to lie about the weirdness. It is like you would expect a tongue that is 2 1/2 pounds to look like. haha! I followed THIS tutorial from the Curious Coconut. 

She recommends cooking it for 1 hour for every pound of tongue. So I simmered it for 2 1/2 hours in a little bit of water on the stove. 

Then I had to peel off the outer coating. I read that it is harder to do once it cools, so I put on a glove and peeled it while it was hot. I think the dark spots on the tongue are the taste buds. How cool is that? Then I sliced it thinly and froze it in 6 oz portions. I think I will use it for toasted sandwhiches or tacos. I didn't know what to expect, but I tried a little piece and it tasted really good. It just tasted really beefy. I think Chris will like it. He said he doesn't mind eating it, he just didn't want to look at it, and he doesn't want me to tell him when he is eating it. haha 

I ended up with 3 bags of tongue, one bag of pulled pork and onions, one bag of oxtail stew,  two 6 oz. bags of cooked sausage, and two 6 oz. bags of cooked plain ground beef. 

I took the beef cheek, rump roast, and stew beef and put it into the dutch oven with some bones and onions and garlic. I let it simmer for 4 hours and then I removed the bones and shredded everything together and bagged it up. 

I also had some ham shoulder that I cooked in the crockpot, shredded and bagged up. 

We don't buy many organic foods because they are expensive. This is why I try to grow as much of my own food as possible (or get it from friends and bartering!). However, I try to prioritize my meat and fat to make sure they are organic or coming from trusted sources. Because we have such a great source for beef and pork, we rarely eat chicken. Probably less than once a month. But on my last trip to Costco when I was stocking up on organic butter, coconut oil and olive oil I picked up 2 organic chickens. 

I placed them on a bed of fresh rosemary, oregano, lovage and thyme and rubbed them with an herb seasoning. 

I baked them at 350 F until the thermometer read 165 F. Then  I let them cool and deboned them, and chopped all the meat. 

I bagged the chicken and froze it in 8 oz portions. 

You know my thoughts about wanting to utilize every part of the animal, so as you can guess, I saved the chicken gizzards. I am planning on cooking the heart and liver with lunch today :).

I also saved the bones and will be making chicken broth. So, stay tuned for tomorrow's update where I talk all about BROTH! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Energizing Rosemary Eucalyptus Soap

My husband has used the same soap for as long as I have known him. Orange Dial. He loves the scent and everything about it. After I made my lavender rosemary soap, I took on the challenge of creating a more manly bar of soap. Or at least something that didn't smell like flowers. I wanted to go for something energizing with a cool pattern. I think I succeeded. 

I used a pringle can as my mold, and sliced the log into rounds to make my bars. 

I wanted a color in this soap so I took 1 tsp of blue oxide pigment from my DIY makeup stash and mixed it with a tablespoon of oil to dissolve the pigment. It was probably more than I needed so I would do half that amount next time. I will reflect this in the recipe. 

I went to to create my recipe. You can take any oil you want and type in the percentage you want to use and when all your oils add up to 100% you click 'calculate recipe' and it shows you how much lye, water and oil you need for your recipe. It also gives ranges for things like hardness, cleansing, lather, conditioning, etc. and will show you where your soap is in that range. It is really neat because you can play around with the oil percentages until you get the numbers you want.

For my mold I used a pringles can that I lined with parchment paper. I had to work fast with the rest of the process so I don't have pictures. But, I mixed my oils and lye together and blended until it reached a light trace. Then I added the essential oils. Then I divided the soap in half. Half of it got colored with blue and half remained uncolored. I took the white first and poured for 3 seconds. Then I took the blue and poured for 3 seconds. I alternated back and forth just pouring and aiming for the middle of the pringles can until all the soap was gone. That is what gives it the swirl look. 

Then I wrapped the tube in a towel and set it aside for 24 hours. 

The next day I pulled it out of the can. 

I unwrapped it and sliced it into rounds. 

I think it turned out SO COOL! Chris keeps walking by and commenting that he is excited to use the soap when it is ready in a few weeks. 

Energizing Rosemary Eucalyptus Soap
40% Coconut Oil
40% Tallow
15% Olive Oil
5% Castor Oil
5% superfat (this means the recipe is calculated to have 5% extra fat that won't react with the lye to give a more conditioning soap)

6 g Rosemary essential oil
4 g Eucalyptus essential oil
4 g Sweet Orange essential oil

1/2 tsp of cosmetic ultramarine blue pigment dissolved in 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil

Calculate your recipe using Soapcalc to get your precise amounts of fats, lye and water based on the amount of oils you want to use. I have been using the standard 16 oz by weight of oils. 

After you reach trace, add in your essential oils. Divide the soap in half. Mix half with the blue pigment using your immersion blender. Immediately pour into the center of a lined pringle can and count to three each time, alternating between colors until both containers run out of soap. 

Let saponify for 24 hours for unmolding and slicing into bars. Let cure for 3-6 weeks. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lavender Rosemary Soap

Hello, my name is Noelle and I am researchaholic. I have an idea and then I spend hours and hours researching before I finally take the plunge. Case in point. A year ago I got it into my head that I wanted to make soap. Six months ago I bought the lye and essential oils. 3 weeks ago I finally made my first batch. The crazy thing is that it didn't take long at all and was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I have already made four different batches, and I will be posting a series of recipes. But today we will start with my first ever batch of soap. Lavender Rosemary. 

Actually, before I walk you through the steps, lets cover the basics so you know what is going on. To make real soap (not the melt and pour kind you get at your local craft store) you need two things. Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and Fat. The lye is mixed with water to create a solution that is then mixed into melted fats and blended together. The measurements are extremely important and can be calculated on a site called You can select the oils and amounts and it will tell you how much lye and water to use. The lye reacts with the fats through a process called saponification and creates soap. Too much lye and you will burn yourself when you are using the soap. Not enough lye means that you will have a gloppy oily mess when you try to use it. 

Okay, now that you know what is happening, I will walk you through the steps and show you how easy it really is!

First I gathered all my ingredients and supplies. 

 These included oils, essential oils, other additives, lye, scale, immersion blender, soap mold, a recipe (from soap calc), and containers for mixing and measuring. 

I first read that you must have all separate pots, measuring cups, etc for soap making. But, I didn't want to waste space with extra pots that I only use for soap. So I decided that I will have a dedicated plastic pitcher and plastic cup for mixing the lye. But, for melting the oils and mixing the soap I will just use a kitchen pan and spatula. I mean, I am making soap after all. 

Before I started mixing the oils or lye I measured out my additives. For this recipe I wanted to add some lavender blossoms and some bentonite clay. I read that adding clay to soap makes it nice for shaving and it helps to anchor the scent. It sounded good to me so I decided to add it to my first soap. 

Then I measured out my essential oils into a small glass jar. I got all my essential oils from New Directions Aromatics. They had very reasonable prices. I knew once I started making my own soap that I wanted to use only essential oils and no synthetic fragrances. I also knew that I would never go back to regular soap again. So I decided to invest in larger containers of essential oils so they would last me a long time. I got 6 different essential oils to give me lots of options for mixing and blending scents. I chose Sweet Orange, Lemongrass, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Lavender, and Rosemary. So far I am very happy with my choices and have made some really great scents!

Then I measured out my oils and let them melt slowly on the stove on low. 

For my first soap I followed THIS recipe and used coconut oil, tallow, olive oil, shea butter and castor oil. Each oil gives the soap different qualities. Coconut oil is great for lather. Tallow is great for creating a hard bar that doesn't disintegrate in the shower. Shea butter and olive oil are great for moisturizing and conditioning. Castor oil is good for both lather and conditioning. 

Then I measured and mixed my lye solution. Lye is caustic and should be handled carefully. Having extra vinegar around is handy to neutralize it if any spills or gets on your skin. I measured and mixed it outside to be on the safe side. 

Remember, you always add the lye to the water and not the other way around.  

It will get really hot once they are mixed. I had to let it sit for a little while to cool down before adding to the oils. 

I got my lye off of ebay. 

Some sites say that you need to use a thermometer to measure the melted oils and the lye/water mixture and make sure they are at the same temperature before mixing. But I didn't have two thermometers so I just went by touch and mixed them when they felt like they were close to the same temp. I promise, this process is a lot easier than some people make it out to be. 

Make sure you have everything set and ready to go and then pour your lye solution into your oils. 

Use the immersion blender and blend until you reach a light trace. You can see in the picture that it has started to thicken. 

Then it is time to add anything extra, in my case I added the clay, lavender blossoms and essential oils. I mixed them in with a spatula.


Then I poured the soap into a silicone mold that I had bought for making lotion bars a few years ago.  

Any residue left on the pan was left to sit for a day and turn into soap. 

It looks like soap to me :). 

I let the soap sit for a couple of days in the mold. Then I popped them out and have been letting them cure. They are supposed to cure for 4-6 weeks to let the saponification process go to completion and to let the extra water evaporate from the bars. Waiting is important because it means your bar of soap won't disintegrate in the shower when you start using it. 

A couple of days later I made my second batch of soap. It is a simple cleaning soap and I will use it for making my DIY powdered laundry detergent. I followed THIS recipe and used equal parts tallow and coconut oil.

I love how both of the bars turned out and I am excited to try them. I have to wait 1 more week and then I can try to lavender rosemary bar. 

If you are interested in making your own soap I have found two blogs extremely helpful. They both have great tutorials and information about where to purchase supplies and how to create your own recipes. They also have lots of recipes for other cool stuff like lotions, balms, and homemade liquid soap. I am full of ideas for what to tackle next :)!

If you are interested in making your own soap, don't wait a year like I did. Just go for it!