Real Food Meal Plans: Jan. 29-Feb1

Guys. It's been a WEEK. I mean, it's literally been a week since I posted the last meal plan, but it's also been such a jam-packed week of work + family over here. It feels like a triumph that I'm even able to get to this post today - we'll see if I get it posted on time... [EDIT: I'm finishing this 5 hrs later thanks to a v. v. v. short nap by the toddler].

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How many of you tried following last week's meal plan? I touched base with one person that did (ahem...it was my mom), and one piece of feedback she gave me was that the sweet potato curry was delicious but damn was there ever a lot of chopping involved. Same goes the winter stew.  And I can't deny the truth of that! Both those dishes are jam packed with hearty root vegetables, tubers, and greens, and turning them into bite size pieces means a lot of knife work. 

Like I mentioned in the first post, these meals plans are coming right from the scribbled notes I stick on our fridge every week - in other words, it's what works for us. When I have Clay around to help entertain Junie, I love the prep. I feel like cooking is one of the few moments of pause that I can count on getting each day. I find the repetitive peeling, dicing, and slicing meditative and nourishing at this time in my life where I don't seem to have the opportunity very often to get that elsewhere. It also saves me from just hunkering down and scrolling Instagram the minute I get a break from parenting - not the kind of downtime my brain needs

But then also sometimes it feels like too much! And we fall off the plan-wagon and order a pizza. If you're going to follow one of these naturopathic meal plans, make it work for you - maybe that means prepping ingredients for the week on Sunday afternoon and storing them in the fridge; or starting with just following two or three meals on the list and having easy pantry meals on the other days. 

Notes for you on how we made this meal plan work for my family

  • I made bone broth from chicken on the weekend, froze it in yogurt containers and used it throughout the week on all the recipes that called for stock or broth. 
  • A lot of the sides that I list are things that we have often and I don't usually follow a recipe for. I've linked to recipes that explain how to cook them, but often they include a few "extras" (e.g. sauces) that we don't tend to make. 

On this week's meal plan we've got miso-roasted eggplant, two soups - mushroom & a "pot likker" - baked chicken meatballs, and a sausage & apple sheet pan meal.  Let me know what you think!

Sunday

  • MAIN: Baked Chicken Meatballs from Smitten Kitchen (I <3 Deb). 
  • SIDES: Roasted sweet potato wedges, roasted broccoli with garlic
  • Advanced prep: Whatever you see fit!
  • Tips: I didn't prepare that honey mustard dressing with the sweet potatoes, but just wanted to point you in the direction of a how-to if it's a new dish for you - I bet it's good though! If you like a juicier wedge, cooking at a higher temperature seems to not dry out the potato as fast. 

Monday

  • MAIN: Pot likker soup from Add a Pinch
  • Advanced prep: I used the chicken bone broth I had made on the weekend for this dish
  • Tips: Instead of ham we used kielbasa from VG meats - totally delicious. I also added a splash of sherry vinegar at the end of cooking and it was great! A new recipe for me and we will definitely be making it again.

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • MAIN: Mushroom + spinach soup with cinnamon, coriander, and cumin from the NY Times 
  • Advanced prep: Buy sliced mushrooms if you are tight for time; I also used some dried shitake that we happened to have on hand. 
  • Tips: I used kale instead of spinach and I added it right at the beginning of cooking instead of when they suggest adding the spinach.
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Thursday

  • MAIN: Baked sausage + apples sheet pan dinner from Jo Cooks 
  • SIDES: A green salad made from the living lettuce in our CSA 
  • Tips: Our co-op carries awesome local sausages, I used a mild Italian here; I cut regular carrots into chunks instead of baby carrots and found that Yukon Gold's tasted great instead of fingerling. 

Bone Broth: Why make it, how to do it, and what to do with it once you've got it

What are we talking about here?

Bone broth, broths, and stocks have slightly different properties but are all built on the same foundation of water, bones or meat (or both), vegetables, and seasoning. Any type of bone will do to make this delicious, nutritious, soup/stew/sauce base though the flavours will of course vary - chicken, pork, beef, fish can all be made using similar principles to what I’ll describe below.

I can't seem to resist taking a messy, blurry picture of my bone broth simmering it seems. Here is just one shot of many!

I can't seem to resist taking a messy, blurry picture of my bone broth simmering it seems. Here is just one shot of many!

Jenny from Nourished Kitchen describes the difference between bone broth, broth, and stock as follows:

  • Broth - typically made with meat and a small amount of bones and simmered for less than 2 hrs

  • Stock - typically made with bones, and a small amount of meat. Bones are usually roasted first to enhance flavour are simmered for slightly longer, ~4 hrs.

  • Bone broth - typically made mostly from bones with some meat, sometimes roasted, but for upwards of 8-24 hrs. The goal of longer simmering is to produce gelatin from collagen-rich joints and small amounts of essential minerals (like calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc) from the bones

Why make it? So many reasons!

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  1. Stocks + broths form the base for so many very delicious and nutritious meals

  2. And when you make them from scratch using chicken bones and veggie scraps, they cost nearly next to nothing - compare this to the $4-5 you spend on 1L of organic commercial broth (which contains sugar, colouring, and preservatives)

  3. They have a good amount of the gelatin, a protein full of useful amino acids derived from collagen, which helps to make for happy joints and healthy skin. Studies have shown that it also increases amino acids that help to regulate blood sugar, mood, and support digestion through bile production.

  4. They contain trace amounts of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and zinc, to contribute to your RDI of these nutrients.

  5. Chicken soup will cut your cold symptoms - for real! It turns out it inhibits neutrophil migration, helping to mitigate the side effects of having your immune system battle the virus.

How to do it?

To get in a regular bone broth habit, start saving your chicken bones and veggie scraps by keeping them in bag in the freezer. I’m talking carrot tops, limp celery, fennel fronds, parsley stems, parsnip bits, onion ends, leek tops - anything you’ve got. When you make bone broth this way, you’re using stuff you were on your way to getting rid of anyways! Experiment with the changing flavour of using raw chicken bones from the farmer’s market or a whole Woodward chicken from the Mustard Seed to see what suits your tastes (or nutritional needs) best.  Although they can be hard to find, hooves, feet, and heads are the most gelatinous part of the animal and contribute significant nutrition to stock if you can get your hands on them.

Studies have shown that including vegetables in your bone broth preparation increased the nutrition profile with respect to iron in particular. Hsu et al. (2017) showed that the traditional addition of vinegar to stocks increases the amount of calcium and magnesium extracted from the bones; conversely, iron and zinc were higher when vinegar was not used. The length of time simmered also had an impact on the vitamins and minerals in the stock, with stocks made over 8-12 hours having significantly more mineral content.

Basic Bone Broth

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  • 4-6 chicken leg bones, an organic roast chicken carcass, or raw chicken bones/neck/feet from the butcher

  • Limp vegetables + saved peels/scraps (carrots, celery top or root, onion, leek, parsley, fennel suggested)

  • 1 tsp black or green peppercorns

  • 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1-2 bay leaves if desire

  • Water to cover

Bring to a boil and then low to a gentle simmer. Keep it going as long as you’re able. Strain, store, use. Keeps well in the freezer in yogurt containers!

Perpetual Bone Broth from Nourished Kitchen (slow cooker recipe)

Place one whole chicken or the frame of a roasted chicken into your slow cooker with bay leaves, black peppercorns and any vegetable scraps you have on hand. Cover with water and cook on low for one week.

After twenty-four hours, you may begin using the broth. As you need broth or stock, simply dip a ladle into the slow cooker to remove the amount of stock you need. Pour it through a fine-mesh sieve or reusable coffee filter which will help to clarify the broth. Replace the broth you remove from the slow cooker with an equivalent amount of water. If you’re using a whole, fresh chicken, you may also remove chicken meat from the slow cooker as desired for stir-fries, in soups or stews.

What to do with it when you’ve got it?

Broths + stock are invaluable in sauces, gravies, soups, stews, and braises. If you have stock on hand, use it to make your own homemade chicken soup, beef stew, brisket, tom kha kai, velouté sauce, bouillabaisse,... using your homemade bone broth will make any dish you normally buy stock for that much more nutritious, tasty, and inexpensive. Here are a few recipes that I love for you to explore: 

Andrea Nguyen’s Pho Bo (Beef Pho) Stock

  • 2 medium yellow onions

  • 4-inch piece ginger

  • 5-6 pounds beef soup bones (marrow and knuckle bones)

  • 5 star anise

  • 6 whole cloves

  • 3-inch cinnamon stick

  • 1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces

  • 1  1/2 tablespoons salt

  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce

  • 1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar

Char onion and ginger. After about 15 minutes, they will soften and become sweetly fragrant. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin.

Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Set aside. Place bones in stock pot and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Boil vigorously 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Dump bones and water into sink and rinse bones with warm water. Return bones to pot. Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer. Add remaining broth ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Boneless meat should be slightly chewy but not tough. When it is cooked to your liking, remove it and place in bowl of cold water for 10 minutes; this prevents the meat from drying up and turning dark as it cools. Drain the meat; cool, then refrigerate. Allow broth to continue cooking; in total, the broth should simmer 3 hours. Strain the pho broth through fine strainer. Now make some pho!

Clay's Braised Collards with Sauerkraut

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  • 1 bunch of collard greens, stems removed and chopped

  • ½ large red onion

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup of chicken broth

  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter

  • 1 cup of prepared sauerkraut (homemade or from a jar is fine; unpasteurized preferred)

  • Salt to taste

Sauté onion in butter. Add collard greens and cook for 5-10 minutes. Add stock, vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes until collards are tender. Mix in sauerkraut at the end.

Take-to-work Simple Miso Soup

  • 1 green onion, green parts only, chopped

  • 1 cup of chicken bone broth

  • 1-2 tsp of miso (any variety, to your taste - I love the Wild Leek Miso from The Sacred Gardener!)

Bring onion + miso to work in a container. Bring broth in a mason jar. Heat broth on stove or in microwave, add miso + onion, put lid on and shake like crazy. Enjoy!

References

  1. Hsu D, Lee C, Tsai W, Chien Y. Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food Nutr Res. 2017; 61(1): 1347478
  2. McCance R.A., Sheldon W., Widdowson EM. Bone and vegetable broth. Arch Dis Child. 1934 Aug; 9(52) 251-258
  3. Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest. 2000 Oct; 118(4):1150-7
  4. Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan; 105(1):136-143
  5. Nourished Kitchen website: http://nourishedkitchen.com/bone-broth/; accessed 1/13/18
  6. Weston A. Price foundation website: https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/broth-is-beautiful/; accessed 1/13/18