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Sunday, September 12, 2010


I have a cold. I hate having a cold. I sneeze and sniffle, my head feels like it is full of buzzing bees, my eyes get teary. It's a whole thing. Lucky for me I only get sick about once every three years or so. Anyhow, while cleaning out our refrigerator (AKA leftovers for lunch) my husband found half of a rotisserie chicken. We set it aside to take the meat off the bones and while I was warming up leftover pasta and chicken for the kids lunches, my awesome hubby cracked open the Emeril's New Orleans Cooking Cookbook and started making chicken stock.

You guys? I could have cried. I love that after 10 years together, now when he sees bones, he thinks SOUP! I mean as opposed to, "I need to throw these away!" I really make broth; just throw various vegetables and bones into a pot, add herbs, salt and pepper and call it a day. However DH has a different style; he wants a recipe to follow, and that is cool too. This is how he did it, inspired by Emeril's basic chicken *stock*.

He browned the vegetables in oil first, (onion, garlic, celery; and since we were out of carrots, a diced parsnip). He also added 2 bay leaves (Emeril calls for 4!) We used 1/2 teaspoon of italian herbs (Emeril calls for dried basil), we skipped the thyme (we were out), 1/2 tsp of dried leaf tarragon and 1/2 tsp dried oregano. We used 1 cooked chicken carcass, Emeril's calls for 2 pounds of raw chicken bones, necks and entrails. We lacked whole black peppercorns, we used ground black pepper to taste, we added salt to taste and just filled up a good sized sauce pan with water, enough to cover everything by at least an inch.

Bring it all to a boil, then reduce and simmer for -- oh, about as long as you want. As it boils sometimes this weird, foamy scum will rise to the top, simply skim it off and keep going. This really only happens to me if I am for some reason using raw chicken bones (as Emeril suggests) but I almost always just have some carcass from a rotisserie chicken that needs using up, so there ya go. When the stock is ready, you can strain it through a colander or a wide strainer into another container for refrigeration. I suggest cooling the liquid down before you put it in the fridge to avoid warming the other foods already being stored. Emeril suggests (and this is so good I wish I had thought if it) strain the stock into a storage container that is nestled in a sink filled with ice and then store it. I have been known to put broth in wide shallow pans to cool down quickly on the counter-top before being placed in the fridge. I think E's way will work beautifully though.

Darling husband of mine just kept on trucking and made his version of Emeril's famous chicken soup since I have the aforementioned COLD FROM HELL. He actually let the stock simmer while he went to the store for supplies. Write this down, because you will LOVE it.

2 Tb of Olive Oil
Some chicken cut up into chunks (we used leftover cooked chicken and 2 raw chicken breasts)
1 C chopped onion (or in our case 1/2 of a big onion chopped)
1/2 C chopped celery
1/2 C chopped carrots
1/2 C chopped green onion (4 green onion stalks, white parts and some green)
2 TB of minced garlic (for me 3 cloves or so)
1/4 C fresh parsley leaves (Chopped a goodly amount, parsley is cheap!)
1 TB fresh chopped basil (smells AMAZING)
4 bay leaves (EW! 2 bay leaves)
1 TB Emeril's Creole seasoning (We had some Emeril's Southwest seasoning on hand, used that, but any nice spicy blend will do.)
2 C assorted chopped veggies (examples given were beans, zucchini, yellow squash, cabbage or whatever is in season.) We used a bag of frozen Gumbo veggie mix blend that had been lurking in the freezer waiting for a chance to get out!
1 C. firmly packed, rinsed and torn, spinach leaves (We did 2 C of spinach leaves, moderately well packed.)
1/4 tsp of crushed red pepper, (we didn't have any, just used David's BBQ spice rub in the same amount. You could also sub in some tabasco sauce.)
2 C cooked noodles
3 quarts of chicken stock

We chopped up the raw chicken breasts and added them to the stock pot, already heated and waiting with the olive oil. We added the salt and pepper, and sauteed the heck out of it all. Then we added the cooked chopped chicken meat, leftover from our rotisserie chicken. Next we added the chopped celery, carrots, green onions and garlic. Then the basil, bay leaves, and southwest blend seasoning. After this all had a chance to sautée we added the bag of frozen veggies, the torn spinach and the spice rub and let that all come together. Then we added the strained stock and let it all go to a boil, brought it back down to a simmer and let it shmoozle together for 20 minutes or so. We cooked the noodles (about half a bag of egg noodles) separately about 5 minutes before the soup was done. Then we added a small amount of cooked noodles to each soup bowl before ladling the soup on top. I prefer to cook the noodles separately because the noodles do not over cook, nor when you store the leftover soup (and a family of 2 adults and 2 small kids will have leftovers) the noodles swell in the broth and get horribly overdone.

This soup was a tonic for the soul. Fragrant, steamy, and lovely it just cut through the cloud of confusion on my head. Emeril's recipe calls for browning the soup bones and using chopped fresh veggies, but honestly I am not sure it could have been THAT much better than what we had tonight. Delicious. Hubby swept and mopped the kitchen floor while it simmered and we all got a very healthy serving of flavorful vegetables and lean protein. All in all this was a perfect Fall weekend dinner. For dessert we had an autumnal spice cake, but I will save that recipe for another time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Easy Peasy Lunch

I pack my kids lunch every day. And my oldest girl has carried a lunch with her since she started daycare at 14 months old, so its been quite a few lunches now! I have run into several lunch time dilemmas and here is how I solved them. First of all, remember to pack the lunch the night before, make sure you have lunch items on your weekly shopping list, and always look to see what comes back untouched from the kid's lunch box. No sense in packing something your kid won't eat, right?

1. Out of bread

Send in peanut butter crackers as a change from the usual PB and J. These can be made on many types of crackers including graham crackers, saltines, Ritz or even smear a bit of peanut butter on a rice cake! Other "non-sandwich" sandwich options include rolling peanut butter, jelly and banana in a tortilla, sending in a generous slice of banana bread (w/ or w/o a nut butter of some sort). You can always forgo PB and J completely by sending in sandwich meat rolled in lettuce leaves or cheese or both. Simply lay out a slice of sandwich meat, layer a slice of cheese (my kids like provolone) and roll up. I stash these in a reusable sandwich container. One time I started a "trend" at my daughter's school by smearing peanut butter on a hot-dog bun and putting a whole peeled banana on the bun. I called it, "Monkey Hotdog" and all of her little friends quickly followed suit.

2. Can't find the Ice-pack

It is hard to keep the contents of the lunchbox fresh and cold without the little ice packs that many lunch boxes come with, isn't it? I have used double baggied bags of ice, frozen her juice box the night before (it thaws by lunchtime) or even resurected old teethers from the back of the freezer and sent those in as well. Do you have a re-freezable "boo-boo" bunny? He has served as a lunch time ice-pack on more than one occasion here!

3. Out of Juice Boxes

I have packed water bottles, small sippy cups of our own juice (cheaper too) and when she was "too old" for sippy cups, I bought her a sports bottle we could fill at home. I hardly ever buy a true juice box anymore. Refillable containers are cheaper and create less waste. If all else fails your child can usually buy milk or water at school too!

4. What side dishes?

Baby carrots or small broccoli florets, with a separate container for ranch dressing, cheese sticks, small boxes or baggies of raisins, bags of granola, frozen grapes (help keep lunch cold too), a banana, cherry and grape tomatoes, slices of salted cucumber (also great with ranch dressing), whole wheat crackers, small container of cottage cheese. I sometimes send in a small baggie of potato or corn chips, just for fun. Everything in moderation, even moderation!

5. Dessert?!

To be honest, I love, love, love dessert and it is something we have at home quite a bit, but at my daughters' school they often have cookies for an after school snack, so I usually don't pack anything sweet in her lunch. But after Halloween (for several weeks) I put one small candy per day in her lunch box, or sometimes homemade oatmeal or peanut butter cookies (I'd send chocolate chips, but sometimes the chocolate melts). A piece of fruit is usually all my girls need, but sometimes we get them jello or pudding cups too. Don't stress this one!

6. My kid won't eat sandwiches at all!

Well, mine sometimes doesn't either. I have been known to send in greek style vanilla yogurt with some granola as a "main dish" or some cheese sticks and assorted fruits. My kid has taken a green salad with cubed chicken on top, soup in a thermos, trail mix (included cheerios, peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, and a few M&M's) cottage cheese and fruit, cold, cut up chicken strips, Babybel cheese and carrot sticks, and even a lunch called "Make your own Lunchable" where I cut up lunch meat and cheeses into little circles and let her eat those with Ritz crackers. Just make sure they get an opportunity to eat some protein, carbs and fat in every meal and that they have plenty to drink and your kid will have the energy to get through the day!