Tag Archives: nutrient density

Make Bone Broth At Home and Eat Like a Nutritarian

Home-made bone broth is one of the best things you can do for your health, for your wallet and for your sense of satisfaction because you are using food that would normally be wasted.  Besides, once you taste homemade bone broth you will never go back. Never, ever.  The flavor is so much richer than the watered-down, over-salted version you can buy at the grocery store and it’s packed with vitamins and minerals from the bones, veggie pieces and various scraps you boil down. This is totally thrifty health and even though I’ve been doing it for years, the sense of satisfaction that I get out of turning scraps into deliciousness almost can’t be described. Literally every pot of broth feels like  a mini-miracle.

Benefits of Bone Broth:

  • Uses leftover scraps of food that would normally go to waste or compost so you get all the nutritional value out of them
  • After you make the soup the veggie scraps can *still* go to compost 🙂
  • Boosts your nutrition tremendously because it’s chocked full of trace minerals, vitamins and nutrients
  • Saves money
  • Tastes way better than store-bought broth
  • Easy enough that anybody can do it – even if you’re not sure about your skills at boiling water
  • Cuts down on food waste (and if you don’t know that we waste 40% of our food, then you should read this)
  • Your broth contains no cheap fillers, flavor enhancers, ridiculous amounts of sodium, artificial colors or anything else you don’t want to eat.
  • If you’re working on gut health and healing your gut to increase your nutrient absorption, then bone broth is a food-must.  It’s a huge part of the GAPS diet and many other protocols to boost health.

Starting Your Bone Broth Journey with a Freezer Bag

Bone broth starts with, well, bones.  Plenty of people rush out to buy bones specifically for broth, which is great, but I’m all about the thrifty so I just use bones from the meals we’ve eaten recently.  Naturally, this isn’t something you want hanging around in your fridge, but don’t worry – there’s a handy tip to keep things sorted out and it comes in the form of a zip-lock freezer bag.  At all times I have a 1 gallon freezer bag in the front of my freezer that I can toss scraps into for bone broth.  I’ve tried with reusable containers like glass storage containers, tupperware, etc… but it seems like when I’m actually making soup the freezer bag is the easiest to get frozen stuff out of to dump in the pot and I can usually reuse one bag for several months before it tears and I need to replace it.  It looks something like this (right now what I have is lamb bones – lucky me! But normally it’s a picked-over chicken carcass in there). I call this the BONE BAG and everyone in the house knows to add veggie scraps and chewed on bones to it.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine - although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

A good bone bag is the key to good bone broth. This is pretty typical for mine – although the bones are all at the bottom of this one.

Bone Broth Ingredients:

  • Bones. Cooked or Raw. Any kind you have, from whatever meat you like.  I like for the pot to be at least half bones and I use a big stock pot.  It can be a mix of bones, or all one kind – that’s totally up to you. If you’re lucky enough to have a local butcher they may have scrap bones, which would be awesome. I typically just use the leftover bones from what my family eats so it’s chicken carcasses, bones out of beef or pork ribs, lamb bones, or whatever.  You can totally make stock from fish bones, clam shells and shrimp peelings as well but it has a strong fish-stock flavor so I usually keep those separate from my meat bones.  If you’re feeling really adventurous add some chicken feet – they’re fantastic in terms of adding collagen and gelatin to the stock (which is great for your skin, hair, nails and bones) but people get squeamish about the idea of chicken feet.
  • Pot scrapings. If I roast a chicken or other meat there are always drippings at the bottom of the roasting pan. Some of it is chicken fat, some of it is juices and some of it is little bits of cooked skin or whatever that is stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Once it’s cooled down, scrape all of that out into your bone bag and make sure you don’t miss any of it because this makes the soup flavor awesome! Don’t worry about too much fat – you can skim the fat off later if you want to. Likewise if there’s anything stuck to the pan after you pan-sear a steak – add some water to liquify it and dump it into your bone bag.
  • Onion skins and scraps. The thin papery peelings from onions that would normally go straight to trash or compost, as well as the tops and bottoms that you cut off. These release nutrients and give your stock a nice golden color that canned stock mimics with colorants. In the old days some of the golden color would come from chicken feet too, but we modern kids are sensitive about that sort of thing – although if you can find them, I’d highly recommend them!
  • Celery tops and bottoms. The leafy tops that just go to trash and the bottoms that you cut off celery stalks can just go in the bone bag and get boiled down with the rest of it.
  • Mushroom stalks. Some people leave most of the mushroom stalk on when cooking, some people cut off only the bottom, and some people take out the whole stalk.  Any part of a mushroom that you don’t use can go into your bone bag.
  • Veggie ends and pieces. As you’re preparing food there are inevitably bits of veggies that get cut off. Think of the peelings, the ends that get cut off, the stems spots from tomatoes that get cut out, parsley stems, the outside leaves from cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower outside leaves or woody stalk.  The only things I don’t use are potato peelings and that’s only because potato things make the stock a little bit starchy, which I don’t prefer. My bone bag always has celery, onions, mushroom, carrot and tomato pieces because I don’t seem to know how to cook without those things so there are always scraps, but frequent additions are zucchini ends, eggplant peelings, squash tops or bottoms, parsley stems, cilantro stems, stems from fresh herbs, green pepper scraps, and sometimes a wild variety of other things.
  • Herb bits and pieces. If you happen to buy fresh herbs or cut some from your garden then most of them have stems that have the same great flavor but would normally get thrown out. The only herbs I wouldn’t add are mint (just because minty broth sounds weird to me) or huge amounts of any one thing because then the broth will only taste like that one thing – so just portion some out for the next bone bag.
  • A bay leaf. If you happen to have some – I usually buy these in bulk from Mountain Rose Herbs just because I toss one into every bone bag and typically make a batch of bone broth at least every 2 weeks. If you don’t happen to have any sitting around the house then don’t worry about it. It adds flavor, but isn’t crucial.
  • Eggshells. If you happen to buy good organic eggs then tossing a couple of eggshells into the mix can up the calcium and mineral content of your broth. If they’re factory-raised eggs then I’d skip it.
  • Vinegar or Lemon Juice. This adds a bit of acidity to the broth and will help to pull the nutrients out of the bones. Long cooking does the rest. I’ll add maybe 1-2 tablespoons (honestly, I don’t take time to measure. I add a glug or two).
  • Water. Enough to fill the pot to about an inch and a half below the top.

Generally I make bone broth when the fates dictate that I should – which is mostly when my freezer bag is full – but you just pick the best day for you. 🙂 The whole thing is super easy, just pick a day when you’re mostly home.  Dump the bone bag into your big stock pot or big crock pot – whichever you prefer.  Fill it up with water to an inch and a half below the top. Turn it on high until it comes to a boil and then cover it with a lid, turn it down to a low simmer and go about your day. Every couple of hours check on it to make sure the water level isn’t changing too much – if it’s dropped significantly add more water and re-cover.

Give it minimum 4 hours, but the longer the better (often I’ll leave it simmering overnight). I’ve never left it more than 24 hours, but I’ve heard of people doing that.

Once it’s done cooking put a big bowl in the sink with a colander in it and pour the pot into the colander slowly. The colander will catch the bones and bits and the broth will drain down into the bowl.  Please remember the bowl because I know from experience that you will feel like an ass if you pour the soup through a colander directly down the drain (I only did it once, but was so sad when it happened that I learned my lesson).




Put the big bowl in the fridge and let it cool down. Typically there is enough collagen in the bone scraps to make it turn into a gel-kind of consistency and if you put chicken feet in it then it will be flat out broth jell-o.  The fats from the broth will rise to the top and solidify into a thick layer if there are lots of fats or little spots if there aren’t.  You can skim these off or leave them with the soup just depending on how much fat you like.  I typically leave most of it, but if something was really fatty sometimes I’ll skim some of it off.

The gel-like consistency is what makes this broth special, and what shows you how much nutrition you’re getting.  As soon as you heat the broth the gel will melt and it will convert to a liquid, but the collagen in this broth that makes it turn into a jelly is exactly what you want to see. It may need a little salt – don’t be afraid to be generous with the sea salt, you’ll never add a fraction of what you would find in store-bought broth.

This makes a lot of broth – I usually end up with about 4-8 quarts (2-4 L) per batch just depending on which pot I used and how full my bone bag was. Typically I’ll keep some in the fridge for use this week and divide the rest into glass mason jars (leave space at the top for it to expand as it freezes) for the freezer. I put a piece of masking tape with the date on the outside just to make sure I’m using the oldest ones first. If I’m feeling especially ambitious I’ll freeze some in ice cube trays and then store the ice cubes in gallon freezer bags for future use.  Honestly I usually run out just about when my bone bag is full again.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this picture from paleosherpa.com - if your'e going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Bone broth is liquid gold for a nutritarian diet. I borrowed this great picture from paleosherpa.com – if you’re going to freeze them just leave a little bit more room at the top.

Now make food-gold out of your bone broth

I use bone broth in everything. When I’m sauteing veggies I’ll add a spoon full for flavor. When I’m making sauces or gravies I’ll add some to make it richer. I love homemade soups and stews and always use my own broth. So many leftovers can be converted into a great soup for new flavor.  Favorite leftovers to add include rice, beans, cooked veggies (I usually chop them smaller for soups), leftover meat pieces, leftover noodles, or whatever.

If you’re not into the leftover idea then a great basic hearty soup is:

  • 3 cups (ish) bone broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup cooked beans (whatever kind of beans are your favorites)
  • 4 thin sliced green onions
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 celery stalk cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium or 2 small mushrooms cubed
  • 1-2 oz cooked chicken, beef, pork or lamb cut into small cubes (or small pieces of cooked ground beef are great too)

This will serve a couple of people. If you like your soup a little less dense than this one, just add more broth. The great thing about soup is that you can put literally anything into it. There just isnt’ a wrong way to do soup.  If you want different flavors try adding a dash of hot sauce, some lemon or lime juice, fresh parsley, cilantro or other herbs, a little bit of honey, molasses, agave nectar or palm sugar or even some Thai fish sauce. Just as an aside, the combo of a little bit of palm sugar and a couple of tablespoons of fish sauce is what makes Thai soups so darn yummy. Bone broth is the base for an endless variety of meals and once you’ve had your own liquid-gold bone broth you will never go back.



Easy Seasonal Eating For Winter

Seasonal eating is something I feel passionately about – but seasonal eating for winter can be harder than in other seasons because it’s, well, winter.  So here are some easy ways to incorporate some seasonal into your diet and to help your body manage the season in the best ways possible.

Why Eat Seasonally?

It’s easy to dismiss this as a hippy/trendy kind of idea that has no real merit, but seasonal eating is the cornerstone of many ancient and holistic medical traditions.  Of course there are the side benefits of getting to buy from local farmers and not having to let your food wilt during cross-country (or cross-globe shipping) but the big thing really is health.  In the winter this is especially important because your body’s needs change with the more extreme outdoor climate (yes, even in Texas).  Your body uses more energy for basics like warmth and you may find yourself needing more sleep in the colder, darker winter months. So here are some seasonal Eating tips that optimize winter veggies and your winter health.

Love Your Squash (And Their Seeds)

Squash is just about the quintessential winter vegetable and comes in many tantalizing varieties including acorn, winter, delicata, pumpkin, butternut, hubbard, spaghetti, kabocha, and crook-neck. With names like that it’s hard not to be intrigued. All of these squash have yellow to orange flesh, which is saturated with healthy carotenoids – which are compounds in the vitamin A family. All of the orange/yellow veggies have these carotenoid nutrients by color – it’s literally the colored pigments that supply the nutrition. These carotenoids, some of which convert to vitamin A, help boost your immunity against winter colds and flus, help to protect your dark vision (this is the dark season, after all) and are also high in potassium, vitamin B6 and folate. Additionally one serving of squash gives you half of your RDA of vitamin C, which also helps keep you protected from colds and flus. Nutritionally they provide lots of complex carbohydrates but very low sugars, which helps your body have the sustained energy it needs to help keep you warm and cozy.  Squash are also very filling because of the complex carbs, giving you the delightfully full-belly feeling that we all crave in the winter.




Squash and pumpkin seeds are also a great nutritional input in the winter and any squash seeds can be roasted and salted for a lovely crunchy snack. These seeds are high in good fats, protein and minerals and also add a tremendous boost to your immune system for this vulnerable time of year. Seasonal eating for winter isn’t so hard, right?

The Best Roast Squash and Pumpkin seeds:

Scoop the seeds out of the squash and remove most of the pulp.
Drizzle the seeds with a little olive oil and rub the oil onto the seeds so they’re coated
Spread the seeds out over a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt

Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until the seeds start to turn golden-brown.

Watch them carefully because once they start to brown they really brown in a hurry. The little bit of squash pulp and juice that is left on the seeds adds a nice flavor with the olive oil and salt, but be careful. These are totally addictive so if you’re planning on using them as a salad-topper or anything like that be sure to hide them from the family. Otherwise they’ll be gone in a flash.

Winter Greens – Nutrient-Packed Winter Goodness

In winter the cold-weather greens abound. Think cabbage and kale and Brussels sprouts. The cold weather keeps these greens sweet and tender and the greens help you to stay healthy and illness-free in the winter. These are nutritional powerhouses which are high in vitamins A, C, K and folate.  Also they have a good balance between complex carbs, fiber, protein and good fats. Also, Brussels sprouts cut in half and fried with bacon pieces is a treat beyond compare – seriously even non-veggie people love this.

Go For the Root Veggies

‘Tis the season for all the underground veggie goodness to get underway. Think beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and sweet potatoes. A cubed root-veggie mix is perfect to drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 or so for a warming, nutrient-dense winter treat.  Roasted root veggies literally make you feel warm when you eat them and are also packed with the nutrients your body needs for the winter months.

Gorgeous root veggies - perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Gorgeous root veggies – perfect for seasonal eating for winter. Lovely picture from eatingbirdfood.com

Again these veggies are packed with vitamin A and other antioxidants, as well as the complex carbs needed to sustain warmth in the winter. Also high in fiber and highly filling.

Slow Cooked Soups and Stews – The Easiest Seasonal Eating for Winter Ever.

Of course the perfect food in the winter is slow-cooked.  Pot roast with root veggies, slow-cooked stew, veggie-rich chili, or homemade chicken soup.  These are the foods that warm and nourish you. The slow-cooking does all of the heavy digestive work for you and these foods are mostly broken-down and actually make you feel warm inside. In Traditional Chinese Medicine slow cooked foods are appropriate for winter when your body needs heat and easy nourishment and when warmth is a priority. Also the slow cooking releases all of the nutrients from root veggies and softens them up so a lovely roast surrounded by root veggies is the quintessential winter dish. Seasonal eating for winter makes sense on this level – you’re semi-hibernating and need easy nutrition that keeps you warm and cozy and is the food equivalent of fuzzy socks and a fireplace.  The fall-apart in your mouth meat of a pot-roast is just what you need to warm up. Also as long as you’re using grass fed, grass finished beef you’re getting a good dose of omega-3 fats, iron to build your blood and easy to digest protein.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

pot roast is the perfect food for seasonal eating for winter. It’s exactly what you want on a cold day. Thanks to colonywinemarket.com for this yummy picture.

Seasonal eating for winter sounds like it should be difficult, but just follow your gut. The squash heaped in gorgeous piles around the farmers market are begging to be eaten. All of those crisp winter greens are packed with nutrients and the colorful root veggies tempt your senses.  Best of all, the slow-cooked soups and stews that feel so good on a cold day are exactly what your body wants for health.



Eat From The Earth: Foraging for Your Food

I am a big fan of plants and herbs, a big fan of the outdoors and a big fan of food – so let’s face it – foraging is pretty much my favorite thing.  Why you might ask? Why would I forage for food when there are so many shiny, waxed fruits and veggies at the supermarket? It’s a fair question.

Here is why I’m passionate about foraging for my food and why I think you might be too:

  1. Supermarkets are boring: Everyone agrees we’re supposed to eat lots of fruits and veggies every day. And many of us try to do that, but here’s the problem – we end up eating the same 5 – 10 kinds of fruits and veggies almost every day. Frankly, that can be more than a little boring.  I can’t be the only person who has gone to the grocery store and walked down the same aisle thinking “organic kale, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, bananas, apples, parsley, ginger, peppers. Yep – same as last week.” It’s not that there aren’t some exciting and wonderful foods out there, it’s that they’re hard to grow on a large scale, hard to transport, and hard to sell because plenty of people haven’t heard of them. Shake your diet up a bit and start to forage – this is the planet’s gift to those of us savvy enough to enjoy it!

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    The uniformity of grocery store tomatoes. Try foraging! © Jamie Wilson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  2. Foraging is the perfect excuse to be outside: I *love* being outside, but there are only so many walks around the neighborhood, trips to the springs and hikes I can take in a week before I’m looking for something else – why not bring a field-guide and gather some food too?
  3. Foraged food is sacred food: There is something so magical about being connected to the earth, and connected to the place your food comes from.  This can be as simple as farmers market and visiting local farms, or it can be a little bit deeper and more vital than that.  Foraging – finding food in your natural environment – gives you a profound sense of just how much you are supported by the earth, by creation, by the divine mystery at all moments.  It is literally finding nourishment everywhere. Think about that for a moment because it is truly a profound idea to find nourishment all around you. This is a tangible gift to you for no reason at all – only because you are alive and have the eyes to see it.
  4. Foraged food is the best for nutritarians: Remember the nutritarian idea? It’s the notion that you choose the most nutritionally dense foods possible at all times.  Herbs, weeds, the plants that have difficult environments and survive because they are sturdy are generally the most nutrient dense plants out there and your body will thank you for the introduction to them.
  5. Your taste buds need some excitement: I’m just guessing here, but you probably know what spinach tastes like.  And green beans, and carrots and maybe even rutabagas. But you may not know what cleavers taste like, or the tart little pods that grow on some native clovers, or dandelion blossoms, or rose petals or juniper berries. These fresh, unique flavors can give you a whole different experience in your salad. They can enliven your dinner, your cocktails, your day.  Why be dull?
  6. You want to survive the zombie apocalypse: Well, don’t we all really. 🙂 Might as well build those survival skills now while there’s nary a zombie in sight.




Food Foraging Tips:

  1. Positive identification is key: When you’re first starting with foraging and just getting into it, be sure to choose foods that only look like themselves and can’t be mistaken for something else.  As your experience level grows and you get more used to looking at plants in detail then you can start in on the little more difficult foods.
  2. Expect the Unexpected: We are so used to the flavors that we are used to – it’s easy to forget that there is an infinite variety of taste experiences out there. Just because it’s green and leafy doesn’t mean it tastes like lettuce.  Likewise, just because it has a totally different flavor than you’re used to doesn’t mean it isn’t great food – you just have to begin to create space for it in your mouth.
  3. Start with Yard Food: Yard food is exactly what it sounds like – food foraged from your yard.  Why? Well, it’s pretty convenient for one, and there’s the added bonus that almost everyone knows what a dandelion looks like. Yard food is familiar food.

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

    Yard food! Gorgeous, sunny dandelion. © Ichtor | Dreamstime Stock Photos

  4. Prepare to be Fascinated: If you’re anything like me, you’ll find an interesting clump of plants (usually in a place where lawn is supposed to be growing) that you recognize.  Right next to that interesting clump, there will be another clump of different plants that are also interesting, and perhaps you haven’t seen this clump before. You will find that when you start looking there is an entirely engrossing world in your yard just waiting to be discovered and all you need is a good guidebook.
  5. All you need is a good guidebook: Try foraging in your yard a few times, and if you feel the fascination kick-in then it’s time to invest in a good guidebook or field guide.  There are plenty of them out there – and many are specific to the area where you live. Of course I will keep writing about this because I love it, but I probably can’t write enough to keep pace with your fascination.
  6. Find a foraging-friendly friend: Everything is more fun when there’s two of you, and once you start doing some serious tromping around in the woods and fields and roadsides it can be nice to have company. I feel 100% confident that you will start tromping around seriously, so we may as well use the buddy system.



American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

Are You a Nutritarian?

I *love* the concept of being a nutritarian – of looking for the most nutrient dense foods and enjoying those. Of broadening your ideas about what good food really is – we’ll be talking about this so much more because all of a sudden I’m an aspiring nutritarian (does anyone know do crab apples grow in Texas? I’m getting a tree). It’s time we embrace the sweet apples sour cousins, the grains less convenient early ancestors and yes, even the lowly dandelion from the yard (please don’t spray with weed killer – just dig it out and add it to your lunch.) Yes – there may be some growing pains for all of us as we adjust our taste buds to enjoy more bitter, tart and pungent but WOW about the nutrition!




What is a Nutritarian you Ask?

Funny – I have this AWESOME infographic right here…

An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

In answer to my own question, there is a Texas Crab Apple, which you can learn about from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. There is also an American Crab Apple which you can buy for $3.95 for a seedling that is rated for zones 5-9 (we’re an 8 in Austin but need something that’s rated to 9, which is hotter, and about 5, which is colder because you know as well as I do it’s unpredictable here.) Here’s a picture from Willis Orchards:

American Crab Apple blossoms - beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

American Crab Apple blossoms – beautiful and good for the nutritarian in you! From Willis Orchards.

If anyone plants one this spring will you keep me posted? And expect more posts about foraged foods in Texas, because we’ve all got weeds, we might as well eat them.