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?
Designed by Lena