Tag Archives: herbs

scapes

Scape Gazpacho!

A few weeks ago, I got this recipe from Ellie Costello, owner of Black Bear Soups (which you will find at the Clark Fork Farmers’ Market), director over at MUD, and former PEAS Farm caretaker. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you still had scapes hanging out in your fridge, so I thought having another scape recipe would be a good idea. . . So here’s Ellie with a new twist on gazpacho–great for hot weather! 
Ellie and a scapeDuring scape season, some folks are loading up from my stand in bulk to make pickles. In far greater number, I get questions while a market-goer eyes my pile of green curly-cues. Most often: “Are those beans?” or, “How do you use them?” During my time at the PEAS farm several years ago, one visiting cattle rancher pointed at the garlic scapes shooting out of the tops of the hardneck garlic and shockingly proclaimed “Now what kind of corn is that!?”
Since scapes are short lived, you must capitalize on their sweet garlicky goodness. Here is one more way to highlight these mysterious and dramatic green curls: Garlic Scape Gazpacho.
You’ll need:Black Bear market stand
1 cup dry bread in chunks
1.5 cups cold water
1 cup of your choice of nuts
1/2 t. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups chopped lettuce leaves
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cucumber chopped
4-8 chopped garlic scapes
3 tablespoons of your choice of fresh herbs
2 tablespoons sherry or apple cider vinegar
How to:
Soak the bread in water, then squeeze most of it out. Blend your soggy bread, nuts, scapes, and 1 cup water in a food processor. Once a paste has formed, drizzle in olive oil as you blend, then transfer to a bowl. Put the lettuce, spinach, cucumber, and herbs in the food processor and blend with remaining 1/2 cup water. Whisk the puree and the sherry or vinegar into the bread mixture. Add salt and pepper as you like it.
IMG_5077

Broth: not just for the tummy troubles

It is the dead of winter. There’s no more figgy pudding, the stored vegetable stores are starting to run low, and the light is still in short supply. I got fed up with my snow boots the last week and braved the snow in clogs. Winter be damned! Somehow, this was my rebellion against the endless layers and tense muscles that old man winter demands.

All I got was wet feet.

It’s times like this that require a little broth. There are many benefits to a cup of bone broth, including some protein,  gelatin, and glycine (the last two are good for your gut!). It’s a great thing to drink daily. Even if you don’t care a fig about the nutritional benefits, bone broth is a building block for so many recipes, that having it on hand is so handy. Buying it is expensive, and it is easy and quick to make at home. Plus, it saves you some bones! It will certainly make your day a little warmer, and that’s really saying something.

The difference between stock, broth and bone broth:

Broth — Broth cooks 45 minutes to two hours and usually uses meat, and perhaps some bones. The flavor is light, and it is generally not drunk on its own but instead used as a building block.

Stock — Stock and bone broth are similar in their ingredient lists, but differ greatly in the time they are cooked. They both always include bones, according to the definition, however a stock is typically cooked three to four hours and bone broth typically 12 – 24 hours. A note on vegetable stock: essentially, vegetable stock and vegetable broth are the same. The difference is how you use them in the end. (Will it be an ingredient of a larger dish? Stock. Will it be drunk on its own? Broth. )

Bone broth — Bone broth is always cooked with bones, and cooked for a long time (12 – 24+ hours). Some add vegetables, some do not.

Where to get bones:

Direct from the farmer (Lifeline Farm, Jamie’s Naturally Raised Grass Finished Beef, Oxbow Cattle Company, Manix Family Grass Finished Beef. . . Check out AERO’s Abundant Montana directory) — try the winter and summer farmers’ markets in Missoula, too. You can get a large amount and freeze them. You’ll need around 2 lbs of bones per 64 oz batch.

At a local natural food store –if you don’t see them on display, ask the meat department if they have any soup bones you could purchase. They’re usually very cost-effective.

You can keep a bone bag in the freezer, and put your chicken carcasses, ham hocks and other pork bones, and beef bones in there until you are ready to make some stock. A mixture of bones gives a wider flavor profile.

Make it without wasting all those veggies!

You can make bone broth without any vegetables (well, you always use the garlic). However, if you want the flavor vegetables offer, just start collecting your vegetable scraps. I’ve recently started keeping a bag in my freezer for my vegetable scraps. Any time I prepare a meal, I put the discarded ends and peelings, etc. in the bag for my next broth making venture.

Vegetables to keep — the basic aromatics are what I typically use (carrots, onions, celery) — they give a good base to work from. However, once I started staving scraps, root vegetables, stalks, leaves, tops, ends, peelings. Kale and chard stems, bell pepper cores, green beans/string beans, mushroom stems, herb stems. I put the garlic and onion skins in, though I’ve read that onions skins, along with beets, will turn your broth dark brown, so it’s more of a cosmetic thing. If you have some veggies that are about to turn (but haven’t yet) or are a bit dehydrated, this is a great use for them!

Vegetables to send packing — cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, (all from the brassica family, which has a certain odor you don’t want in your stock/broth), turnips and rutabagas (those are two roots to avoid). And of course, rotten spots and moldy veggies are also not a good idea.

How to make it

I prefer to make bone broth in my slow cooker. It is an Instant Pot so it can hold up to 64 oz, which is key for this recipe. If you are in the market, I can’t say enough about this one, it’s made of safe, stainless steel, it’s big, and can pressure cook, make yogurt, and rice. Anyway.

This makes 4 full quart sized mason jars.

Mason Jars

I got the bones (I used beef bones this time) and vegetables scraps out of the freezer, and dumped them in.

my ingredients

On top, I poured the apple cider vinegar and salt. I added a whole head of garlic, just smashing each clove between my knife and the cutting board before adding. I poured water to the max fill line in the slow cooker.

bone broth ready to boil

 

After that, all I had to do was stick the lid on, and put it on high until it came to a boil. Then, I turned it to low, and cooked it for 12 hours.

Here’s the beautiful elixir:

IMG_5077

Other notes:

set your slow cooker for 12 hours

Cooking time: Some say the vegetables will become bitter if you cook them longer than 12 hours. The longer you cook the broth, however, the better for you it gets. I often cook it for 24 hours without a problem, but if you are concerned about bitter broth, just scoop out the vegetables at the 12 hour mark and keep on cooking. Or skip the vegetables and just use water, vinegar, bones, salt and garlic (that doesn’t get bitter). You can also check doneness by taste and smell. This batch tasted perfect at 12 hours, so I didn’t have to worry. You know you’ve gotten all the nutrients out of the bones when they are starting to crumble at the edges.

Stovetop or oven: You can also do this on the stove top or in the oven. You want to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it is simmering in such a way that a tiny bubble trickles up every few seconds. Same cooking time (12 – 24 hours). For the oven, bring to a boil on the stove, then place in a 200 degree oven.

Storage: You can keep it in the fridge for 4-5 days, then it’s time to freeze. I like to either freeze in an ice cube tray or small baggies. Remember to label the baggies so you know how many cups are enclosed, and when you made it.

Roasting the bones for flavor: This is a great idea if you have time and want to bring out a richness in the bone broth, but easily skipped for simplicity. Coat the bones in a high heat oil (I usually use a solid fat like lard, bacon grease, or duck fat) and distribute them in a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for around an hour.

To drink on its own: add your favorite herbs (fresh or dried), or just a little garlic and salt.

Recipe

This recipe is designed to make 64 oz of broth. Make sure your soup pot or slow cooker has the capacity. 

Ingredients:
  • Whole head of garlic, broken apart and each clove smashed (leave skin on)
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs stock bones (can use chicken, beef, or pork bones)
  • Vegetable scraps (optional)
  • Bay leaf (optional)
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Water
How to:

Combine the bones, vegetable scraps, and bay leaf. Pour the salt and apple cider vinegar over the top. Add water until you reach the max fill line in your slow cooker or soup pot.

Bring the water to a boil, then cook it for 12 – 24 hours. The longer the better. Remove or skip the vegetable scraps if you cook it longer than 12 hours. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze.

If this bone broth doesn’t do it for you, then try this quick video. There are places in Alaska where they only get minutes or an hour of sunlight some parts of the year. And start garden dreaming: sign up for a community garden plot or CSA share!

 

 

ingredients

Savory Bread Pudding for Dinner

Savory bread pudding is a special occasion dish I use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The prep is time-consuming and the cooking time a tad long, 90 minutes, but the results are worth the effort. This is a dish my children ask for again and again. It’s also a great centerpiece to a brunch buffet for friends and family.

I typically use fresh garden vegetables, but, in the winter, frozen vegetables work fine too. Be sure to thaw and drain frozen veggies before using. Be creative and combine meats and vegetables you like. The recipe is forgiving as long as you don’t add too much liquid to the ingredients.

Savory Bread Pudding

Ingredients and instructions:

1 loaf crusty French bread (baguette), cubed

12 eggs

2 cups milk (Skim, 2%, Whole, or even Soy Milk will work)

Beat the eggs and milk together. Set aside.

The three ingredients above are essential. The list below can vary and I’ve offered suggestions.

1 lb Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled into small bits (or ham, chopped small or other sausage)

1 medium onion, chopped and cooked (cook with the meat)

4 cloves garlic, chopped fine and cooked with the meat and onion

1 bunch of Swiss Chard (or kale, or collard greens, or 3-4 cups of spinach) roughly chopped. If using kale or collard greens, remove the stems. With the Swiss chard, you can include the stems. Thinly slice the Swiss chard stem that extends below the leaf.

1 bunch asparagus, chopped (or 2 cups chopped fresh green beans)

1 zucchini (small to medium, the size usually in stores) seeded and chopped

Optional:  1-2 cups sliced Japanese eggplants, salted, rinsed, and drained

2 cups grated cheese (Swiss, cheddar, parmesan, or whatever you have on-hand)

Place Swiss chard, asparagus, and zucchini (and eggplant if using) in a large bowl and microwave for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften but are not cooked all the way through.chard

1 cup fresh mixed herbs: sage, basil, dill, marjoram, oregano (or whatever you can find). Mince herbs together. Dill and sage will be strong flavors so only use a little of each. If you can’t find fresh herbs, just add 1 tablespoon of Italian herb mix or even a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash no-salt spice mix.ingredients

Add the minced herbs and 1 cup of the grated cheese to the microwaved vegetables and stir.ingredients-2

Mix vegetables, cheese and herbs with the meat and onions and the cubed bread and put in a large, buttered, baking dish (a lasagna pan is perfect). Pour the egg and milk mixture over the bread mixture. The ingredients should be just covered by the eggs and milk. You may need to add more or even not use all the eggs and milk you mixed up.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and thirty minutes. Set your timer for 60 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the remaining 1 cup of cheese to the top of the pudding. Cook for another thirty minutes. The pudding is done when a knife stuck in the center comes out “clean” (meaning no wet egg/milk on the knife when you remove it). Depending on the size of your pan, the pudding may take longer to cook. If you don’t have a lasagna or a 9×12 cake pan, you can split the pudding into several smaller pans. If you bake in smaller pans or ramekins, your cooking time will decrease. The cooked pudding freezes and reheats well.finished-dishThis is a bountiful recipe that easily feeds 6 to 8 people.plated

Midsummer Madness: a recipe roundup

KateCooper2009 (2)August. It’s August. And not just the beginning — it’s mid August. Bittersweet: I think that is the word for this month. The slow letting go of lots of sun, swimming holes, and unstructured days. Deep breath.

But we don’t have to say goodbye to vegetables too soon — we are just hitting the peak. From now until mid to late September our gardens and farms will be plumping up, ripening and sweetening our vegetables for your tables. This summer has been relatively cool, so tomatoes and eggplants and peppers may be slow, but the rest of the high summer veggies are coming on strong.

So pack it in while you can, friends.

Here are 9 recipes that make the most out of our last month of summer.

Summer Chicken Stew from BBC Good Food

This recipe has two steps. Really. It’s that easy. Great for a weeknight, has lots of seasonal veggies.

Vegetable Hakka Noodles (AKA Chow Mein) from Manjulas Kitchen

Simple sauce and noodle base that allows you to build whatever veggies you can in there. This recipe happens to include only veggies you’ll find in your CSA.

Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous with roasted chickpeas from Andrea Bemis of The Kitchn

(hint: the cauliflower is riced, so it takes the place of the couscous — sneaky!).

Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower couscous by The Kitchn.
Cauliflower Steaks from The Kitchn

Apparently, this is a thing. Popping up on restaurant menus all over the place. I didn’t know. But it sounds easy and amazing, so put it on your menu this week! Great for vegetarians and those looking to give the cauliflower main stage.

Zucchini with Chorizo and Lime from The Kitchn

An easy one pot meal. There’s a lot of parsley in my CSA, so I’d sub that in for the cilantro in this recipe, and maybe add a little coriander (since that’s the seed of the cilantro plant).

Green Bean Potato and Corn Salad from Love and Lemons
love and lemons green bean and potato salad
Love and Lemons’ green bean, potato & corn salad.

This could be a side, or add your favorite meat or seafood and make it dinner. It even has basil, which I have a lot of. Making this tonight!

Summer Squash Vegetable Pizza from Love and Lemons

What a great way to use up veggies: grab a Le Petit crust, roll it out, and load on the veggies and herbs and a little tomato sauce or olive oil. Done and done. This one from Love and Lemons is a great mixture of seasonal veggies.

Darla’s Delicious Frittata from Epicurious

I’ve starting making a frittata over the weekend when I have a bit more time and serving it for breakfast (or dinner) throughout the week. I recently read a frittata recipe that, instead of listing what vegetables, just said “vegetables.” As in, as long as you have some veggies, cheese, and maybe a little cream or meat (totally optional, though I do argue bacon is always a good idea) along with eggs, you’ll be good to go.

Easiest Refrigerator Pickles from Smitten Kitchen
easiest-fridge-dill-pickles1
Easy refrigerator pickles by Smitten Kitchen.

And a little nod to what’s coming down the pike: storing veggies. Pickling! Cucumbers, they are great for snacking, salading, and some great Greek food. But when in doubt, pickle them!

We’ll be taking a break next week. Because #peasfarmparty. Hope you all will join us for our 20th anniversary get down Thursday, August 18th.

I’ll be writing about going back to school (gasp!) next time around. Until then, eat well.

 

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chopped veggies

Swiss Chard Rolls

When your garden produces an abundance of Swiss chard or you find beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market, make Swiss Chard Rolls. Akin to cabbage rolls, Swiss Chard Rolls are a delicious way to utilize your summer garden bounty or farmer’s market produce.

What to do with summer's bounty...
What to do with summer’s bounty…

One:  Bring ½ cup raw quinoa, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon olive oil to boil in a small sauce pan. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes until cooked. Set aside.

Two: Core and coarsely chop 4 large paste tomatoes. Mince one garlic clove. Heat 1
tablespoon olive oil in a medium saucepan. Once hot, add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add chopped paste tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce heat to low. Add 1/3 cup red wine. Add 1 cup of finely chopped fresh herbs: basil, chives, oregano, marjoram, thyme, parsley, or sage. Use a mixture of whatever herbs your garden provides or that you can find at the farmer’s market.  (Sage and dill should be used sparingly or they will overpower the sauce). Stir and let sauce simmer, covered, while you prepare the Swiss chard filling.

chopping

stewing

Three: Wash 6 large Swiss chard leaves, leaving some water drops on the leafy part. Cut the leaves in half to remove the stems through the main leaf – you will end up with 12 half leaves for rolling. Set the stem pieces aside to use in the filling (step four). Place the leaf halves on a plate or in a large bowl, cover with wax paper and microwave on high for 45 to 65 seconds. You want the leaves to be softened and pliable but not cooked all the way through. Set aside.

Four: Dice (1/2 inch pieces) the Swiss chard stems, 4 medium peeled carrots, 1 or 2 paste tomatoes, 1 medium onion (if using a fresh garden onion, use as much of the green top as you like). Seed and dice 1 small or ½ medium zucchini, keep the zucchini separate from other diced vegetables. Finely mince 1 large garlic clove. In a large sauté pan or a wok, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add the diced chard stems, carrots, tomato, onion, and minced garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

chopped veggies

When the onions are translucent, add the diced zucchini and the cooked quinoa to the vegetable mixture.  Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture cool for 5-10 minutes so it’s easier to handle. Turn off the heat to the tomato sauce (step 2) at this time.

Five: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 7×11 baking dish (or any 2 quart baking dish approximating that size). Place one Swiss chard leaf half on the counter or a large plate; heap 2-3 tablespoons of the quinoa vegetable mixture at one end of the leaf half. Roll the leaf half up much like you’d role a tortilla for a burrito. Place in the baking dish. Repeat with the other 11 leaf halves.

rollingpan

complete

3 rolls per serving for entrees, 1 roll per serving for appetizers.

Swiss chard rolls are gluten free, salt free, vegetarian, and vegan.

Note: Leftover quinoa-vegetable mixture makes a great breakfast re-heated and topped with a fried egg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosemary. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

Herbs: Preserving the Bounty & Flavor of the Season!

Looking for some tips on growing, harvesting, and using herbs? This week we’re featuring a special guest blog by Northside Community Garden Leader and Mentor, Sarah Johnson. Sarah grew up in eastern Washington climbing trees and picking huckleberries. Her love of nature evolved into an agricultural journey that took her to farms in western Washington & south to Central America. From Guatemala she landed in North Idaho where a one season commitment on an off-grid organic farm quickly turned into five years! In 2014 she moved to Missoula with her soon-to-be husband and quickly became a fan of Garden City Harvest. This is Sarah’s second full year as a Northside gardener. When she’s not gardening Sarah works as a nurse at St. Patrick’s Hospital, enjoys cooking, basket-making, and exploring the great outdoors!  


 

It’s that wonderful time of year when the garden is starting to fill in and long gone are the first cold days of spring. It’s the time of year when the parsley you planted starts to produce, the basil begins to bud, and the spring arugula begins to go to seed. Buying bunches of fresh herbs at the farmer’s market is practically irresistible! With just a little effort you can keep them fresh for up to a week or longer or you can use different methods to freeze or dry your herbs keeping summer flavors available throughout the year.

Stunningly unusual basil found by Sarah while working at Killarney Farm. Photo by Sarah Johnson.
Stunningly unusual basil found by Sarah while working at Killarney Farm. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

How to keep herbs fresh:

Whether your herbs are freshly harvested or purchased, trim the ends and place them in a glass of water. Most herbs will keep on the counter for several days. To keep them fresh longer place a plastic bag over the herbs and place them in the fridge; some herbs will keep up to a week or more this way. Rinse your herbs if they appear wilted or muddy before trimming ends and placing in water.

Keeping herbs fresh. Photo by Sarah Johnson.
Keeping herbs fresh. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

Drying herbs:

There are multiple ways to dry herbs. Some herbs have higher water content than others and respond better to one method of drying versus another. Low water content, woody herbs like oregano and rosemary dry well tied into little bundles and hung upside-down in an out-of-the-way place. The herbs may be placed inside a paper bag while hanging to catch any fallen leaves. Cutting holes into the side of the bag increases the ventilation for the drying herbs.

Herbs with higher water content such as basil, mint, or tarragon can mold easily and dry better with plenty of air circulation accomplished by spreading the leaves out flat and not overlapping. An old window screen set in an area with good air circulation and out of direct sunlight makes an excellent drying surface. They can also be dried on the lowest oven temperature spread out on a cookie sheet or dried on a low setting in a food dehydrator.

Freshly dried herbs should be stored in an airtight container such as a re-purposed glass jar or a plastic Ziplock bag. Dried herbs can be kept for up to 2-3 years but are best used within one year as the intensity of the flavor decreases over time.

Rosemary. Photo by Sarah Johnson.
Rosemary. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

Freezing Herbs:

This method works well for small amounts of leftover herbs. Simply chop the herbs with a knife or food processor, press them into an ice cube tray and cover with water or an oil of your preference. Place into the freezer and once frozen transfer from the ice cube tray to a plastic bag or jar to help avoid freezer burn on your frozen herb cubes. They make great additions to sauces, soups, and more in the middle of winter!

Larger amounts of herbs may be processed as pesto! Traditionally thought of as an Italian sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, the basic ingredients can be substituted to create a pesto alternative of your choice.

I typically fill my food processor with my chosen herb, drizzle with a generous amount of oil and then pulse until the herbs are chopped. I then add the nuts/seeds, garlic, cheese, and any other addition that I fancy. Blend until the desired consistency is reached, adding in more oil as needed. Salt to taste.

Once the desired consistency is reached, use a spatula to transfer the pesto into containers or plastic freezer bags. Frozen pesto keeps well for a year or longer if kept in an airtight container. Labeling your pesto with the type & year is always recommended!

Pesto Components:

Herbs: Cilantro, Dill, Parsley, Basil, Mint…… Etc.

Nuts/seeds: any nuts or seeds, most often sunflower seeds, or neither

Oil: any oil will do!

Garlic: As little or as much as one desires, may be omitted

Cheese: Parmesean or any appealing hard cheese; may also be omitted entirely

*other additions may be added such as salt, hot peppers, honey, lemon juice, etc.

I tend to make my pesto according to taste and available ingredients without using a recipe, however there are endless recipes available online or in standard cookbooks to use as a guide when creating your own pesto variation.

Making pesto. Photo by Sarah Johnson.
Making pesto. Photo by Sarah Johnson.

For more information on the care of your herb plants throughout the season I invite you to attend the Herb Workshop on Tuesday, July 12th at the Providence Hospital Garden (Map) from 5:30-6:30pm.

Refrigerator Stews & Soups: their love don’t cost a thing

Stews and soups are a flexible dish, and a great place to start to play with ingredients.  Start with your fridge: what’s in there?  For me last night around 9 pm, it was onions, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, and some stew meat.  Stew time!

I got out the slow cooker and got to chopping.

Beef Stew

I modified this recipe for my stew. I didn’t have celery or frozen peas.  But when do I ever have every single ingredient? I used the called for carrots (more than what the author suggested), a big ol’ onion, extra garlic (cause I love it, and so does my 3 year old), and mushrooms.

Chopping veggies

I also added some cauliflower and roasted tomatoes to make up for the lack of celery and peas. All this I chopped the night before.

Onion goggles
That’s me, in my onion goggles. A present from my husband, bless him. If you don’t have a pair, you can always use ski goggles to keep the tears at bay.

This morning, I browned a bit of stew meat (Oxbow stew meat is on sale at the Good Food Store right now, $1 off — perfect!)

After browning the meat, I added it and the herbs (I used fresh parsley and everything else was dried), broth and tomato paste.  I used chicken broth instead of beef — it’s what I had in the fridge and I needed to get rid of it. And set it on low, cooking it for 10 hours.

When we cracked open the slow cooker at dinner time, the meat was tender and veggies perfectly soft but not falling apart.  Yum!

Cracking open the stew pot
The stew cooking.

Substitutions

Soups and stews are some of the most versatile things on the planet — they beg you to SUBSTITUTE and play!  That sweet stew of mine, as long as I had the stew meat, I could have put almost any veggie in there.  Potatoes, kale, broccoli, winter squash. . . So many of these vegetables soak up flavor and will withstand being slow cooked.

Soup is even more versatile. Here is a great universal recipe for how to make soup from almost any vegetable.  The lesson here: as long as you like the vegetable, you can make soup from it. If you are cooking a soup on the stove, then the main consideration is cook time, and adding the vegetables at the right time so they cook long enough to release their flavors and short enough to not be squishy.

Here’s another great primer on creamy vegetable soup from almost any vegetable.

Aromatics are key in making soup — and easily grown here in Montana and stored for the winter. Onions and garlic in your basement.  Parsley dried and stored in an airtight container. Carrots in your fridge. These are the base to almost any soup or stew.  Saute your aromatics first, until they are fragrant, then add the broth.

You can saute this and freeze it in ice cube trays to start most any soup easily, and you can feel French while you are at it — you’ve made a Mirepoix! Then, you’ve got your base ready to (as my 3 year old would say) rock and roll.

A note on kale: is a wonderful soup ingredient.  It gets milder in flavor, and holds up well.  And, of course, is full of nutrients.  Plus — kale the cooler nights add a sweetness to kale.

Two Words: Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the easiest, cheapest healthy things you can make. Yes, this is your grandmother’s stock — it is really good for you. Read more about some of the health benefits here. It is true, chicken soup is a healing food. No, I’m not going to tell you it will make your bones stronger, but it does have a lot of good stuff for your gut and your body in it.

Use your vegetable scraps and left over bones.  I have a bone bag in my freezer — the fact that it says “bone bag” on it in florescent duct tape grosses my husband out. Or maybe it is the fact that there’s a bag of bones, literally, in our freezer.

In any case, I put chicken carcasses in there, pork chop bones, whatever scraps I can come by. In the winter, every other weekend I fire up the slow cooker and make broth.  I add some carrots and celery if I have it, or scraps of veggies — especially aromatic ones, to give it some flavor.  Definitely some garlic. And a little apple cider vinegar.  This recipe is a great base.  I don’t cook my broth more than 24 hours as this recipe suggests you might, the vegetables can get pretty bitter if you keep cooking them — I usually stick to between 12 and 24.  24 is great because I do it at night when I have a few calm moments, and don’t have to mess with it until the next night, after our 3 year old is asleep, and I have another calm moment.

I hope you will share a few tips and tricks you have for your soups and stews.  Next week, we will have guest blogger Molly Bradford to tell you about how she puts up her winter share. Until then, eat well!

UPDATE:  I just got a question about making vegetarian stews, and how to best do them in a slow cooker — great question.  I had to research, and found that sauteing the base (onions, garlic, potatoes, etc.) and then adding it all to the slow cooker is the key.  Here are two recipes that sound delicious — one for the stove top and one for the slow cooker.  Both sound hearty and delish.