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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is it hot in here or is it just my cooking?

Since having gastric-bypass surgery more than two years ago, I've noticed that my consumption and craving of processed foods have declined. I now favor buying lots of fresh ingredients and spending time in the kitchen, making meals from scratch.

Sundays are my favorite days for cooking. I find spending a few hours on Sundays saves me so much time in the kitchen each night after work, which makes cooking dinner not such a nightly chore. Also, cooking from scratch offers a satisfaction that chicken nuggets or fast food just can't compete with.

Right now, I'm enjoying the aroma of chicken cooking on the stove to make the base for chicken soup for tomorrow night's dinner. Talk about a feel-good childhood memory. And with Safeway selling Foster Farms whole chickens for 99 cents/pound through Tuesday, it's an affordable dinner as well. There is nothing as flavorful as homemade chicken stock, and it's so easy to do, too. Here's my recipe:

Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken (discard organs but retain neck and tail) or chicken parts
2 onions, peeled and halved
4 carrots, cut into three pieces each
4 stalks of celery (or cut the leafy portion from the top and the root from the bottom and use that, saving the nice stalks for a different use)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Put the chicken or chicken pieces (and neck and tail) in a large stock pot. Add veggies, packing them tightly into the pot. Add enough water to cover chicken and veggies and bring to a boil. Boil two to four hours, until chicken falls apart. Add more water as needed throughout cooking process. Once chicken is done, turn off heat and allow to cool. Remove chicken to a bowl to cool fully and reserve for other uses (chicken made this way is so flavorful and moist). The neck and tail can either go to the dog or the trash -- your preference.

Strain broth into a large bowl, pressing down on solids to extract all liquid possible. Put broth in fridge to cool overnight. In the a.m., strain the solidified fat from the broth to leave yourself relatively fat-free chicken stock.

At this point, you can use the stock as a base for chicken soup or pour into ice cube tray to freeze for use later whenever chicken stock or broth is called for in recipes.

Chicken soup
6 cups chicken stock
1 med. onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken, or as much as you like

Add veggies to stock pot and cover with chicken stock. Bring to boil and cook until veggies are tender. Add chicken and cook until heated through. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Note: Add a 1/4 of rice or 1 cup of pasta with veggies for chicken-and-rice or chicken-noodle soup.

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