Friday, October 31, 2014

Chase Those Colds Away - Homemade Chicken Rice Soup

So they say chicken soup is good for the soul, but guess what, it's also great in easing the symptoms of the common cold.  There is no cure for the common cold, but eating chicken soup will definitely help you feel better.  It acts as an anti-inflammatory and temporarily speeds up the moving of mucus.  I know that sounds gross, but it may help the body kick a cold by battling the congestion and the inflammation.  It works by helping all that mucus move along and out of your body.

Most colds last 8 -9 days or sometimes up to 3 weeks.  That's a long time to not feel so good, and it's really rough if you work outside the home.  I have a few simple remedies in keeping colds at bay all year long - I constantly wash my hands, I keep sanitizer and wipes in my purse for when I am not near soap and water, I keep my hands away from my face, I wipe the handle of my shopping basket down before I touch it, get enough sleep and eat right.  There is no sure cure for the common cold but some of these strategies will help keep the germs away.

There are no colds in my house right now, but I made this Chicken Rice Soup anyway.  I usually make Chicken Noodle Soup in the Fall and Winter months, but decided to switch it up and use rice instead.  It was awesome!  Recipe below.

A few of my ingredients and get the chicken cooking in the pot.
 Dice celery, carrots, onions and add some seasonings to the pot.
 Cook up the rice and add to the pot, so delicious.
 Take the chicken out of the pot, remove from the bones and chop it up.
 Hot, yummy tasting, cold chasing, homemade Chicken Rice Soup. It's SOUL good!
 Homemade Chicken Rice Soup

6 cups of water
4 large chicken thighs
3 ribs of celery with leaves, diced
4 carrots, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 32 oz. box of chicken broth
2 - 32 oz. boxes of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
3 cups of cooked white rice, cook according to the package directions

In a large soup pot, add the 6 cups of water and the chicken thighs, leave the skin and bones on the thighs. Cook on high heat until the chicken looks done, about 30 - 40 minutes, depending on the size of the thighs. Reduce heat to medium, leave the chicken in the pot and add the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, broth, stock, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes.  In the meantime, start cooking the rice in a separate pot.

Remove the chicken from the pot to a bowl, let it cool. When you are able to handle it, remove the skin and pull the chicken off the bones.  Discard the skin and bones, chop the chicken up and add back to the pot. When the rice is ready, add to the pot, breaking up any rice that is stuck together.  Cook for another 5 minutes. Makes 12 servings.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

Want to warm up fast?  Eat some homemade soup.  I could eat soup everyday and never get tired of it.  It's easy to make, warms you up from your head to your toes and fills you up.  Add a side of crusty bread to soup and you have a great healthy meal.  I have a lot of favorite soups, Tomato being one of them.  Served up with just bread or a grilled cheese sandwich it's a comfort food for me.  I made this Tomato soup yesterday, it was rich, savory, fast and easy.  Recipe below.

I used crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock, you could also use chicken stock.  Minced some garlic and diced an onion.
 Sauteed the garlic and onion in olive oil and then added the rest of the ingredients.
Toss in some fresh basil, stir it all up, and let it cook for 2 1/2 hours.
 Here comes the fun part.  I used an emulsion blender (stick blender) right in the pot to give the soup a really smooth consistency, it also thickens the soup.
 Tasty, flavorful Tomato soup. I added some croutons on top.  You can also add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and dinner is served. Another great way to serve this soup is with a grilled cheese sandwich or grilled cheese croutons.  All you have to do is make a grilled cheese sandwich, cut it into small, bite size pieces and sprinkle them on top of the soup, can you say Y-U-M-M-Y.
Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 - 32 oz. boxes of vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
4 - 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
8 - 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper
2 tablespoons of sugar (cuts down the acid in the soup)
Parmesan cheese

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook just until tender, about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook for about a minute.  Stir in the stock, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and sugar.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 hours (see note). Serve with croutons and Parmesan cheese.

NOTE:  After cooking the soup for about 2 hours, I used an emulsion blender to make it smoother and thicker.  If you don't have one, you don't really need it for this soup.  PLEASE SAFETY FIRST - You could also use a blender, but be sure to cool the soup first before putting it in the blender, the heat will shatter your pitcher whether it is glass or plastic! (you will then have to reheat the soup before serving).  If you do have an emulsion blender, read instructions carefully before using it in the pot of soup. After using the blender continue to cook for the last half hour so everything blends together.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gingerbread Snack Cake - A Little Sugar And A Lot of Spice

 Baking in the kitchen, my favorite place to be!  I enjoy making desserts that are not only good for you but actually taste good.  It's hard to find desserts that are not loaded with fat and dairy products, so you have to go searching for ideas and work them.  That's what I did  for this deliciously moist, healthy for you, vegan Gingerbread Snack Cake, and everyone that tasted it said it was great.  It only lasted one day in my house, and the pan was empty.  Great with a glass of milk or a hot cup of tea, but you won't need anything to wash it down, it's that good.  Don't shy away from things unknown to you, I used to be afraid to cook with ingredients that I knew nothing about, such as some of the ingredients in this recipe, now that I've tried them, I like the results.  You would never know what is in this cake unless you baked it yourself.  My sister tasted a piece of the cake and I asked her what she thought, she loved it.   Then I told her what was in it, and now wants the recipe.   So go forth and bake things with unknown ingredients you will be pleasantly surprised.  Recipe below.

Delicious, moist, flavorful Gingerbread Cake!
 Gingerbread Snack Cake

Cooking Spray
2/3 cup of Almond Breeze Almond Milk
1/4 cup of dark molasses
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
1/3 cup of carrot juice (I used Bolthouse)
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar 
2 tablespoons of Canola oil
2 tablespoons of Golden Omega Fine Textured Flaxseed or use ground flax meal
1 cup of Hodgson Mill 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of allspice
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with the cooking spray, set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the milk, molasses, syrup, carrot juice, vinegar, oil and flaxseed (meal).  Let sit for 5 - 7 minutes.  In a larger mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar, when all this is combined add the raisins and toss them to coat so they don't sink to the bottom of the cake.  

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients in the larger bowl and stir until evenly combined, do not over mix the batter. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove the pan from the oven, let sit for 20 minutes to cool, then remove from pan. Let cool completely. Dust with a powdered sugar if desired.  Makes 9 servings.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Italian Wedding Soup - Vegetarian Version

We all love soup during the colder months, it warms you up and is filling.  I have taken all of my soup recipes and tweaked them a bit to make them vegan/vegetarian.  Leaving out the meat or cheese does not alter the flavors of the broth too much, I found out.  That's good, because you don't want to eat a spoonful of something with an expected taste and not get it.  I made two pots of Italian Wedding Soup this week, one regular (recipe on this blog September 2013)  and one vegan.  They tasted the same except I added meatballs to the regular pot of soup and topped it with grated cheese.  My son does not eat any meat or dairy products at all, no specific reason, he just doesn't eat them.  I had to find a new way to cook things that we all can eat and be happy with at the dinner table.  I added veggie meatballs in the recipe if you like them, I did not put them in my soup. This is how I made it, recipe below.
Vegetarian Italian Wedding Soup

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of minced garlic or 2 tsp of garlic powder
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced or 1 1/2 cups of frozen mini baby carrots
3 stalks of celery, diced
3 - 32 oz. containers of vegetable stock
2 cups of  water
1 T. Italian seasoning
1 T. dried parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 bay leaves
1/8 tsp, nutmeg, optional
1 bag vegetarian frozen meatballs, semi-thawed and cut in fourths
1 bx frozen spinach drained or 1/2 head of escarole, chopped (can also use fresh spinach)
1 1/2 cups dry, Acini di Pepe, Pastina or Orzo pasta 

In a 6 - 8 quart Dutch Oven, saute minced garlic, onion, carrots and celery in the olive oil until tender. Add vegetable stock, water, Italian seasoning, parsley, salt, pepper, bay leaves and nutmeg (if using) and bring to a boil.  Add the frozen meatballs and cover with a lid, simmer for 10 minutes. Bring soup back up to a boil and add the pasta and spinach/escarole, cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked to desired taste.  Bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes more.  If you like, add grated Parmesan cheese on top before serving. Makes about 6 - 8 servings.

NOTE:  If soup gets too thick you may have to add water.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Little Sassy And A Little Classy

I wrote in an earlier blog about these great leggings/jeggings I found at Walmart.  They were so reasonably priced I bought 3 pair of them (camel, grey and leopard print).  They fit great, don't show anything, they actually keep everything in place (you all know what I'm talking about!) and they are double knit so you can't see through them.  Hey I'm a big girl, I don't want anything showing that isn't supposed to be showing.  No one wants to see all of me, heck, I don't want to see all of me for that matter, HAHA! There is nothing worse than people wearing these type of pants and you can see right through them, all that flesh is not to be seen in public, save it for the bedroom - ya know. 

This is how I paired my leggings/jeggings, one sassy and one classy.
Camel Leggings/Jeggings, Black Knit Gunmetal Studded Long Top, Red Leather Jacket, Black Riding Boots and Gunmetal Earrings

Camel Leggings/Jeggings, Navy Boyfriend Cardigan, Long Oatmeal Tank, Navy and Black Plaid Flats with Side Bow, Leopard and Amber Bead Necklace with Leopard Ribbon Tie and Leopard Stone Earrings

Saturday, October 18, 2014

More Fun Fashion

Blues and black go together so well, I think it's because black makes blue pop out.  I don't usually see things like this when I am wearing it, but when I see it in a picture it makes sense to pair them together.  I don't consider myself a fashionista, just a person who likes color and clothes.  I have learned over the years, by watching and reading, how to pair things together and wear them.  Now, if I see an outfit in a store or on someone and it's not my style, too trendy or too young but I love the colors, I will put together my outfit just using the colors.  

I always try to look my best when I go out in public and dress appropriately.  You don't ever have to look your age, but wearing a mini skirt when you're in you're late 50's or 60's is not cool, I don't care how in shape you are, leave it for the younger set and lower your hemline! Rock a leather jacket instead of the mini skirt! Listen, you don't have to look frumpy when you are in the upper ages, just have great style and a sense of what looks good on you.

Black Skinny Jeans, Silky V-Neck Blouse, Satin Beaded Pumps and Rhinestone Hoop Earrings

Black Skinny Jeans, Peacock Blue Chiffon Layered Top With Beading, Black and Silver Shimmer Jacket, Satin Beaded Pumps, Rhinestone Hoop Earrings and Rhinestone Bow Bracelet

Friday, October 17, 2014

In My Closet

Not cooking much lately, the hubby is traveling, one son working alot and the other has classes later in the day.  Me, I am satisfied with a bowl of cereal for dinner, no muss, no fuss.  So to keep myself busy during the day, I organize things around the house including the closets.  While I was in my closet hanging things up, cleaning things out and organizing, I put together some outfits to wear during the Fall months.  When everything is organized (I organize by color), it is easier to pull things out in no time at all.  All of my tops, blouses, tanks, sweaters, jackets, pants, jeans, scarves, belts, jewelry, shoes and handbags, are set up this way in my closet. I have found that this is the easiest way for me to get ready in a hurry when I have to go out.  When an outfit isn't ready for me to throw on, it takes too much time to figure out what I am going to wear, so I take pictures of the outfits that I put together and at a glance I can dress quickly.

These are some Fall casual outfits for running errands, grabbing a bite to eat or just out and about.

Boyfriend Jeans, Cotton Lace Tank, Soft Red and Blue Flannel Shirt and Brown Boots
Boyfriend Jeans, Silk Plum T-Shirt and Plum Satin Flats with Rhinestone Brooch 
 Gray Knit Leggings, Denim Shirt, Orange Pashmina, Silver Jewelry with Black Riding Boots and Cognac Riding Boots

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Crafty Snowmen

My youngest, who is in France for her Junior year of college, just informed me she is coming home for Christmas.  I am so happy, we were worried about the expense, but flights were relatively cheap for that time of year. I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself!  I thought I was not going to see her for a whole long year.  Now I can't wait to set eyes on her.  I was not even going to decorate for the holidays, but now I am ecstatic to do so.  She will walk into the house, when she comes home,  and it will scream "Welcome Home".  She is already planning her coming home meal too.  I have a lot of decorating to do, so to get in the mood for the upcoming Christmas season, I broke out some of my craft items and made some cute little snowmen ornaments, that can also be used as gift tags if you like.  I made some of these before (check out Crafty Crafter from 10/18/13 on this blog), these are a little different.

I set out a piece of foil, so nothing sticks to the counter top, and it also catches any messes.  I made a snowman stencil on my computer to use as a guide.  I recycle things in my house, so the cardboard I got from my cat food boxes, they layer these in between the cans of cat food, instead of throwing them out I save them and use them for crafts.  They are a perfect size for the snowmen, 7 1/2"  x  5 ", makes 2 snowmen cutouts.  I set the stencil on the cardboard and......
 Trace over it, then cut it out.  I also made little hats for snowmen.
 Two snowmen cutouts and two hats.  I also recycled old music books.  A few of my kids played a lot of different instruments so I have a lot of books.  I then trace the cardboard onto the music sheets. I traced these on the diagonal.
 I  used a pencil to trace them.  Use space on the music paper to your advantage to get more cuts out of one sheet.
 Two snowmen and hats ready to be glued together.
 I used a glue stick, but you can also use Mod Podge.   A popsicle stick run flat from end to end, helps the paper adhere to the cardboard.
 Two glued together.
 So when I am out and about and I see little inexpensive things like this, I pick them up.  This is a whole pack of 8 colored extra fine glitter for $4.99 at Marshall's.
 This is another pack of 5 colored extra fine glitter that I found on clearance for $1.00 at Marshall's
I used the glue stick and the black glitter for the hats.  I used a piece of waxed paper to catch excess glitter, so I could put it back into the tube, no waste that way.
 Hats covered in glitter, and I found snowman face rub ons at Michael's for the snowmen.  Just cut them out and rub on the snowmen, or you can draw the faces on. 
 Faces on, I then used the glue stick to cover the front of the snowmen, then sprinkled iridescent white glitter all over them so they glisten.  I used scrapbook paper for the scarves and glued them on.
 Embellished the scarves with sequins and used thin wired tinsel garland to embellish the hat and for the hanger.  I glued the hanger on with a glue gun.  I then cut the bottom of the scarf with decorative scissors to make it look like fringe.
 Cute little faces.......
Ready to be hung on the tree.  This is last year's Christmas tree, and yes it is a real tree, perfect 15 feet of the best smelling Fraser Fir!  All decorated in snowman.