Saturday, December 17, 2011

Homemade Chicken Soup

I can't imagine anything better on a cold Winter's day or when I am sick than homemade chicken soup. Since becoming gluten free, I rarely have the luxury of opening a can of soup or picking some up pre-made. I used to love Chik-fil-a's chicken noodle soup. No more noodles for me! Now I usually make my own. 

What you will need:
One Quart of homemade chicken stock
Cooked chicken meat
Your favorite soup addition.... mine is rice!

I always begin with chopped up onion, celery and carrots. This combination is called mirepoix. I usually use:
 one whole onion-red, yellow or white
two stalks of celery
one handful of baby carrots or two full size carrots

This combination can usually be found in the produce section at the grocery store already chopped or in the freezer section. After a recent cold when I didn't feel like chopping vegetables, I think that I will always have some frozen on hand. This is a great beginning to many dishes. You can also include parsnips and parsley if you like. And if you can't decide what to make for dinner this is a great start..... throw it in the pan- the house starts to smell wonderful and you can make so many things with this as the beginning!

Place the chopped mirepoix into a large pot. Add some minced garlic, approximately 2 cloves. Cook until soft. Add one quart of homemade chicken stock. Homemade makes all of the difference here.This is usually still frozen when I add it. Once it is thawed I add the chicken meat. It can be leftover rotisserie or roasted chicken that is fresh or frozen. Chop it up and toss it in.

Heat through and add some cooked rice. I would say 2-3 cups of rice. At this point you could also add noodles instead of rice. I don't think that gluten free noodles would hold up in soup though. I like to change it up by using brown rice, white rice, or wild rice. Each gives the soup a different flavor. So far, wild rice tastes the most hearty, white rice the most simple. Let the soup simmer for a few minutes. Ladle into bowls and enjoy! I hope you enjoy this easy, delicious homemade soup.

Dave loves this soup and so do I. I get sad when there is only one bowl left. Time to make some more!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Homemade Chicken Stock

Well, cold season had continued to plague our home. That means lots of chicken soup. That means lots of homemade chicken stock! Making your own chicken stock is quite easy and not very time consuming. I prefer to make mine in a pot on the stove, but it can easily be done in the crock-pot left unattended. Many recipes call for a whole chicken, but I find this unnecessary and not my favorite flavor.

I start by saving chicken parts and pieces. Bought a rotisserie chicken last night? Save those bones after you pick the meat off. If you don't intend to make stock within a few days throw them in a ziplock bag and into the freezer. I do this all of the time. Did you cut up a chicken and don't know what to do with the spine or neck or have been wondering what to do with that turkey neck from Thanksgiving? Turn them into stock! Turkey stock is one of my favorites as it is a bit more rich than chicken stock. I also save these parts in the freezer until I have time to make stock.

Making stock is just this simple. Take your chicken parts and bones and put them in a big pot on the stove. Cover them with water. You may add an onion chopped up, some garlic, or some celery. I often find that the spices of the rotisserie chicken add enough flavor. But if you like, you can add some thyme, rosemary or sage. Use the seasonings sparingly. That way your stock can be used in almost any recipe. I do find that having some bones is necessary to having a good flavor. It is also very good for you!

Bring the pot to a boil and then turn down the burner so that you have a slow simmer. I like for the pot to slowly simmer uncovered for a long time, 4 hours or more. This sounds like a long time, but that lets all of the goodness come out of those old bones. It also isn't a lot of work as it is literally sitting and simmering on the stove.

When you are tired of stock simmering on the stove, let it cool a bit. Strain out the bones and meat. Pour stock into quart size ziplock bags and lay flat in your freezer. Once frozen you can stack the bags. I find this the perfect size for making soups. If you want smaller amounts, try using an ice cube tray.

I find that I can't buy chicken stock anymore. The flavor is lacking. It often contains gluten, corn or sugar. Why these ingredients are necessary in chicken stock, I have no idea. I like to have 4 quarts of homemade stock frozen on hand at all times. When illness strikes, this makes homemade soup easy to make. It also makes for a quick meal.

Also, try making this with bones that have been cooked and bones that have not been cooked. It creates different flavors. See which one you like best. I prefer bones that have been cooked, like from a roasted or rotisserie chicken.

I also have a disclaimer to make. I never taste my stock before I freeze it. This goes for my vegetable stock and my chicken stock. Someone told me that their vegetable stock turned out bitter, but they used potato peels (which I have never done) and no greens. And honestly, I have never tasted my vegetable stock plain! That being said, I have never had a dish turn out poorly in which it was used. So, mine may be bitter and I wouldn't be surprised. It isn't meant to be eaten on it's own, but used to enhance the flavor of soups and dishes and be used as a base for them.

Let me know how yours turns out! I would really like to know. Hopefully cold season doesn't strike you down this year, but you can be prepared!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Precious Memories

Precious Memories, how they linger....

Last month we made some precious memories. We attended a dedication service for our friends' son Grant. His mommy and daddy are some of our dearest friends and Grant is our nephew by urban family.

I was at the hospital shortly after he was born:

And I love him so!!

At the dedication Mandy and Chris told us how they want to raise Grant to have faith in the Lord and how we can help them do that. It was special to have that time together and to be considered important in Grant's life. We prayed for him and it was moving to be able, with these ones that I love so dearly, to talk to our heavenly Father. What a gift.

It was also special because my parents were there. Mandy has been in our lives since we were in high school and is a part of the family. It made me long for and imagine the day when my parents will pray for and uplift OUR children. What a blessing! I got all teary eyed with my dad as a song was played about little girls growing up. I love our friends and family and I love that we can share God together as well. 

You are a cutie Grant!

We love you and look forward to watching you grow up. You bring us and your family great joy!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

More Flowers!!

Our front flower bed is maturing nicely! I am loving the plant choices that I made.

I will admit that the collards are getting a little bit crazy, but I like it.
The violas are absolutely stunning this year!! I can't remember the last time I had this many blooms on them before spring!

My ornamental kale is finally getting it's pink center.  So pretty!
How are your fall planted flowers doing?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Family Time

Thanksgiving week we made the trip up to North Carolina to see Dave's Mom, sister and their families. I just thought that I would share some of our pictures with you.

Olivia and her chickens! She loves them. I guess owning chickens runs in the family!

Our newest nephew, Sebastian. He is so big! This was our first time meeting him.

Walter and Olivia in their new jammies!

They love Uncie Dave's gadgets and gizmos!

Serious Sebastian

I caught a smile!! What a cutie!!

We love you guys! Can't wait to see you at Christmas!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Garden Party

I have had requests to post pictures of my garden this year. Here they are!!! We worked hard this summer to prepare for a fall garden. The pictures don't do it justice. I have had hard time capturing an image of the garden as a whole. 

The garden plot
I have six or so rectangular plots about 4' x 8'. We don't have a whole lot of sun in our yard and this spot makes the most of the sun. I planned the rectangular plots so that I have easy access the each bed in it's entirety. I can also rotate crops easily this way by planning my planting in successions. 

Here is some of what was planted in my garden this fall:

Swiss Chard.... Yummy!!!

Arugula, also known as Rocket Salad or Roquette greens. A spicy, delicious salad green. It is my favorite, with a peppery bite. 

Tat Soi, in the Bok Choy family.  A delicious Chinese green.

Peas please!!!

Carrots and Collards
This is my first true attempt at a fall garden. So far it has produced well. I have been busy enjoying the local farmer's market and have not depended excessively on our garden goodies. Now that the market is closed, I am looking forward to eating more from our little plot. My overgrown radishes have fed our chickens well. They love the greens!

The carrots are about ready for harvest and I will harvest them through the early winter. They are protected by being in the ground. The chard also needs to start being used. I love me some chard! I may try my hand at freezing some. I will let you know how it goes. It does not like temperatures below 30 degrees. So I am harvesting and putting some away now! The arugula, collards and kale should overwinter until we get a hard freeze, or dip well below 30 degrees. The collards and kale actually improve their flavor  after some chilly weather.

I will be whipping up some of these garden goodies soon and plan on sharing my favorite recipes!

What is your favorite Fall vegetable?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

More chicken pictures!!!

I love to show off my girls. More chicken photos for your viewing pleasure.
Sweetie, looking as sweet as ever.

Honey, looking pretty serious.

The newly named, Bock Choy. Yes the Bok spelled Bock is intentional. My friend's son named her.

Jacoline named this girl Goldie. It fits her well.

Rachel showing off and the rest of the girls hanging out.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall Flowers

Here are some snapshots of my fall annual bed and some of the plants in it. I hope you enjoy!

My garlic chives in bloom

Who can resist that face? I love violas!

My front flower bed as seen from the front stoop.

front flower bed from the front walk

Front flower bed from human height! Upper left to lower right:Garlic chives, Swiss Chard, Fancy flowering Kale, violas, Collards, Swiss Chard, Dusty Miller, Snap Dragons 
I will take more photos as these plants mature and fill in. What I love about them is that almost this entire bed is edible and should make it through the winter. Hooray for edible plants!

What did you plant this fall?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chicken soup, with a Mexican flair

I love the chicken soup at my local Mexican restaurant. I have been eating there every Friday night for over 18 years now. It wasn't until a year or two ago that I tried their soup. They make it from scratch. It is gluten free. And the owner, who I call Uncle Juve, makes it just right! 

One day at Trader Joe's they were making chicken tortilla soup. I liked their take on it, but there is always room for improvements. It isn't as good as Uncle Juve's, but it does the tummy well on a cold day.

Here is the most important ingredient.
keep a couple of these in your pantry
I use the following ingredients:
1 quart of frozen homemade chicken stock(oh, I need to blog about that!)
one jar of Trader Joe's garlic chipotle salsa
one onion, chopped
cooked chicken, cut up into chucks(rotisserie works great for this)
cooked Rice, white or brown
additions to soup: cooked beans- red or black, corn
Sides: avocado , limes

This is basically a dump into the pot kind of soup. First saute the onion until soft. Then add the chicken stock. It is ok if it is still frozen. Add the jar of salsa and heat until the stock is thawed if using frozen. Add the cooked rice, the cooked beans or corn, and cut up cooked chicken. I dont' measure these amounts. I add some and then see if I like the consistency. then I add more rice or beans or chicken. I would start with a cup of each, but you will want more than that if you like a chunky soup. Heat the soup through. Dish into bowls and enjoy!

I mean, look at this soup!!!
Yummy chicken soup!
Serve hot with your favorite sides. Avocado and squeezed lime juice are so delicious in this soup. It might sound weird, but you have to try it. Sour cream, cheese, or pico de gallo are also great additions to this soup. I just like mine simple.
my favorite condiments for this soup, limes and avocado
Tell me how you like it. It is an easy, simple soup treat!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Elderberry Syrup

It's that time of year again, cold and flu season. Working in a school for the past few years I have relied on elderberry syrup to keep my immune system strong. Now that I spend many days with new mothers and newborns, getting sick is a no no. Supposedly elderberry syrup has anti-viral properties. I do say that when I take it my colds do not last as long and I have less of them. 

I used to buy it like this in a bottle already made for $10 or more.

Then I got wise. I thought, "Why couldn't I make this myself?" Do you see a pattern with me there? I ordered some dried elderberries online for a very reasonable price. I keep them in sealed glass jars in the pantry.

When I get ready to make syrup, here is what I use:
One Cup of dried elderberries
2 cinnamon sticks
some fresh ginger cut into chunks
honey to taste

ingredients for elderberry syrup

Place the elderberries, cinnamon sticks and ginger into a small pot with 2-3 cups of water. You want to simmer it slowly until it reduces by about half. Stir occasionally and smash up some of the berries while stirring.

elderberries simmering on the stove

Once this has cooked down by half you want to strain the mixture. I use a fine sieve. It takes a bit of muscle and patience. Add honey to taste. 

You end up with this beautiful liquid.

elderberry syrup ready for use
Syrup should be stored in the refrigerator and can be kept for some time. During cold and flu season most labels say to take 1-2 teaspoons per day for an adult. If symptoms of a cold or flu arise, you simply up your dosage up to 1 tablespoon per hour. I just take it when I think of it when I am not feeling well.

Make sure to check with your doctor before taking herbal remedies. Elderberry is usually considered safe. My midwife approves of its use, even if pregnant or if you may become pregnant. I am in the category of "may become pregnant".

I just used up a bunch of this. I came down with symptoms of a bad cold last night. I started upping my elderberry syrup intake and using some herbal teas. Today I am much better! I didn't expect this as those type of symptoms usually knock me down for 3-5 days. I  always try to keep elderberries on hand!!! Hooray for herbal remedies!

What kinds of natural remedies do you use during cold and flu season?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mmmmmm..... Brownies!

Nothing like a glass of something cold and a nice big brownie! These brownies are from a recipe at Lots of great recipes over there! I am tweaking this recipe. I will let you know when I get it just how I want it.... a little bit fudgey but oh, so yummy! My friend Mandy achieved it. I just want to perfect it before I tell you how we did it.

What gluten free goodies are you baking up?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

And Then They Grew Up

And with the magic of the internet, the baby chickens grew up fast! 

This chicken ended up sick. We had to put her down. She was really sweet though!

This girl is almost buff colored, but not quite. She needs a name!  Isn't she so pretty?

This is Honey. She is a super sweet and is always curious about what I am doing.

More curious chickens! She wanted to be right in the camera!

We finally got ourselves a bearded lady! I think we will call her Iris. I had an Iris before but she turned into a he. This one is for sure a female. She does like to talk though. She can be quite the chatter box!

Chicken Feet!! See those feathers on the legs and toes? We have a couple of feathered footed gals. They are really fun to watch run around!

The old hens. Atta Girl and Daisy still aren't huge fans of the younger folk.  But, they get along for the most part.

Lleulu the large white chicken,  I mean cat.  She doesn't know that she is a cat. I couldn't leave her out.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Chicken Babies!

Ok, I am way behind on keeping you up to date on the chickens. We hatched again this spring. I just found the pictures of them. So, here you go. Cute baby chickens!

I don't know if you remember or not, but Atta Girl, the Mama hatched. She loved her yellow fluffy chicks!

She didn't like the black ones or the red ones! They came to live inside for awhile with us.

 I mean, how can resist that face?

More chicken pictures to come!
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