Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup

Around these here parts (lol), the flu is going around like crazy, and people are dropping like flies.  Literally.  My four older kiddos were all down for the count 2 weeks ago, and my sweet Gabriel only started to feel better last weekend.  Poor little guy!  After making homemade applesauce and letting the kids nosh on graham crackers and sprite for about a week, I decided to make a pot of soup.  I mean...who doesn't want chicken noodle soup when you're getting over the flu, right? 

I firmly believe good chicken soup starts with good stock, and that means cooking the chicken with the skin on and bone-in.  None of that "boneless, skinless chicken" stuff here!  You wanna make some hard core soup?  Stick with me...and we'll make a pot with a lot more flavor if you have the bones...all righty?  Trust me, there's nothing to it...just takes a wee bit more time.  

I used just chicken drumsticks (I had two big family sized packs in the freezer), but you can use a whole, cut up chicken, bone-in thighs, whatever you fancy.  Just please...for the love of heaven get you some chicken with bones in it...they sell cut up chickens right in the poultry case at the grocery store.  I promise...I saw some at my local Kroger just today.  ;-)

Chicken Noodle Soup

2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (bone-in thighs, breasts, legs, or a combination)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cups diced carrots 
2 medium onions, diced
2 teaspoons fresh sage or thyme, chopped 
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes (seasoned with basil, thyme, and oregano) 
12 ounces wide egg noodles +
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, place the chicken and enough water to just cover the meat.  Bring to a boil and let gently simmer for 45 minutes, or until the chicken is tender (juices should run clear if pierced with a knife). 

Remove from the pot, and let cool. 
SAVE THE BROTH!  Shred the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones.  Chop coarsely into bite-sized pieces.  Set aside. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the celery, carrots, and onions and saute until tender, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  

Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant.  Remove from the heat. 

At this point, the broth will have settled a bit, and you may see some fat at the surface.  Skim it off, along with any visible bits of marrow or skin.  You can leave them in, but it makes for an unattractive broth...and if you kids are like mine, you will hear cries of, "EWW...what's THAT!" at the table.  So if you want a peaceful dinner, I would skim it out.  Just sayin'.  ;-)

 Now, add the cooked vegetables to the broth, along with the chicken and the undrained tomatoes.  Bring back up to a boil and add the egg noodles.  Cook the noodles in the soup according to the package directions (probably about 8 minutes or so).  At the last minute, stir in the fresh sage, dill, and parsley.  

Ladle into bowls and serve immediately with some crusty bread for sopping if desired.  
My kids were grateful for warm bowls of comfort to ease their achy throats and stop the fever shivers.  Even the baby (who was the only one to escape the flu bug) happily slurped down a few noodles.  Yeah! 

I pray everyone at your table is healthy and stays that way!  Enjoy, and God bless your table tonight!  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crockpot Applesauce

Sheesh, I know...it's been a while.  I didn't disappear off the face of the earth...but cooking just hasn't been getting top billing around here these days.  When the hubby is working 75-85 hours a week, you don't really feel motivated to spend even one hour in the kitchen cooking dinner, since the kids would be perfectly happy with something simple like eggs.  Or pancakes.  Or chicken nuggets and french fries (yeah...the frozen variety).  Or deli ham slices and apples.  Thank goodness my kids are not gourmet, LOL!  

(Well, except for Rebecca, who has become an expert in making eggs in a hole all by herself.  Yeah, I'm proud of her).   

I did make a fantastic Christmas Day dinner--roast turkey, dressing, gravy, buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted green beans, vanilla bean pound cake, and deep dish apple pie.  Yep...it was good.  Really good.  And what made it even more special were friends who came over to share the meal with us that day.  

Anyways... ;-)

I was motivated to make crockpot applesauce yesterday.  Apples are plentiful and in season right now, plus it's fun to buy 3-4 different kinds to make your own applesauce.  I bought 6 Golden Delicious, 4 Granny Smith, and 6 Galas.  You can honestly use whatever you fancy.  Be prepared for the lovely smell of baking apples permeating every corner of your house.  It's amazing...and you'll be so proud of yourself for making it homemade. :-)

Crockpot Applesauce

10-12 mixed apples, such as Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, or Jonagold.  Use what you like!
(You can even throw in a few pears, peaches, plums, strawberries or other fruit.)
6 tablespoons light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small strip lemon peel
Pinch of salt

Peel, core, and slice apples 1/2 inch thick.  Using an apple slicer like this one really helps.  If you buy one, make sure it's ALL metal.  The plastic frame with metal spokes type will break in no time (yes...I know this from experience!) 

Toss all the apples into your crockpot, along with the lemon juice, lemon peel, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, cinnamon, and salt.  Make sure you fill your slow cooker all the way to the top.  Once the apples cook down, it'll only be about 1/2 full, and most crockpots work better if they're half to two-thirds full.  I used both ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick because we're fans of the spice over here.  Whole cinnamon sticks can be found right in the baking aisle of the grocery store. 

Set your crockpot on "LOW" and let it go for about 8 hours.  You don't even have to stir it, but I did every couple of hours so you can see what it looks like.

Ready for some time lapsed pictures?  Of course you are.  

After 2 hours...

After 4 hours...

After 8 hours...

Now, you can leave it chunky like I did, or pureed it further with an immersion blender/regular blender for a very smooth texture.  I used to do that when Theresa was just starting with solids, but now she eats it no matter what. ;-)

Let the applesauce cool until it's a manageable temperature for kids before consuming with gusto.  I like it a bit warm, but 3 of my 5 kids prefer it cold, so you can certainly chill it in the fridge for later.  

We love this applesauce plain, or with pancakes, waffles, or on warm biscuits.  And let's not forget pork chops...my hubby's favorite.  He has fond memories of homemade applesauce with pork chops growing up. Best of all, it makes the whole house smell like apples and cinnamon all day...who doesn't love that?  

All righty guys, I've got to run. I've had 4 out of 5 kids down with the flu this week, but everyone is watching a movie with their juice cups and blankies right now...so I had a few minutes to bang this post out for you. 

God bless your table tonight, and Happy New Year!