Bone Broth: what it is, how to make it & why I’m trying it

So, I’ve been drinking a cup of bone broth every afternoon for the past 17 days. And as odd as I thought the prescription of it was for my gut problems, my time spent investigating it on Google has informed me that its actually becomming a bit of a “thing” right now. There are dozens of articles and posts already swimming around out there from multiple perspectives/health issues, so I’m going to add my experiences and health perspective to the pile, too.

 

WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Its exactly what it sounds like, actually. A broth made by simmering marrow bones in water for several hours (like, 12 hours minimum). While the health hipsters have only just climbed on board the broth train, my Italian family (and many more like mine) have been doing this for generations. Having mostly grown up in small towns and provinces around Italy, and not being particularly wealthy, my ancestors had to learn to use every single part of the animals they had to slaughter in order to feed their families, and that included the bones. As kids, we’d always get a bowl on mum or Nonna’s brodo when we were sick – the old-school, uncool, billion year old, Italian, original bone broth.

WHY IS IT A THING NOW?
Let me back track a little so I can answer that question properly…

I’ve been plagued with gut issues for around 5 years now, bounced back and forth from doctor to specialist and back again, trying everything that’s been suggested and prescribed to absolutely no avail.

A few weeks ago, at my wit’s end, I went to another appointment, this time with a naturopath specialising in gut issues. All I could tell her for certain was that in recent hospital tests, I had tested negative to coeliac and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), extremely positive to fructose malabsorption, and had a history of severe lactose intolerence as a baby.

Among several supplements that I was to try, I was also prescribed a modified GAPS diet for a few weeks, which for me, includes the following guidelines:
– no sugar or processed foods
– no gluten
– no grains
– no cow’s milk products
– bone broth, kefir and sauerkraut daily

As the name suggests (Gut And Psychology Syndrome), it’s now been well documented that there is a strong link between the gut and the mind, with a rather high incidence of people suffering from depression and anxiety also suffering from gut disorders. Exhibit A, me.

So back to the original question – why bone broth? It’s believed that the gelatin in the broth (that comes from those long simmered bones, particularly knuckles and joints) can be incredibly helpful in healing dodgy gut lining. It’ also said to help boost the immune system, which is great for those of us with gut issues, as our immune systems are generally not in prime condition. While there are certainly more studies needed to verify these claims of good, there are certainly no harmful side effects to drinking a cup of broth each day, and with the staggering numbers of people who swear by it and nothing to lose, I figured I’d give it a go – couldn’t make my current game of Russian Roulette every time I sit down to eat any worse!

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT?
How long is a piece of string? My investigations led me to a ridiculous amount of recipes, all with slight differences in ingredients and method, and all claiming to be the right way of doing it. I call bullshit and came up with my own recipe, combiming the plethora of online advice I found, what I remember from my childhood, and plain common sense. I will say though that this is a long process, with the broth simmering for at least 12 hours, soma slow cooker would be much easier and safer than a pot on the stove!

I did two versions, one beef and one chicken. I suspect the beef broth (made with marrow bones that the butcher sliced into smalled pieces for me and a few ox tail bones) was closer to what it’s “meant” to be like; once cooled, it formed a gelatinous mass with a nice layer of fat hardened over the top. The chicken one (made using the carcass of a roast chicken we ate for dinner) was a lot thinner – no jelly, no fat layer. They both tasted pretty good on their own, to my surprise (and relief), and would make great soup bases.

Beef Broth Recipe
– 1.5kg beef marrow bones, cut up by the butcher so the inner parts are exposed. Knuckles and joints are great, so is cartilage and fat and meat; use it all!
– 2 carrots
– 3 celery stalks
– 5 brown mushrooms
– 8 bay leaves
– 1.5 tsp turmeric
– 1.5 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Heat the oven to 220°C. Place the bones on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes.

2. Take the bones out of the oven and place them into your slow cooker, along with all the other ingredients. Fill the slow cooker with enough water to cover the bones, set on low heat, put the lid on, and ignore it for 12 – 18 hours. I’ve been putting mine on before dinner and turning it off the next morning at breakfast time.

3. After it’s cooled a bit, I ladel my broth through a sieve into empty peanut butter jars to freeze. Some websites recommend glass jars, but I’m not willing to risk them in the freezer!

HOW DO YOU EAT/DRINK IT?
I’ve been taking my jars out of the freezer and putting them in the fridge to defrost slowly over 24-36 hours. Then, I take it to work in a travel mug, sprinkle a little salt in it, heat it up around mid afternoon in the microwave for 2 minutes or so, and sip it down!

It can be used as a great soup base if you’d rather incorporate it into a meal, and a lot of people also prefer to have it in the morning with their breakfast, but I like it in the afternoon when I tend to get the nibbles.

 

SO, HAS IT MADE ANY DIFFERENCE?
Honestly,  it’s hard to tell… one thing I have noticed though is that while I’ve been experiencing severe stomach pain and bloating most afternoons for a very long time now, I actually haven’t really had that while I’ve been on this GAPS diet, which has been wonderful! Whether it’s the bone broth though, or the probiotics, kefir, sauerkraut, gut relief supplement, foul tasting herbal elixir, or a combination of the lot, I don’t know. But I figure I’ll stick with it a little while longer!

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Cook this: quick & healthy – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelette

This isn’t so much a “recipe” as your friendly Monday morning reminder that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming. By Monday morning, most of us have probably enjoyed a bit of weekend indulgence (I know I did, after attending a gorgeous wedding with amazing food!), and we’d like to get back to eating something a bit healthier and lighter. But the thought of eating a boring salad sends most of us back to the heavier food we’d indulged in to start off with; it’s a vicious cycle.

This is one of my go-to recipes when…
a) I’m craving something healthy and lots of veggies but I don’t want a salad
b) I’ve got leftover veggies and rice that are at the end of their lifespan in the fridge and want to use them up rather than wasting them (and more money on more food)
c) I’ve got other delicious odds and ends in the fridge or pantry that I want to use but can’t think of another dish to tie them all together
d) I can’t really be bothered working too hard to get a healthy meal on the table

Eggs are also a pretty great source of protein, and it’s not a bad idea to give your gut a break from digesting meat all the time. With my food intolerances, beans and legumes are sadly off the table for me now, so eggs are the perfect back up option (they’re also pretty cheap compared to meat). Aaaaand if you double to recipe, you’ve got dinner for 2 and leftovers for lunch!

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggs
– cooking spray oil
– salt & pepper & your favourite dried herbs
– whatever else you want to throw in! I used (for this omelette) a cup of (cooked) brown rice, leftover roast red capsicum and zucchini, a few cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few Kalamata olives. I’ve also used everything from leftover roast vegetables, antipasto mixes and cheese left behind from weekend platters, even leftover stir fried vegetables and noodles in an Asian style omelette!

Method:
1. Preheat your grill to high and leave it waiting.

2. Whisk the eggs together, season with a little salt, pepper and dried (or fresh, if you have them) herbs, and stir in everything else you want in there.

3. Heat a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil, making sure to coat it well (otherwise you’ll leave half the omelette behind in the pan).

4. Pour in the omelette mix, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until you start to see the egg getting whiter rather than translucent. At that point, you can flip it, but I prefer putting it under the grill to slowing cook through from the top and forming a nice golden crust. This is also a good time to sprinkle some cheese on top, if you’re that way inclined.

5. Once cooked through, let it cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, slicing up and serving – a little sauce on top is always a good touch, and we use everything from mayonnaise to mustard to hoi sin sauce to chili paste; anything goes!

Cook this: Olive bread

Husband never used to like olives. Until he tried them again a while ago. And he discovered he actually did like them, a lot. He noticed a handsome looking olive loaf last weekend at a bakery we stopped for tea and coffee at, and requested I make a loaf; far be it for me to say no, so I threw together a quick easy loaf, and it turned out pretty darn good. Pretty easy to make, as well…

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
– 500g plain flour
– ½ tbsp salt
– ½ tbsp dried yeast
– 1 heaped tbsp dried rosemary
– 475ml warm water
– 1 cup pitted olives of choice – I used kalamata

 

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast and rosemary in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the warm water. Once combined, mix in the olives.

2. Cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, grease a loaf tin and place the dough into it (alternatively, line an oven tray with baking paper and shape the dough into a free form loaf). Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until baked through; the easiest way to test it while it’s still in the tin is to tap the bread – if it has a hollow sound, it should be baked through.


I’d highly recommend serving it fresh out of the oven, topped with prosciutto and fior di latte cheese. Amazing!

Cook this: Roast sweet potato, date & olive salad

In my precious Evernote app, I keep a folder of recipes that I continue to add to every time I see something delicious online that I plan to try at some point. One of those came from Little Market Kitchen last year in the form of a roast sweet potato, olive and date salad, and I kinda forgot about it… until now!

With Melbourne’s weather finally starting to turn a little warmer (sort of, in spurts…), it seemed the perfect salad for us – a good combination of fresh and roasted, substantial enough to call a meal, and with a brilliant twist of roasting not only the potato, but the olives and dates as well. I put my own twist on it, and here’s what I came up with…


Ingredients (serves 4):
– 1 large chicken breast
– 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
– 1 heaped cup of pitted dates
– 1 heaped cup of pitted olives (I like kalamata, but you can use any you like)
– olive oil
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp seeded mustard
– baby spinach and rocket (as much or little as you like)
– a handful of crumbled feta cheese (or more, if you really like it)
– a handful of slivered almonds

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and spray a small baking dish with a little cooking oil. Add the chicken breast and drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle some salt and pepper over it. Into the oven to cook for around 20min, or until cooked through. Once it’s done, let it cool enough to be handled, then roughly chop it and set it aside.

2. Once the chicken is cooking, line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

3. Spread the cubes of sweet potato over the tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes – you can do this at the same time as the chicken if your oven has enough room.

4. Take the tray out, add the dates and olives to the sweet potato, and roast for another 10 minutes, then take out of the oven to cool a little.

5. That’s the hardest part! To make the dressing, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil and mustard. To put the salad together, layer the baby spinach and rocket, followed by the roast potato, olives and dates, then the chicken, and finally the feta, almonds and dressing. Enjoy 🙂

Cook this: Orange & zucchini “muesli bars” (lactose, gluten & sugar free)

Remember how I said the other day that I wanted to try using puffed quinoa a bit more? I have a giant bag of the stuff at home now and have been experimenting with other ways of using it. Enter these muesli bars. But first, let’s backtrack a few steps..

I’m a snacker. I like to eat in dribs and drabs throughout the day, and I’ll snack on whatever is handy and convenient. If that’s a jar of cookies, I’ll have a cookie. If I come across chocolate before I notice carrot sticks, I’m having some chocolate. So, it’s in my best interests to have healthy snacks laying about the house instead. Many years ago, before fructose decided it wasn’t my friend, I used to make apple and honey “muesli bars” to snack on – the ones you buy are FULL of sugar, so I preferred to make my own healthier ones. It’s been a while since I’ve made muesli bars, though, so I had an idea to make some more – but without any butter, oil, eggs or sugar. Simple stuff.

I also wanted to create a snack that would fill me up and give me energy, and not be completely unhealthy. Something I could nibble on to tie me over between getting home from work and dinner time. Or post-morning workout before I get to work and eat breaky properly. I used the baked oats theory, and here’s what I came up with…

Ingredients:
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1 heaped scoop protein powder (I like vanilla, but chocolate would work well, too)
– 1 cup milk (soy, almond, regular, whatever)
– zest & juice of 1 large orange
– 1 large zucchini (or 2 small ones)
– 1 cup puffed quinoa
– ½ cup sunflower seeds

Method:
1. Combine the oats, protein powder, milk, orange zest and juice in a tub, place the lid on and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, line a medium-sized baking tin with non-stick baking paper, and grate the zucchini into a bowl. Squeeze out any excess liquid.

3. Combine the zucchini with the rested oats, puffed quinoa and seeds in a large mixing bowl, and mix until totally combined and there are no dry “lumps” in the mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth out with a spoon or spatula.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

6. Cool in tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Slice up your “muesli bars” and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.

Cook this: eggplant, tomato & beef stew 

One of my best friends told me about this recipe she found on taste.com.au last week, and it sounded amazing for the cold weather hitting Melbourne at the moment. I also love eggplant and slow cooked chuck steak, but haven’t used them together before, so I was pretty keen on trying this out.

I’ve been bulk cooking a lot lately, too; making big meals of 8 – 10 servings so I can freeze extras for those mid-week dinners I can’t be bothered cooking. This is a perfect recipe for bulk cooking – it reheats really well, and you can add in whatever grains you want when you’re ready to eat, be it pasta, cous cous, rice, bread, whatever! My version is also very vegetable heavy, because they’re good for you, especially in winter when our immune systems are being put to the test and we’re prone to rely more on heavy meals and not get enough healthy stuff in.


Ingredients (10 serves):
– 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into bite-sized cubes
– a little plain flour, to coat steak in
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed – of, if you’re fructose intolerant like me, use garlic infused oil
– 2 tbsp dried oregano
– 2 tsp ground ginger
– 1 tbsp tumeric
– 1 tbsp sweet paprika
– 1 tbsp smoked paprika
– 1 tbsp cumin
– 2 tsp mustard seeds
– 10 tomatoes, roughly chopped (preferably vine-ripened)
– 3 cup vegetable stock
– 2 mild red chillis, roughly chopped
– 4 large eggplants, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, halved lengthways, then chopped

 

Method:
1. Add the steak and flour into a large mixing bowl and toss to lightly coat.

2. Heat a large saucepan and add a little olive oil (plain or garlic infused), enough to just coat the pan. Add the beef and cook, stirring, for 5 – 10 minutes, until browned.

3. Stir in the oregano, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, and a little salt and pepper.

4. Next, add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and chilli, stir to combine, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for an hour. After an hour, remove the lid and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes while it thickens up, until you’re happy with it.

5. While the stew cooks, heat up the oven to 200°C and lightly spray two large baking trays with cooking oil. Add the vegetables between the two trays, spray again with a little more oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them. Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, until cooked through.

6. Once the stew is done, stir the vegetables through and serve with grains of choice – I like cous cous, but a good piece of crusty bread to dip is a great option, too!

Cook this (in bulk to stock the freezer): Mississippi Roast

I’ve developed a new habit to make life easier for myself; on weekends, I bulk cook a meal, so I end up with dinner for us both on Sunday night plus 3 or 4 meals each extra, which I freeze. Then, mid week, if I’ve had a stressy few days and the thought of cooking gets me anxious, I just pluck out a zip-lock baggy from the freezer in the morning and dinner is ready for when I get home!


I’ve got a few favourite recipes for my frozen meals, but I wanted to find some new ideas, and in my recent lunch break Googling I came across this recipe from founding editor of New York Times Cooking, Sam Sifton. I love using chuck steak – cooking it low and slow, ending up with soft, tender chunk of beef, it’s perfect cold weather food. And winter is coming. I whipped it up for dinner on Sunday with some changes to Sam’s recipe and my own touches, and it came out surprisingly well – juicy, tender, fall-apart meat with an amazing flavour from the DIY ranch sauce. And SO cheap – the 1.7kg of chuck steak I used to make 12 meals only cost $20! Here’s how to do it…

Ingredients:
– ¼ cup plain flour
– salt & pepper
– 1.5 – 2kg chuck steak, any particularly large chunks of fat removed
– 30g butter
– 4 tbsp mayonnaise (I use low fat)
– 2 tbsp apple cider or white wine vinegar
– 1½ tsp dried dill
– ½ tsp sweet paprika
– 5 large potatoes, diced
– 3 large zucchinis, diced
– 4 large green capsicums, de-seeded and diced
– 500g button mushrooms, quartered
– pasta to serve
Method:
1. Sift the flour into a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Add the steak and rub the flour in well to coat.

2. Heat a non-stick frypan over high heat and spray with cooking oil. Add the steak and cook for 5 minutes or so on each side, to form a brown crust. Then, take the piece/s of steak off the pan and place in the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the butter, in chunks, on top of the steak, replace the lid and set to low heat.

3. As the slow cooker heats up, make the dressing by whisking together the mayo, vinegar, dill and paprika in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the steak and pour in a cup of water around the bottom of the steak. Replace the lid, and cook on low heat for 6 – 8 hours – it should easily shred once it’s done!


4. While the meat is cooking, prepare the veggies by placing on 2 large roasting trays, drizzling with a little olive oil, sprinkling with salt, and roasting in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes on high heat.

 

I decided to serve mine with pasta, so I cooked up a few cups and then divided it up between 12 zip-lock bags. I did the same with the veggies and meat (once I’d shredded it), and poured the ranch gravy from the slow cooker over each serve. Easy!