Homemade Lamb Stock

Last night I shattered poor Mary’s heart when I turned her little lamb’s leg into soup stock.

That was probably a bit morbid and overly dramatic.  I apologize to those of you who choose not to eat meat for political reasons.  But damn, that lamb was tasty.

When I buy something like a lamb leg, I do my absolute best not to waste any bit of it.  It’s pretty expensive, first off, and it’s delicious too, so why would I want to waste any?  Usually I buy a leg when it’s on sale and then cut the meat into 8-oz portions and stick them in the freezer.  The first time I did this, I knew I didn’t want to just throw away the bone.  I mean, that’s a big bone!  And it’s FULL of flavor.  So I looked up a few recipes for some inspiration and made my very first batch of homemade stock that night.

I used that first batch of lamb stock to make Italian Chicken Noodle Soup.  Wow, was it good!  The second time I made lamb stock (this is only the third time I’ve bought a leg of lamb.  I make it last.)  I used it to make a Lamb Kale and White Bean Soup.  I’ll be sharing the recipe for that later this month.  You absolutely must try it.  It’s divine.

In case you haven’t tasted lamb before, here’s a lame attempt at describing the flavor: It’s meaty, but almost sweet in a nutty kind of way.  It’s rich and tastes slightly creamy when it’s cooked properly.  Jess says it’s a sensual meat; the “lavender” of meat.  It’s a flavor that works perfectly with certain spices like mint, cumin and masala or rosemary and garlic, but you can’t just throw it in a pan and expect it to cook up like a steak with some rub.  Well, maybe you can, but I haven’t done that.  It seems disrespectful.  I always have a plan for my lamb and now you will too!

lamb, stock, homemade, soup, broth

Homemade Lamb Stock
Yield: about 4 quarts
PointsPlus for whole Yield: 1

Ingredients

  • Lamb leg bone
  • 1 potato, cut in fourths
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in fourths
  • 1 onion, cut in fourths
  • 2 large carrots, cut in fourths
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp whole dried thai chilis (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 quarts water

Directions

1. Put all ingredients into a stock pot, bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then turn down to low for about 4 hours.  Or you could just put it all in a crockpot and put it on low for 6-8 hours.

2. Once it’s done cooking, throw away (or somehow use) all the solid ingredients and strain the stock into a container until you are ready to use.  It can be refrigerated or frozen.

This can be applied to any bone, really.  If you have a roaster chicken that you haven’t cooked yet, you can use the bones in this rather than the lamb.  You can do the same with some beef bones too.  I wouldn’t use this recipe for fish stock, though.  I haven’t made that yet, so I can’t attest to this being the proper procedure and/or flavors.

Have you ever made your own stock?  How did you do it?

Goodbye Broccoli Blues!

Baked Asian Broccoli

I know there are some people out there that despise broccoli and it’s strange tree-like appearance.  I don’t understand those people.  How could you not love such a tasty vegetable with so many fantastic nutrients!?!?  Now, I’ll admit that I’ve had bad broccoli before, especially during my school days, but since I’ve started buying fresh broccoli, my life has changed.

No longer am I buying frozen broccoli to steam and butter.  It gets limp and squishy and rubbery and, frankly, it just doesn’t do it for me any more!  I like sexy vegetables.  I want my broccoli firm, hot and savory all at the same time (sounds kinda dirty, doesn’t it?).  Monotony is not something I appreciate in my vegetables!  The best way to buy it is raw, uncooked and organic; buying it from your local farmer’s market is even better!

There are three ways that I prepare my broccoli on a regular basis – raw, baked and browned.  It’s almost impossible to go wrong with broccoli when you prepare it these three ways.

Raw: Self-explanatory.  Rinse it, break into shrubs, chop up the trunk and serve with dip.  Personally, I like a nice low-fat ranch or a low-fat sour cream with adobo spice mixed in.  Can’t go wrong, especially since broccoli is a ZERO POINT food!  You only have to account for the point value of the dip.

Baked:  Set your oven to 350 while you prep.  Break up the broccoli into pieces based on your personal bite-size preference; not too small though, since the smaller they are, the faster they wilt.  Put it into a ceramic/glass baking dish that’s big enough to keep the broccoli from laying on top of each other too much.  This is the part that you get to be creative with!  I usually spray mine down with some Organic Canola Spray (about 3 seconds), possibly add in a tbsp or two of a healthy oil (olive or sesame) and just start spicing it up!  Great marinades/spices for broccoli are garlic (minced or powdered), sea salt, fresh pepper, adobo, teriyaki (i LOVE trader joe’s soyaki), soy sauce, asian chili garlic sauce, red pepper flakes, and if you want to be more daring, curry spice or cumin might just do it for you!  Season to your liking, but don’t over-spice it.  The flavor of the spices is meant to compliment the flavor of the broccoli, not overpower it.  Mix it all together with a spoon or by hand in the dish, spread it out, add about 1/4-1/2 cup water to bottom of dish and stick in the oven.  Check after about 12 minutes, stir it up a bit and then put it in for another 10 minutes or so.  Try a piece each time to check so that you can make sure where you are in regards to your desired firmness.  Mine usually doesn’t go much longer than about 20 minutes, but I make sure to check every five minutes after the inital 12.  It also lets me know if I need to add a little more flavor or not.

Browned: By browned, I mean cooked in a really hot pan without a lot of oil, so that the edges brown up a bit.  It’s really similar to a stir-fry method.  I prepare the broccoli the same way I would if I was baking it, but I’d use a mixing bowl instead of a baking dish (don’t add the water).  Heat up a skillet pan on medium-high heat.  You can use a non-stick or a regular pan.  Spray the broccoli with the spray oil instead of spraying it on the pan because it’ll be too hot.  It would just steam up and disappear.  Once the pan is nice and hot, pour all the contents of your mixing bowl in and immediately start turning it over and over with two wooden spatulas.  I have two flat bamboo ones that I’ve received as gifts in sushi sets and they work fabulously!  Once you’ve turned it a few times, pour in a small amount of water, maybe 2-3 tbsp; just enough to start the “steam” which will soften it without making it all mushy.  Keep turning and browning until it’s reached your desired softness/firmness.  You can also use 2-3 tbsp of a marinade and then you don’t even need to worry about adding water.  Just Pam the skillet, pour in broccoli, pour on the marinade and stir.  This isn’t a cooking method that you can start, leave and come back to.  You really have to be around it so that you can turn every couple minutes or so, otherwise your “browning” will turn into “burning”.  I do not endorse burned food!  Unless it’s marshmallows.  Yummm…. :)  I can easily cook this while preparing chicken and mashed potatoes at the same time.  It’s all about time-management!  And don’t stress; practice makes perfect.

There are lots of other ways to prepare broccoli, but these are definitely my top three.  For a vegetable that has been publicly denounced by past US Presidents, it’s certainly kept it’s integrity!  It’s tasty when done right and it’s good for you.  And with it’s tree-like structure, it’s a sure winner when it comes to soaking up flavor.  Those little shrubs make quite succulent bites, especially when using marinades.  We don’t have a huge variety of dark green vegetables to choose from, but I’m definitely more likely to choose broccoli over spinach, green beans or kale!  (Not that those aren’t tasty too.  All veggies are tasty at least ONE way!)

As far as Weight Watcher points go, the only ones you have to account for are in the oil and any sauce/marinade that you pour on (like teriyaki sauce or chili garlic sauce).  Typically, a serving of these is equivalent to ONE POINT!  Holy sweet Jesus, it’s just too good to be true!  So, enjoy trying out different broccoli dishes with these cooking methods and experience the culinary exhilaration at your fingertips.

Spruced up Garden Veggie Soup

I love soup. I could eat it every day, no matter what time of year it is. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s filling and if you use the right ingredients, it’s good for you!

This is one of the most hearty, filling and nutritious soups I’ve ever eaten. It’s the Weight Watcher Garden Veggie Soup. Now, their recipe is just a little bland, so I spruced it up just a tad! The more veggies the better! And the best part? ZERO POINTS per serving. When I’ve been craving bad things and eaten up all my points with pizza, cookie dough and ravioli (seriously. that’s what I ate the other day amongst a few other things), I just cooked up a big pot of this, ate a big bowl of it and put the rest away for another crave day.

Spruced Up Garden Veggie Soup
Servings: 4
PointsPlus Per Serving: 0!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2-2 cups broccoli, chopped (stems) and broken up (head)
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups sliced up green cabbage
  • 1/2-1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup green beans (fresh is best)
  • 1 cup cauliflower, chopped and broken up (optional)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (i use mexican style chili powder)
  • Pam Canola Oil Spray

Directions
1. Prepare the carrots, broccoli and cauliflower if you’re using it (chop, rinse) and put in a bowl. Chop up onion and garlic and mix with broccoli and carrots. Set aside and pull out another bowl.

2. Slice up cabbage into thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide. Slice up zucchini (not too thin since it cooks really fast). Put both into the new bowl and set aside.

3. Get a big pot out and get it nice and hot over a medium-hot heat. (If you’re not using pre-made broth, put a pot of hot water on the stove equal to 5 1/2 cups and get that boiling). Spray the bowl of carrots with some Pam Canola spray and then spray the hot pot with some too. It’ll steam up right away so put on your exhaust! Pour in the contents of the first bowl and right away start moving it around with a wooden spoon. Spray the Pam over it a couple more times over the next five minutes. The point of this is to saute the onion and garlic and soften the carrots and broccoli.

4. After the veggies are softened, pour in the broth (or the hot water and mix in the concentrate right away. If you are using bouillon cubes, mix those into the boiling water before you pour it into the soup pot.). Mix in the tomato paste, zucchini, green beans and cabbage, basil, salt, oregano, pepper and chili powder.

5. Bring to a boil and then turn it down to simmer. Taste it and season as necessary. I usually end up putting in a little more salt, a bit more pepper and possibly some garlic powder if I feel like it. Let it simmer for 15-20 minutes.

6. Dish out and enjoy! If you want, you can add a little grated parmesan cheese on top, but that’ll cost you a point!

You can put whatever vegetables you want in this soup, just use zero point veggies if you want to keep the soup zero points. It’s great right after you cook it, but it’s also good a few days later! All the flavors have had a chance to really infuse the rest of the soup. When cooking, it’s always a good idea to taste and season as necessary. Maybe add fresh herbs instead of dried or even try putting in diced jalapeno when you’re cooking up the broccoli and carrot to give it some heat! Keep trying new ways of making this soup and you’ll find the one that fits your tastes to a T. Then send me your own spruced up recipe! Good luck, soupers.