Golden God Nectar, or How to Make Chicken Bone Broth

I remember living on Indiana Avenue my sophomore year at Indiana University.  It was one of those sweet, little off-campus houses with a kitchen mostly used for holding cereal boxes and milk and reheating take-out Indian food.  I shared it with three other girls, and while we had a lot of fun together, sous chefs we were not.

That spring, I came down with the most awful cold.  I still remember it.  It was one of those colds that you begged your roommate to take a note to your Accounting professor because you were too ill to go to class on a day you knew you had to be there.  And it was also the days of no email and running to the computer lab at 11:45pm to print your paper before they closed at midnight, but whatever.  Go-ahead and bask in your Inkjet at home while I date myself over here.

Back to the story – I had a cold.  And one of my sweet roommates generously offered to make a bowl of chicken noodle soup for me.  Which is to say, she opened a can, plopped it into a bowl, pushed a few buttons, and brought it to me in bed.  To say I was thrilled is an understatement, because anyone loves being taken care of when they are sick.  But now, after all these years, I truly understand the “chicken noodle soup while sick” situation.

The broth.

It is so chockfull of vitamins and minerals- so much goodness.  It is good for joints, for your immune system, for your gut.  Homemade bone broth is truly the golden nectar of the Gods.  And once you have soup made with it, the stuff in the can or in the box at the grocery store pales in comparison.  I will sometimes have a hot cup of broth in the mornings, especially during the winter, if a scratchy throat presents itself.

So, here is my recipe for homemade chicken bone broth.

You will need:

-1 chicken carcass – I leave the neck attached, but if your is separated, go ahead and put that in the mix as well.
– any vegetables you want to throw in – I like to use carrots, celery, and onions.  No need to peel anything.  Simply wash and toss in.  All of those outer layers have goodness, too.
– garlic, about 4- 6 cloves
– chicken feet – not necessary, but a great addition.  If you buy your chicken from a local farmer, or go to a farmer’s market, there is a good chance they will have feet to sell you.
– herbs of choice – I usually just add thyme
– a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar.  This aids in pulling the goodness out of the bones.
– filtered water

IMG_8327

Optional first step – If you do use chicken feet, they need to be prepped.   Our hens are free range, which means their feet get gross. The best option is to remove the skin.  So, we do a quick ten minute simmer on the stove to clean them and and loosen the skin so it can be peeled.  Place your chicken feet in a small pot on the stove, bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes.  During this time, get a bowl of ice water ready.  At the ten minute mark, remove the feet and blanch them in the cold water.  Then, once cooled, peel the skin.  It should come off fairly easily.  Below, another pic of feet now peeled and vegetables ready to go into the pot.

382EC765-956C-410A-A4B7-0BCA6C128497
I know, the feet…gross, right?  But it’s SO good.

Now, we put all of it in a large stockpot or 6-qt slow cooker.  I prefer the slow cooker – this way, you can put everything in at night after you eat, set it on low, and let it go for the 24 hours it should have for maximum bone broth goodness.

IMG_8331

Now fill the pot roughly two inches below the top with water, put the lid on, turn on to low, and let go until the next evening.  Note:  Make sure to fill the pot as much as you can.  As the cooking progresses, some of the water will evaporate, so you want to make sure you have as much as possible in the pot.

IMG_8332

And that’s it until 24 hours later.

IMG_8334

Pull out a large bowl and scoop out the large pieces of veggies with tongs and a slotted spoon for small pieces.  (If you don’t currently compost, now is the perfect time to start!  These veggies are a perfect way to begin…maybe that should be a future post?)

IMG_0217

Then, I use my 2-cup measuring cup with a spout to pour the broth, through a sieve, into a large mason jar.

IMG_0218

And there you have it.  Delicious bone broth.

IMG_8263
So good.

I usually keep one large jar in the fridge for the aforementioned morning hot mugs or if I plan to make soup within the next couple of days.  Otherwise, I buy freezer quart bags, fill them with 1 cup of broth, lay the filled bags out on a cookie tray so they lie flat, then stick in the freezer for a day.  This way, they freeze evenly and thaw easily.  Then remove from the cookie sheet and keep in your freezer to store for future use.  Side note:  when pulling these bags out of the freezer to thaw, it’s always good to place the bags in a bowl.  Occasionally, a bag will pop a small hole and once thawed, your broth will be a puddle on your counter top.

IMG_8338

And there it is!  And here is to all of the delicious broth and chicken noodle soup in your future!

 

On the Life of a Chicken (and how to roast one)

From this…

IMG_1352

to this…

IMG_3292

We didn’t know it would lead to this when we first moved here.  I mean, I guess we should’ve known.  When two people move their children to the country to have a deeper connection with the land and a deeper connection with their food, it’s not a far stretch to imagine us eventually butchering our own animals.  I’d heard tales of my grandmother killing a chicken for dinner, insides turning a little bit at the details of it.  I still couldn’t picture myself doing it.  When we moved here, we knew we would garden, we knew we would have chickens for eggs.  But the more I desired to know what was in our food, how it was raised, I personally had to come to terms with the fact that I ate meat, but wouldn’t raise and process it myself.  It’s not for everyone and I get it.  That is what farmers are for.   But just like building a house or writing a book, some feel perfectly fine about outsourcing it and others wanting to do it themselves.  Joe and I both felt it was something we wanted to be a part of, and so here we are – chicken farmers.

Like all new adventures, we have had our share of ups and downs.  There was the time the chicken tractor (a coop on wheels, so we can move the flock frequently for fresh grass and bugs) broke off the tractor and rolled into the ravine.  Luckily, it’s heavily treed, so it didn’t go that far down.  I remember just standing in the field, watching it happen like a car crash…Joe running after it, me standing there two hundred feet away with my mouth agape.  No chickens injured, though lots of stress-induced feather loss, thankfully.  Coyotes, hawks, name the predator and we have dealt with it, have all gotten the best of us at least once.  But the benefits – having animals on pasture, rotationally-grazing them, actually pulls carbon out of the air we breathe (good for the environment!), delicious meat, raising food we know lived their best lives before nourishing us – makes any struggle worth it.

Having said that, you don’t need to kill your own chickens.  If you have the choice and are able, buy from a local farmer.  They work hard to ethically raise food that is good for you and good for the environment.  It’s not inexpensive, but if you are willing to buy a coffee-to-go a few times a week, then you have the money to buy a locally-raised chicken.

So having said all of the above, we eat a lot of chicken.  We raise them, bring them up to the barn, thank them for the life they are giving us, then, well, you know.  I’ll spare you the details (if you want them, I am happy to share on a later post!)

I now have a lot of practice at roasting our birds and how to get the best out of them.  What follows is my favorite way to use a whole chicken, with tips and tricks gleaned from several different sources.  The more time we live here, being new to so many practices,  I feel like the way I learn best is to listen to the people who have done it for several years.  I have learned that anytime someone with more experience than you offers up the lessons they learned the hard way, you listen.

Okay, enough talk.  What follows is my favorite way to roast a chicken.  And in my opinion, a really easy way as well!

Roast Chicken a la Woods Edge Farm 

1 – 3-5 lb whole chicken
1 lemon, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic
a few sprigs of thyme (dried thyme works as well, including from a spice jar)
1/2 yellow onion
4 medium sweet potatoes (optional)
kitchen string

Heat your oven to 425 degrees.

IMG_0545

If you love sweet potatoes, start here.  Wash and cut into 1/2″ cubes and cover bottom of roasting pan.  Roughly chop the onion and toss in with sweet potatoes.  (I give my friend, Sarah Tosick 100% credit for this idea.  It has become one of my favorite parts of roasting a chicken, so thank you, Sarah!!)

IMG_0550

Next, rinse the inside of your chicken and dry with paper towels (these can compost if you compost).  If the neck is still attached, it is up to you whether or not to remove it.  Either way, do not throw this away.  This is valuable for broth, which will be in the next post.

IMG_0548

Salt and pepper the inside of your chicken, then stuff with lemon, cloves of garlic and thyme.  Now truss that baby up, salt and pepper the outside of the bird, and you are ready to place in the oven.

IMG_0553

Note:  Some recipes call for butter or olive oil rubbed into the skin.  This isn’t necessary when buying a fresh, grass-grazed chicken. The skin is tender enough without the added fat.  But, if you are dead set on giving it a good butter bath (like my husband is – and I have it admit, it is really good.  But not necessary if you are trying to avoid butter or oil), then feel free to do that as you like.

Roast for 90 minutes, checking doneness around the 60 minute mark and every thirty minutes after that.  The smaller your bird, the quicker this goes.  Once the chicken reaches 165 degrees, you are ready to pull her out of the oven and let her rest on a cutting board for 10-15 minutes before cutting.

IMG_0555
Yum!!!!

All of the yummy juices from your chicken will drip onto your potatoes and onions underneath and make for a delicious side dish.  And if there is any left after supper, an amazing side with your eggs the next morning.

 

Important note:  once you eat your delicious chicken, save the bones and the neck from earlier.  The soup and broth post is coming up next!

I hope you love this recipe.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know!

Blessings
Seja

Life from Within

tumblr_ocy1maFNEU1rlmj2eo1_1280

Okay, let’s play a little game.

I am going to start a sentence and I want you to pick the option that would most likely follow.

Okay, here goes:

“I have decided to follow my heart and…”

  1. “…become a tax attorney.”
  2. “…take an extra shift at my job.”
  3. “…move to Patagonia to climb and write.”

Which would you say?

I know, there may in fact be people who dream of becoming a tax attorney.  There may be souls who love working the third shift at their manufacturing job.  But, let’s be honest…how many of you initially went to number three?

When we talk about following our hearts when making decisions, it can be greeted by our friends and family members with a raised eyebrow or two: “You seriously want to move to Vermont and work on a goat farm?”,  “You are seriously going to move to India for six months to study yoga?”,  “You are going to quit your corporate job to join the circus?  How are you going to pay your bills?”

It’s not ridiculous to be received this way.  A lot of times, these heart-rendered decisions can seem to come out of left-field to the people close to us.  Heartfelt desires start out as whispers.  We hear them and either choose to be curious and listen and explore where it may lead, or we stifle them.  We don’t want to cause waves.  We are comfortable.  The people around us are comfortable.  We continue to live our lives without mentioning these pulls to anyone, knowing they may look at us like we are crazy.

As life goes on, the whisper may grow into a song we hear during the rare silent moments of our lives.  It is in these moment we can choose to listen, we can sit in the silence and not distract ourselves away from this call, and let the visions and insights come to mind of what our soul is calling to bring forth.  Or we can continue to stifle this, pulling ourselves away from what may in actuality bring us purpose and presence.

Many of us have learned throughout our lives that following our hearts is not responsible.  It is not realistic.  It is not rational.  Our hearts are not always concerned with comfort, with financial outcomes, even with bodily safety (rock climber Alex Honnold’s dream to free climb El Capitan?  Do you think his mother was fully on board with that one?).  It is natural to care for the safety and comfort of your loved one.  It is innate to want your child, your sister, your partner to be safe.  And it can be simple to dismiss these calls of our hearts when we receive negative feedback, real or imagined, from anyone and everyone who may have an opinion.

But what if you are the one to break free?  What if you are the one who quiets the outside noise of resistance, of opinions, of the world around you?  What if you are able to quiet the noise inside your own mind doing its best to drown out your innate voice and give life to what your heart is asking?

When we let go of the illusion of happiness that safety and smallness can bring, when we come out of the house we have built to protect ourselves, we can grow.  We are no longer stifled by the outside world and the ridicule you may receive from it, knowing that this comes from denying their own desires within.

Find some quiet.  Breathe.  And let yourself to connect the life awaiting to come forth from within.

Photo credit : http://last-best-place.tumblr.com

The Start of My Path

tumblr_ocnemcoqiF1rlmj2eo1_640

I was twenty-two years old on my way to a job interview when my car broke down.

I was about a quarter-mile outside of the first town on a long stretch of nothingness, about ninety minutes away from home.  I had just graduated from college with a marketing degree and was looking for my first job.

Six months earlier, when most people in my business school graduating class were interviewing with Fortune 500 companies, I was on the phone with a couple who owned a goat farm/bed and breakfast in Vermont, responding to their online advertisement for a caretaker.

I just could not see myself in a suit, working for a large corporation.  When it came time  to go into the business school placement office to sign up for interviews with the different companies that came to recruit, the pit in my stomach was actually physical, more of a large bubble that made my suit pants feel too tight.

Fear and shame kept me from moving to Vermont.  Student loans, a business degree, the need to be “responsible” – those were the reasons the voice in my head told me to stay in the midwest and find a job that could lead to a career in the business world.

So that’s what I did.  I graduated, moved back in with my parents to sort life out and figure out my next move.  My best friend’s dad gave me a clerical job with his company while I looked online for something more long-term.  A job opening in Indianapolis peaked my interest – outside sales (no desk – yes! Indianapolis – closer to Joe, who I had been dating for about a year and a half, and who still lived in Bloomington where we went to school).  I applied and received a call about a week later to schedule an interview.

So, there I am, on the way to the interview, and as I pull into the small town on the way to Indianapolis, I watch the temperature gauge on my dashboard quickly move into the red area.  Steam (or is that smoke?) starts to float into the sky from the hood of the car.  I look to my right and see the first building in forty-five miles, a gas station.

Hoping they might be able to help, I go inside where the nice woman at the counter  informs me this is a convenient store gas station, not an auto repair gas station.  I go back outside.  The car won’t start at this point, so I call my dad.  He has a mechanic he likes in South Bend and doesn’t want me taking the car to someplace he isn’t familiar with and paying more than I need to for repairs, so he says to hold tight, he will come pick me up.  I then call the company I am scheduled to interview with, explain the situation, apologize profusely, and ask if we can reschedule.   They are very kind and agree.

My dad comes to pick me up, we tow the car back to South Bend and drop it off at my dad’s friend’s auto repair shop.

The mechanic calls two days later to let us know that nothing is wrong with the car.

They checked it forwards and backwards and sideways.  They drove it.  They let it idle.  The car never overheated, there was no sign of damage from the car overheating earlier, and that it was ready to be picked up.  No charge since they didn’t have to fix anything.

My dad and I shrugged it off as some crazy incident.  I then picked up the car, drove to Indianapolis for the interview, got the job, moved to Indianapolis and proceeded to have the most miserable six months of my young life.

The job was not awful.  I just was never supposed to have that job.  It was not for me.  Literally.  Not in the way someone says, “Oh, golf isn’t for me.”  The job I took was not mine to have.  But I ignored all guidance, every feeling, every message – even when I was physically stopped in my tracks on the highway to the interview.  I didn’t pay attention to any of it.

We are all on our path.  Sometimes we take the off-ramp, like I did when I ignored all of the signs and messages I was receiving.  I could have listened to my heart, my innate self, and kept going, but sometimes we just aren’t ready to keep traveling.  Sometimes, we need to take a rest stop, especially when it’s dark and the road ahead isn’t visible.

And that is the one of the reasons reconnecting to our true selves is so important – when you are connected to your innate self, you can trust that whatever is happening is a part of your path (even the off-ramps and rest stops) and whichever way you go, it will lead you to the same place eventually  – to where you need to be to live a life fully expressing who you are.  And if you are feeling not-so-tapped in, eventually the signs and pull will get strong enough to lead you back to where you need to be.

I have tapped into this trust mentioned above several times, especially when I perceive things as “going wrong”, “not as I pictured”, or “not according to plan”.  Like my car breaking down – all I could think of then was how ridiculous this timing was, how much it would cost, on and on.  And now I know, if I am living a life of connection, even the “bad stuff” is there to serve me.

So, if someone were to ask me, how did you get here?  Why do you feel the need to write about this?  I would say this story was my starting point.  Yes, there were and still are times I feel disconnected and I have doubts and can’t even make a decision about what to have for lunch that day.   But now I know the difference between feeling connected to God, to soul and spirit, and what it feels like when I am lost in the fuzz of the world.  And I am having so much fun doing my best to stay connected and having more days of being in alignment with who I am than not.

Our innate selves always know what we need.  It is always there waiting for us to connect to it if we get quiet and listen.

Much more soon but in the meantime, can you think of a time when there was a sign pushing or pulling you a certain way in life? I would love to hear.

Blessings

Seja

Photo credit:  Homeland by schraglage on Flickr

 

 

Our Journey Back

 

What we are looking for is a way of experiencing the world in which we are living, that will open to us the transcendence that informs it, and at the same time, informs ourselves within it.     Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

The needs of life.  

When we are infants, they are as basic as they get, right?  We need to eat and sleep, end of list.  And fortunately, it stays that way for a while.  Our worlds are small.  We have our toys and the everyday objects we make into toys (a new refrigerator equals a huge cardboard box that is now a fort in the living room!  A pan with a wooden spoon is a drum!) and we are content, rolling around on the carpet of the family room floor.

We also lived life from our heart center, even if we weren’t aware of it at the time.  We led with our emotions.  We laughed and screamed and squealed for joy when we were having fun.  When my husband, Joe, and I were newlyweds, the backyard of our first home abutted a preschool playground, so we were reminded of this daily.  One little girl’s shrieks of delight at being chased were so signature, we knew she had moved on to kindergarten when we no longer heard it the following fall.  

We cried when we were sad or scared.  We had no edit button, we held nothing in.  

But then something happened.

We began to venture out into the world.  We started to see the beauty and openness and variety of what was outside of us.

We also saw the girl down the street with a bike with streamers coming out of the handle bars.  

We met the boy who was allowed to have the larger, more dangerous fireworks, with which to blow up the neighbor’s mailbox when they wouldn’t let you swim in their pool (Another story – I’ll save that one for later).

The voice in our mind, which was quiet up to that point, began to talk, getting louder and more vocal as we got older.  It is now the voice of commentary that starts from the minute we wake up until the minute we fall asleep at night.  It is the constant broadcasting in our minds, interpreting the play-by-play of our day.  Crazily enough, by the time we are adults, we don’t even realize it’s there anymore.  It has become such a part of us, we mistakenly think it is us. And the connection we had with our heart, the center of our soul, our soul itself, has been drowned out.

We forget.

We forget who we were when we were three years old.  The simplicity of living in the moment, the lack of thought outside of what is happening right now, all in on this tree-fort-I am-building with joy and flow in my backyard.  That is pure, divine, source/sacred/God-created energy right there.

We disconnect from the spirit, the source that made all life, the soul inside that we have always been.  And at some point, a feeling of something missing in the midst of a full life, may arise.

And then we try to fill in the disconnect, the gap.

We forget that we are sacred beings, that we are all connected, made of the same stuff as God and each other.

But as soon as our egos start to develop and we desire to be seen a certain way, we disconnect and begin to fill in.

Oh my gosh, I was so good at filling in this space between the disconnect, the gap.

Because I was completely unaware of the disconnect with my soul – other than an uneasy feeling like I was supposed to be at a party when my invitation had gotten lost in the mail – I did a bang-up job of filling it in with stuff.  And by stuff, I don’t just mean material things.

Stuff can be different for everyone, but some examples that fill in the gap:

Worry, judgment, beliefs, attachment, information overload.

My gap was brimming to the top full.

And it really is so ironic that we do this, because not only does it not bring us back to the thing we think will make us content, it actually makes it further out of reach. 

See illustration below (nice artwork, right?)

IMG_7285
The stuff on the left can be anything from worry and beliefs we love to hold on to, to buying stuff you don’t really love and don’t need.

Even though Option A can have some moments of fun, I often found it was like eating fast food at 2am – felt really good going down, but a general mixture of not-what-I-needed and regret afterwards.

Option B then.  It took me a long time to find it and I am still figuring it out.  Even when I found it, I fought it. I had a lot of thoughts initially like, “Who has got time to meditate?  I can’t even sit still for 5 minutes, and besides, I have to go to work now so I can pay my bills.”  File this under “Other Lies Your Ego Will Tell You to Keep it Intact.” 

I accepted parts of it, like gratitude, which I had actually been living my whole life subconsciously.  But gradually, one by one, I could not turn away from it.  And when I attempted to, life took over and pushed me (literally) in the direction I was meant to go (more on that later as well).  The universe will lead you to where you are supposed to go if you let it.  

It is all there to bring you back home to yourself.

As we talk more about our journey back to ourselves and reconnecting to who we truly are, can you think of a time when you truly felt like you were in the moment?  With a feeling of clarity and connection?

I am grateful you are here with me.  Let’s do this journey together.

Cheers to moving forward ~

Seja

Clarity in the Quiet

I began to feel the pull in late spring and by the beginning of summer, it came to feel like a full-on tug of war.

If you have ever had an event – the feeling in your stomach of anticipation – I had this feeling many times before soccer games, before trips to locations I hadn’t been before, before big moves to college, Chicago, other places I didn’t end up going at all, due to fear.

I knew this feeling well, but this time it wouldn’t go away.  I would be busy doing work of whatever kind, with the feeling I should be doing something else.  I would continue to work harder, keep myself busy, moving.  And the rare times I was sitting, relaxing, that pull would become stronger than I could take, and I would do what became comfortable and distracting – I would pick up my phone and scroll.  Pull denied.

By the end of June, it became somewhat unbearable.  In dreams, a restlessness when I was awake – I knew I had to deal with whatever this was.

So, in early July, I turned my phone off.

I deleted my Instagram app.

I blocked Facebook on my phone.

I knew the more I took in, the less quiet I let myself have, the less of a chance that what wanted to be born would come.  So I made myself get quiet and listen.  It was one of the hardest things I have done.  Hard because I didn’t know what would come of this.  What if it was nothing?  What if it was something I couldn’t do?  Or worse, something I didn’t want to do?  Despite all of this, I gave in and let myself rest.  And some beautiful things happened in the process.

At first, the simplicity of turning off all of the incoming information, media, opinions, was reward enough – and woke me up to how much I reached for my phone without even being aware of it.  Even though I made it impossible to see what I was habitually reaching for, my hand would reach anyway, anytime there was a period of quiet.  I would set my phone back down and soak in the quiet.  I would carry my notebook with me to write down any thoughts that came to mind, even the mindless chatter of daily annoyances or a grocery list.  I let the quiet soak in.  And in the quiet times, I began to listen to my heart instead of my head to tell me to keep moving.

One evening in particular stands out.  The girls were busy with friends, Joe was working outside.  I before may have pulled out the computer, cleaned something, or busied myself with something else.  Instead, I went outside and sat on the ground.  The sun was just starting to set.  I noticed the grass beneath my legs.  The sky, darkening with clouds that could break or release rain at any moment.  The leaves blowing, turning upside down so I could see the light green and dark green at the same time.  The smell of rain, with no rain falling.  And God.  Mostly, I noticed God in all of it.  I noticed that everything around me was drops of sacred, the divine in the mundane.  Drops of God in my hands, my feet, the air, the branches creaking as they swayed.  God, Love, Spirit, was in everything, around me at all times.  And in that moment, the thing that would not let me rest, was found – connection.

It is easy in this life to be disconnected from each other, from the earth, from the resources that make our life possible and full of joy.   And it is easy to feel the separation from God, Source, Universe, the Divine Spirit that made all of it.

With so much information coming at us at all times; with so much to do, to keep us busy, to take care of, it is easy to disconnect from the spirit inside us, the soul that we are and always have been.

And that is my pull, that is the feeling that would not relent – the reconnecting.  The reconnecting to God, the reconnecting to myself, my soul, my spirit.  The reconnecting to earth.  The reconnecting to what my heart is pulling me to move towards.  And reconnecting to each other.

So, for the time being, that is what I will be writing about here – how we move in this world on a daily basis and how to stay connected to who we are, to what is important to us, the resources we use, and to the particles of beautiful divine that comprise it.

I hope you stay with me as I make my way through this and join me in what I hope will be a conversation about how to live a more connected life.

Blessings

Seja