Making Stock: A Recipe For Life

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”  ~Epicurus

I get overly ambitious and buy too many vegetables, thinking ‘I’m going to juice something,’ and then I remember…I’ll have to clean the juicer. (What…and give myself extra chores?) Or I’ll buy a cart full of zucchini and think ‘I’ll make puree to add to the kids mac and cheese,’ (you know Sneaky Chef stuff). But let’s be honest, 30 minutes to cook dinner does not include time for stealth nutrition.

I have good intentions. I serve my kids cut raw veggies. Sometimes I even make faces out of the peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes and when I do, Maggie eats a whole plateful, (so long as there’s Ranch dressing).

But making stock is ingenious, it’s the best way to add nutrition and use up all those extra vegetables…the ones you thought you were going to cook. Stock is a flavor base concocted from almost anything you have in the veggie bin: pristine organic carrots, a turnip past it’s prime, a couple of white onions (doesn’t matter if they’re sprouted), celery (just fine if it’s as flexible as a bendy straw). Stock is about taking what’s salvageable and putting it to good use.

All you need is a pot of water, some less than perfect veggies, a couple of bay leaves, a tablespoon of whole peppercorns, maybe some chicken or beef, and fresh thyme, if you’ve got it, and dried thyme if you don’t, (I improvised with fresh chives in the above photo). Here’s a recipe from Allrecipes to get you started.

Okay, get it together and let the whole thing simmer for a couple of hours while you go organize the garage, sew buttons on dress shirts or clean your kid’s bedroom. You know I’m kidding right? This is cooking time. Tell everyone you were busy ALL DAY MAKING STOCK. They won’t know you were reading a book. Any shirts with missing buttons, donate. I’m all about doing good deeds like that.

Shhh…let the stock do the work for you. No need to stir, hover or stress. How many meals can you say that about? Let the magic happen then after a couple of hours, strain out the chunks and behold, a liquid gold that has the power to conjure almost anything. Add shredded chicken and ramen, infuse with a stalk of lemongrass, lime juice and coconut milk, plus a few extras, and you’ve got Thai coconut chicken soup. (Here’s a recipe from Tyler Florence that is entertaining worthy.)

Not feeling that energetic? I get it. Go heavy with the salt and pepper and you’ve got a tasty broth to eat with a crusty loaf of bread and Gouda cheese. Add some fruit on the side and you’re Super-mom.

Making stock is an apt metaphor for making stock of another kind…life. Because life can be made out of anything too, happiness can come from the magnificent and the mundane. We just have to take stock of what we have to appreciate it.

This week I made stock of another kind, searching for reasons to be grateful, reasons I already had on hand, I just had to put them to use. Here’s a short list…

~ Maggie was heartbroken. She’d been up all night coughing and was about to miss her class Easter Party in lieu of a doctor’s visit. It was my task to convince her that we were going to have more fun than her classmates at the “bunny hop” on the egg hunt. Really? As we waited for our appointment, Maggie found her shoes made a lovely tapping sound on the office tile. Soon she was tap-dancing her way around sick patients, delivering a performance and getting smiles in return. I’m grateful for her spunk and spirit.

~ As the room “mum” at The British School for Jonah’s 6th grade class, I received a text three hours before the class Easter party: “Did you know the party is at 1:30?” Now normally, Jonah’s teacher is very on top of things, but this had slipped his mind and now it was ‘go time’. It just so happened, I’d opened a box from my parents that morning. It looked as though they’d robbed Wal-Mart and sent me the loot. I had Peeps, Jelly Belly’s, Cadbury Eggs, gigantic York Peppermint Patty bunnies, (I never told the kids about those). I’m grateful for moms and dads who come to the rescue.

Loot in an undisclosed location.

Loot in an undisclosed location.

Three hours to pull of an Easter Party...all worth it for that smile.

Three hours to pull of an Easter Party…all worth it for that smile.

~ After returning from yoga one morning I found my normally studious 15-year-old skipping school. In all fairness, he wasn’t as much skipping, as sleeping. Too many late nights doing homework and a killer basketball tourney had left him exhausted. I gave him a “pass,” and he volunteered to help me vacuum and clean out the car. (I think he would have rather gone to class.) I’m grateful for his sense of duty.

~ During circle time at Maggie’s pre-school, four-year-old Wilhelmina volunteered my name as someone deserving of recognition for The Good Friendship Award. I’d helped her put on her winter mittens. Talk about being grateful for the little things. I’m grateful to Wilhelmina for giving me an award I’ll never forget.IMG_0284

~ I drive the same stretch of road so often–to school, to piano lessons, to the store–I don’t even notice it anymore. That was until an amazing sight captured my attention, a tree decorated like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Suddenly everything felt new again. Curiosity sparked in my heart as I imagine a Stockholmer, tired of winter, creating this “spring gift.” I’m grateful for the seasonal boost.IMG_0263

Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going well. Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being ‘thankful for things’ we focus on being ‘thankful in our circumstances’—whatever they may be.”

I’m not always grateful. I complain when the heater breaks (happened six times this winter), and when there’s a mouse subletting the storage room in our basement (five traps to catch the bugger), or when there’s too much cold or too much heat, or the Subway Sandwiches they sell in Sweden don’t taste as good as they do in America. But I try to remember to take stock of the little things in life.

John F. Kennedy said we should all “stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” There’s so much to be grateful for. It’s amazing how much good we see, how much good there is, right in front of us, how much we already have to make our stock.



5 Comments on “Making Stock: A Recipe For Life

  1. Lana,
    I love the opening quote. I plan to frame it and put it in my home and another one in my office!!!

    I loved the rest of the essay too!!

    Xo Kate

    • Thanks Kate. I came across the quote recently and realized that Epicurus was the philosopher from where we derive the culinary term Epicurean, to take pleasure/happiness from from life and eating and it struck me as being a little ironic…the idea of stock and taking stock. I think that quote might also have to go up in your kitchen:) xoxo

    • It is amazing what we can learn when we look back at the philosophers’ wisdom. I lived in Greece for two years and was able to walk among the ruins where the philosophers taught and spent time pondering the perplexities of life. I might add they had some wonderful weather under which to contemplate. Greece is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I’d like to go back myself and do a little pondering on the beach.

  2. I am grateful for this post! I love love love everything about it! You are my favorite Lana!

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