Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chicken Soup

They say that chicken soup is good for the soul, but I say it is just plain good. Since we were in the middle of a frozen precipitation lockdown, I had to come up with something that I could make from what we had in the freezer and pantry, and this was it. This is not so much a recipe per se, but just how I made it this particular day. The beauty of soup in general is that you can pretty much put in whatever you want, but with chicken soup, it is really more about the brothy part than the other stuff. So, amend this as you will, but this one turned out exceptionally well! Start out with a BIG pot and either a whole chicken as above, or a couple of packages of chicken parts. I used 11 large bone in, skin on breasts. That is a LOT of chicken, but I was also planning to make some chicken salad and some chicken and dumplings. Plan on the equivalent of one whole chicken, which would be about 4 breasts. I would have loved to use the whole bird because the darker meat has a much richer flavor, but I didn't have one in the freezer and there wasn't one pecking around in the yard.

Cover the chicken with water, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil gently for about 30-45 minutes, or until the chicken is done through. If there is foamy stuff that comes to the top, just skim it off with spoon. When you think the chicken is done, turn it off for about 15 minutes, then remove chicken to a plate to cool. Allow the broth to cool a bit and skim off as much fat as you want to take out. Keep in mind that the fat is what is going to give the soup it's rich flavor, so don't take it all out. If you are really pure, at this point, you can put the broth in a pitcher and refrigerate, then after it is chilled , it is easy to skim off the fat.

Of course, if you didn't want to fool with the broth part at all, you could just bake your chicken in the oven, then used canned or boxed stock. ( Though I wouldn't advise it - flavor suffers) I guess you could use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery if you REALLY wanted to....might really get some good flavor from the seasonings.

Now, since this was a snow day, I had to improvise and use what I had on hand. Originally, I had intended to use this for some veggie dip for "Big Game Day", but since that is NEXT weekend, I figured I would replace it and just use this one in the soup. There are probably several different ones that would work, but I would not suggest using one that is going to make a "tomato-y" base or one that is labled "creamy". ( Unless you want your chicken soup to be red or creamy) So, in the pot it went along with a chopped half onion and a little chopped celery and some carrot medalions that were hanging around in the freezer. I think a handful or two of just frozen mixed vegetables would add a little color and variety too, but I just didn't want to dig through the freezer for them. Just put in whatever you like or have leftover in the fridge.
While the broth and veggies and dip mix were simmering, I pulled all that chicken off the bone. The meat sort of shredded a bit, but I like it that way. Be sure and TASTE the broth from time to time because the veggie dip mix has a lot of salt and you don't want to over salt your soup.
Add the chicken back into the pot and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or so, tasting for seasoning a time or two. I added some poultry seasoning, garlic powder, and a bit more salt.

After you get the seasoning just about right, add whatever pasta you like. Usually, some nice egg noodles would be perfect, but living in the land of lower carbs, I have to try and use Dreamfield's whenever possible. ( Plus that was all I had besides spaghetti noodles). You could even use cooked rice if you like, but don't use minute rice. It becomes an odd shape and texture in soup.
So, I put in about half of this 16 ounce box of pasta and let it continue to cook for another 15 minutes, checking the pasta for doneness after about 10 minutes. You kinda want to turn the heat off when the pasta is al dente because it will get too soft if you wait until it is totally done. Remember, it will keep cooking until the soup cools down. Check seasoning again, because the pasta will soak up a lot of it. The broth is really what you taste in this soup.....I added a bit more pepper and garlic powder at this point.
Allow the pot to cool just a little, then serve in big bowls with whatever side floats your boat. In our house , that was cheddar cheese toast. On another day, it might be a little romain and tomato salad, or saltines.
This one was a real hit...the ulta picky boy kid even ate it and pronounced it his best "new" food ever. I was pretty proud of him because he is a strict non-vegetable eater and this was a big step for him to even try it when there were visible pieces of carrot and celery present.
I know there are no precise measurements here ( because there were none) and it might be hard to follow, but you know, it is only soup after all. You can always add stuff or take out what you don't like. Just be careful with the salt because there is a fine line between just right and too much! Good Luck!
( As soon as this was cooled, I packed it up for distribution in mason jars, and then they steamed up and I couldn't get a decent time, I promise)

Winter storm 2010.....update.

Well, the winter storm "holiday" is officially coming to an end here in the tundra land of North Mississippi. In our little corner of the world, we got pretty much just sleet and ice, but on the top side of Memphis, there was quite a bit of snow. The kids here were really disappointed that they didn't get a chance to build a snowman, but even more sad at the fact we didn't get to make snow cream.

My laptop decided to start falling apart on Friday, so that called for an emergency trip to Best Buy yesterday to get a replacement before I was left totally unconnected. Thus the reason you get a stock photo this morning instead of something from real life. The new one doesn't have a camera card slot and I have yet to load pics onto the old one and then email them to myself and open them on this one. I do have a couple to share, and as soon as I have had a bit of coffee, I will try to figure out the whole memory stick thing so I can get them off the old computer faster. What the whole thing amounts to is getting a card reader that will fit all the cards I have and just plugging it in. That would mean a whole 'nother trip to town, and I am just not sure we are up for that.

Hope y'all have a lovely day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Snow Day.....First Installment

Today has turned out to be a "snow day" after all! Actually though, mostly what we have at this point is heavy sleet. Everyone is hunkering down for a long weekend since it is supposed to stay below freezing for the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, none of us had to get out for school or work, so I have a huge pot of chicken cooking on the stove to make some chicken soup ( for the girl) and chicken and dumplings ( for the boy).
When I took this, it had been sleeting for about an hour........when the snow does finally get here, it will have a nice thick crust to stick to. I promise, updates as things develop.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Best Friends

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A Great Place if you DON'T take the kids!

This weekend I took a whirlwind trip to the coast with my little Coconut and her best friend. We were have a celebratory roadtrip because it was Coco's birthday and she wanted to go to the beach. So, being the nutcase that I am at times, we went! We got there at dinner time, and asked the desk clerk at the hotel where we should have dinner. In most cases, I find this to be a great way to find something that isn't too touristy, but this lady evidently was blind to the fact that the two rowdy first graders jumping on the lobby furniture were with me. She recommended a restaurant named "Shady's" because it has great food and a varied menu. We stowed our stuff and off we went. From the outside, it looked much like any other burger and shrimp joint. Inside, well, it was much nicer than we were expecting. Eclectic asian decor and a menu that had everything from pad tai to mashed potatoes. The seafood selections were great, and there were lots of interesting Tai dishes listed. The thing was, there was NO KID'S MENU. Now not having a kid's menu is fine if you have children who will eat adult food. Fortunately , my girl will, Bestie will not. I know for a fact that my boy child would have been pretty put out, but they did have spaghetti and a great looking burger on the menu that might have suited him.

The place was full and the biggest group in there was about 12 people who appeared to be a wedding party. We sat in the corner to try and stay out of the way.
The highlight of the evening was when Bestie started reading the wine menu pretty loudly and mentioned that she thought $7.50 was pretty expensive for a glass of wine. I had a hard time shushing her because I was laughing. The other tables around us were chuckling too. I guess they agreed.

Coconut finally ordered a shrimp Po' Boy without the bread. They did not have a fried shrimp entree on the menu, but they more than compensated for that by giving her a LOT of shrimp. I would have hated to see the sandwich this many shrimp would have filled! They were really tasty and came with a really nice and spicy cocktail sauce and a spicy ranch dip.

Bestie chose the ever familiar cheeseburger. It was HUGE.......I think she actually ate three bites.

This is a blurry picture of what may be the best grouper sandwich I have ever had. In fact, it might well have been actual grouper instead of " catch of the day" , as they often are. The slaw was really good and the creole tartar sauce was excellent. The seasoning was just right and it was nice and crispy. Next time, I am gonna have to look over the menu a little more closely and maybe try the pad tai. It looks marvy when it came to the table next to us. I was in a real hurry to pick out something, so I just got the grouper .

Since it was a birthday, we got a little dessert for the girls to split. It was a delicious warm brownie with the hardest scoop of ice cream I have ever seen! I think they had to scoop the ice cream ahead of time and store it in a sub zero freezer so that they can just grab it and go. It was frozen so hard that I had to chop it up with a knife for them. The brownie was warm underneath and those are cashews scattered on the top.

They went to work on it ........

and pretty soon it was all gone. Overall, I would say that I will definately go to Sharkey's again, but now that I know what to expect, I would maybe dress a bit nicer and also try and either not take the kids, or go at lunch time if they are going. It is a lovely place, they were really nice to the girls, and the food was excellent. If they only had mac and cheese and chicken nuggets......

Friday, January 22, 2010

When did THIS Happen?

Today is the day before the 7th birthday of the fabulous little lady who runs this household.

I am in the process of scanning THOUSANDS of pictures for her scrapbook, so bear with me as I put a few here to document the change that has taken place in what seems like an instant.

Here is the raw material ................ probably 7-8 months old at this time.

With Daddy before he really was "Daddy." Eerie isn't it?

Good nutrition is important....and this girl is really "into" it.

Who knows, maybe she will be the next Rachel Ray.

Lots of time outdoors is important to our little naturalist.
There is no doubt who the Princess is around here.

Regular additions of seafood and cousins and grandparents speeds the development.

The character is built by regularly scheduled work days.

Sometimes, recreation and education occur at the same time.

Participation in the fine arts adds depth and refining.

While still a work in progress, the seven-year-old has become a lovely young lady and is one of the two absolute joys in our lives............I can't believe it is happening so fast.
I am not sure we are doing it right, but I do know that I am very proud of the way she is turning out so far!
Happy Birthday, Coconut!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I get so sick of salad. It is really the only thing I can "legally" eat until I feel full. I have probably eaten a dump truck full in the last two years, and again today I hoofed it over to the grocery store salad bar. Luckily, they had some good tuna salad, cause I really needed a bit of something different today.

FYI- the average volume capacity of a commonly used dump truck is 27 cubic yards. Just thought you might like to know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mardi Gras Preview.....

It won't be long til Lent, so my assistant and I decided to go ahead and get the party started with a little King Cake. The "cake" is really a simple brioche dough with a sweet cream cheese or cream cheese/fruit or nut filling. This is a big step-out for me because I don't usually do a great job with YEAST. I think it has to do with over-zealous kneading and impatience when rising.

Traditionally there is a small "baby" figurine representing the baby Jesus inserted somewhere in the cake. In our case, it is a monopoly dog. Whomever gets the piece of cake with the baby will have to make the next cake or have the next party ( by one theory) and will be doubly blessed. The colors of gold, green, and purple represent power, faith, and justice.

This particular version has lemon zest in the dough, a cream cheese filling, and a tart lemon glaze. I'll post the recipe with some variations after I make another one Thursday with fruit filling. How does cherry sound?????

Wiener Dog........

It is COLD outside.... and this little wiener dog was destined for the shelter due to a complicated story of job loss, an out-of-state move and inability of the owner's elderly parents to care for her.
Y'all ought to know by now that we couldn't let "Princess" go to the pound and have to be on the cold concrete for an undetermined amount of time with an uncertain outcome.
She isn't any trouble, really, and she sure seems to appreciate being cared for by my assistant.

So far, she has melded in with out any problems and will be with us for at least 6 more weeks as she is having heartworm treatment. As my friend put it, " See you at the weenie races in September!"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Red Ballerina

It seems like she went from diapers to diva in about 12 seconds.........

Pig and Pancakes

My picky eater has decided that ribs deserve top billing on his limited menu.
I can see a lot of rib-cooking in our future.

The big boy cousin sorta likes them too.

He had his with a special-order side of pancakes. Who wouldn't jump up and cook pancakes for a cute little thing like this? I think he has my number and knows how to dial it. Pig and Pancakes....go figure.

What a six-pack!