Monday, February 23, 2015

Bone Broth Stew

Few things are as nourishing and healing as bone broth. We go through this stuff like crazy in our house. I cook with it, we drink it, I feed Chase a stew with it almost every single day for breakfast. A couple of people have asked me about how I do my broth, and what I put in Chase's stew, so I figured I'd do a post on it to refer to. Because we go through so much of this stuff, and do so many different things with it, I don't always do everything exactly the same but I will make note of that, too.  Pictures always help. 

This round, I am using my broth to make stew for Chase. (And us!) So, I did buy a bundle of organic carrots and celery to cut up and use. I will go over later why I don't usually have to buy much of anything to make broth. I also have the remains of a roasted chicken as well as the bones from several dinners of wings, an onion, some bay leaves and apple cider vinegar. If I have fresh herbs laying around that need to be used up I often times will toss some in as well but I didn't this time. 
Prepping carrots
prepping celery

The first thing I do is prep my veggies. I take the ends off my carrots and peel them, and trim my celery down. because I'm making a stew and want the veggies in there for Chase to eat, I will use "the good part" to make this round of broth. I will actually reserve the peels and ends of the carrots, as well as the trimmed parts and leaves from my celery in the freezer to make another batch of broth with. These party are typically throw-away items in most households. I make plenty of broth for drinking and cooking with, and these parts are fine for that and it essentially gives me a free batch. I also keep my onion ends as well. I keep a container in my freezer that I throw onion, celery, and carrot parts in. 
Next, I am going to pull all the remaining meat off my chicken frame to reserve to use in my stew. Everything else gets put in the crock pot. Bones, skin, organs all go in. These are also components that are generally throw-away items. I reserve all bones from our meals in the freezer until I have enough to make a batch of broth. I don't generally have to buy bones to make broth because we accumulate enough without buying more. This batch is all chicken, but it's not uncommon to have some pork or beef ribs in the mix as well. Then I rough chop an onion and toss it in, if I don't have any ends in my freezer waiting to be used. 

At this point, if I'm just making broth, I will throw my veggie scraps right in the pot. Because I am making a stew, I put everything that is going to be reserved for it in a fine strainer, and wet it in. This just makes it easier to not have to fish out the little bits (which I've cut down pretty small to be baby-friendly) but still get the flavor and benefits of them in my broth. All the rest is going to be throw away when I'm done with it. Now I fill my pot with RO water until everything is covered. I add a splash of ACV (lemon juice works, too) which helps to draw all the nutrients out of those bones and into the broth where I want them. 
I let this cook on low for about 36 hours. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually I put it on at night, and then stop it sometime in the first half of the second day. It's not an exact science. I add a couple of bay leaves the last 12 hours or so. Why I don't put them in in the beginning I'm not really sure, probably because that's what the blogger I learned from said to do. I have no reasoning for this. I do check in on it about every 12 hours to make sure i don't need to add more water. Sometimes if I am doing this veggie-strainer method I need to add more because the lid isn't completely on and I love more to evaporation.  
Ready to go for round 2
After 24-48 ish hours, I use a big slotted spoon to pull all the "stuff" out. I set a fine mesh strainer over a pitcher in my sink and drain the broth through it. I enjoy a nice clear broth, so sometimes I even lay a paper towel in my strainer to filter it a little more. Then I put my bones back on for the second round. Yes, I do two rounds for each batch of bones, but I only have the second one go for 12-18 or so hours. Meanwhile, the first batch is in the fridge to set. It will be thick and jiggly and the fat will solidify on top. What you do with the fat is up to you. If I'm making a drinking broth I remove most of it because drinking oily broth is not enjoyable to me. If I'm making food for Chase, I leave a decent amount of it in. The fat is excellent to cook with, so if you skim it, don't trash it! 

soft bones
When the second batch is done, the bones are pretty done for. They are soft enough to easily smash between fingers. I strain this batch just like the first one, and throw away all my bones and veggie scraps. They've done their job. I don't usually have much fat at all in this second round so I don't bother setting and skimming it separately. 
At this point, if you were making just broth, you're done! Combine batch 1 and 2, and store however you choose to. I freeze in freezer-safe jars personally. I recommend tall, skinny jars because you want it to cool and freeze all the way through as quickly as possible. 

I am going to continue on and make a stew. 
I will combine my broth batches in a big stock pot. 
All that chicken I pulled off and reserved I cut up into baby-friendly pieces, and add that to my pot with the veggies. I will let this cook on low, just barely a simmer, for a couple of hours. I lightly salt and pepper mine and also add some fresh garlic, but you don't have to. I also add some pasta- usually home made, but not always. This time I was too lazy to make pasta and had no store bought on hand, so I threw some rice and tortellini in. It was a nice change. Really, you can put whatever the heck you want in it. Chase is messy with soup, so I add enough of whatever to make it thick and easily spoon-able. 
Jon and I both had generous servings of it for dinner, and it was absolutely delicious. I put all the leftovers in jars to be frozen, reserving a bowl for lunch the next day. Chase eats about 6-8 oz of this almost every single morning and he loves it. I feel good about the fact it gets some good digestible veggies in his system, (he will eat plenty of veggies but has no molars yet, so they aren't very digestible for him yet) as well as all the benefits of that super nutritious and gut-healing broth. Sure, there are more healthy options than pasta, rice, and tortellini, but I don't feel bad about those at all and still MUCH rather give my toddler this than "baby cereal" for breakfast.

Annie approves, too!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nasty Old Habit (no more!)

My whole life- for as long as I can remember at least- I've had this dirty little habit. I've been able to quit smoking. I've been able to quit drinking. I've been able to quit a lot of things. But never in 25 years have I been able to quit nail biting. Ever. Years of abuse have left my poor nail beds so damaged, my nails are papery thin and snag and rip wit even the slightest growth... which then leads to more biting.
As a teenager and my early 20's I was a little more self conscious of my ugly snaggly fingers and paid a lot of money to keep acrylics on my fingers. It was the only way to break the habit. But, then we had a baby and financial priorities shifted and it's just not a realistic thing for me to keep up with. I don't have the time, money, energy, or babysitters to accommodate that anymore. So, off they came. Only, the damage they do is just as bad as the damage of biting so within two days of them coming off, my papery nails were once again ripping off at the beds, and I fell into the habit. Again.
*Taken from Shelly Ramsey's Consultant Facebook Page
My sister told me about Jamberry nails. She was selling them, so of *course* she wanted me to buy some, right? I didn't think much of it when she said they might help me kick my habit. I had very little hopes, but I wanted to support a loved one in the new endeavor and placed an order anyway. At the very least, they weren't expensive and I was helping someone I care about out, so either way it wasn't a loss. As I waited for my order to come, I had read some mixed reviews. It seemed people either loved them or hated them.
When they arrived, they sat on my bathroom counter for several days before I had nothing else to do and figured I'd put them on. I didn't own a nail file and had to send hubby to the grocery store to get one. Who needs a nail file when you have no nails, after all?!
My first application took a while. I had hardly any nail to speak of, just little stubby things on my fingertips. Filing was a joke, file what? My fingertips? About 45 minutes later they were on.
Some people say they last several weeks, but with my nails being in such awful shape to begin with, mine were really good for about 8 days, and then I had some really minor lifting. I was afraid they'd tear so I went ahead and took them off and put new ones on.
Here I am, a month and a half later. I have nails. Thanks to Jamberry. What I like about them, is they are kind of like a "brace" for my delicate nails, so they don't rip so easily, allowing them to grow. They also don't damage my nails like acrylics do, so not only are they growing, but they finally have the opportunity to get stronger, less damaged. And it's a confidence booster. They're pretty! I have writer's hands, and my fingers are crooked with writer's bumps. These make them slightly less repulsive looking anyway.
Twenty sheets later, I signed up to be a consultant. I don't think I have any intentions of really trying to sell them, the discount was worth it to me in all honesty. I have gone from being a skeptic who ordered the product simply to support a family member, to a full blown fan wo simply can not say enough good about them! And I can see that a lot of the negative reviews are because of user error. Granted, I'm sure they aren't for everyone, but I can't imagine it really taking more than 45 minutes to apply, start to finish, and when done correctly these suckers STICK!
I'm not about to start flooding everyone's Facebook feed with Jamberry stuff. Well, at least not any more than I normally would raving about how awesome they are. I'm not about to start advertising relentlessly and insisting everyone buy them, but I am more than happy to help anyone interested, because they really are fabulous.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

He's still around.

Jon and I are trying to figure out SO many things right now. Not a second of the day goes y without several big decisions weighing heavily on our minds. It's not a bad thing. Really, it's neither here nor there, we've just reached yet another of life's many forks and we are trying to figure out which path we are going to embark on together. If there's anything I've learned it's that life is so fluid. The things I'm certain of today may be completely different tomorrow, and I'm trying to become OK with this and allow myself to be fluid as well. I am learning to let go of some of the preconceived ideas of what I want our distant future to look like and consider opportunities as they come our way.
As I sit here in my living room, in the house that we have worked tirelessly to make a home, I know that we may not stay here forever. For so many reasons. We have unfinished business in Utah, things that will keep us here through 2015 for sure. But after that we don't know right now.
Historically when I have felt so bogged down with decisions and felt lost, I have taken my concerns to that comfortable safe haven up on the hill. Grandpa's house. Not a single situation seemed to be beyond Grandpa's wisdom and he always, ALWAYS had a listening ear. I didn't always take his advice, but knowing it was there has always been a comfort to me. He really is such a rock in my life. Now, with him gone, and Jon and I facing some of the bigger decisions we've ever had to make I've found myself feeling lost. Even bitter at times. It's been almost a year- the longest I've gone in my entire life without seeing him. Most days I feel pretty OK. I mean, there's a void, but we've slowly learned to pick up the pieces, find comfort in our eternal family, and carry on. But some days I've felt so overwhelmed and consumed with doubt, anger, and frustration and I struggle to navigate my life.
In my right mind, I can actually see how his passing was so necessary. He took such good care of us all, we could not grow with him here. I see it in my own marriage, I've had to rely so much more on Jon, and that's the way it SHOULD be, that's the dynamic that works. I know in my hear this is part of the plan for us, and I am at peace with that.
I had an experience last night, where I was once again feeling doubt, fear, and yes... anger. I have so many questions I need to ask him, and I was  feeling bitter that I can't just go on up the hill and find the peace of mind that's always resided there. I began to question things I know to be true. Is he really still around? Will I ever see him again? What am I even doing here?
And Jon and I got in the car to drive home after attending an Infertility and IVF seminar. I was feeling hopeful but confused. And then through the speakers came an old, familiar song. One that brought me back to our motorhoming days. One that filled my heart and every fiber of my being with a warm comfort and cast out any doubt I had. He's still around. And as I listened, and smiled to myself as memories of motorhoming shuffled through my mind, I had reconfirmation that this is all going to be OK.
I mean, I don't have a damn clue what we are going to do long-term. I don't know when or how we will build our family. I don't know what Jon's career path will look like. I don't know where our little family will call home. I don't know all of these things, but I know what Grandpa would tell me.
So, for now, I'm going to quit my bellyaching. I'm going to quit being dumber than a post. I'm going to get back to living in the now and focusing on things that ARE in my control and let the rest go. I'm going to enjoy my little boy.... because he sure is a handsome dude for having some funny looking parents. And I'm going to live. And along the way, I am going to enjoy the music.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The end of the line?

It's not really a secret that it took years of trying before Jon and I were blessed with our sweet Chase. Because of that, my doctor didn't hesitate to just get right to progesterone and clomid this time around and we started quite hopeful that it wouldn't be as long of a journey.
Unfortunately, we were wrong.
I went in for my day 21 blood work feeling cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately when the results came back they weren't in our favor. Initially I spoke with a receptionist who informed me that it looked like the clomid didn't work and my doctor would be calling me back with a plan. I didn't get too down on that, I mean round one, no big deal. After the brief sting of "not this month" wore off I went about my day.
When my doctor called me back, she said that my progesterone was not just low.... that my panel looked... menopausal. I was informed that my needs are beyond what their clinic can facilitate and we are being sent to the fertility clinic for further testing. We are hopeful that we might be candidates for IVF, though how we might manage to finance that is beyond me, where there's a will there's a way right? If my original doctor is right, however, we may be out of options.
I am trying not to get too ahead of myself. I am trying not to worry too much over things we do not know for certain yet. One blood draw is not enough to completely confirm what my reproductive status might be. But if I'm being honest? I'm scared. To death. The idea of never having another baby absolutely breaks my heart for a laundry list of reasons. I'm not ready for this chapter of my life to close and the thought of it makes me feel so much anger. It's not fair. It's not right. It's not what we want. The idea of not being able to give my son siblings tears me apart. If he doesn't have siblings..... who is going to be there for him when Jon and I are gone? Who is going to be is best friend when he's grown? A life without siblings? No. It's not what I want for him, for anyone.
We know adoption is something we want to do eventually- regardless of the verdict on future biological children, but it is also a long, expensive process and some people wait forever and never get picked.
We are going to a seminar on Tuesday to learn more, and then plan to hopefully pick a clinic here soon and schedule a consultation. A part of me is afraid to start this process because if it is indeed menopause, then it will be the nail in the coffin. That will be it for me. I'm done. And that absolutely positively breaks my heart in a million little pieces. Jon and I have always wanted at least 4 kids, and at this point we are just desperately hoping that we can get one more.
I know other people have gone through this, but I'm feeling pretty alone these days. Partly because... well, I AM alone most of the time, and partly my own doing: I know I've pulled away from basically everyone because quite frankly, I have nothing to say. I'm not fun to be around. I'm not social. I'm not happy. I'm at a place right now where I am questioning absolutely everything and I feel like I'm on the verge of having my only hope and dream that actually means anything ripped from me. Mom is all I've wanted to be. Nothing more. Nothing less.
I love my son with all my heart. I love my husband. And with this, it feels as though I've failed them both.