Posts Tagged With: Better Than Bouillon

“Miracle” Rice with Spinach and Parmesan – Just In Time For A Groupon Deal!

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Have you seen this stuff?  They’re called “Miracle Noodles”, and I’m inclined to agree that yes, they are some kind of miracle.  NO calories, NO artificial crap, NOT disgusting.  Wait… actually, they could be disgusting if you don’t prepare them correctly.

The first time I made them I was not desperate for a pasta substitute, and was only trying them because I was bending to the persuasion of my mother.  Brow-beaten people never read directions, so they turned out disgusting.

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But then I did this crazy strict diet thingy and for awhile couldn’t have any starches…and I was desperate for pasta.  Desperate people DO read directions!

I was determined to make these noodles taste good, and it turns out it’s not that hard to do!  As long as you follow the directions, of course!

You can buy these on Amazon.com.  I haven’t seen it in any stores near me, but there is another brand that I found at Meijer called NO Oodle.  They didn’t have the “rice” option in the store, but it’s a good way to try these noodles out without having to buy in bulk.

I have only tried the Angel Hair and Rice varieties so far, but there are a few others.  The Angel Hair is a very good, almost perfect, substitute for spaghetti noodles.  I think the Rice is closer to orzo than actual rice, though.  I haven’t tried using the Rice in rice recipes yet though, I’ll let you know how that turns out when I do!

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I did, however, use it to make an orzo-ish side dish a few months ago.  It simply consisted of things that sounded good to me, and what I had on hand, and it was delicious!

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Miracle “Rice” with Spinach and Parmesan

What you will need:

  • One 7-oz bag of Miracle Rice
  • Fresh Parmesan, grated (probably around 1/2 cup, more to taste)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach (you could also use frozen)
  • 1 tsp chicken base (I used Better Than Bouillon)
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the Miracle Rice using the directions printed on the package.  (Rinse, then boil for one minute, then rinse again).  They smell terrible!  Just hold your nose, I promise you will not taste that smell!
  2. Saute the spinach in a little butter until wilted.
  3. Add butter, chicken base, sauteed spinach, pepper and Parmesan to the rice, stir and serve!  Sprinkle a little extra fresh Parmesan on top for a nice touch.

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Coincidentally, there is a deal on Groupon right now for these!  $39.99 for 24 7-oz bags.  This makes each pack about $1.60; typically, they are around $2.50 or even $3.00 on Amazon, especially if you buy them one at a time.

DSC00841I forgot to take a final picture, of course.  But you get the idea, right?  It was good.  We ate it.  I’ll make it again someday!

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Categories: Grain-free, Recipes, Side Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Better Than “Better Than Bouillon” Chicken Base

Chicken Base!

Chicken Base!

It’s here!  I know you’ve been breathlessly waiting for this post!  Or not.  Pretend for me anyway?

Actually, I made this about a month ago.

But then I turned 30 and people threw me a party and gave me a beautiful brand-new road bike and I’ve been gazing longingly at it for a week straight now.  I even took it out for a spin, but the country winds and 20-degree chill encouraged me back home to my warm living room where I could resume gazing:)

Don't judge my outfit...I live in the country!  No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet...oh, wait...

Don’t judge my outfit…I live in the country! No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet…oh, wait…

Anyway, I mentioned on this podcast that I wanted to learn how to make my own chicken base.  Since then, hundreds of people (ok, one person) have asked me if I’ve made it yet, so I’m happy to report that I have!  And it’s pretty easy to do!

Disclaimer- sorry about the terrible pictures…  I lost my camera for about two weeks and had to use my iPod to take pictures.  Fortunately, my husband found my camera, and it turns out it was right where I left it.  In the last place I looked.  (All those childhood memories of Mom saying those things coming back to you yet?  I have more!)

 

 

 

 

Chicken Base

Read through the directions first!  You need to refrigerate the stock before adding all the veggies!

What you will need:  (Recipe can be doubled)

  • one whole chicken 
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 whole onion (or onion salt if you forgot to buy onions…), chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • turmeric
  • stick blender or food processor

Directions:

  1. Place rinsed whole chicken in large stockpot, cover with water so the water is about 1-2 inches above the top of the chicken.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. 
  2. Remove chicken to cutting board.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove all meat from bones, returning bones to stockpot.  If possible, snap some of the smaller bones in half so the bone marrow will cook into your stock!  I know it sounds gross, but it is very good for you! Reserve chicken meat, you will be adding some of it back in at the end.
  3. Boil the bones for another 30 minutes or until they are “clean” (nearly no meat left on them at all).  At this point, the easiest method for removing all the bones is to strain the broth into a new, smaller pot.
  4. Refrigerate stock overnight.  Once completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off.  Return to stove, bring to a boil.
  5. Add celery, onions, carrots, salt and pepper to taste (like 1/2 tsp of each, you can add more later), turmeric to color.  (By color, I mean add it until your broth is a nice yellow color that looks attractive to you.  Or don’t add it at all if those things don’t matter to you.  Personally, a yellow broth tricks my brain into thinking it’s gourmet.  I know that’s weird, but who am I to argue with my brain?)
  6. Now the boring fun part.  Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat so it is boiling gently, not too hard.  Now walk away and find something else to for an hour while your stock reduces.  This amount of time will depend heavily on your broth-to-vegetable ratio.  The more broth you have, the longer this will take to reduce, of course.  Once your stock has reduced to about half, add 1 cup of chicken meat back in.  Using a stick blender (also referred to as an immersion blender) or transferring your stock to a food processor, puree all ingredients.  If your base is still thin, continue to gently boil until it is reduced to the thickness you desire.  You could also add more chicken and puree that in, as that will also increase the consistency as well as the protein content!

Whisking in ClearJel

A couple of notes:

  • I added the vegetables after the bones were drained so you wouldn’t have to try to fish all the bones out amongst the veggies.  Since it needs to reduce anyway, there’s time for the veggies to cook down.
  • I added the chicken last after the first reduction because I believe overcooked chicken isn’t going to make this taste all that amazing.
  • You will probably need to add more salt at the end.  When you taste it, it should taste way too salty.  Keep in mind that you are adding this to water or broth to enhance the flavor of your soups!  (It’s also a sneaky way to get picky eaters to eat veggies and chicken!)
  • I looked everywhere on the Internet for chicken base recipes, and didn’t find anything very specific, so this is very unscientific, of course!  I did read somewhere that cooking the bones too long will also result in an undesirable taste, I have never stumbled upon that misfortune though.  But I thought I’d warn you.  Probably cooking them just until all the meat falls off is sufficient.
  • I was going for a very similar product to Better Than Bouillon, because that’s what I buy and like.  I could not get it to the exact consistency to BTB, so I tried adding ClearJel to some of it to experiment (because at that point I was still planning on canning it, and you can use ClearJel to can with, unlike cornstarch).  I do not recommend this to you because while it did thicken it to the consistency I wanted, it also deadened the taste substantially and I had to add a lot more salt than I would have preferred.  The rest of my base that I did not thicken with ClearJel, while thin, did not require as much added salt to achieve the taste my family likes.  The next time I make this, I will add more chicken, which will help it be closer to the BTB consistency I so desire.  The nice part about that is you can always add more and more chicken since it’s the last thing you do!  (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that when I was cooking it.  Hindsight. 20/20. ‘Nuff said.)
Base with ClearJel on the right - Just to show consistency differences

Base with ClearJel on the right – Just to show consistency differences

  • I ended up freezing my base into ice cube trays rather than canning it.  I still plan on canning it in the future, I just ran out of desire to spend any more time in the kitchen this particular day.  The ice cube tray method works perfectly though, and is just as convenient as canning it, I think.  To use it, I just add one or two cubes to my soups and they melt right in!  It’s pretty cool, actually, and I feel a little bit like a genius.  I can see the Pin now:  “One ice cube tray of chicken base equals 8 quarts of broth!”  Or whatever.  Pinterest is annoying.  And cool.  I’m annoyed by all the make-your-life-easier stuff on it and yet I’m wildly addicted to it.  I need a Pinners Anonymous Group or something.  PAG.
  • I’m in a weird mood today.
  • Your base may have turned out differently than mine.  You will have to play around with experimenting to find exactly what your taste buds like.  Start with one cube per quart, and if that isn’t flavorful enough, add another one.  I actually added up to 4 cubes to one soup I made where I had started with water!  If you start with broth, you’ll need less base.
About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water or broth (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Dried Minced Onions

I’m not really an “onion person”.  I mean, I’ll eat them if they’re cooked in butter and nicely concealed in whatever dish they’re a part of, or if they’re deep fried or of the bloomin’ variety… ok, maybe I am an onion person after all!  I just don’t really care to eat them raw.  I’m not a huge fan of cutting them up, either.  But onions do add a little somethin’ somethin’ to most dishes, and so they remain a staple in my kitchen.

Recently, I happened upon a recipe on Pinterest that sparked my interest.  Remember when I made the condensed cream of chicken soup?  Well it’s good and all, and fairly easy to make, but anything frozen that has to be thawed isn’t really all that convenient for this meal-planning procrastinator.  And then the Heavens opened, a ray of light shone down on my computer screen, and angels began to sing!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  An easier way!  (Is any this blasphemous?  Forgive me, Lord…I only meant to spread chuckles!)

What I’m saying is, I’m all over this idea.  Cream of “Something” soup MIX, that you can keep in your pantry and substitute canned condensed versions when called for in recipes.  It’s too cool.  WAY cooler than this post about dried onions. 🙂

I digress.  Anyway, this super cool Cream of Something mix called for dried minced onions.  I had no dried minced onions, but I did have a big bag of non-dried, non-minced, actual onions.  The synapses fired in my brain and I recalled a dehydrator that I own (well, technically I don’t OWN it, but since the owner seems to have forgotten it’s existence…), put two and two together and the rest is history.  Herstory.  Mystory.

I’ve had a lot of coffee today.

 
Dried Minced Onions

What you will need:

  • About 8 medium onions, yellow or white
  • a Dehydrator (you could do this in your oven if your oven will go low enough, 135 degrees)
  • a Food Processor
  • Goggles, face mask, contact lenses, a strong fan, willpower to live
  • some unfinished hobbies or small children to busy yourself with while these are drying

Directions:

  1. Peel onions and slice them into 1/4 inch slices.  This where the goggles et. al. would come in handy.  My kitchen got so unbearable with onion fumes that even my poor husband who was innocently trying to do dishes teared up.  It was bad.  We had to get a fan out, and I was practically sobbing by the time I finished slicing.
  2. Place the slices on the dehydrator trays and turn it on the fruit and vegetable setting, 135*!  You don’t need to separate the rings, unless you have the space to do so.  They might dry quicker if you separate them.
  3. I had to move the dehydrator from the kitchen out to the back porch because of how much it was stinking up the house!  After several hours the back porch started smelling like a burger joint, so that was kind of fun, but initially the fumes were just too strong to bear inside the house. 
  4. The dehydrating book says 8-10 hours for onions.  Well, after 10 hours I wanted to go to bed, and only a pieces were even close to being done.  I removed those pieces, turned the dehydrator down to the lowest setting (95*) and went to bed.  In the morning, they were in the same state as the night before.  So I turned it back up to 135* (fruits and vegetable setting), separated the rings, piling them on top of each other, and it still took about another 10 hours for them to be completely dried.  Phew!
  5. As pieces dried, I removed them from the dehydrator and set them in a bowl to wait for the others.  Once they were all dried, I broke out my food processor and chopped them up.

    When I minced these, it left a huge ridge in my food processor that completely freaked me out! I thought the onions had somehow scratched the bowl of my processor and I was so bummed out! Turns out it was just onion powder that caked up quickly on the sides. A little soaking in hot water; it washed out perfectly clean and all was good in my world again.

  6. After I minced the onions some of the pieces felt a little moist so I poured out the minced pieces on a fruit leather tray and returned the onions to the dehydrator for another half an hour. 
  7. Once they seemed completely dry, I put them in a jar, labeled it with the date and contents, and it’s ready to store or use in a recipe!  It yielded me about a half of a pint jar, so about 1 cup out of the 8 onions.  That was kind of disappointing.  (In the picture below I had already used some of the onions in the cream of something soup mix, which is why there is only 1/4 of the jar left!)

Cream of “Something” Soup! The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of whatever flavor bouillon granules you prefer (hence the “something”). I don’t like to use bouillon granules because I’m a “Better Than Bouillon” girl, (and that stuff has to be refrigerated) so I omitted that part and will use a teaspoon of BTB when I’m mixing it all up.

The Verdict

I paid about $1.50 for a cheap-o bottle of dried minced onions from Wal-mart.  I paid about $3.00 for a bag of organic onions, also from Wal-mart.  The whole bag of onions amounted to about double the bottle of dried onions, which means besides the organic factor, I didn’t really save much money by drying the onions myself.  So, counting the time it took to dry them (30+ hours…hello, electric bill!), the tears I spent slicing the onions, and the fact that I really didn’t save any money…  I highly doubt I will be making these again.  I will say that the flavor of MY dried onions is better, and they smell like French’s Fried Onions (but do NOT taste like them!  Bummer!) but I’m still a little unimpressed with this project.  I have better things to do with my time, like finish projects, or play with my kids, or eat bloomin’ onions. 😉

If you try this, let me know what YOU think!

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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