Several bucket list things came together for me on Sunday. First, I was making brisket (post to come) and wanted to have salads all week with the brisket. I REALLY wanted ranch dressing since I haven’t had it in a while. But I hate buying store-bought buttermilk since I can’t really find a good brand. And I hate buying a large amount of milk since I don’t drink milk or use it in much else.

So, instead, I bought a quart of Hildebrand cream and decided to do it right. Make my own REAL buttermilk (and butter)!

First, you can make mock buttermilk by adding vinegar to milk. I’ve done it before. It works well. And that’s what most store-bought buttermilk is, soured milk. But real buttermilk is the liquid when you make butter. You start with cream, make whipped cream, then keep whipping. After a while, the cream will “break” and you’ll be left with chunks of butter and liquid. The liquid is buttermilk.

Challenge accepted!

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Yes, this is Little House on the Prairie. Except minus the threat of bears breaking through the front door. Well, at least for me. Your life is probably more exciting than mine.

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Ever since I brined my first pork chop, I’ve been a brine believer. I don’t know why I never thought to bring meat before, but for some reason I always thought brining was for turkeys on Thanksgiving. And even then, I figured people were just trying to be all, “Look at me, brining a turkey!” I didn’t realize what a difference it makes.

On my journey to eat healthier, not only am I trying to find good sources of meat, but I’m trying to learn to eat AND ENJOY all parts of the animal. As a child, I wasn’t much of a fan of meat (or vegetables, or really anything but cheese and pop). While trying to lose the weight I gained in college, I learned to like vegetables. It was a slow, focused, meticulous process of eating a tiny bit of a vegetable with something I DID like. Or covering it in a sauce, or baking into a casserole or hiding in soup. I know, an adult eating like a child. But it worked. And I’m convinced you can learn to like anything – either by adapting to the taste, or finding better ways to cook stuff.

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I have a confession: I eat chicken skin (it’s like bacon from chickens). And I love dark meat! 

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I love caramel. No, really. Love it. It’s one of the few things in my life I’d commit to because I know my love is everlasting. I have found reason to cut back (way back to nothing) on dairy recently. It saddens me. Mostly because of cheese (my other love). But also because of caramel.

The truth, though, is it’s good that I have to avoid caramel made with dairy. Why, you ask? Because how often do you get plain old, delicious, perfect caramel? Maybe at Christmas time. Usually, though, I’m stuck eating caramel with something. Like with chocolate coating. Or with some type of nuts. The real craving is for caramel. Just caramel. And not those blocks of Kraft caramels. You know, the plastic-wrapped ones that are good, but also kind of hard and not quite creamy enough. Those are good candies for grandpas to carry in the front pocked of their overalls, but they’re not good for adults who know what real love is.

A week or so ago, Tropical Traditions had coconut cream concentrate on sale. Coconut cream concentrate, also called coconut butter, is essentially ground up coconut. Similar to how peanut butter or almond butter is just ground up peanuts or almonds. Can you make this stuff yourself? Sure. But it was on sale, and Tropical Traditions is a very reputable company. I bought a gallon of their Gold Label virgin coconut oil this last winter from them, and it’s already almost gone. I’m a single girl. I’m not ashamed of my intake of medium chain fatty acids!

Anyway, this isn’t an advertisement for Tropical Traditions. Although, if you’re wondering, yes, you should buy from them. This is for what the coconut cream concentrate inspired me to do: make my very first caramels!

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Sweet mother of deliciousness. Is this what it’s like to have faith that there’s good in the world?

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I made it back from vacation in sunny, humid South Carolina (Charleston and Folly Beach). I can’t believe how much we did in only four days. But it was a fun trip! I even picked up some local raw, organic honey. And the cutest honey pot. Win!

So, I come home to the best summer weather in the world – cool and rainy. I’m not much of a summer gal (yes, I just got back from a beach vacation, but that doesn’t mean it’s my preferred weather). And after a week of seafood (my own attempts at bacon-wrapped, crab-stuffed shrimp will be forth-coming), I was ready for some fall food – SOUP! I had hamburger and a few Italian sausage links in the freezer, so I set them out to thaw. Then started searching for soup recipes with Italian sausage and hamburger, and kept coming up with minestrone soup recipes, which I don’t love. But after looking at them, realized I could probably make something I DO like by taking out the things I don’t (beans, tomato based broth, and I don’t care for zucchini in soup, no matter how little I cook it, I don’t like the consistency), and amping up the things I do (MEAT!, broth, onions and garlic).

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Mmmmm… Soup! 

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I’m a master procrastinator. All weekend I knew I was going to make a roast for lunches this week. And all weekend I procrastinated taking it out of my freezer. I have so much stuff in my freezer, it’s hard to find what I want. The funny thing is when I finally went down to the freezer, at 10PM on Sunday, the roasts were right there on the top. However, it wasn’t a bad thing. I got to read up on how to cook frozen roasts (which led me to my recipe – which DOESN’T contain onion soup mix!), and how to defrost quickly when your roast doesn’t fit into your crockpot when it’s frozen solid. So, everyone gets to share in the joy!

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Here come the meat sweats! 

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Fair warning: This is a long post. But I’ve helped several friends journey into the abyss that is broth, and sooner or later, these are the questions they ask. I don’t like to simply say, “This is what you do, because I said so.” And like all recipes, everything can be customized to YOUR preferences. So this is a guideline. A starting point. I think everyone should make their own broth. Both for the nutrition benefits and the cost savings. Well, and the delicious flavor. I can’t imagine using store-bought broth in anything ever again!

What’s the difference between broth and stock? Broth has meat, stock doesn’t. I’ve made it both ways, and prefer the flavor meat gives, so I generally make broth. But feel free to make this recipe your own! I’m a huge believer in the nutrient benefits a person gets from cooking bones. When I make broth, I generally use mostly bones with just a little bit of meat thrown in. Maybe I’ll leave some meat on my chicken bones. Or maybe I’ll throw in a beef short rib. Or maybe I’ll use a soup bone. Sometimes I’ll even throw in some organ meats (kidney is my choice) for additional nutrient benefits.

My point is, when I make broth, I’m using 95% bones, 5% meat. And I use vegetables and spices for flavoring.

The goal is to have a broth that’s nutrient dense, after pulling all the fantastic stuff from the bones. So what do these bones have to offer?

  • Gelatin and collagen – Gelatin helps soothe and heal your gut. If you have any stomach issues, the gelatin in broth will help. Gelatin and collagen also help with hair growth, skin elasticity and strong nails.
  • Glucosamine – Helps with joint pain and inflammation.
  • Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus – Helps with bone formation and repair.
  • Glycine and proline – Amino acids that are anti-inflammatory. And in today’s world, we need as much anti-inflammatory as possible.
  • And it’s said to help with the immune system before and during sickness. When I’m sick, there’s nothing that tastes better than some broth. Similar to chicken soup when you’re sick, but so convenient to thaw some frozen broth and drink it, especially when it’s cool outside.

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Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed my restaurant reviews go down and entries on the blog kind of slow as well. Well, friends, I guess it’s time to announce, the blog is changing. Not completely, I’ll still review restaurants when I hit up new ones, especially those I really enjoy. I have had some issues with new food intolerances coming up, and it’s making it really hard to eat out. It doesn’t mean I don’t still love delicious food. But, it means I’m trying to make nutrition more the center of my diet – using nutrition to heal and prevent. And a big part of that is finding local, well-raised, nutritious foods. And that means I’m adding a new section of things I’ll be reviewing: local farms, ranches, etc.

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“She could be a farmer in those clothes!”

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