Taking Stock: It's been almost a year since I started blogging about my adventures in eating locally and sustainably, in trying to get my partner to eat things besides just bread and cookies. Since I decided to share my general foodie ramblings and occasional crafty project with the world.
It's been almost a year since I decided that writing SMART goals wasn't actually writing and I actually used to be sort of good at writing--real writing, full of subjective adjectives and sensory details, not clinical report writing (which, to be fair, I am also quite good at, I just don't necessarily see it as a creative outlet).
I've enjoyed this year-long adventure. I've "met" people through their blogs. People I feel like I know through our general love of foodie things, but then realize we know each other as internet presences, not in real life and have been in the same room as some of them and not even realized they were there. Even on the internet, I'm still an introvert. What can you do? I've tried new recipes instead of making the same things over and over again (I still do make some of the same things, but it's not quite as frequent). I've gotten great ideas from the brilliant home-cooks (and a few professional chefs) whose blogs I have discovered through all of this.
In a year, here is what I've learned:
- You don't have to be a rockstar like these ladies and publish a recipe/post almost every day of the week. An average of 2 posts per week is perfectly acceptable. Absences of two weeks at a time when life gets busy aren't criminal.
- My photography has gotten better, but I'm not great at it. It's a difficulty I've always had with the visual arts; what I want to appear on the page/screen/wheel/etc and what actually does appear don't have much in common. The fact that I'm using a nearly five year old point and shoot camera could have something to do with my photos never turning out quite how I'd like them to...I could buy a new one, or I could keep saving for a Kitchenaid mixer (with ice cream maker attachment). And honestly, I'd take the mixer any day.
- I see no purpose in going out and buying a bunch of mismatched plates/napkins/place mats. We don't have a huge amount of storage space, and, well, they won't actually improve my photography all that much (see #2).
- I'm not good at self-promotion. I don't comment on others' blogs as frequently as a I should. I don't remember to upload my posts to blog hops.
- For me, blogging is a way to keep track of what I'm making and how I'm doing with everything the CSA throws at me during the season. It's never going to be a cookbook deal. I'm never going to be the blog everyone talks about. And that's totally OK with me. I think I like it that way (see introvert comment above).
Now for news: The reason I might be blogging less when the school year rolls around again is that I have a new job! Less administration/curriculum coordination related things and more teaching. And teaching middle school again (I know, most people can't stand middle schoolers, but I love them). Because in addition to my normal reading/learning specialist duties I also get to teach an English class(!!), I might have less time to spend on cooking and writing about cooking. This job and I were meant to be together though. It has everything I want (plus free breakfast).
Enough about me. Let's talk about food.
Making Stock: I keep a bag of vegetable scraps in my freezer. I've done it for years. There are two now that I live near a Greenmarket with a compost station. Roommates have been perplexed by it. D complains because it takes up valuable BBQ Chicken Pizza space. But every few months I turn the bag of scraps into stock. And it's (essentially) free, organic (if that's the sort of produce you buy), and easy. You never have to buy one of those aseptic packages of shelf-stable stock again. You don't need to use bouillon cubes. It's pretty amazing. And thrifty. The only drawback is the flavor of your stock varies, whereas using a standard vegetable stock recipe will give you a consistent flavor.
You can't just put any vegetables into stock though. Things from the brassica family tend to make your stock taste bad--cabbage-y and bitter. Tomato cores are OK, but too many will make your stock acidic. Things that stain (like beets) aren't a good idea. Onion skins are fine, but too many will make your stock very dark. The flavor will be fine though.
Make sure you wash everything really well before putting it in the stock. You don't want to be surprised with gritty soup! I generally toss things into a bowl of water (or my salad spinner filled with water) and wash them well before I put them in my stock bag.
Good scraps to use:
- Peels and ends of: carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celariac, winter and summer squashes, and parsnips
- Parsley stems
- Celery leaves (sometimes I dry them to use in other things as well and add about a tablespoon of the dried leaves)
- Tomato cores (sparingly)
- Onion and garlic ends and peels
- The green parts of leeks or green garlic (used sparingly and taken out after you bring the stock to a boil)
- Mushroom stems--this also alters the color of the stock. You'll notice mine is pretty dark. I had a lot of mushroom stems.
- And, surprisingly, apple and pear cores and peels (again, used sparingly or else your stock will be sweet).
When the stock is done, cool it down by placing the pot in a stoppered sink. Fill the sink with cold water and add ice cubes. This will cool the stock quickly (I learned this trick from watching Alton Brown).
Next, strain the stock. I use a slotted spoon to take out the vegetables and place them in a bowl. Then I measure out the stock in 1 cup increments and strain it into the container I'm going to freeze it in (generally repurposed yogurt containers--don't worry, the farm I get my yogurt from uses BPA-free containers). I freeze stock in 2 cup and 4 cup increments as well as making an ice cube tray or two (most ice cubes are about a tablespoon) for when I need smaller amounts. When the stock cubes freeze, I transfer them to freezer bags.
Freeze and use at your leisure. Makes between 8 and 12 cups.
This post has been shared with The Hearth and Soul Blog Hop