Cooking Without MSG Part I: Soups, Stocks, and Quick Main Dishes
My friend, Jane Grey, has written a very educational article on MSG, with lots of scientific and practical research. I highly recommend that you read it and learn as much as you can about this subject.
In the past century, the food industry in America has changed drastically, with a massive increase in the consumption of refined and prepared foods. This has been reflected in our health in mostly negative ways, with excessive amounts of sugars, carbohydrates, and preservatives being eaten by a majority of the population. However, there are ways that are both time and cost effective to avoid many of these problems. Here I'll be sharing some of my favorite recipes that avoid preservatives like MSG. Not only will you see a huge taste improvement from making some of these things from scratch, there's the added benefits of a healthier and more economical food!
Believe it or not, many store-bought broths contain MSG, but it's really simple too make if you'll give it a little time.
- Chicken Stock: Take a whole chicken and remove skin. Place in a large stock pot and add water until pot is about 3/4 full, with a sliced onion and 2 or 3 celery stalks if you wish. Bring to a boil at high, then cover and lower heat to medium high to keep it from boiling over. Let cook for at least an hour, adding water as needed or until breast reads 180 degrees. Remove chicken and strain broth, which should be a light golden color. Use in recipes as desired, with additional salt if required. The whole chicken can be deboned and used in any recipes you want!
- Beef Stock: Rinsed two to three beef bones (sold in the butcher's department at most super markets) and place in baking pan with two large onions, and five each of carrotes, celery stalks, and cloves of garlic. Roast in oven preheated to 450 degrees, turning bones occasionally for even browning. Let cook for 30-45 minutes, or until beef bones are well browned. Remove from oven, add all of it to a large stock pot and cover with water, a little more than 3/4 full. Boil for about an hour, or until broth is an amber-brown, adding water as needed. When done, strain out vegetables.
- Vegetable Stock: This one is so easy. Simply cut up all of your favorite flavorful vegetables into large chunks (mine usually has carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, leeks, and garlic), put in to stock pot and fill with water. Boil away for 45 minutes to an hour, or until you don't think there's anything left for the vegetables to give. Strain out vegetables and salt as needed.
All of these can be made in large quantities and frozen for up to six months, making for a convenient and quick ingredient. Also, if you don't have any broths on hand, and need some in short order, Rapunzel has a great vegetable bullion that is preservative free, vegan, and tasty.
Basic Stock Soups
There's nothing more perfect on a cold day than a bowl of hot soup for dinner, and no better lunch than the same soup with a salad. You can easily make your own and make incredibly tasty and nutritious soups. Here are a few recipes for my favorites:
- Chicken Noodle Soup: This one is famous for it's comfort food qualities, and it's so simple even a novice cook can't mess it up. To make it, simply prepare chicken stock recipe given above, also adding two or three carrots chopped up. When straining stock, remove vegetables from strainer and add back to the soup, as well as the deboned chicken. Now here's the fun part; once it's all together, season to taste with salt, pepper, and whatever else suits your fancy. You can add basil, oregano, and parsley for a slightly Italian twist, or use nutmeg, thyme, and allspice for a more spiced flavor. It's pretty hard to mess up something this good, so just keep adding and tasting until you like it. Boil some egg noodles, add to the soup, and bon appetit!
- Rosemary Potato Soup: As with Chicken Noodle, prepare chicken stock recipe, but this time only use two small carrots with the other vegetables. Also, juice two lemons and add to water. Sew lemon rinds into a coffer filter or cheesecloth, and let boil away! When the chicken is done, remove, debone and add back to broth along with one to two tablespoons fresh or dry rosemary, 4 cloves of garlic finely diced, and four or five potatoes, cut into about 1/2 inch chunks. Gently boil until potatoes are soft, about 45 minutes to an hour, and salt to taste.
- French Onion Soup: Thinly slice five large onions and sauté in four tablespoons of butter until soft and browned. Add to six to eight cups of beef stock, salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for about an hour. To serve, thickly slice a loaf of French bread, top with Swiss cheese and broil until cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Put a slice of bread on top of soup, and enjoy!
"Cream of" Soup
This basic ingredient is a key for lots of wonderful quick dinners. I promise, it's so quick to make-- once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to whip out a batch in about ten minutes. I promise.
Basic "Cream of" Soup
1 1/2 cups stock of your choice
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 cup milk
Salt, pepper, and parsley, to taste
A pinch of allspice
1 cup milk
3/4 cup flour
Put a couple tablespoons of stock in the bottom of a pan and sauté garlic in it until soft. Pour in the rest of the broth and the 1/2 cup of milk and whisk in seasonings. Bring to a boil and let cook two to three minutes. Stir together the remaining milk and flour to avoid lumping, and rapidly whisk into boiling mixture. Let cook until thickened, and it's ready to use! A cup and a quarter is approximately what is the appropriate amount for one can. It can also be frozen for one to two months.
Note: This can easily be made gluten-free by substituting cornstarch for the flour. The consistency should be the same, but when it is cold, the cornstarch version will take on a jelly-like appearance. Simply heat it up, and it should return to a normal consistency.
Here are a couple of favorite recipes for main dishes using the recipes above. Some of the fastest, tastiest things that you'll be able to whip out in no time, an all with the satisfaction of having made a healthy, appealing entrée!
1 1/4 cup of "Cream of" soup
1 cup sour cream
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1/2 onion, diced
Garlic salt and pepper to taste
Brown beef with onion and drain off excess fat. Add soup, sour cream, and seasonings and let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Serve over egg noodles.
4 large chicken breasts
1 1/4 cup "Cream of" soup
1/2 cup white cooking wine
Swiss cheese slices
1 cup Croutons
1/2 cup butter, melted
Place chicken breasts in glass baking dish and top with Swiss cheese and sprinkle with garlic powder. Mix together soup and cooking wine and pour over chicken. Toss croutons in melted butter and sprinkle over the top. Bake covered with foil at 425 degree for 30 minutes, and then uncovered at 350 for 45 minutes or until chicken is 170 degrees internally. Serve over rice.