Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup--in a HURRY!

A few weeks back everyone in the house was sick--time for chicken noodle soup! But, I didn’t have a chicken to roast and then simmer for hours to make stock, blah, blah blah. What I had was 30 minutes to get dinner on the table. So, this is my in a hurry chicken noodle soup. I started with boneless skinless chicken breasts, because that’s what I had. You could easily use thighs here or a combination and it would be great. You actually don’t want to start with already cooked chicken because we need to develop some flavor since we don’t have a long cooked stock. Generously sprinkle with Herb Grilling Blend. This is my favorite recipe for this blend I've ever made! It adds a nice poultry seasoning type flavor because it has some sage--a great blend! Heat some Butter Grapeseed Oil (or Natural Grapeseed Oil) in a large stockpot and slap in those seasoned chicken breasts. You'll notice that there is a lot of liquid here in my pot--it's not all oil. Actually I was using frozen chicken breasts--I was that unprepared! Now walk away and let them brown--especially if you are using a nonstick pot like this one.

When you give the chicken a little time to brown without moving it, you'll get a rich golden browning which equals a lot of extra flavor in this short cook soup.

Beautiful! Now there is a major lack of pictures coming up because quite simply I was in a huge hurry to get this on the table. So just imagine a nice pile of cut onions, celery, carrots and green beans. Use what your family likes veggie-wise. I used 1 whole onion, 2 stalks of celery (not a favorite around here, but I feel the flavor is a must in chicken noodle soup) 5 or 6 carrots, sliced and about 1/2 pound fresh green beans, cut in half. After the chicken is nicely browned, remove from pot and place on a cutting board. (Note: your chicken need not be done all the way through--mine wasn't since it started out frozen.) Dump your veggies into the stockpot and brown them. You want to get some color on the edges, but not burned. My finicky electric stove has some trouble with this concept--hopefully you get along better with your stove. While the veggies are sauteing, shred/cut your chicken. If it isn't done all the way through, you won't be able to actually shred it--just get it into bite size pieces you want to see on your soup spoon.

Back to the pot: add some low-sodium chicken broth. I like the Pacific brand boxes or the Better than Bouillon base from Costco. The latter is what I used. You'll need about 8 cups--but again, depends on how your family likes it. You can always add more later on. Bring to a boil and add noodles of your choice (see my choice below!). Boil until noodles are almost done, then add the chicken back to the pot. Simmer gently until chicken is done through and veggies are tender. In case you're wondering, you don't want to add the chicken back to the pot before you add the noodles because you want to boil your noodles so they don't stick together but you only want to simmer when the chicken is in because you don't want to make it tough. Since you are using chicken breasts, you must be careful not to boil hard when the chicken is in the mix--it will dry it out. Check for seasonings--I added another teaspoon or so of the Herb Grilling Blend.

Now for the noodles: I have made these noodles lots of times, so they are fast for me. If you are really pressed for time, this isn't a good idea. Just throw in some wide egg noodles and call it good, vowing to try these another time. This noodle recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. See that little orange 3 x 5 card in the back--it's the original recipe my Mom wrote for me. My Mom always made them for turkey noodle soup after Thanksgiving. She likes to let them dry a bit before cooking, but as you know by now, I was in a hurry. You get a little more of a dumpling texture when you don't dry them. Honestly, my kids love them however I make them, so try them out--you'll be glad! I made these while the veggies were simmering.

1 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 T. oil (I used Natural Grapeseed Oil)

Blend salt and flour in a bowl. Crack eggs in a measuring cup and whisk up. Add water to make 3/4 cup total liquid. Pour egg/water mixture and oil on top of flour and blend with a fork. Dump on a lightly floured surface and knead 2-3 times until you have a cohesive ball. Roll out as thin as you can. Seriously, keep rolling. (see the above picture) Sometimes it helps me to divide the ball in half before I start so I don't end up with such a gigantic circle at the end. Cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Let dry a little, if you have time. Keep liquid at a good boil while cooking these so they don't stick together. It's okay if there is a little extra flour on the noodle surface when you throw them in the soup.

Noodles, and my lovely pink Corian!

The finished soup! Seriously make this the next time you have sickies in the house--the Herb Grilling Blend adds such a great flavor combined with the browning of the chicken--they'll never know it only took 30 minutes!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Day of the Evil Snowmen

Here's Brayden's new favorite hang out spot. This tree is in our front yard. He recently wrote a great story for school. I wanted to scan it in and post it, but my computer seems to be angry at my scanner. So, I finally just typed it up--exactly as written (read: spelling errors are his, not the typist). More for me to keep a record, but click here if you'd like to read it!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Christmas morning--finally!!

Christmas Eve in all our new pajamas!

Christmas morning pics

Mostly it's just fun to open!

I made the girls matching dolls.

You'll notice in this next picture that Abby isn't all that excited to receive this doll. Andy thought it was hilarious so he kept taking pictures of her with this look on her face. Here's what happened: the kids knew I was working on projects for Christmas. I had to bring most of them with us to Utah, so I had told the boys not to look in my green bag. When Abby opened this doll, she was so sad. She came over to me and whispered in my ear that she was so sorry because she had peaked. She couldn't even enjoy the doll because she had seen it half done in the green bag. She has played with it since, so maybe she will like it eventually!

She liked her BYU cheerleading outfit a little better--there actually is a little smile behind it!

Luckily, Drew and Brayden did not have the same reaction to their handmade toy. They love these little crocheted animals I do. Kinda silly, but fun. It's tough to make something boys really like.

A great Christmas! The kids had a lot of fun and even though there are no pictures of Mom and Dad, or Gramma Nae and Papa Gary, we were all there!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mini Cheese Balls

Aren't these cute?? I love mini/bite-size food. I brought these to a Christmas party for an appetizer, and I thought with the Super Bowl coming up, that it was a good time to post some bite size snacks. I adapted an old recipe I had to use the Wildtree Garlic and Herb.

Here's what I did:

8 ounce block low-fat cream cheese
8 ounces finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2-1 tsp. Garlic and Herb Blend (you could also use the Garlic Galore or Cajun for an interesting kick!)
finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or finely chopped toasted nuts, like almonds.

With an electric mixer, blend softened cream cheese with the cheddar cheese and blend. This will be kinda hard at first, but keep going and pretty soon it will form a nice, uniform mixture. Taste and see if you want more garlic. I gave a range because I honestly can't remember how much I used. It is really your preference. Scoop these into tiny balls, about 2-3 tsp each and roll in parsley or almonds. I did some of both, as you can see, just for pretty presentation. Serve these with crackers--I used the Whole Wheat Reduced Guilt from Trader Joe's--they're yummy and pretty healthy!