Let the recipes begin…Basic Chicken Broth

Let the recipes begin…Basic Chicken Broth – January 26, 2012

I have followed some of the famous cooking blogs, such as “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman” by Ree Drummond at http://thepioneerwoman.com for years. As I begin to share my recipes and thoughts on food I want to begin with a few disclaimers. I have loved to cook for the majority of my life. I love to host parties, plan menus, decorate, buy the cute matching dishes, and all that goes along with it. In some circles I may even be known as a “Hostess with the Mostest”. However, given the fact that I live in a TINY seminary housing apartment and the best camera that I have in my unemployed possession is the camera on my phone – these pictures will definitely not be the quality of my Pioneer Woman companion! That said I hope that you will enjoy seeing the process that I use in making the base for 3 of our favorite soups (soup recipes coming soon). I am trying this picture idea out with my Basic Chicken Broth recipe to see how it goes. I use this basic chicken broth not only as a base for my soups, but in tons of different recipes because it adds a ton of wonderful flavor.

Why start with soups? Great question! Meal planning has always been a big part of our world since the beginning of our marriage. As I’ve mentioned in the past we have both always worked full time jobs and gone to school full time for the last almost 10 years now. So without some intentional planning we would be eating out almost every meal. A revelation about my husband early in our marriage was his absolute love for soups. I didn’t really grow up eating too many homemade soups outside of the frequent pot of “Yankee” chili during the cold Ohio winters. So as a new wife I began to learn and love soups. A big pot of soup will usually have between 8-10 servings and this translates in our family of 2 into 4-5 meals. My soup journey began with making a big pot every Sunday evening along with preparing a normal meal. The soup wouldn’t be eaten then but was in preparation for our week. It allowed for several easy, hot, healthy, homemade, and convenient meals and has become part of our repertoire since then.

Ok, on with the food. I am going to share how I prepare a basic Chicken broth. I am going to use this broth in the three soup recipes that I will share with you soon. I choose the make the broth over buying it in the box for three reasons: 1. I save money, 2. Homemade has much better flavor, 3. Homemade allows me to control how much fat & sodium are in my soup. When preparing a chicken broth you have the liberty to add many different ingredients to enhance the flavor. As I will be using this in three totally different flavors of soups I am keeping it very basic and simple and will be adding more “flavoring” agents directly to each individual soup recipe. Please note it is best if you are planning to make a soup that you prepare this broth at least one day in advance.

To begin you will need the following:

-A large stock pot or crock pot to cook it in. Size should be enough for your meat, veggies, and at least 8-10 cups of water. The larger the pot the more broth you will make.

-As for the chicken I am using a family size package of chicken leg quarters because they were only $0.88 a pound. I will also use a whole chicken, chicken thighs, or split chicken breast depending what is on sale.

A large onion, 4-5 unpeeled carrots, 4-5 stalks of celery preferably with the leaves on. These veggies just need to be rinsed well and cut into a good size to fit into the pot. You don’t have to be fussy about chopping or peeling anything. These are just basic flavor agents.

3 chicken bouillon cubes, 8-10 cups of water. This is where some of my sodium control comes in. Adding bouillon cubes will enhance the flavor of the broth and will be the only salt item that I add. With a pot this size I use 3 cube of this brand.

So now that we have all the players in place let’s begin with putting ½ of the veggies in the bottom of the pot. One of my planning tools also including my well worn crock pot. I have set this to cook Sunday morning while we are at church and I can leisurely complete the process later this afternoon. If you don’t have a crock pot the same process is easily done with a large stock pot on the stove and we’ll get to more on that in a bit.

Next I will rinse and trim the chicken. I am only trimming the huge chucks of fat (pictured on the left side of my cutting board) that are visible on the back of the leg quarter. After this has cooked I have a great trick to share that will easily remove all the remaining fat from the broth. Again this doesn’t need to be a fussy process.

Next add the chicken to the crock pot

Next add the remaining veggies over the top of the chicken so that all the chicken gets exposure to our flavoring agents. Crumble the bouillon cubes and add water till you reach the top of the pot.

I set me crock pot on the 4-6 hour setting depending on how much meat I am preparing. If you are doing this on the stove in a stock pot you will want to bring the completed above preparation to a boil first for about 20 minutes and then turn it down to simmer on medium/low heat for at least 4 hours.

When cooking is complete and the broth has developed nicely after at least 4-6 hours this is what product should look like.

Another part of the beauty in this process is that the chicken will be used in my chicken soup recipe so nothing goes to waste in this process and my grocery budget is maximized. You will remove & discard the veggie flavor agents that have completed their work. Place the hot chicken in a collinder to cool so that it can be deboned.

After everything is removed from the pot you will have a wonderful rich color broth remaining.

Laddle every little bit of the broth into convenient *plastic* containers. There may be small pieces of chicken & other bits that add tremdous flavor to the soup so definitely don’t discard that. Plastic is important if you are going to freeze the broth as I will be for future use because glass doesn’t always freeze well. I find these tall narrow containers work really well and fit easily into the door of my freezer.

Do you notice the distinct color difference due to the separation of oil at the top of the chicken broth container? As I mentioned earlier if possible it is best to make the broth the day before you want to cook one of your soups. This fat separation is the reason that early preparation is necessary. As this broth cools either in the freezer or the refrigerator the fat will solidify into a white waxy substance at the very top of the container that will easily be scraped off and discarded.

This is the most efficient way that I have found to remove the fat from a homemade chicken broth. That leaves you with a beautiful, rich, flavorful broth that is practically 100% fat free. Check out the before & after below

So that is my Basic Chicken Broth recipe. Pretty simple huh? The difference is flavor is huge compared to what you can buy in the grocery store. Coming soon are three of our favorite healthy, low fat soups: Veggie & Lentil, Ground Turkey & Veggie “Yankee” Chili, and my famous Homemade Chicken Noodle. Each of these recipes has a totally different flavor profile and this basic chicken broth works perfectly in each!

My Eyes Are Open

My Eyes Are Open – January 19, 2011

 Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

~ By Portia Nelson ~

Chapter 1

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

 Chapter 3

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Have you read this poem before? Can you see yourself in it? I can and do often. I have over the years fallen in the same hole over and over and over again. There are still areas of my life that I am stuck in Chapters 1 or 2 and I wonder if I will ever make it to Chapter 5. My journey to getting healthy was definitely one of those areas for years. It took me being so sick that I was bed rested for almost 3 months. My chronic poor health finally shook me and my eyes were opened. I’m not going to say I’ve made it to Chapter 4 on this journey yet but I have hope. More hope than I have ever had in my life in this area. I believe that it was only God who could open my eyes to this hole that I kept falling into. He has opened my eyes to my own self destruction. He has opened my eyes to how much he cares about this area of my life. He has opened my eyes to how much his love for me will sustain me as I learn for the first time in my life to find another street. Learning a new path in an area of your life that has been so engrained is not easy. It will take time, prayer, dedication, and patience with myself, and a lot of getting back out of the hole immediately when I see I’ve fallen. I am here to report that I am FILLED with hope and My Eyes Are Open!

24 Things To Always Remember…and One Thing to Never Forget

24 Things To Always Remember…and One Thing to Never Forget – January 19, 2012
By Collin McCarty

Your presence is a present to the world.
You are unique and one of a kind.
Your life can be what you want it to be.
Take the days just one at a time.

Count your blessings, not your troubles.
You will make it through whatever comes along.
Within you are so many answers.
Understand, have courage, be strong.

Do not put limits on yourself.
So many dreams are waiting to be realized.
Decisions are too important to leave to chance.
Reach for your peak, your goal and you prize.

Nothing wastes more energy than worrying.
The longer one carries a problem the heavier it gets.
Do not take things too seriously.
Live a life of serenity, not a life of regrets.

Remember that a little love goes a long way.
Remember that a lot … goes forever.
Remember that friendship is a wise investment.
Life’s treasure are people together.

Realize that it is never too late.
Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
Have heart and hope and happiness.
Take the time to wish upon a star.

And don’t ever forget…

For even a day…how very special you are.

Targeting for change

Targeting for Change – January 19, 2012

As you know from “Finding the path….to healthy eating” after much debate my husband and I selected Weight Watchers as the food plan to begin the healthy eating portion of our journey. Well I am not a spokes person for the company but I do really like it. Anyway, they have something they call “Target of Change” which I’m sure many of you have seen before but I think is so profound. I’ve built a model of the diagram below and the idea is that as you are learning new behaviors with food you change from the outside circle to the inside over time. For instance the first area to sustain real change is your environment, then attitudes, then behavior, then beliefs, and then ultimately your identity.

Target of Change

I think this concept applies to many areas of life not just changes in food. Let me give you a real life example of what I mean. My husband and I have been married for about 6 ½ years now. Well through the wondrous world of Facebook I had reconnected with a childhood friend. My identity to my long lost childhood friend was Jennifer Pitcher which is for the sake of this example my pre-marriage identity (aka maiden name). As she and I exchanged phone numbers to reconnect I presented myself with a text as my current identity Jennifer Pina. She didn’t recognize that name Pina and there was momentary confusion. My marriage identity change was very similar to this target. Notice the correlations to each stage that I have made below.

Environment: As a new bride a moved from my apartment into my spouse’s apartment. Not only does that move represent a physical environment change but a cultural environment change. My apartment was set up in a certain way, we (my roommate Miss Connie & I) had decorations, routines, and schedules that all encompass the “culture” we created as roommates. Big shout out to Miss Connie to being the best roommate EVER until my husband of courseJ. Environment change includes physical, relational, cultural, etc.

Attitudes: I remember a few months into being married I needed an attitude adjustment. I was single for 28 years and was used to doing things my own way. I had to learn to compromise, to be unselfish, share, and love unconditionally. This was not an instant change but over time my “single” attitudes grew and matured into respectful, loving, and wifely attitudes.

Behavior: When you first get married you have to learn each other’s routines and habits. I am a morning person and my husband is a night owl. Over time we have evolved and compromised. I stay up later than I would in my single days and he gets up earlier than he would have pre-marriage. Our holiday behaviors changes as we share time with family rotating Christmas’. These behaviors did not evolve over night; they were birthed out of hard work, much discussion and great compromise.

Beliefs: As young passionate Christ followers and newlyweds my husband and I would debate over many different topics. Our intellectual compatibility has always been a fulfilling part of our relationship. It’s interesting to me how over time I can see how we have both softened some of our stances on various topics. I understand why the target has beliefs as one of the inner most areas of change because this is one that definitely takes the longest.

Identity: Identity represents the core of who we are. It is shaped by our family background, our history & experiences, our beliefs about life, our faith, our expectations, our habits, and much more. My identity transformation from a single person to a married person was so easy feet. I am no different from any other married person. It has taken time, work, communication, patience, blood, sweat, & tears! Transforming an identity doesn’t happen overnight, it is a lifelong process.

Can you see how this target of change can apply to SO many areas of life? Think about the transformation that takes place when someone surrenders their life to Christ and begins a walk as a Christ follower. Everyone told me when I became a wife and when I became a Christ follower that life would not always be easy, that there would be difficulties & triumphs, that making that choice does not mean a life of luxurious living. People have said that my transformation would take time, a lot of hard work, and a lot of intentional choices to prioritize my relationship. Well my journey and transformation to getting healthy is exactly the same process. I am encouraged by the fact that I can see as a wife and a Christ follower that my identity after years of effort HAS in fact changed. I have hope on this journey to getting healthy that as I stay connected to my Lord, stay on the plan he has chosen, put in the blood, sweat and tears that my identity will change into a healthy, whole, & fit person! I look forward to the day when I no longer see myself as an overweight, out of shape, unhealthy, and out of control woman. My identity is already evolving even as I type these words.

I am a very visual person so I actually have this target hanging on my refrigerator. This visual reminds me that just as it was when I was a new bride, this change in my life will be gradual. It begins on the outside and works itself all the way to the core of my being. It gives me a great starting point which is my environment. Steps along the way to gage my progress, i.e.: attitudes, behavior, and beliefs. Ultimately reminds me of the hope I have in the Lord as I allow him into this place of my life He will and is over time changing my identity. I look forward to the day when I will present myself in my new identity and my pre-journey identity of obesity and unhealthy living will just be a memory.

Questions for you if you choose to accept them….

1. When you look at that target what do you see?

2. I mentioned examples of marriage & faith; do you see other examples relevant to this change?

3. Does this target challenge you as it has with me?

4. When you think about the changes you are working on what steps have you taken toward change in your environment? Attitudes? etc.?

5. I mention my hope in my faith for my identity change. What gives you hope in your journey of change?

Finding the path…..to adequate sleep & water intake

Finding the path…..to adequate sleep & water intake – January 15, 2012

This is a conclusion to a three part segment that I called “Finding the path” and have previously explored the topics of healthy eating & exercise. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that in this so far brief journey to getting healthy I have discovered that there are four areas of which I need improvement that seem to be key to my overall physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I am not a doctor and this is by no means a how to but merely personal observations and the application of common sense along the way. In my 35 years of life I have had many a physician recommend one or all of these four elements for the improvement of my overall physical health. So the physical benefits of eating healthy, exercise, getting a good amount of sleep, and drinking water were not oblivious to me as I’m sure they are not to you. However what I found overtime is that they were not always a priority as they should be in my day to day world.

Many of you know that I have worked in the mental health field as a counseling intern for a couple of years now. Working in mental hospitals has brought me in direct contact with the drastic effect that lack of sleep can have on our emotional health. On a day to day basis I could tell if those I came in contact with hadn’t gotten enough sleep the evening prior. Have you ever been in a position of teaching others? I have in recent years had the privilege of working with people and teaching processes of emotional regulation and balance. A dear mentor in the counseling field of mine has told me for years that God will often bring you people who are dealing with the same issue he wants you to face. It all seems so clear to me now but a year ago it wasn’t. As a new counselor intern, passionate, motivated, determined to have excellence in my new professional path, I lost my way, and in many ways lost myself. I was teaching the message of how important eating healthy, exercise, sleep, and water intake were to my patients but was not applying those same principles to myself. At the same time I was working 12 hr days and driving 1 hr on average each direction to work which left no time for exercise, little sleep. I was eating in the cafeteria for lunch and eating dinner at 9 or 10 at night usually something through a drive through. My journey with bad habits did not by any means begin just a year ago but it was definitely, certainly, beyond any doubt in my mind…..my breaking point. I have learned an important lesson, a lesson that I pray stays in the front of mind the rest of my life: I cannot take better care of others than I take care of myself! More on this to come…

Our bodies are so uniquely designed that each individual body doesn’t fit a specific mold as far as how much sleep in necessary to maintain good physical, emotional, and spiritual health. I know people who get only 4-5 hrs of sleep a night and they thrive in every area. I have come to determine that I am not one of those people. I believe I am an 8 hour a sleep a night girl who has been so deprived of sleep for years and my body is making up for it and would like even more sleep when possible! On any given evening when I’m not having what I’ll call a “mid 30’s insomniac episode” I’ll sleep a comfortable 8 hours. Since I’ve been sick (see blog on “Beginning the Journey”) I find that I’ll wake up after 8 hours: bright, alert, refreshed, and ready to go. Then around 1:00pm I’ll need to rest again for at least an hour. This doesn’t happen every day but I am learning to listen to my body and take naps when needed to prioritize my rest. Understanding this information about what my body needs is a big responsibility. I have to really work to get 8 hrs of sleep a night. I have to intentionally prioritize my sleep as I do the food that I am putting into my body and the exercise that I am doing. I have had to make a commitment within myself that I will put the need for sleep above other people’s needs or demands. I don’t know if I can appropriately relate to you how profound this revelation has been in my life. It has totally been key to His life transformation. I’ve realized that the 10 years I’ve lived in Texas I have done all of the following in multiple combinations at the same time: worked fulltime, while going to school fulltime, while participating in leadership at church, while completing my internship hours, while being a wife, while maintaining a home, etc. So for 9 ½ of my last 10 years I have never truly allowed my body the “Sabbath” time of rest that our bodies were designed for. That’s what my current season is all about really; it comes down to a time of “Sabbath”. More on this to come too…..

Ok and now onto the water issue. I have for years not been a huge drinker of soda, pop for my northern friends, as it seems to mess with my stomach in excess. I have never drunk a lot of caffeine, I’m not a coffee drinker, and I do love hot and cold teas. I’ve gone through seasons of juice drinking, apple, orange, grape, etc. After I turned 30 I figured out things in my body were changing, you know slowing down, aching more, etc. One thing I learned is that my body likes water so I began to drink a lot more water. In seasons when I don’t drink enough water I can tell. I may not feel great, dehydrated, swollen, or whatever. When I got sick last summer my body DEMANDED water and lots of it. It seemed like I was making up for the last six months of dehydration. I would literally drink no less than 96 oz a day and often a lot more than that. I know that you can get sick from too much water but so far I haven’t run into that issue at all. So far I’m learning to give my body what it is asking for, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and things have been working out much better. Now a days I rarely drink anything but water and my body really likes that! To my water “haters” that I know are out there I challenge you to increase your water intake by a couple of cups a day and see if you don’t notice a difference in your body too!

So this is how I found my path to these areas. Keep in mind I’ve not perfected the path, or am an expert in the path, but I’ve wandered around long enough to finally have my feet going in what I feel is the right direction. Thanks for coming with me on this journey, as I explore many new areas of physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Questions for you….

1. I described how work often interfered with getting enough sleep. What interferes with sleep in your life?

2. What number of hours does your body prefer for sleep?

3. What liquids do you consume most and how do they affect your overall health?

4. If you’re a water “hater” are you up for my challenge?

5. I have discussed four different paths that I find myself on. What paths have you found works best for your life?

Being Chiseled by God

Being Chiseled by God – December 27, 2011

As a Christ follower it always amazes me when God begins me on a path there are so many things that I cross that encourage, confirm, and strengthen me. I attended a Christmas Eve service at my parent’s church in Ohio and the pastor weaved this video into his message. The video is called God’s Chisel and it is by a group called Skit Guys (www.skitguys.com). I had to share it with you all because it perfectly exemplifies what we’ve been talking about.

http://skitguys.com/videos/item/gods-chisel

Check out this video and many others that they have on this site. They are awesome!

Finding the path…..to regular exercise

Finding the path…..to regular exercise – December 23, 2011

Throughout my almost 35 years I have had infrequent experience with exercise. If you knew me in high school you may remember that I warmed the bench during both volleyball and basketball seasons for a couple of years. That lasted until I got frustrated with my lack of natural athletic ability, gave up, and quit the team. There was a time in my early 20’s that my girlfriends and I got into working out together and would do Tae Bo videos a couple of times of week. Those efforts were short lived and eventually ended. Then about four years ago my husband and I began to work out at a gym together in our attempt to get healthy. As a couple this season was our first real concentrated effort to regularly exercise. I remember getting on the elliptical for the first time and even though it totally kicked my butt….I loved it! It didn’t hurt my knees at all, it was like running in the air, and for once I didn’t suck at it. It was also in this season that we began to explore other avenues for exercise. You see my husband is a natural athlete; he was built for sports and has done some kind of sport the majority of his life. His natural abilities have always been quite intimidating to me when it comes to branching out and trying new things.

For example at this time we got the crazy idea to explore tennis together. We bought all the equipment we would need and top of the line none the less! Walking up to the courts on that first day I was excited, invigorated, and hopeful to find something I would love to do that would help me stay active. When we played I couldn’t get a handle for the racket, the ball was going everywhere, I was embarrassed, got a terrible attitude, and within the first hour just gave up. Are you seeing the theme? So my first day of tennis would be my last.

Then there is the roller blading story. Growing up as a teenager in the early 90’s I practically lived in the roller rink. I would go certain days throughout the week and spend the weekend there as much as I was permitted by my mom. I could roller skate forward, backward, race, and do the limbo (not too well but I did attempt on occasion). So as we considered exploring roller blading I felt confidence rise up within me that this was an activity I could master. You’ll find as you follow this blog that my husband and I rarely give anything less than 100% of our efforts, good or bad. So we bought the skates and pads and ventured off….down the driveway. By the end of the driveway I was already getting discouraged. It may have been the 20 years since I had roller skated or possibly the dynamic challenges of using a blade instead of 4 wheels but something wasn’t working like the good ole days. On our first day out I eventually made it half way down the street before plopping myself down in the grass of a neighbor, taking off the skates, and walking home in my socks completely defeated. PS. also as you get to know me you’ll find that I would NEVER walk outside and dirty up perfectly white socks so that tells you just how desperate and deflated I really was. Our next time out led us to a local park with a smooth walking path. I began with elegance and confidence; maybe my rolling days weren’t over, until….the path took a huge twist and just enough downhill momentum through me into grass a bloody and discouraged mess. As we walked back to the car I vowed to never roller blade again. If I’m being honest the fact that I attempted it the second time can probably be attributed to my acute awareness of how expensive the roller blades were and not wanting to waste the money more than any lingering interest in roller blading.

Four years ago our efforts to get healthy and exercise lasted in total about 6 months. It was not a total loss though as I did discover one area that I could enjoy well and that was working out at the gym. So as we move to the present the gym is where we started. If you recall from my first blog entry “Beginning the Journey” I had been on bed rest basically from June through August so once my doctor released me to exercise I began very slowly. I faced the natural battle that most of us do when trying to get motivated to exercise. I also faced remaining physical limitations from lingering medications and a healing body. This time I was determined to not quit! I decided with God’s help to explore a multitude of areas of activity until I found a few things that I would enjoy for the long haul. I have done the treadmill, elliptical, all kinds of machines. I have worked out with a personal trainer, gone swimming, played racquetball, and tried a bunch of classes. I went from working out a couple days a week to working out 6 days a week (because my husband & trainer are forcing me to at least take one day off). I can honestly say for the very first time in my life that I absolutely unequivocally LOVE to exercise. Maybe I needed to be lying on my back nearly motionless for 10 weeks to put down my defenses and really give it a chance. I have learned that I actually am good at several things and that gives me hope that there is so much more to explore. I have learned that Exercise is NOT Punishment. For years my perception was that I had to exercise as punishment for overeating. I have learned that even skinny people need to exercise. I have learned that exercise is a glorious gift from God intended by divine design to maintain good physical, emotional, & spiritual health. Yes you heard me correctly I making a bold statement here! God created the human body for exercise! In fact as we honor God with our body through exercise it is truly an act of worship and obedience. My exercise journey is by no means over and I do still struggle at times with thoughts of failure or discouragement. However, in those times I am learning to rely more on my Lord and “…press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12). I convinced that conquering exercise is part of God’s plan for life and it is only in allowing Him into this area of my life that I will truly reach my potential in Him.

Thank you for allowing me to share my personal exercise journey with you today! If you’d like to collaborate on todays theme with me here are a few questions I had for you.

1. What experiences have you had with exercise in the past?

2. What is your greatest struggle in getting started or maintaining a healthy routine?

3. What were your thoughts on the statement I made “Exercise is NOT Punishment”?

4. Have you ever considered exercise as part of God’s plan for your life?