Monday, January 23, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Is there anything better than some homemade chicken noodle soup? Especially on a chilly, rainy Sunday, what could be better than smelling stock simmering and standing by the dreary view outside the kitchen window, chopping veggies and herbs? Even if cooking is not your favorite thing, making soup is a truly therapeutic exercise, I promise!  If you can't be down in the Bahamas, soaking up the sun, you may as well make some liquid sunshine.
It's said in my family that I have a "way with a chicken", but in all fairness, I must confess that my Grandmother Rosie had a "way with a chicken" and that she passed it onto her daughter, my dear, sweet Aunt Cissy, who taught it to me. Chicken soup is best made with love, and patience, and that's the secret. Next time you need a little sunshine in your life, try this, your family will love you for it.

Chicken Noodle Soup

 First, make your stock:
1 2-3 lb.+ chicken
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 medium peeled onion
2 ribs of washed celery, leafy tops included
1 medium carrot, scrubbed
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
Put your chicken into a large, deep stockpot and cover it completely with water. If your chicken has the neck and giblets inside, put those into the water also, after rinsing well. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrot. Bring the pot to a boil and add in the rosemary, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Turn this down to medium low and cover. Boil gently for at least one to one and a half hour, until the chicken is cooked through. The chicken is done when the legs can be wiggled easily and the juices run clear when it is pierced with a long fork at the fullest part of the breast.

Remove the chicken and all the vegetables and set them aside to cool. At this point, you can strain your liquid, which my aunt always did. I don't, it's ok with me if the broth is a little cloudy, but she liked hers nice and clear. It is simply a matter of preference!

Next, make your soup.
1/2 c. dry white wine
3 cups water
2 tsp. kosher salt
a little fresh ground black pepper
1 minced clove garlic
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced up (you may omit this or substitute fresh thyme)
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced (about 1 cup)
3 ribs celery, sliced thinly
2 large yellow squash, quartered and sliced into small pieces (don't cut them too thin)
Into your broth, add all your ingredients and bring this to a boil. Turn it down, and let it cook another hour, until the vegetables are tender. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. The noodles will soak up a lot of salt so I always add at least 1 more tsp. I like the taste of kosher salt in this recipe, it's a little "softer".
While the veggies are cooking, skin the chicken and cut off all of the meat. Chop it up into bite sized pieces. You'll need at least 3 cups of cooked chicken. (If you have more, save it and make some chicken salad the next day -- that's what I am doing!)
To the soups add:
8 oz. wide egg noodles
Bring the soup back to a boil and boil at least another 20 minutes.
(NOTE: If you want that super clear broth, cook your noodles separately, and then add them into the soup fully cooked. This is what my aunt did to ensure that perfectly clear broth. She often made her own egg noodles, which are delicious, but one heck of a lot more work!)
LASTLY, add the cooked chicken back into the soup and cook very gently for about 10 minutes. At  this point, you can remove the soup from the heat and refrigerate it to serve when you want, but the noodles will continue to soak up more broth. If you want to make ahead and serve later, you will need to add another 2 - 3 cups of water before serving.
Serve with some warm bread and have a wonderful dinner. This soup will serve at least 6, and you'll have a big bowl or 2 leftover for lunches or another dinner!
It's a little trouble, but well worth effort!

Liquid Bowl of Sunshiney Love

Friday, January 20, 2012

Perfect Pizza Contest

Vote for my Taco Pizza in the Merzetta Perfect Pizza Contest! I could use a trip to Italy! Thanks for your support!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quick and Easy Tilapia

Just like everyone else, I am trying to eat a little healthier in the new year. While I never make formal New Year's Resolutions -- I think that sets you up to fail! -- I do want to be a little healthier, a little thinner, feel a little better, etc., for 2012. In the spirit of all things quick and healthy, here is, perhaps, one of the simplest dinners on earth, Baked Tilapia With Tomato Topping.

Easy Baked Tilapia with Tomato Topping and Roasted Vegetables
I must confess that most of the fish I purchase comes frozen from a big, box store near my house. While I know that this may not be the BEST fish I do know that it is an inexpensive way to get more fish into my diet. I buy bags of frozen tilapia and try hard to make dinner taste good and different, so no one gets tired of it. Last night, I took some extra help from the aforementioned big, box store and used a jar of "Bruschetta Topping" on my fish. I drained the topping of excess juice before I put it on the uncooked fish, and then I grated some fresh black pepper on that and gave it a spritz of lime (we were out of lemon, so why not?). It was delish! Baked for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, it met all the weeknight criteria: quick, tasty, healthy, inexpensive and ready in under 30 minutes! Served with some roasted veggies, it was light and I finished my evening feeling very virtuous indeed. Try this next time you are rooting around and eveyone is yelling "What's for dinner, Mom?!?!"