Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup

I really love soup.  My husband, not so much.  So…you can probably guess what I like to make when my husband isn’t home for dinner.

Last Wednesday was no exception.  It was rainy and relatively chilly (for summer in the South), and my son and I were holding down the fort alone for a few days.  What better thing to make that soup?  The only problem was that I was out of a lot of things and didn’t really want to make a trek to the grocery store.  The great thing about soup, however, is that you really can use whatever you have on hand.  It’s hard to mess it up!  So, I decided to throw together a Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup.  Or chicken-y noodle soup, as chicken meat was one of the things I was out of.

Here’s what I had:

-Leftover homemade chicken broth made from a chicken I cooked last week
-A few onions and a clove of garlic from the garden
-Egg noodles
-Red Quinoa
-Rice
-Leftover cooked lentils
-Kale
-Carrots
-Bag of frozen mixed veggies
-Frozen, chopped celery
-Various spices
Within about 25 minutes those random ingredients were bubbling in a nice, warming soup.  Here’s how you can do it too:  
First, heat some olive oil (or butter or coconut oil or whatever you have) in a large sauce pan or stock pot.  Chop up the onion and press or finely mince the garlic and throw it in with the hot oil.  Saute until tender.
Chop up your carrots.  Throw them and a handful of celery in the pot.  Saute until tender.
Chop up your kale and add it in too.  Saute until it wilts down nicely.  
At this point you can throw in a splash of balsamic vinegar.  Or any kind of vinegar.  Or wine.  Whatever you have and you prefer to use.  
Add in your broth, rice, quinoa, lentils, noodles, frozen veggies, and seasonings.  Turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer until the rice and grains are tender.  If you have cooked chicken, now would be the time to cube it up and add it as well.  
In about 15 minutes your soup should be looking like this. 
It should smell as yummy as it looks.  If it doesn’t, add in more seasonings.
My husband may not like soup, but my son devoured it…as you can tell.  
And here’s the final product waiting for me to devour it as well.  We ate our soup with some toast.  Mmm…nothing better.  
And here’s the recipe.  Please don’t follow the exact measurements.  Soup is meant to be thrown together, not measured.  Also, feel free to substitute or omit whatever you want.  It will still turn out deliciously yummy!

Use-What-You-Got Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves: 4 people (with leftovers)     Time to make: 25-30 min.

Ingredients

-Olive oil (or your oil of preference)
-1 onion, chopped
-1 clove of garlic, minced
-4 carrots, chopped
-2 celery stalks, chopped
-1 head of kale, chopped
-Balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar or wine)
-Box of chicken broth (or use chicken bouillon+water)
-1/2 c. red quinoa
-1/2 c. lentils
-1/2 c. white rice
-1/2 c. egg noodles
-Bag of frozen mixed veggies
-1/2 pound cooked chicken, cubed (optional)
-1 bay leaf
-1/4 t. oregano
-1/4 t. thyme
-1/4 t. parsley
-1/4 t. cumin
-1/4 t. paprika
-Salt
-Pepper

Steps

1.)Heat oil in a large sauce pan or stock pot.  Add in the onion and garlic.  Saute until tender.
2.)Add in the carrots and celery.  Saute until tender.
3.)Add the kale.  Saute until wilted.
4.)Deglaze with the vinegar or wine.  
5.)Add in the chicken broth, quinoa, lentils, rice, noodles, frozen veggies, chicken, and seasonings.
6.)Turn the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice and grains are tender.
7.) Taste and adjust seasonings.  Enjoy!  Serve with warm bread.   

Stir Fry for Pregnant Ladies…Repost

I’m reposting the stirfry recipe, for anyone who’s interested!

Pregnancy has really made me re-think a lot of my eating habits and options.  It’s given me a renewed energy to cut out the bad and add in the good…especially since there’s a little one inside of me getting all of his/her nutrition from what I eat.

One of the ways I’ve been trying to incorporate better, healthier foods into my diet is by simply changing my lunch habits.  Our lunch habits vary a lot.  Sometimes I’m at school, sometimes work at the ironworks is so busy we just have to grab something quickly, and sometimes people invite us out to eat with them.  Mostly, though, I get the opportunity to go home during lunch and eat.  A lot of times, Andy has a lunch meeting that prevents him from eating with me.  Thus, lunch becomes the perfect time to try out new foods and make better choices.

One of those meals I’ve started making is stir fry.  Stir fry is a great way to use whatever you have on hand, plus add in tons of foods packed with nutrition.  So here is my Preggo Lady Stir Fry, which really would be great for any lady (or man), and would also make a great supper:

What You’ll Need:

Lots of veggies—Use whatever you have on hand, but try to use as many colors as possible.  Typically, I throw in carrots, red cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.  If I have any, canned pinneapple also makes a great addition as well.
Some kind of grain or protein—My personal favorite is lentils, because they’re packed with protein and fiber, and they’re quick.  Really, though, you could use anything from quinoa to cooked beans.  If my hubby is around, I usually will throw in some kind of meat.  By myself, though, I stick to a strictly vegetarian stir fry.
Either Soba noodles or whole-grain spaghetti or fettuccine noodles—These aren’t necessary but I really like having noodles in my stir fry.
A little vegetable oil
Low-sodium soy sauce—I personally prefer Braggs Liquid Amino, if you can find it.  It has very low sodium, excellent taste, and tons of extra nutrition.
Rice vinegar—If you don’t have this, use white vinegar.
Ground or freshly grated ginger
Crushed red pepper flakes—Always save those leftovers from takeout pizza!
Cornstarch—To make it thicker.
Maple syrup—Or brown sugar, or honey.  This is optional too, but it adds a hint of sweetness.


Making the Magic

1.) First,  you want to cook your protein and your noodles, if you haven’t already.  Usually, start a small pot of water with the lentils already in it (about 1/4 cup per person).  Then, when it starts to boil, I add my spaghetti or fettuccine noodles right in with the lentils.
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Once the noodles are al dente, I drain the whole pot and we’re ready to go! (Notice, I only use a small amount of noodles.  You don’t need very many to give it the “noodle” feel!)

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If you’re using meat, you could stir fry that first.

2.) While the lentils and noodles are cooking, heat up a stir fry wok or frying pan with a small amount of oil.  While it heats, cut up your vegetables.  I don’t dice them or anything.  They’ll usually cook up just fine…plus I like them a tad bit crunchy.  Add as many vegetables as you can take…they’re great for you!

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3.) Once the pan is ready, add all your vegetables in.  I cook everything together because, again, I’m not picky about all of the veggies being done exactly.  Plus, it’s way faster.  I even add in my spinach (use a ton…it cooks down) in with them as well.  You could also use kale or any leafy green.  Pack in that folate!

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Stir the veggies in, cover, and let them cook!

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3.) Once the veggies are nice and tender (or you just get impatient), add your noodles and lentils in.

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Cover and let everything cook and meld together.  This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
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4.) While everything is finishing cooking, make your sauce.  Because I usually make this just for myself, I make the sauce in the bowl I’m going to use.  That way I don’t miss any yummy goodness!  All you do is mix together about 1/2 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. ground or grated ginger, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 tsp. maple syrup, 1 tsp. rice vinegar, and 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or liquid amino. (This is per serving, of course).  If you used canned pineapple, add a little of that juice too.  You really can add anything you want.  Try orange juice, peanut oil, or some kind of spice or seasoning.  It’s hard to mess this up!

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5.) Once the veggies and noodles are ready, turn the heat off and add the sauce, just for a minute to warm it up.  Be ready to salivate because it smells so good!

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I blame the baby for making me so hungry!

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6.) Now’s the best part…eating it!

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Doesn’t that look delish?  The best part is it only takes about 20 minutes to make!  You could even make it in the morning and heat it up for lunch…so simple!  And filling, seriously.  I’m never hungry after eating this.  Try experimenting with different veggies that are on-sale and see what you think!

Stir Fry for Pregnant Ladies…or Any Ladies

Pregnancy has really made me re-think a lot of my eating habits and options.  It’s given me a renewed energy to cut out the bad and add in the good…especially since there’s a little one inside of me getting all of his/her nutrition from what I eat. 

One of the ways I’ve been trying to incorporate better, healthier foods into my diet is by simply changing my lunch habits.  Our lunch habits vary a lot.  Sometimes I’m at school, sometimes work at the ironworks is so busy we just have to grab something quickly, and sometimes people invite us out to eat with them.  Mostly, though, I get the opportunity to go home during lunch and eat.  A lot of times, Andy has a lunch meeting that prevents him from eating with me.  Thus, lunch becomes the perfect time to try out new foods and make better choices. 

One of those meals I’ve started making is stir fry.  Stir fry is a great way to use whatever you have on hand, plus add in tons of foods packed with nutrition.  So here is my Preggo Lady Stir Fry, which really would be great for any lady (or man), and would also make a great supper:

What You’ll Need:

Lots of veggies—Use whatever you have on hand, but try to use as many colors as possible.  Typically, I throw in carrots, red cabbage, spinach, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.  If I have any, canned pinneapple also makes a great addition as well.
Some kind of grain or protein—My personal favorite is lentils, because they’re packed with protein and fiber, and they’re quick.  Really, though, you could use anything from quinoa to cooked beans.  If my hubby is around, I usually will throw in some kind of meat.  By myself, though, I stick to a strictly vegetarian stir fry.
Either Soba noodles or whole-grain spaghetti or fettuccine noodles—These aren’t necessary but I really like having noodles in my stir fry.
A little vegetable oil
Low-sodium soy sauce—I personally prefer Braggs Liquid Amino, if you can find it.  It has very low sodium, excellent taste, and tons of extra nutrition.
Rice vinegar—If you don’t have this, use white vinegar.
Ground or freshly grated ginger
Crushed red pepper flakes—Always save those leftovers from takeout pizza!
Cornstarch—To make it thicker.
Maple syrup—Or brown sugar, or honey.  This is optional too, but it adds a hint of sweetness.


Making the Magic

1.) First,  you want to cook your protein and your noodles, if you haven’t already.  Usually, start a small pot of water with the lentils already in it (about 1/4 cup per person).  Then, when it starts to boil, I add my spaghetti or fettuccine noodles right in with the lentils.
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Once the noodles are al dente, I drain the whole pot and we’re ready to go! (Notice, I only use a small amount of noodles.  You don’t need very many to give it the “noodle” feel!)

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If you’re using meat, you could stir fry that first.

2.) While the lentils and noodles are cooking, heat up a stir fry wok or frying pan with a small amount of oil.  While it heats, cut up your vegetables.  I don’t dice them or anything.  They’ll usually cook up just fine…plus I like them a tad bit crunchy.  Add as many vegetables as you can take…they’re great for you!

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3.) Once the pan is ready, add all your vegetables in.  I cook everything together because, again, I’m not picky about all of the veggies being done exactly.  Plus, it’s way faster.  I even add in my spinach (use a ton…it cooks down) in with them as well.  You could also use kale or any leafy green.  Pack in that folate!

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Stir the veggies in, cover, and let them cook!

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3.) Once the veggies are nice and tender (or you just get impatient), add your noodles and lentils in.

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Cover and let everything cook and meld together.  This shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
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4.) While everything is finishing cooking, make your sauce.  Because I usually make this just for myself, I make the sauce in the bowl I’m going to use.  That way I don’t miss any yummy goodness!  All you do is mix together about 1/2 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. ground or grated ginger, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. vegetable oil, 1 tsp. maple syrup, 1 tsp. rice vinegar, and 1/2 tbsp soy sauce or liquid amino. (This is per serving, of course).  If you used canned pineapple, add a little of that juice too.  You really can add anything you want.  Try orange juice, peanut oil, or some kind of spice or seasoning.  It’s hard to mess this up!

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5.) Once the veggies and noodles are ready, turn the heat off and add the sauce, just for a minute to warm it up.  Be ready to salivate because it smells so good! 

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I blame the baby for making me so hungry!

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6.) Now’s the best part…eating it! 

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Doesn’t that look delish?  The best part is it only takes about 20 minutes to make!  You could even make it in the morning and heat it up for lunch…so simple!  And filling, seriously.  I’m never hungry after eating this.  Try experimenting with different veggies that are on-sale and see what you think!

Hearty (and Money Saving) Chili

Chili has always been one of my favorite winter dishes.  I remember my mom making it for lunch on cold, snowy days.  You could smell the delicious smell wafting throughout the house, making us hardly able to wait to eat it.  And it was so good…so filling and warming. 

We don’t get a lot of snow here where I live now.  But that doesn’t stop me from making some chili.  I take the opportunity on any cold or rainy day to make a batch.  Is there anything better than a warm pot of chili simmering on the stove on a chilly day?

Chili has also become a huge money saver for us.  Beans are cheap…especially when you make them from scratch.  Yes, this takes a lot of time and “baby sitting”, but, believe me, it’s worth it.  If you don’t have 3 hours during the week to watch some beans, make a big batch on the weekend and freeze the leftovers.  Trust me, chili gets better with age. 🙂

For my chili you will need:
-An assortment of dried beans. I use pinto, black, and red kidney beans.
-Ground beef, sausage, or turkey if you like.  Meat really isn’t necessary though, so you can skip it a save a few dollars!  My meat;loving husband has never noticed when I omitted the meat. 
-Olive oil, butter, or some other oil…you pick
-Onions
-Garlic
-Cans of tomatoes. You can use whatever kind you want, but I usually use tomato sauce and Rotel.
-Seasonings. I’ll get to that later.  You can use whatever you have on hand!
-Extras.  Anything you want!  Bell peppers, carrots, hot peppers, lentils…the possibilities are endless!

What To Do:

1. First, you want pick out your beans.  Dried beans expand as they soak and cook, so you won’t need as many as you think.  One cup is seriously more than enough for my husband and I to have seconds plus tons of leftovers.  I usually don’t even measure! 

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You can use any mix of beans you like or have on hand, but I usually use about 3 parts pinto beans to 1 part black beans and 1 park red kidney beans.  I have a little jar I store my little chili mix and and take out the beans as needed.  Experiment and see what kind of beans you like best!

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2. Next, you need to soak your beans.  This is essential to the dried beans cooking and not being crunchy!  The best way is too soak them in water overnight, but I usually forget so you can also “quick soak” them by putting your beans in a pot, covering them with water, and bringing them to a quick boil.  Once they boil, turn off the heat, cover them, and let them soak for an hour.  Now you’re ready for step three!

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*Note: Be sure to add something acidic (vinegar, lemon juice, whey) to the water you soak your beans in.  This will help break down the beans and will actually reduce the dreaded side-effect of chili later (ahem, gas).

3. Once your beans have soaked, drain them and rinse them thoroughly (again, this reduces indigestion). 

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Then put them back in your pot, cover them with as much water as you can fit in the pan, and bring them to a boil. 

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Let them boil for 1-2 hours or until they’re tender.  You can check this by skewering a few with a fork and trying them.  Nobody wants crunchy beans in their chili!  Once your beans are cooked, drain them again. *Note, if you want to add lentils (or another grain) to your chili and save time, add them in with the beans for the last little while they cook.  They’ll already be cooked and mixed in with the beans for later!

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4. Now it’s time for the fun part.  Heat about a tablespoon of oil or butter in a big pot on medium-high.  Chop up your onions and mince your garlic and add them to the pot.  You want them to be nice and tender!  Also, add in your ground meat (if you want it) and brown it.  This is also the time to add any extra vegetables you want to sneak in.  I usually chop up red or green bell peppers, and even carrots.  If you have any hot peppers on hand, now would be the time to chop those up and add them as well.  Adding fresh hot peppers really makes a chili delicioso!

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5. Once all your veggies are tender and your meat is cooked, add the drained beans into the pot. 

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Then add a couple of cans of tomatoes.  I always add at least one can of Rotel and one can or tomato sauce.
 

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Add more as needed.  Some people like their chili thicker or more watery than others, so it’s entirely up to your tastes.

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Turn the heat down to low so that the chili will just simmer.

6. Now it’s time to add your own “flavor” to the dish.  I never use the pre-mixed seasonings they buy at the store.  Not only can you not control what’s in them, but it’s also a tad bit cheaper to make my own.  Plus, it’s fun!  I don’t premix anything…just throw in what looks good.  Usually, I use about a tablespoon of chili powder, a teaspoon each of paprika and cumin, and about 1/8 of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. 

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Then I just add what looks good!  I usually add in salt and pepper, oregano, and cinnamon.  Really, though, you could add whatever you want.  Just don’t overdo it!  Add a little at a time, taste it, and see.  Remember, you can’t go back!  For a little extra you could even add in some honey or chocolate.  This gives the chili a little sweetness and richness.  Make the chili your own!

7. Now, let the chili simmer so all the flavors can meld together.  Usually 20-30 min. is good enough, but you can let it go as long as a few hours.  Just be sure to check it every once in awhile so that nothing burns!

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8. Enjoy!  Chili is great with corn bread.  My husband also likes to add fritos, cheese, and sour cream.  Remember, making chili is all about individuality, so experiment and do what you and your family like.  Have fun with it!  Trust me…you cannot mess up chili…it’s impossible!

What’s your favorite chili recipe to make?