The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall, One and All

So.  I wasn’t going to post while in Vegas, but I’ve got too much stuff to talk about.  So here I am.

Saturday was endless – we were up at 4:00 a.m. EDT to catch our 6:40 flight.  (If it had occurred to me that Beloved, as a frequent flier, has all sorts of “premium” and “platinum” status and can bypass all sorts of lines in airports, we’d have slept until at least until 4:30.)  We flew from Cleveland to Minneapolis, then from Minneapolis to Las Vegas, arriving at 10:40 a.m.  Which means we’d been up for 9 hours.

We then rented a car and drove out to Darling Daughter’s Elks lodge, since we couldn’t check into our hotel for another 4 hours and met all of her friends there – as well as her beau, Mr. Fix It (he supposedly can fix anything).  After a few hours, we checked into our hotel, then took Darling Daughter and Mr. Fix It to dinner, then we went back to our room to pick up our tickets to see Jimmy Cliff, who was performing at our hotel.

We were about 45 minutes late for the concert at that point, and Beloved and I had been up and running for nearly 20 hours straight.  As we rode the elevator down, it stopped a couple of floors below us and a young Caucasian man in a Jimmy Cliff t-shirt and a camera slung around his neck got on, accompanied by a small, thin African-American man with a goatee and the shiniest gold shoes we’d ever seen.

Beloved cracks, “Oh, good – we’re late to the show, but so is Jimmy Cliff.”

We all chuckle.  We all know Jimmy’s already down there – these guys are photographers for the show or some such.

We go down to the concert – a very nice venue at the “beach” and wave pool at the Mandalay Bay – and catch the very last of the opening act.  They leave the stage, and preparations for the main show begin.  The band files out and a very elaborate introduction begins when Darling Daughter and Beloved look at each other and both say, “Wouldn’t it be funny if the guy in the elevator really was Jimmy Cliff?”

And out on stage bounced a small, thin African-American guy with a goatee and the shiniest gold shoes you ever saw.

I don’t think it would be inappropriate to say that we all began to squeal like a bunch of teeny-bopper fan girls at that point.  Well, except for poor Mr. Fix It, who probably wondered what the hell he’s gotten himself into with this family.

I’m Walkin’, Yes Indeed

Since I’m riding on a wave of giddiness at the realization that I’ve lost a total of 14 pounds so far (Beloved has lost 20; go figure) and rolling my eyes at my darling husband who is trying to convince me the secret to rapid weight loss is frequent sex, I couldn’t help but post this.

We’re puttin’ the “toddle” in “toddler”!

Have a lovely day, y’all.

Feel The Burn…Out

Meh.

I do believe I’m suffering from a bad case of bloggy burnout.  It’s not unusual for this time of year, especially for someone who has been blogging for any length of time (read: 2½ years).  I just need a break.

So, I’m going to be taking one.  On Saturday, we head down to Las Vegas for several days – Beloved is going to a conference and I’m going to spend lots of time with Darling Daughter.  We get home very late on Thursday, then turn around and pick Darling Daughter and her fella at the airport Friday evening, Oldest Son and The Young One on Saturday morning, BON (Beloved’s Only Niece) Saturday night, then head down to Hocking Hills for 4 nights on Sunday.  Darling Daughter goes home Friday afternoon, Oldest Son returns Saturday morning, and we’re going to see Emmitt Smith inducted into the Football Hall of Fame Saturday night.

In order to get ready for this, I have a TON of stuff to do here at home and the office.  I’ll probably blog some this week – I have a couple of recipes – but I may not be around to comment so much.  I’ll do my best, but I can’t make any promises.  I don’t intend to blog at all while in Vegas and will not be able to while in Hocking Hills – no internet connection.  But rest assured that I will return the second week of August, armed with photos and stories of our adventures – and maybe even a recipe or two.

That was either a threat or a promise.  Take it how you will.  😛

And have a lovely Monday, y’all.

Chicken Stock

Okay, so I decided to not write about vegetable oil or raw milk.  I’m going to pick on canned chicken broth instead.

I was big on canned chicken broths for years, until I realized that MSG gives me headaches and makes my ears ring.  So, I started looking for canned/boxed broths that have no MSG – and that’s damn hard to find, because even if a label claims it is MSG free (Swanson’s, for example), it still has MSG in it.  If a list of ingredients says “autolyzed yeast extract” or “yeast extract” or “natural flavors” it contains MSG, and the USDA labeling standards allows the manufacturer to claim their product is “MSG free.”

Don’t you love it.

In fact, pick up a can of chicken broth and read the label – you’ll very likely see an ingredient list that looks like this:

Chicken broth, salt, monosodium glutamate, dextrose, flavoring, hydrolyzed soy protein, carrots, hydrolyzed corn protein, celery, onion, chicken fat, sugar, disodium guanylate, autolyzed yeast extract.

Mmm, mmm – what a tasty way to get your daily allowance of chemicals and genetically modified food organisms.

Making your own chicken broth is not hard at all, although it is a tad time-consuming.  But what you’ll have when you’re done is a pot of wonderful, healthy chicken stock that is so tasty you’ll wonder why you ever bought the stuff in a can or box (I know I do).  It is every bit as convenient, too. because you can freeze it in different amounts so you’ll have exactly as much as you need.  Just need a little?  Freeze some in ice cube trays and bag the cubes – the average ice cube is about 2 tablespoons, so two chicken stock cubes would be fine for a recipe calling for 1/4 cup of chicken broth.

Along with a good-sized stock pot you’ll need cheesecloth, but that’s inexpensive easy to find – it’s one of the few things I still buy at the grocery store.

Note: You can use the carcass of a chicken you’ve roasted or use a whole chicken, which is what this recipe calls for.  Reserve the meat for recipes that call for cooked chicken.

Chicken Stock

Chicken Stock

1 two to three pound chicken, or bone-in chicken parts with skin

3 carrots

3 stalks celery

2 onions

2 tablespoons peppercorns, cracked

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons sea salt

Water to cover

Thoroughly wash carrots, celery and onions – you don’t need to peel them, but you may want to trim the ends.  Cut them in half (quarter the onions); they’ll be easier fit into the stock pot.

Rinse the chicken well with cold water and remove any giblets, if necessary.

Combine chicken, carrots, celery, onions, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot.  Add enough water to cover; bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for two hours.

Remove the chicken from the pot; carefully pull the meat off of the bones and return the carcass and skin to the stock.  Continue simmering for another hour; taste.  If the stock is not rich enough, continue to simmer, tasting every 15 minutes.

When stock has reached desired richness and flavor, turn off the heat and allow to cool for one hour.  Strain the stock through the cheesecloth into storage containers, label with the date and freeze.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Homemade Chicken Stock on Foodista

Posted in participation of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday

Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

I don’t get to read as much as I’d like these days – blogs being the exception, of course.  However, I’m slowly but surely making my way through Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (there’s a picture of a piece of toast topped with a pat of butter on the cover; I love it) and have read the introductions to The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved and Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal.  So while I’m appalled at the history behind how we’ve been convinced following a government-sanctioned diet is the right thing to do and alternately delighted by the thought that “eating well has become an act of civil disobedience” I am struggling with what to write about for my next Fight Back Friday post.  Do I continue with the ills of vegetable oils and segue into healthy animal fats, or do I jump into the fray that is the debate over raw milk?

I’m open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I give you this recipe for Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry.  Normally, my stir fries are of the “grab a bunch of stuff, hurl it in a pan and pray” variety; not so this one.  This one, in fact, is a huge pain in the tookus to prepare, but it is oh, so very good that it’s worth it (even if I only make it two or three times a year).  Based on a recipe by Barbara Fisher at her now-abandoned blog Tigers & Strawberries, it employs a method called “dry frying” which confuses me, because there’s nothing “dry” about it.  Dry frying involves frying thin strips of beef in “a moderate amount of oil” (or in my case, rendered beef tallow) for an extended period, cooking most of the moisture out of it – perhaps that’s why it’s referred to as dry?

Beats me – all I know is that the method of cooking gives a marvelous chewy texture and absolutely wonderful, well, beefy flavor.  Add to that some fresh green beans that are cooked in the beef-flavored fat for an extended period, leaving them with a wonderfully soft texture in contrast to the chewy beef, the addition of fresh ginger and other vegetables cut into matchstick-size pieces thrown in at the last minute and a spicy, savory “sauce” and you have what I consider to be the best darn stir-fry I’ve ever tasted.

The original recipe (Barbara is a professional chef, btw) calls for Sichuan chili bean paste, which I don’t normally keep on hand so I used red curry paste, which I always have on hand; she also uses Sichuan peppercorns and fresh chili peppers, something else I didn’t have when I made this last night, so I used dried pepper flakes and regular black peppercorns.  I throw in different vegetables, depending on what I have in the kitchen, although carrots and fresh ginger are a must as far as I’m concerned; last night I seeded and cut a lone yellow summer squash into little matchstick-sized pieces and slivered a good-size shallot because that’s what I had on hand.

You can, of course, serve this over steamed rice – I’ve tossed in cooked rice noodles before – but it is just fine on it’s own.

Note:  Shao Hsing wine is a Chinese cooking wine; you can find it in most Asian markets.  Barbara also warns to be cautious of flare-ups from drops of oil igniting or that the wine may catch fire while adding it to the wok but I’ve never had that happen.  Which is kind of disappointing.  It could be that I’m just not doing it right.

Beef and Green Been Stir Fry

Serves 4 to 6

1 lb. top round or flank steak cut into slices, then into thin strips

1/3 cup melted tallow, lard or vegetable oil

2/3 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces

1/4 cup Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry

2 tablespoons red curry paste

pinch of salt

1 large shallot, peeled and slivered

1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and slivered

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes (optional)

2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 yellow summer squash, seeded and cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon tamari or wheat-free soy sauce

Heat your wok or large, heavy skillet over high heat until it until it begins to smoke. Add your fat or oil and heat for about a minute; add the beef.  Cook, stirring continuously, for about ten minutes; the fat/oil will become cloudy with the moisture from the beef.  Keep cooking until the moisture evaporates and the fat/oil becomes clear again and the meat sizzles and browns.

Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Add the green beans and cook, stirring continuously, until they are wrinkled and browned and becoming soft.  Add the beef back to the wok or skillet, and stir to combine.  Drizzle wine carefully around outer edge of wok or skillet, and stir. (It’s at this point that Barbara warns that the wine may catch fire; she says this is fine, just be prepared for it and stay out of the way of the flames – they should die down fairly quickly as the alcohol burns off.)

Add the curry paste and stir it into the beef/green bean mixture until it becomes nice and fragrant.  Add the salt, shallot, ginger, garlic and pepper flakes; stir fry, tossing it all about vigorously inside the wok or skillet. Add the carrots and squash and stir fry about another minute longer. Add soy sauce and peppercorns and stir fry for another minute.  Turn out onto a platter and serve (with steamed rice, if desired) immediately.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry on Foodista