Friday, January 28, 2011

Vegetable Stock

First off, what is the difference between broth and stock???

Well, Wikipedia seems to think that stock is a thin, flavourful concoction prepared by simmering raw ingredients and removing them; whereas, a broth still has some of those ingredients floating around in it. Oh, and apparently salt is not added to stocks. Sounds fair to me.

What is bouillon?? Again, I turn to Wikipedia for a quick answer:

A bouillon cube [ˈbuːjɒn kjuːb] (US) or stock cube (UK and Australia) is dehydrated broth (bouillon in French) or stock formed into a small cube about 15 mm wide. It is made by dehydrating vegetables, meat stock, a small portion of solid fat (such as hydrogenated oil), salt and seasonings and shaping them into a small cube. Dehydrated broth is also available in granular form.

Broth made from rehydrated cubes is different in taste from fresh broth because of its higher salt content and flavours changed by the boiling process.

Interesting ... and confusing ... haha. Sounds like we're all a little confused about the subtleties of broth, stock, bouillon and anything else you might call a water-based soup with no substantial chunks in it!

So why do I care about all this? Well, as I explained yesterday, I needed vegetable stock for a Moroccan Bean & Pepper Stew that I made. I didn't have a pot of vegetable stock simmering on the stove at the time (how unprepared of me!), so I resorted to using a bouillon cube. Well, rather approximately half of one dissolved in 3/4 cup boiling water. When I double-checked the instructions for rehydrating the salty little brick, I happened to look at the ingredients (I know, BAD dietitian! I should be reading the ingredients on everything right?? Oops!).

Here is what I found: table salt (SODIUM!!!), hydrogenated soy fat (TRANS FAT!!!), sugar (why?), monosodium glutamate (MSG) (SODIUM!!!), corn starch, dried vegetables 5.5% (celery, onion, carrot), spices, yeast extract, parsley leaf.

Translation: SALT (which, if over-consumed, is linked with high blood pressure and increased risk of heart and stroke), BAD FATS (which are linked with increased cholesterol and risk of heart and stroke), SUGAR, MORE SALT, some more refined carbohydrate, and a little bit of some very common vegetables.


This reminds me of a book I read this summer (wish I could remember which one!!!) that talked about how our society likes to eat sugar, fat, and salt - the more, the better. What's in bouillon cubes? SALT, FAT, SUGAR, and MORE SALT. No wonder they make such yummy soup and sauce bases!

Sadly, it seems that convenience has clearly trumped nutrition yet again. So what will I do about it? Well, I plan to make a batch of vegetable stock and freeze it in small portions so that I won't have to resort to using our little cubed friends so often. There is a handy step-by-step tutorial from that I plan to try out. Happy stocking!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


I wanted to take a photo of a yummy dish we made this week, but it didn't last long enough!

I was rummaging through my basement trying to purge a bit on Monday and came across a McCormick spices recipe booklet that I picked up at a nutrition conference this year. I knew I kept it for a reason! They have some really yummy looking recipes! And lucky for you, they post them on their website, too!

Anyhow, so I was flipping through and came across this recipe for Moroccan Bean & Pepper Stew and decided to make it because I had almost all of the ingredients already in my kitchen.

We were missing the squash, so my husband was sent to get some. Sadly, there were no butternut squash available at the grocery store he went to, so we substituted acorn squash (and it was yummy!). We used a combo of green, red, orange and yellow peppers that we had left over from a quiche I made that morning (hurray for a productive morning!) We also added sweet potato because I have a hard time eating Moroccan-inspired food without those yummy orange yammies, and I tossed double the tomatoes in because I didn't bother reading that it called for 14 oz rather than the whole 28 oz can I used. OH - and on that note, make sure you buy the diced tomatoes with NO SALT ADDED. It's the same price where I shop. Also exciting: the tomatoes I bought were from Canada :) We also didn't have any fresh mint for a garnish, but I did have some dried, so I tossed it on there and it was DELICIOUS! Our version made 8 servings instead of 6, so for the last two servings we had to make more couscous.

From a nutrition standpoint this recipe is pretty good. It has 10 g of fibre per serving, which is a fair chunk (considering 21-38 grams of fibre are recommended for healthy adults). What could you do to improve it? Drop the sodium level down (as they recommend on the site). You could do this by using low sodium broth, using the NO SALT ADDED tomatoes that I suggested, and by omitting, or cutting down on the salt added. Rinsing the canned beans (garbanzo and kidney) would also help, though using dried beans would be the best solution. In fact, if you happen to make your own vegetable stock, you're really in business! See tomorrow's post for a bit on vegetable stock.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Almost deleted it

I've been putting off writing another post because I've been trying to avoid having to do it one-handed. However, I think that's the only way this is going to happen.

JC Update: teething ... definitely teething. How do I know this? No, not because she bit me, but because she's not sleeping through the night anymore, she cries a lot more, she drools without end, chews on everything, and was wiping a bloody, saliva-sodden hand all over her PJs this morning. Gross? Yeah, well, that's teething for ya.

I wasn't sure if I was going to be writing another post this week or ever. The other day I was cruising around on here and came across Minimalist Mom's post about giving up facebook (and Faith's note, too). I find her minimalist approach to things really intriguing and almost inspiring. After reading her post and the comments it gathered, I was determined that I would delete this blog as well as my facebook account. I didn't want to be wasting my time online when I should be spending it with little JC while I get to be home with her! However, a wise and understanding friend reminded me that on cold winter days when I'm lacking sleep and JC will only sleep in my arms, there's no shame in wanting to somehow be connected to the outside world. (Especially if it requires only one hand, leaving one hand to cuddle my sleeping bean.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Not a cat dietitian ...

I love nutrition. I went to school to study it, I work in nutrition, I read about nutrition, I practice good nutrition. Nutrition is a big thing in my life (and not just because I eat). However, when I say this, I mean HUMAN nutrition ... not feline nutrition.

As of late we have been having feeding problems with our two cats, Mowgli & Bagheera. Bagheera is a 7.5 year old black, short-haired, timid kitty, and Mowgli is a 2 year old, calico, short-haired, energetic monkey of a cat. When we got Mowgli as a kitten, we wanted to be able to feed them the same food, so we found a Canadian-made dry food that is good for cats and kittens alike. They were fine on this food for quite some time, but then Mowgli started having blood in her stools. We attributed it to possible IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and tried adding some wet canned cat food into the diet. Well, Bagheera started sneaking Mowgli's deluxe wet food, so we ended up giving them both a combo of wet and dry food. Wet & dry in the morning, and just dry at night. Breakfast when we eat breakfast, and dry food when we eat dinner.

Since the birth of JC and moving to our new house, the cats have become much more demanding. Bagheera, aptly nicknamed "Bug," SCREAMS at us as soon as my husband arrives home from work. She insists that she must be fed her dinner when he gets home rather than when we eat dinner (grrrr ...). Mowgli has started to come prancing into our bedroom at ~5:30 am most days, mewing and bouncing up on the bed, begging for breakfast. They are driving me NUTS!

We've tried pushing off their feeding times so that they don't associate feeding with us getting out of bed or arriving home, but it's a long process and I don't think we've ever given it a fair trial. Maybe we should try again and try harder?

On the flip side, I tried to research feline nutrition for a few minutes this morning, and now it looks like we shouldn't be feeding them dry food at all! Which makes sense, really ... why are we feeding cats highly processed, dehydrated pellets? Would I recommend that we (humans) all consume a diet exclusively made up of highly processed breakfast cereals??? CERTAINLY NOT! So what are we to do? Do I have to buy a meat grinder and start grinding up raw meat for our kitties? Yikes! I don't know anymore.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Getting Gutsier

Gutsier ... is that a real word? Regardless, what I mean to say is that I'm trying to be a little more brave ... or at least I'm thinking of becoming more brave.

The braveness kicked in at swimming lessons yesterday. Sure, I didn't opt to "slip in" with JC (I walked her in using the shallow stairs), but I DID manage to completely dunk her not once, but TWICE!! I was so proud of myself. Though, I had to laugh to myself when our instructor suggested that we could either just dunk the babies on their own "if we [didn't] want to get [our] hair wet," or we could dunk ourselves at the same time. Let me tell ya - dunking myself at the same time would NOT be a good idea. I would be coughing and spluttering and panicking and poor JC would be at the bottom of the pool, or more likely treading water expertly and laughing at my inability to go below the surface without inhaling half the pool. Yes, sadly, I am one of those adults who plugs their nose to go underwater. Do NOT push me in a pool. I will choke and choke and choke and you will feel nothing but sad for me. It's THAT bad. In any case, JC did a great job with the dunking and I was very proud of her.

The braveness wavered today when I decided to look online for a local yarn/wool shop. I've been inspired by the knitting books I've been flipping through (most notably, Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats) and the beautiful yarns they use, so I wanted to see if I could get my hands on some myself. Well it turns out there is a lovely yarn shop not far from here, but I am too scared to go! How ridiculous is that? It seems silly, but I am really intimidated! I guess I'm afraid of spending an obscene amount of money on something that I will massacre and then I'll be even more upset than I am when it occurs with my good ol' Zellers-on-sale-acrylic yarn. Or maybe I'm scared that I won't be able to make intelligent conversation with the knitting experts there. I don't know ...

Ok, and here's one more thing I've been wimping out about: I need to call my aunt and uncle because they haven't seen JC yet. I know, I'm a bad niece, procrastinating like this, but there really is a reason (not sure if it's a good one, but there is one nonetheless). Ummmmmm, so ... they smoke ... a lot ... in their house ... and they live ~2 hours away from us. Usually I would just grin and bear it and just go sit with them because I really love them and want to see them. However, I really don't want to subject JC to secondhand smoke like that and I'm afraid of hurting their feelings. I think I just have to call them and suggest we meet elsewhere like at a coffee shop or something, right? And I guess I'll just have to explain if they ask? That's the right thing to do, right? I'm still not exactly chomping at the bit to call them and do it though. Hmmmm ...

One thing I DID do was go back to my last post and add the links that I was too scared to add. Baby steps ...

Well, now that I've confessed my fears I guess I should make a plan to conquer them (or at least some of them). Here goes:
1) Next week I will "slip in" with JC at swimming lessons
2) I need to practice going underwater without plugging my nose. Perhaps we can go swimming as a family sometimes and I can practice this while my husband swims with JC.
3) I should just buck up and go to the yarn shop. Maybe I can make JC a really nice hat or something. A pattern that I trust will work, so that I'm pretty well guaranteed success with my first real wool purchase.
4) I need to call my aunt and uncle. I will talk to my husband about when we might be able to go visit. Then I will call them to try to make plans.

Wish me luck!

Oh, and here's a question for ya:
How important is it that I shower JC at the pool after each swimming lesson? I've just been drying her off, dressing her and taking her home and then bathing her after she wakes up (and I shower while she's sleeping). I sort of figure that showering in chlorinated water without properly washing won't do much to get the chlorine off her or any other thing that the showers are meant to remove. Am I way off base here? All the other moms seem to shower their babes after swimming, but I just don't understand the benefit. Help me out here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And another 2.5 months ...

So it seems that I am not so religious about generating posts. Now we can all see why my diaries are half-empty (or half-full depending on how you look at things).

For awhile there little JC was sleeping on my lap a lot, so it was easy to type; however, she started being awake more (NOT complaining - she's a lot of fun!!), so I didn't have a lot of time to post. I would have blogged during naps, but somehow I think my hubbie might be a bit disappointed if we had to live in a pig sty with no food while I blogged away ...

So, to catch you up on things a little:
1) JC is now 3.5 months old and appears to be teething. She's chewing and sucking on anything ... bibs, receiving blankets, fingers, arms, toys ... you name it! She can hold her head up quite well now, and she can roll over a bit now, too! We even heard some first giggles this week :)

We started swimming lessons last week and they were great! She LOVES the water, especially when she's on her back with her hair wooshing around her (she has a lot of hair for a 3 month old!). She was the only babe in a reusable swim diaper (AppleCheeks, purchased from Re-Diaper), and the only little girl without an actual bathing suit. When I noticed the bathing suit thing I felt embarassed for about 1 second, then realized how silly that was! Are baby bathing suits comfortable? Are they easy to put on? Do they really keep them warmer? My answer to all of these questions was NO. Not to mention, I doubt that JC is self-conscious about such a silly thing, so I decided I wouldn't waste my time worrying about it, nor my money buying a little piece of spandex to torture her with. Swimming lesson #2 happens this afternoon. Hopefully JC's 2nd impression of swimming is as good as her first.

2) My parents gave me a pattern book, knitting needles, and some yarn for Christmas in hopes that I would knit a little pink cardigan for JC.

I learned to knit a few years ago after my paternal grandmother passed away. I remembered her always knitting for babies in the family and my cousin was pregnant with her first child, so I suddenly felt compelled to learn to knit and to create something knitted for the new little being. Well, after some very frustrating attempts to learn to knit from a book, I gave up and taught myself to crochet instead. I crocheted a beautiful baby blanket for my cousin's son and all was well.

But, it wasn't long before I decided I would get back in the saddle and attempt knitting again. I tried a scarf and finished said scarf after messing up the gauge royally and making one of the largest scarves known to humanity. The next project was a smaller scarf, which curled up because I didn't realize that stockinette stitch results in curled up work if you don't help it out by bordering the edges a bit.

Anyhow, since that time, I got pregnant with JC and decided it was time to get it right with knitting. I borrowed Susan B. Anderson's Itty Bitty Hats from the library and set to work on a baby hat. Well, it turned out marvelously and I ended up knitting about 12 hats!!!! Go me!

So I started this sweater for JC and things were going well until I messed up and purled when I should have knitted or knitted when I should have purled. Said unfortunate error occurred on New Year's Eve while my hubby and I were watching a movie (we don't have cable, so weren't watching countdown shows). When I discovered my error, I promptly fReAkEd OuT, cursing and swearing. I remember ripping the knitted work off the needles, stabbing the unsuspecting loveseat with a knitting needle, and biting through the work, stretching it with my hands while I growled like an out of control yahoo. My hubby was pretty alarmed and tore the pink mess from my hands, and insisted that I calm the heck down. (And then the clock struck 12 and it was 2011). Yes, I transitioned into this new year, (quietly) screaming (JC was asleep upstairs), crying, and ripping apart yet another knitting disaster ... good omen? Not sure ...

Since that time, I have googled TINKing so that I can now fix my knitting errors in a civilized manner and have managed to complete the back panel and one of the two front panels for JC's little pink cardigan (as pictured in the above rather dark photo). Last night I made an error and fixed it without any freakouts (not even a single curse word!). I am relieved, and so are the loveseat and my husband. I'll let you know how the rest goes ...

3) I borrowed some crochet (and one knitting) amigurumi books from the library and I'm really excited about making a hot air balloon for JC's room, some birds, some bees, and maybe even some airplanes (all of which will hang from the ceiling). I can't wait to get started, but I need to focus and finish the great pink cardigan first. Also hoping to knit up a little hat for my step-aunt-by-marriage's son-to-be ...

4) Starting to think about going back to work and what that will entail. A friend recently started a blog and wrote an inspiring, yet confusion-provoking post about doing what you love. I love my career, but am still new to it and am overly impatient as to where my niche will be. As much as I love my career and have the education to back me up, part of me wishes I could knit, crochet, sew, cook, bake, run, and mother myself a living rather than doing work in a traditional sense (not to say that none of these qualify as work, just saying that it's not where my education lies ...). I guess I just need to be patient and things will sort themselves out.

5) So ... I'm clearly blogging, but I'm sort of shy about said blogging. A little hesitant to link my blog to others' blogs and to websites because I'm not sure I'm ready for others to read what I write. So why am I blogging rather than keeping a diary? GREAT QUESTION! Maybe I shouldn't worry so much about what people think ...