Natalie

About Natalie

Welcome to Are You Kitchen Me?! Where I write about food, healthy lifestyles, and post my favorite recipes!

Homemade Veggie Stock

*This post was originally posted 1-10-14 and has been transferred from my old blog to this new one!*

This has been a weird week.  I was all freaked out for the start of the semester on Sunday and did a serious amount of anxious problem-avoiding.  AKA I chopped veggies, washed grapes, measured, bagged, cleaned, messed, cleaned, messed, cleaned…  Instead of organizing my things for the semester.  Lucky for me, classes were cancelled Monday AND Tuesday.  Literally, this never happens at Ohio State.  Thank youuuu Polar Vortex.  So, needless to say, this busybody had a lot of time on her hands.  Of course I decided to cook.  Nothing makes me more relaxed and happy than cooking.  Except the eating that follows the cooking.  So I ventured out and did a little homemade experimenting…

I have been collecting all of my vegetable scraps from my daily chopping, peeling, and cleaning and tossing them into a huge freezer bag for a few weeks.  It is seriously just as easy as throwing them away but way less wasteful!  Well, after my panic-induced frenzy on Sunday, it was bursting at the seams and begging to be used up.  So I dumped all the potato skins, carrot peels, celery leaves, spinach stems, wilted herbs, onion skins, garlic bits, asparagus stalks, and eggplant scraps into a pot and started making some homemade vegetable stock!  I had about 10 cups of scraps total (That’s a lot.  You can do this with significantly less.) so I used our mega-sized (12-quarts? I’m not sure…) pot and got it heated over medium.  While I was tempted to just dump on the water, close the lid, and let the magic happen, I decided to “sweat” the veggies for a bit.  I sprinkled them with some sea salt and fresh pepper and just let them thaw and cook out a little. This released a lot of the flavors from them, especially the onions and celery.  Once I could really smell some of the veggies starting to release their flavors, I dumped in the water, a bay leaf and some whole peppercorns.  It took about 20 cups of water to cover all the veggies enough that I could stir them up a bit while they cooked.  It took a long time for this to come to even a small boil.  I stared at this big-ass pot for at least 20 minutes- probably why it didn’t want to boil!- before I started seeing consistent bubbles.  Once that happened I popped on the lid and let it simmer for the length of an episode of Law and Order, about an hour.  Then I used a slotted spoon to pull out the big pieces and put them in the blender (you’ll see why in a bit).  After that, I poured the liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth into a bowl and TA-DA!  Rich, homemade, chemical-free vegetable broth!  To store it, I divided the liquid into 1-quart freezer bags and set them between cookie trays on the porch to freeze.  Mr. Polar Vortex froze them in no time and the cookie sheets gave them flat bottoms and tops so they stack easily in my freezer!
In case you were wondering what I did with the soggy veggies and the blender…. They got wizzed on high for a few minutes with a good bit more salt to make veggie stock concentrate “packets”.  Ever bought those “Knorr homestyle stock” cups that you drop in the water and voila, there’s stock?  Ever wondered what on earth it was?  Yeah, me too.  Well no more wondering over here, I have my own!  I froze them in a mini muffin tin lined with sheets of Press-n-Seal freezer paper and they’re individually sectioned off and ready to use!
WARNING: It looks like poop.  Like greenish nasty baby poop.  It tastes a lot better.

This is a tough recipe to write because I literally had just a mess of scraps from a huge variety of vegetables but this is what I would recommend as a guideline.  Play around with the spices as you desire and use as much or little salt as you want- the great part is that you get to control your own sodium levels!  And any vegetables will do!  You’ll get a different color and slightly different flavor every time but that’s the fun of experimenting!

Happy Homemade!

Homemade Veggie Stock
Recipe Type: Soup
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
An easy vegetable stock using just the scraps you’d throw away anyways!
Ingredients
  • 5 cups mixed chopped vegetables or scraps
  • 10 cups filtered water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs whole peppercorns
  • 1-3 Tbs salt (Pink Himalayan was my choice)
  • 1-2 tsp other seasonings of choice
Instructions
  1. Add all the veggies to a large stock pot over medium and allow to “sweat” but not quite cook, for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add all other ingredients and stir.
  3. Cover pot and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding seasonings and salt to taste.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Drain liquid into a bowl through a colander lined with a cheesecloth or clean dish rag.
  5. Package broth in freezer bags, cans, or jars and store up to 3 months in the freezer, one week in the fridge.
Serving size: 1 cup

 

Food For Fuel

*This post was originally published 10-11-13.  It has been transferred from my original site to my new and improved one!*

Since I plan on focusing on food, recipes, and eating healthy on this blog, I figure I should fill you in on my philosophy on food and eating.  Now, I could ramble on for days about the tragedy of the the way Americans eat and how our culture breeds heart-clogged nutritional ignorance….. But I won’t. You’re welcome.  Instead, I’ll use myself as an example for how (and how NOT) to fuel and nourish your body for optimal health and happiness.

Looking at me over a year ago, you would have found a busy, busy working girl in a face-paced, gigantic corporate company.  I worked crazy hours, was always “swamped”, and never ever got enough sleep.  I also thought I was doing OK in the nutrition department.  I’ve always been thin but I was especially skinny after magically shedding the few beer pounds I gained in my two year stint in college.  This success, I thought, was due to the wonderful, up-and-coming market of “diet” foods.  A typical day of food consisted of a Diet Coke and Special K in the morning, another Diet Coke and a Weight Watcher’s “Smart Ones” frozen meal for lunch, and whatever struck my fancy in the mall food court- usually Sbarro’s cheese strombolli, with a large Diet Coke.  And if I needed a snack it was almost always a Fiber One bar.  90 calories can’t be bad for you right?  And there were sometimes veggies in those frozen meals…..  Oh how very wrong I was.  Anyone who knew me during that time period could tell you that I was always always ALWAYS sick.  Seriously all the time.  In fact, a girl that had been working for me for a few months said “You’ve been sick since I started working here.”  Man, what a problem.  And I thought for sure it was because I was face-to-face with a large amount of people or selling/ touching bras and panties all day (I worked at a lingerie store.. Not just a creep).  In part, it probably was.  But the real problem was that I was not fueling my body, I was simply filling it.  I wasn’t eating and sleeping right.  Working out? Who has time for that when you’re working all day?!  I was truly running myself into the ground.

Myt turn around point was making the decision that it was time to start treating myself right.  I quit the stressful job, did some serious long-term thinking, and started making the move towards being good to myself.  I moved back in with my parents and was inspired by the fully-stocked fridge and larger, more effective kitchen.  After being in college and living in dorms and apartments, I hadn’t had the luxury of a “real” kitchen in quite a while.  I also surrounded myself with positive people (namely, my parents) who encouraged me and cared about my well-being.  And then I got cooking.  Really cooking.  No more Stouffer’s mac and cheese family sized pans all week.  I started packing a lunch with homemade sandwiches or salads, veggies and hummus, and cottage cheese.  The effect was almost immediate.  I still worked and was relatively busy, so where did all of this energy come from?  It certainly wasn’t from the Diet Coke that I had cut down to one can a day.  And what happened to that constant, miserable, disgusting runny nose?  GONE! It has been nearly 18 months since I’ve been sick.  I’ve had a few headaches and sniffles don’t get me wrong, but the last time I had a fever (a previously frequent occurrence)…?  Gosh, I don’t even know.  I feel fantastic. While there were a lot of changes in my life, but by far the most impactful one was the change in my self-attitude and desire to make myself happy.  I think I have pretty much accomplished this through my diet, activity levels, and stress-management.  SO.  Blah blah blah… What’s my point?  Here are my key thoughts on food and diet.  This is not an all-encompassing list but a few of the basics I try to apply to my everyday life.

1.  EAT. A lot.  I used to think that the only way to maintain my already thin physique was to starve and deprive myself.  No wonder I was so miserable… (haha)  I know better now.   I eat every couple of hours. Or more!  But I always eat small, healthy, yummy snacks.  In fact, my friends at school and work love to tease me for my humongous backpack filled with snacks.  Apples, mandarin oranges, pre-measured out baggies of pretzels or nuts, carrot sticks, low-fat cottage cheese, protein bars…. Lots and lots of snacks.

2.  If you aren’t sure what’s in it, or how to pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  Disregard this for the word quinoa.  No one knows how to pronounce it but I promise it’s healthy :).  Anyways… Pre-packaged food with crazy lists of ingredients are every bit as bad for you as high-calorie, fatty foods.  Your body can’t process these foreign chemicals and instead stores them in fat cells.  Meaning you A. have more fat, and B. feel like crap when you burn fat because the chemicals are released.  So pick foods that are whole (fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins) and skip things that say “Diet” or boast shockingly low calorie counts- they’re just fillers and will make you hungrier later.

3.  Plan ahead!  I cannot stress enough how important it is to put just a little thought into what you’re going to eat tomorrow or the rest of the week.  We’re all busy, I get it.  But a few hours on Sunday is all it takes to wash and chop your veggies, boil some rice and eggs, and steam/ grill your proteins.  You’re going to have to do this anyways, so why not do it ahead of time instead of when you’re running late for work or tired after a long day?  Plus, when you have a healthy snack or meal ready to go, you’re less likely to stop at the vending machine and grab something less nutritious and satisfying.  It. Is. Worth. It.  Seriously, it is.  You may just have to take my word for it.

4.  Learn to cook.  At least a little…  We’re not all cut out to be professional chefs but knowing what basic flavors pair well together or how to get a good sear on a piece of meat can make all the difference.  If you can make something delicious at home, why would you go out to a restaurant or your grocer’s freezer section and eat an unknown amount of ingredients for a much larger amount of money?  You’ll find that you just won’t.  Plus then you can post foodie pics on Instagram and soak in the “Ooohh”s and “Aahhh”s of your peers. 🙂 What?? Me…? No way.

5.  Don’t listen to me.  Ok, I want you to listen to me a little.  Or at least keep reading my blog… And tell all your friends about it, etc….  But the only one who can tell you if you’re eating the right things is YOU.  Eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel just full.  Eat what makes you feel good all day and not for one minute.  You’ll know it when you feel it.  Listen to YOUR body.

So that’s my schpeal on food.  Now that you’ve been fully lectured I’d say it’s about time for some fun recipes and yummy foods.  Yeah?  Ok. Next post is all about the yummies I promise!

Ready. Set. GO!

*This has been copied from my first ever blog post on 1-10-13. I have since updated to a full-blown domain and site so I am transferring my first few posts to the new site.  I hope you like the changes!*

Well… Here goes nothing!  My first blog post!  If you’re reading this, you are probably a friend of mine and don’t need to hear my life story summed up.  You probably already know what I had for lunch today too, due to my slight addiction to Instagram.  😉  Sorry about that.  Anyways.. For those of you not currently bombarded with my daily food pics, here’s a little background on me.

I was born and raised in Columbus, OH, home of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream and THE Ohio State University.  My family raised me in a traditional, modest home in the suburbs and, I gotta say, they did an exemplary job. I turned out alright, after all.  My family is the most important part of who I am.  My parents work incredibly hard to give my brother and me everything we could ever need and want.  They inspire us to be the best people we can be and to always put others ahead of ourselves.  Man, I love them!

So I grew up; went to school (loved it), got to high school (hated it), and was released to the world in college.  Somewhere in that time range I decided to become a vegetarian.  People always ask “Why?”.  After all I was about 13 when I made the decision and haven’t had an ounce of meat in the ten years since.  I guess it was the first step in realizing that I wanted to control what goes into my body.  Also, the idea of eating muscle just really freaks me out.  I’ve never looked back.  (Ok maybe when someone makes bacon….. But that’s about it!)  I’ve been seriously interested in cooking for about a year now and have enjoyed becoming familiar with food from the other perspective.  Realizing that food involves so much more than just cramming our faces with what’s convenient has showed me how beautiful and nurturing it can be.

This blog is intended to be my outlet of creativity and passion for cooking, health, and fitness.  I get many comments and messages on various social media asking for recipes, advice, and tips on eating and planning.  Here, you’ll find them!  Aka, no more clogging up everyone’s IG newsfeed with absurdly long recipes.  I’ll also post about about whatever I’m thinking about, dreaming up, or being asked about!  So your input will help!  Have a question?  What to know what’s in season and and easy way to prepare it?  Dying to know how I manage to maintain a job, 18 credit hours in college, a relationship, AND a clean room?! 😉  Please please please let me know!  I have a comment section but right now, this is for my friends and family!  Text me, Facebook message me, or comment on a picture I post!

Thanks for reading!  Can’t wait to start sharing my recipes and ideas with you!
Have a beautiful day!
Natalie

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