Bone Broth in the VeloKitchen

December 4, 2016

In this blog post, I’m sharing a few practical tips for preparing, using and storing bone broth. In our small community, I somehow became a bone broth expert. I’m not a trained professional; most of what I’ve learned is from hands-on experiments and reading. Let’s start with three must-know steps to make a clear broth.

1. Roast the bones for about 30-40 minutes in a 350-degree oven. I know the bones are ready when they smell delicious and my dog is mooching around my kitchen. When I’m pressed for time, I roast frozen bones and just add 30 minutes to the cooking time.

2. In a slow cooker, cover the roasted bones with room temperature or cold water, 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and whatever veggies, herbs and spices take your fancy. Regular add-ins to my broth are carrot, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns and fresh herbs. Apple cider vinegar helps leach nutrients and other goodies from the bones. For more on the health benefits of bone broth, I recommend this book: “Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World” by Sally Fallon Morell.

3. Turn your crockpot on low and let the bones constantly simmer for three to five days or more.

While preparing to teach a Bone Broth cooking class in the Seasonal Kitchen series for the Inland Northwest Food Network, our local non-profit which connects our community of farmers and consumers, I answered questions I often hear about bone broth.

Bone Broth FAQs

Q: What kind of bones are best?

A: Marrow bones produce flavorful broth. Pork bones make our family’s favorite. We also make bone broth from beef, chicken, lamb, oxtail and wild game bones. Living in Idaho, I’ve been able to source elk and deer bones, and I heard that moose bone broth is delicious. Ask your butcher to chop the bones into crock pot-sized pieces, about 2-4 inches long. Meat on the bones adds flavor to your broth and is a hearty addition to your soup or stew.

Q: What’s your source for great bones?

A: Like the location of our huckleberry-picking spot, my bone sources are top secret. Bones are offered at most grocery stores or ask your butcher. Look for bones from animals who lived a grass-fed, antibiotic and GMO-free life.

Q: So, what’s the deal with cooking the bones for days on end?

A: The first time I let my broth simmer overnight on the low setting, I wasn’t sure my crock pot would handle the continuous heat. Instead, we awoke to the aroma of a meaty lamb broth, and our kitchen smelled medieval. Unable to resist, we dipped the ladle into the pot and drank bone broth with our breakfast. The texture of marrow bone broth is creamy and soothing. As you can see in this photo of reserved samples of pork broth after 24 hours and after four days, the color, along with the flavor, becomes deeper and richer with each day.

4 days vs. 24 hours


Q: What happens to the contents of the crock pot after a few days? 

A: This question makes me think of the 18th-century rhyme, “Pease Porridge hot. Pease Porridge cold. Pease Porridge in the pot nine days old. Some like it hot. Some like it cold. Some like it in the pot nine days old.” Nine days? We tend to consume broth daily, and I add water and exchange soft vegetables and herbs with new ones during the week. Or not. Sometimes it depends on how busy we are and how much attention I’m paying to the pot. In any case, I’ve never had bones go soft, not even small chicken bones. I’ve even read recipes that say you can remove the bones after five days, freeze them and reuse them.

Depending on the kind of bones and how much fat and meat are on them, some broths produce a foam or film at the top that is liquified fat and particles released from the bones. You can skim and discard these with a large spoon. The same goes for herbs and veggies that you added for additional flavor. After a few days, they can get mushy. When this happens, remove them with a slotted spoon and add new ones. It’s handy to have a fine strainer when you ladle your broth into a cup or another pot to remove the chewy bits you might not want in your mug or recipe.

Q: What do you do with all that broth?

In our family, we sip bone broth like tea or bouillon, and I use bone broth as an ingredient in most meals I cook during the week, from soups and stews to fish chowders. I also substitute broth in recipes that call for water to give flavor and a nutritional boost to our regular meal rotation, e.g., British Pork bangers, bolognese sauce, chicken curry, rice, quinoa, etc.

Q: How do you store and reuse broth?

Bone broth freezes beautifully. I use zip lock quart or gallon bags and lay them flat in my freezer, so they are easy to store when frozen. Some of my friends store and freeze broth in mason jars or ice cube trays.

Share your Tips!

Please share your bone broth tips below. I am always delighted by the tips home cooks create to save time when cooking ancient dishes using modern appliances.

Spoonful of Optimism in the VeloKitchen

November 12, 2016

I have fewer Facebook friends today than I did on election day, but not because I unfriended anyone. I didn’t think I had been overt in my political views in that forum, and, over the past year I read many hateful posts about all the candidates from these (and other) friends, but, mostly, kept my views to myself. I find it sad that so-called tolerant unfriends who say they embrace the diversity of every size and type would be so abrupt as to cut our ties without any discourse.

I was neither stunned nor shocked that Trump won the election. While nearly all of mainstream news was bashing him, they missed hearing the despair of America’s middle, both geographically and economically. The majority of Trump’s voters chose a flawed candidate who acknowledged their concerns, but that does not mean they condone all of his behavior. In the end, Clinton, with her flaws, did not represent them.

I am appalled by the anti-Trump ranting and drama, especially when accompanied by violence. In a civilized country, a peaceful political transfer of power includes not only that of one leader to another but also a respectful transition by its citizens. I believe in the goodness of people and am optimistic that once the hotheads on both sides calm down and start listening to each other, we will move forward as a united nation, respectful and appreciative of our differences. I am optimistic and hopeful that President Trump, drawing from his business persona, will be a strong leader and bring our culturally rich and diverse nation together. I may sound Pollyanna-ish, but first, we must believe to make it happen.


Five VeloKitchen Hacks

November 27, 2015

“What’s for dinner?” Carving out time to cook family meals from scratch every day requires commitment and, especially on busy weeknights, can sometimes feel like a time trial challenge. Work, exercise, and children’s after-school and sports activities, along with regular household chores take up a big chunk of our daylight hours. On some days just thinking about preparing dinner an hour before I hope to serve a healthy, home-cooked meal can feel daunting. Not only that, as any home cook knows, meal preparation from scratch begins with planning: scanning recipes, checking the fridge and garden for ingredients on hand, shopping for items, and the meal prep and cooking process have not even begun!

In our family, we are unenthusiastic left-over eaters, so we try to prepare just enough food for each meal, but that means coming up with a new idea for dinner every day. As a busy, working mother I adopted some time-saving practices into my culinary routine. Here are a few:

  1. Need protein, quick! Need protein, quick! For various reasons, I avoid using the microwave for defrosting. Instead, I significantly decrease thawing time by placing frozen meat and fish in my trusty cast-iron frying pan. This method works great for fish and ground meat, as well as roasts. A physicist could explain why iron is an efficient conductor, but, for me, I am happy to know that I can place a pound of frozen fish in my cast-iron pan, take my dog for an hour-long walk and return to thawed, ready-to-cook protein for our meal. I grill some vegetables, add a starch and a salad, and my weeknight meal becomes balanced and healthy in 45 minutes or less without opening a can or processed food package.
  1. Under pressure. The TV show Masterchef allured me to pressure cooking. In less time than a TV episode, competing home chefs prepare gourmet meals with ordinary cuts of meat. When my husband gave me a stove top pressure cooker for my birthday, I was a little terrified of the possible dangers of the device. I made a New Year’s Resolution to make friends with my pressure cooker and have never looked back. Pressure cooking is ideal on weeknights because I can transform frozen meat into a delicious meal in less than 60 minutes. A few of our weeknight pressure cooker meals include Korean-style ribs with steamed vegetables, Beef Stroganoff with egg noodles and corned beef and cabbage. I consult the website which lists “Detailed Pressure Cooking Time Tables” for just about every food imaginable.
  1. Trusty family favorites. I’ve heard that most families who cook from scratch rotate about eight recipes a month. Our family favorites are quick to prepare, don’t require a recipe and use ingredients on hand. They include Spag Bog (aka Spaghetti Bolognese), Indian Butter Chicken, Shepherd’s Pie, New England Seafood Chowder and Thai Fish Soup, among others. A key to our family’s successful rotation in making routine meals interesting is that even though we use similar main ingredients throughout the month, we change up flavors by using different spices from cuisines around the world.
  1. Bone broth. My friends know I am a big fan of the health benefits of bone broth. Vegetables, herbs and grass-fed beef bones, a few Parmesan rinds, a roasted chicken carcass or fish heads simmered in a crock pot of water and spices for six hours to three days turn into a staple every home cook can use throughout the week or freeze for later use. When I am stuck for time or dinner ideas, I start with a quart of bone broth and add meat or fish, vegetables and seasoning that transform into a hearty soup, stew or chowder. In addition to its potent nutritional qualities, steeped broth adds magical flavor depth to ordinary recipes.
  1. Embrace flavor! Our kitchen’s spice cabinet is plentifully filled with a wide variety of leaves, herbs, seeds, pods and powders. We grow fresh herbs in pots; our favorites are thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano and mint. Herbs and spices awaken any dish. Revamp ordinary dishes with Italian seasoning, curry powder, smoked paprika or lemon pepper. Stock your cupboard with quick-to-prepare staples such as potatoes, rice, pasta and quinoa and generously season side dishes.

Sharing the joy of preparing dinner with family members reinforces our commitment to eating meals made from scratch. In day-to-day meal preparation, it’s easy to become bored, feel too tired to take the time effort to cook or become stumped for new ideas. I am fortunate that my husband is an excellent cook and we share the commitment to prepare meals without processed ingredients. He doesn’t like grocery shopping, so my job is to stock our kitchen with the staple ingredients for the meals he likes to cook and he is more than willing to prepare the evening meal. It’s not a coincidence that we eat a couple of Indian curries a week.

Any time of year is an ideal time of year to renew good intentions to eat meals made from scratch. In summer and fall, fresh produce just harvested from gardens and farmers markets is abundant and makes ordinary foods taste extraordinary. Involving children in mealtime preparation on weekends and school breaks encourages them to learn and experiment in the kitchen. Enthusiasm for delicious meals children participate in creating can snowball into a life-long commitment to make the time and effort to eat from scratch every day.

(Originally published for the monthly newsletter published by Inland Northwest Food Network).



Fatties in the VeloKitchen

February 15, 2015

Yesterday I rendered beef fat in a cast iron skillet to make tallow. A month ago, melting animal fat for tallow or lard was not on my ever-growing bucket list of foodie activities. The last time I may have given tallow a passing thought was in the fourth grade when I read “Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Fatty in the Snow

I’ve been thinking about fat. I look out the window and see my husband pedaling in the snow on his fat tire bike with four-inch tires pumped to a pressure of around eight PSI. Flipping the page on my calendar, I see that Fat Tuesday is around the corner. Reading “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet” by Nina Teicholz has made me think about the fat we eat.

What if everything you have been told about saturated fat was based on a shaky premise and built on a century-long, Kafkaesque trail of soft science and research funded by corporate interests and money, a lot of money? I picked up “The Big Fat Surprise” thinking I would learn about nutrition. Instead, I became engrossed in a page-turning conspiracy about how the diet-heart hypothesis met food politics and transformed saturated fats, like tallow, lard, butter and tropical oils, into modern villains.

The idea that “eating fat makes you fat” dramatically changed the food industry, transformed the fat we consume from animal products to vegetable oils and commutated what we eat. Surprisingly, these steps did not achieve their good intention of reducing heart disease. Instead, diet-heart recommendations, which caused vegetable oils to be substituted for animal fats and tremendously increased our consumption of carbohydrates, have been, quite possibly, the most significant contributors to the rise of a host of other illnesses like cancer, diabetes and obesity.

Independent, investigative reporter, Nina Teicholz, spent nine years researching this topic and makes a compelling case for consuming saturated fat. She summarizes the scientific research for the regular reader while never talking down to her audience. She walks us logically through the history and science of fat: mono-, poly-, trans-, unsaturated and saturated, and tropical and vegetable oils. The diet-heart hypothesis that has ruled nutritional guidelines in the last 100 years appears to be another example of an idea that began with the best of intentions, but ended up, like many other situations in recent history: flawed and “too big to fail.”

I’m trying to reprogram the fat messaging I have heard all of my life. Before the invention of Crisco in 1911, butter, tallow and lard, were the main, fat staples in the American kitchen. Since then, doctors, scientists, researchers, authors and “experts’ have trained us about good fats, bad fats and the evils of cholesterol. The food industry spends zillions of dollars a year trying to convince us their new-fangled inventions produced in their corporate laboratories are better for our bodies. After studying this book, I want to get my head around bringing back healthy, nineteenth-century, grass-fed and GMO-free fats into my kitchen.

I’m persuaded to go back to the full-fat (organic) dairy I gave up wistfully 25 years ago, eat the yolks of (cage-free) eggs, indulge in (grass-fed) butter and red meat a little more often, and enjoy bacon (in moderation) with less guilt. To me, eating a healthy diet and feeding my family is still about balance, portion size and eating a variety of in-season foods. There are proven reasons saturated fats are satisfying in our diet, and it’s a comfort to know we can enjoy them (in moderation).

The generally-accepted scientific conclusions of the diet-heart premise have not convinced me that a glass of watery, non-fat milk could be better for my cardiovascular health than one filled with creamy, whole milk, but the mental and physical benefits of aerobic exercise are clear. Winters in northern Idaho tend to be long and cold, but we keep moving. We are hopping on our fatties and going for a ride. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to hear the likes of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman chime into the diet-heart debate.


Flying Strawberries and Greek Yogurt in the VeloKitchen

March 8, 2014

We are ten weeks into 2014. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolution? In recent years I’ve tried to set low friction, but meaningful resolutions. If I meet my goal, I feel successful, and if I don’t, no remorse. A few of my recent yearly resolutions have been making friends with my mandolin slicer,  bringing reusable bags with me to the shops, reducing plastic in my kitchen and eating with the seasons.

For my 2014 resolution, I chose a page from the Nelson Mandela handbook: “Tread softly. Breathe peacefully. Laugh hysterically.” I like how I can apply my interpretation to each of these simple phrases and how these are evolving as the year progresses.

Tread softly. For me, this not only applies to the obvious, my interactions with the people around me, (the golden rule et al.), this simple phrase also means how I impact the environment. Actions I can work into my daily routines include bringing my bags to the market, substituting bike rides for car tansportation (especially in the summer when the weather is more favorable) and recycling more household and business waste. With a committed family effort, we’ve been able to reduce our household trash pickup to every other week.

Breathe peacefully. Once daylight savings time ends in Seattle, afternoons become short, and the weather turns cold and soggy. I ride my bike for exercise a lot less (or none between November and February). In addition to dog walks, this winter I am warming my body at hot yoga and Pilates classes to reinstate my long lost core for stronger, longer bike rides in the summer. I renamed our Monday fusion practice with weights “Yoga Boot Camp.” Our instructor is called Peach, an unlikely name after you experience the intensity of her workouts.

Laugh hysterically. My husband and son make me laugh every day, a gift I truly appreciate. The detail I am working on this year is laughing more at myself, especially in the kitchen. I’ve had a few cooking mishaps including one with a blender that makes the dog cower every time I plug in the Vitamix. Instead of being hard on myself for a careless error (or, in that situation, a distracted one), we all laugh together and reassure our dog he will be safe from flying strawberries and Greek yogurt.

Daylight savings time begins tomorrow at 2 a.m. Here’s to treading meaningfully on the pedals, breathing hard up the hills and laughing hysterically because I made it to the top of the hill even when I get dropped by my peleton.



Supporting Sustainable Food in the VeloKitchen

February 18, 2012

Cycling Chef picking up our CSA share

After watching Chipotle’s television ad, “Back to the Start” played during last week’s Grammy Awards, I reflected how our family’s eating habits have improved over the past few years to support sustainable food. A few years ago, the film “Food, Inc. made a huge impact on how we began to think about the food we consume. After seeing that movie, it occurred to us that although we often cycle on low-traffic, rural roads, we rarely see cows grazing in pastures, a familiar site from our childhoods. I came to the conclusion that, even though I had thought I was doing a satisfactory job of supporting local farming by shopping at farmers’ markets, I could do more to ensure our family eats foods free of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and genetically modified ingredients. So I started on a self-education journey beginning with the fascinating book by Michael Pollan THE OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA, A NATURAL HISTORY OF FOUR MEALS which he wrote to answer the question my husband asked me every single day when we were getting to know each other via e-mail, “What are you having for dinner?” (For more on that story see my post “A Curry Love Affair in the VeloKitchen.”)

We had been consuming organic fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products, grass-fed meats and wild caught fish, but after reading publications by Jeffrey M. Smith, a leading consumer advocate on non-GMO foods who publishes the practical non-GMO shopping guide, I banned non-organic corn, soy and canola oil from our kitchen and educated my husband and son on suspect GMO foods. At home we cook our meals from scratch, but the awareness of GMO ingredients in our country’s food supply makes us think twice when we make decisions about the food we are consuming.

Two years ago, we joined a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, which is, essentially, a co-op where we and other families buy a season of crops grown on a local farm and pick up our share of each week’s harvest. Our CSA Zestful Gardens is run by Holly and Valerie, dedicated organic farmers whose farm is about nine miles from our home.  Our first year’s experience opened my eyes to the difference in flavors of locally grown vs. store bought produce. Not only were the vegetables more intense and vibrant in flavor, I was surprised by how long just-picked produce lasts in the refrigerator. After I picked up our first CSA share my biggest shock was finding a giant, slimy brown slug in a head of lettuce! I screamed and my husband and son came running, laughed at me and then reminded me that finding critters in the produce means that no nasty pesticides were used to grow it.  Last year, I added another level of eco-consciousness to my CSA share pick-up routine. In the spirit of The Slow Bicycle Movement I rode my Townie bike eighteen miles round trip to pick up many of our weekly shares. I love the feeling of pedaling through my town with my bike basket and panniers filled with produce that had been harvested earlier that day.

My newest resolution is focusing on eating in-season foods during our non-CSA months. Living in the Pacific Northwest means fresh and colorful fruit from Chile in February is tempting, but we are finding that in-season fruits grown closer to home are equally satisfying. For Mother’s Day last year, my son gave me the cookbook CLEAN FOOD, an “encouraging, easy-to-understand guide to eating closer to the source and benefiting from the rich nutritional profile of the freshest, in-season, locally grown ingredients.” This cookbook’s recipes are organized by season and are easy to prepare.

Our family feels healthy and satisfied that we are doing our bit to help support sustainable farmers and the environment. My eight year-old son has watched the Chipotle video many times. I hope our experience shows that going “Back to the Start” is an attainable goal, family by family and farm by farm. And, for me, this lifestyle change began with wanting to meet the chickens who lay the eggs we eat.

Cyclecation in Idaho

September 23, 2010

In August we spent two glorious weeks bike riding in Idaho’s panhandle. We stationed ourselves in Wallace, a small historic mining town whose claim to fame until the 1980’s was the host, (or should we say, “hostess?”), to more than a dozen brothels. Now the most notable red light in town is the Red Light Garage where huckleberry milkshakes are the claim to fame and locals play live music on the weekends. Aside from 300 miles of bike riding in two weeks we enjoyed swimming, tubing, fishing, hiking and eating huckleberries.

The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a 71 mile paved bike trail following the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way. The trails are smooth and wind through small towns, forests, rivers and around Lake Couer d’ Alene. The scenery is spectacular and the trails are easy to ride since the steepest grades are ones that trains used to summit. The trails are very safe for our seven year old to ride on his own bike and restroom access is readily available. We began our 20-40 mile rides at a different point on the trail each day ensuring an ice cream stop on just about every ride. The weather in August is ideal for bike riding: sunny, with temperatures in the low 80’s. Squirty’s longest ride was 40 miles! Once he tasted speed on his new Felt road bike, we couldn’t stop him. This is family bike riding at its best.

Cycling Chef Cycling

Cycling by the river

Harrison Trail

Bull Run Trail












The other bike riding highlight was mountain biking on breathtaking scenic stretches of railroad trails on the Route of the Hiawatha which winds through 10 train tunnels and 7 train trestles. The route is 15 miles downhill beginning at over 4,000 feet elevation. Aside from riding through pitch black, cold, drippy tunnels (the longest is 1.6 miles) the descent is fairly easy. The ascent on bikes was a sweaty, challenging 1,000 feet!

Trees! and more trees!

Hiawatha train trestle

A short train tunnel

Domestique in training