Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bugs

Our house has been overtaken by bugs -- not the six legged variety, but the itty bitty kind that manifest as aches, chills, fevers, nausea, coughs, headaches, and runny noses. No one is super sick, but everyone is a little bit sick with a whole spectrum of different symptoms. It was therefore not difficult to declare this chilly Saturday a stay-at-home-and-take-it-easy kind of Saturday. It's 5 pm and the boys are still in their pajamas, and I think we're all feeling a little stronger for the R and R.

With the boys deeply entranced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (the latest obsession around here - they spend most of their days chasing each other with chopstick wands), I found myself on Pinterest whilst half watching the film. As a result, I added a dozen projects to my sewing and knitting boards, found a DIY washing machine cleaner that I am presently testing out, and decided to make a healing pot of chicken noodle soup.

I didn't change too much about the original recipe, save for the addition of roasted garlic. It just seemed that a soup commissioned with eradicating various and sundry bugs from the house should have some garlic in it, and since I had time while the stock simmered, I threw a handful of cloves into the oven to roast. Suffice it to say, the house smells amazing.

With wishes of health from my family to yours...



Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Simply Scratch

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FOR THE CHICKEN STOCK:
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
A couple sprigs of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
A half teaspoon of whole peppercorns
12 cups water

FOR THE SOUP:
10-15 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, washed and sliced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
4 packets of liquid stock concentrate (I used Swanson Flavor Boost)
2 cups light and dark shredded chicken
1 12 oz. package kluski noodles
1 tablespoon sea salt


To begin, prep the chicken: dice the white and dark meat and put it in one bowl, throw the bones and skin and little leftover pieces into a large stock pot. Place the diced chicken in the refrigerator for later. You should have about 2 cups.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Brown the chicken parts in the stock pot over medium high for a few minutes. Then throw in the roughly chopped carrot, celery, onion, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Pour in 12 cups of water and scrape up any browned bits that are on the bottom of the pot. Cover and bring up to a simmer with the lid on, for one hour and thirty minutes.

Place the unpeeled garlic cloves on a square of aluminum foil. Top with the olive oil and wrap, lifting and twisting the corners to form a small packet. Roast at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until soft. Set aside to cool.

After the hour and a half is up, drain the stock through a strainer into another large pot. Discard the remaining bones/vegetables.

Bring the stock back up to a simmer and add in the two diced carrots, celery and onions. Add in the teaspoon of kosher salt, the half teaspoon of black pepper and the chopped thyme. Squeeze the garlic out of the the skins into the soup. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are tender, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile bring a second pot of water to boil (I reused my original stock pot so as to save dishes). Season with sea salt and drop in the noodles. Cook according to package directions. Drain and then add into soup along with the diced chicken and stock concentrate.

Stir and simmer until chicken is warmed through.

Enjoy!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekday Winner: Corn Bread Casserole

I haven't posted a weekday winner in a while, but this is just the recipe for my comeback. I have loved this dinner for years, and it meets all the qualifications for a great weeknight meal - family-friendly, easy to make, quick to assemble then hands-off to cook. I wish I could tell you where I got the recipe from, but I wrote it by hand years ago into a notebook where I sometimes stick recipes and thus have no source.

This makes enough for dinner and leftovers. The photo below shows the casserole  as it looks in the first step. It's not the prettiest casserole once you dish it out and put it on a plate but, as my grandpa use to say, "it all goes to the same place."

Enjoy!

Corn Bread Casserole
Serves 8

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1 8 oz. can corn, drained
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, half drained
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 c. chopped green onions
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 package cornbread mix (plus one egg and some milk as directed)

  • In a large bowl, mix together everything but the cornbread.
  • Pour into greased 2 quart baking dish.
  • Make cornbread according to package directions. Spread over the top of the bean mixture.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  • Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream. 



Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Dawn of "Dapper Dinner"

January can be a rough month; the holidays are over, spring is in the distant future, the days are cold, the nights dark. Sean and I had several discussions on this topic during the last lingering days of our winter break, and we decided to get proactive.

As you may recall, during the month of December our kids had an advent calendar that, in addition to chocolate, suggested daily fun activities for the family. I was a bit ambivalent going in, as the daily activities could have very easily lapsed into "another thing to do" at what was already a super busy time of year, but for the most part that didn't happen. The kids loved the experience and as a family we spent more time together doing the activities than we may have on a typical weeknight.

So we decided to kick off January with a brainstorming session of fun things to do and to attempt an activity a night. Listed among the ideas (which ranged from "themed movie night" to "build a marble run" to "have a dance party") was "have a fancy dinner." This event was shortly thereafter renamed "Dapper Dinner" by Finn: according to his teacher, this is his favorite word and is used at least five times a day.

Here's how it works:
  • Plan a dinner that is slightly fancier than your usual weeknight fare.
  • Pick a night. I highly recommend Friday - this is a night that all too often feels like any other weeknight, and "Dapper Dinner" made it feel extra special.
  • Dig through your closets and find your fanciest duds. This is a great opportunity to put your kids in those dressy hand-me-downs that you may not have an opportunity to use otherwise. It's also a chance to trade in your mom clothes for a night. Finn was amazed by my dangly earrings (which I'm fairly positive I got in 1992 for my sister's wedding...).

Sean dressed the boys while I finished making dinner, and when Finn came down wearing a courderoy sport coat and one of his dad's ties, my heart melted:


Emmett followed close behind in his little blue sport coat and "lellow" tie:


And you know what? The night felt super special. We had crackers and olives for appetizers and let the boys drink sparkly water out of wine glasses. We played the "Cool Jazz" station on Pandora and danced around the living room with the boys. We ate a fancier than usual dinner (how often do we get to use those napkin rings we got for a wedding gift?) and had berries and whipped cream in shiny glasses for dessert. We had fun together.

I have a feeling that this will be the first of many "Dapper Dinners" at our house. But we won't have it too often, or it wouldn't feel special. 



Happy January, everyone!





Thursday, January 3, 2013

Holiday Images

December was an abundantly full month for our family. Here are a few favorite pics from the holiday season. I am, as always, "hopeful" that I can find a way to write more often in the months to come; in the meantime, I hope 2013 is off to a wonderful start for everyone!

Brother love at the Christmas tree farm.
Always focused...
...and far more interested in THIS stuff
than in finding a tree.
Under the tree in red pajamas.
Bookmark presents for teachers: art by the boys, scanned,
printed on cardstock, laminated, and ribboned.

A perfect pre-Christmas snow.
"Make Santa beards in the tub" - an advent calendar activity.
Best effort at a Christmas Eve family photo;
Sean and I can't stop laughing because Finn won't stop dancing...

Christmas morning quiet...and our BIG ol' tree...
Cowboy boots and Star Wars books. Nuff said.
My new 50mm fixed lens!
Playing a polka...
...and eating smores.

New Years Eve ready.