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Chicken Noodle Soup

27 Oct

Fall is the season for lots and lots of soup.  There’s just something about a steamy bowl of soup combined with chilly temps and colorful leaves that just warms the soul!  Yesterday was one of those days that was perfect for soup.  I was not in the mood for anything tomato-y so I opted for chicken noodle instead. I have to tell you that after making my own, I will never go back to canned chicken noodle ever again.  When you open a can you get a bunch of mushiness with a chicken flavor.  When you make your own you can actually taste the chicken, noodles, carrots, celery, and onions.  It is amazing!  I made a small pot (only used 1/2lb chicken), and somehow by the end of the evening we had eaten at all!

I actually didn’t take any pictures of my soup yesterday – we were both hungry and more worried about actually eating!  I did things a little differently the first time, like cutting the chicken into cubes rather than shredding it.  Also, when I made it last night I added a can of corn which is a little non-traditional but was delicious!  The first time I made this we had little french rolls on the side, but last night, since we didn’t have anything else, I whipped up some quick Bisquick biscuits to go with it.  I hope you give this hearty meal a try sometime this fall!

Click here for the recipe.

First you will want to cook your chicken.  I have cooked it in a pan before, but I actually really like poaching it (cooking it in a pan of boiling water).

While the chicken is cooking chop your onions and garlic.  Begin sauteing them in your soup pot over medium heat.

Next chop your carrots and celery and add them to the pot.  Saute all of this until it begins to soften a bit.

Add 1 box of chicken stock and about an extra cup of water.  Season with salt and pepper as you like. Bring to a simmer.

For the pasta:  I have done this two different ways.  The first time I cooked the pasta on its own, but last night I cooked it in the chicken stock.  I think I prefer the chicken stock method.

When your chicken is cooked all the way through, either dice it or shred it and add it to the pot.

Finally, add corn (optional), and let simmer until the pasta is cooked all the way through.

Serve with a roll or biscuit and wine of your choice!  Enjoy!

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Overnight Oats

4 Sep

This morning I want to tell you about what I had for breakfast today (and eat about 99% of the time).  They’re called overnight oats.  I first learned about overnight oats from some other blogs that I read, and I have to admit that when I first read about people eating COLD oats, I thought they were nuts.  But I continued to see them popping up on blogs, and people said that they were so filling.  I decided to try them a few months ago, and the first time or two that I ate them I still wasn’t sure about them.  Karl would look at them and give me a look like what I was eating was disgusting.  He absolutely refused to try even a bite!  Sometime after I’d been eating them for a month I guess he figured that there must be something good about them for a rather picky eater like me to like them so much.  Just as it was for me, he was not sure about them the first morning, but now he swears by them.  It is a sad and hungry day for us if we do not make them, and that’s why I want to share them with you.  They are quick to make, and they fill you up so you start your busy day on the right foot!

You have a couple different options for making them.  The first is greek yogurt versus regular light yogurt.  At first I used vanilla greek yogurt, but I also eat a cup of greek yogurt at lunch time.  Since greek yogurt is so high in protein, I found I  was actually eating too much protein.  So, I decided to switch to Dannon Light and Fit yogurt instead.  Another plus of using the regular yogurt is that it tastes a little better so you don’t need to use any kind of sweetener for it.

The other option you have is for when to make them.  I know they are called overnight oats, and making them before bed is a great option.  But some nights you forget, and once you’re ready for bed you don’t want anything to stand between you and your pillow.  So, we have found that they are also really good if you make them when you first wake up in the morning and let them sit out for 1-2 hours.  This is personally my favorite way to eat them!

Making the oats is really simple and should take you 5 minutes or less!  We eat them the simple way with just oats, yogurt, a splash of milk, and topped with fresh fruit, but there are lots of people who add lots of other toppings like peanut butter, nuts, and chia seeds.  So feel free to experiment and make these your own!  Be sure to comment and let me know your favorite way to eat them!

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. (40 g) old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. (~112 g) yogurt in the flavor of your choice (vanilla works really well)
  • splash of milk
  • fresh fruit toppings of your choice

How to make it:

  1. Mix oats, yogurt, and milk together
  2. Place in refrigerator overnight or let sit covered for about 1-2 hours
  3. Top with your favorite fresh fruit or other toppings, stir, and enjoy!

How has it been so long?

3 Sep

I know it has been a long time -over a month! – since I had a post.  I have been very busy the past couple weeks, so let me give you a recap of what I’ve been up to:

The last week in July I went to St. Louis for the 2011 U. S. Women in Nuclear Conference.

This is an annual gathering of women (and a few men) to support women working in nuclear-related fields.  The topic of 3-day conference was “Creating Paths to Leadership”.  It was a really great networking and learning experience.  They had a lot of very powerful speakers such as a Missouri State Senator and many Vice Presidents, CEO’s, COO’s, etc. of various energy companies nationwide.

This is Louie the Lightning Bug, the local electric utility's mascot

For me, a huge plus of being able to attend the conference was that I also go to take a trip home.  I flew in on Saturday afternoon and got to see a bunch of my family for one cousin’s birthday.  Then my parents came into a couple of Cardinals tickets – and who am I to turn down a trip to a Cards game?

Me and my momma

Me and my daddy

Then on my last night before coming back to Maryland, I got to go to my Aunt and Uncle’s house for my 3-year-old cousin’s birthday.  It made me so happy to be there because it was his first birthday that I was actually in town to celebrate with him.  And he was absolutely adorable!  Little kids are just so fun on birthdays because every new toy is the best-ever in their minds.  I think it took over an hour to open everything because he wanted to stop and play with each new toy.  It was so wonderful to be there with all of them for a few days.  But I also missed my hubby quite a bit, so I was really happy to come home to him!

I got back to Maryland on a Thursday night, and Friday night Karl’s parents arrived for a visit.  That weekend we went to DC one day.

Me in front of the Native American Smithsonian Museum

We caught a Nationals game before heading home

And the three of them went to Gettysburg another day while I stayed home to do laundry and get ready for the next week of work.  One night I made them my Mexican quinoa dish and one morning we made them breakfast.

Karl is definitely the breakfast chef!

Then on their last night we made some delicious salmon (recipe coming soon!) with potatoes and corn on the cob.  For dessert I made the best vanilla ice cream we’ve ever eaten with freshly picked blackberries and homemade whipped cream on top.  I will hopefully get that recipe posted soon as well.

So that brings us into mid-august.  I don’t know if it was the heat or just putting in a lot of long hours at work, but we didn’t get much cooking done.  Karl and I will both be in our best friends’ wedding in Wisconsin next weekend,  and that has been keeping me busy too.  One weekend I traveled there for a bridal shower and last weekend we both went for their bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Me with the beautiful bride to be!

We have had a lot of fun with them, but there also has not been a lot of time to cook!

Finally, we had quite a scare in our family about two weeks ago.  My father-in-law was told that he needed to have a triple bypass surgery fairly quickly.  He was very lucky because he had not yet had a heart attack or stroke, but happened to go to the doctor because of some chest pains he was having.  We both hopped on a plane to Missouri to be there as quickly as we could, and the whole experience was a bit of an eye opener for us.  I am happy to report that my father-in-law is a very strong man, and is doing unbelievably well in his recovery!  They told him he would be in the hospital for 5-7 days after surgery, and he was released after barely 4.  It has been less than 2 weeks since his surgery, and he has actually started working some again.  We are so impressed and so thankful that he is having a great recovery, and all of your prayers that his recovery continues to go well are greatly appreciated!

With that being said, going forward, we are really looking to make heart-healthier choices.  Heart disease is unfortunately something that runs in Karl’s family, and we want to make sure that we lower his risk as much as we can.  This means reading labels more thoroughly, keeping with eating beans and veggies, and trying to cut red meat and fried foods from our diet.  This is a good thing because it also means eating out less which means getting more creative in the kitchen and new recipes to blog!  We also know that everything is ok in moderation, so I’m sure there will still be some cookie recipes and other not-as-healthy dishes to share as well.  But most importantly I am (hopefully) back at this blogging thing, and I will have some new and exciting recipes and stories to share with you soon!!

Confetti Chicken Pasta

23 Jul

Karl and I work at the same company, but we happen to be on opposite schedules.  Our company runs on a 9/80 schedule which means that we work 80 hours in 9 days instead of the usual 10 (40 hours per week).  The big benefit of this schedule is that you are off every other Friday.  The downside for us is that we have opposite schedules so if it is my Friday off, Karl is working and vice versa.

Since yesterday was my day off I wanted to make a really special lunch for Karl instead of our usual salad.  Just like Thursday night I kind of went through the kitchen and looked at what we had to make a new dish.  I knew that I would not be going anywhere – the temperature outside was something like 99 with a heat index of 116!  So first I thawed out a pound of chicken.  We used to eat chicken every day for dinner, but since we’ve been doing this “semi-vegetarian” thing chicken has not been getting much love!  Once thawed I cut it into small cubes.  While cutting I let some garlic and crushed red pepper simmer in some olive oil.  Then I tossed the chicken in and let it cook on medium-high heat.  It got seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a little onion powder.  Those are pretty much my go-to spices.

I decided that I wanted to make a pasta and chicken dish so I went to the cabinet to see what kind of pasta we had.  Turns out we had about 1/4 box of everything, but there were two boxes of elbows.  Perfect!  I threw the remainder of both boxes into boiling water seasoned with a little salt.

While the chicken and pasta were cooking I chopped up some veggies.  My picks were carrots, cucumber, and red bell pepper.  When the chicken was cooked all the way through I poured into a bowl.  I put another tbsp. of olive oil in the chicken pan and tossed in a BUNCH of spinach.  I just used what we had left in our container – probably 3 full handfuls.  Once that had cooked down a little I added the carrots, cucumber, and pepper.  I let that cook for about 5 minutes and in the meantime drained the pasta then tossed it in the bowl on top of the chicken.  Next I added a few handfuls of frozen peas and corn to the veggie pan.  Once those were heated through I poured the veggies on top of the pasta.  Add some fresh grated parmesan cheese then toss everything together.

Karl was really happy to come home to a hot meal!  He asked what I was going to call it.  I said Confetti Chicken Pasta because it looked like a party in a bowl.  He said I should call it something like Garbage Pasta because it literally was a bunch of leftover stuff that would otherwise just be tossed.  I think that Confetti Chicken Pasta is a much better name.

Oh, and it reheats really well.  I was really glad to find that out because I made a HUGE bowl of it.  I am actually munching on a bowl of it for lunch as I type.  So good!

I’m actually getting packed up to head back to my hometown for a conference Sunday-Thursday.  I am going to try to schedule another post to show up tomorrow or Monday, and I think I have convinced Karl to write a guest post!  I hope you all have a great weekend and a great week!

Weekend Wrap Up

12 Jul

Is it too late to do a wrap up of my weekend?  I don’t think so!  It didn’t seem like it was a very busy weekend, but it seemed to fly by.  Don’t they all?

So, Saturday morning Karl and I went to pick more blueberries.  This time we went to a place called Butler’s Orchard in Germantown.  The blueberry picking was amazing this weekend!  They were so plump, and every branch was full of ripe berries.  Picking is so much fun when there are so many good berries to choose from!  We filled our bowl with 6.66 lbs (kind of a freaky number, right?) and finally said we had to stop.  Then we came home and Karl did some car stuff while I cleaned.  In the afternoon we went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and got the ice cream maker attachment for our Kitchenaid Mixer!!!!  I am so excited about it.  We were definitely disappointed to find out that you have to freeze the mixer bowl for at least 15 hours before using it though!

Sunday we got up early to do our grocery shopping.   First to Wal Mart and then to Sam’s.  We were at Sam’s when they opened at 10AM.  Did you know that people line up to get in there before 10?  I’ve never been there that early before so I definitely did not!  I was pretty excited because it was time to renew our membership.  No, I was not excited about spending $40.  I was excited because we got an offer in the mail that said if we renewed by a certain day we could get a $20 gift card.  Then, on the way in, I saw a sign that listed a bunch of companies and said “if you work for one of these companies, you can get a $10 gift card for renewing your membership.”  The company that Karl and I work for just happened to be listed on there!  I figured that you could only get one deal or the other, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for both, right?  Well it turns out you can get both!  So I spent $40 on a membership but got back $30 in gift cards.  I’d say that’s quite a deal!

We got back home and immediately got to work making our first batch of ice cream!  It was a lot more work than we thought it would be.  We definitely learned to follow directions too…  Like when they say to refrigerate your ice cream batter overnight, they don’t mean stick it in the fridge for 2 hours and call it good.  You will end up with runny ice cream.  We eventually got a pretty good product for our first try though!  I am thinking about making some blueberry sorbet or frozen yogurt in the next few days so hopefully I will have that post to share with you soon.  On Sunday I also made some vegetarian stuffed peppers and had my first attempt at macarons.  I have read so much about them online and couldn’t understand how a cookie could be so difficult to make.  Apparently I didn’t something wrong though because the cookies turned out flat as pancakes!  I will have to do a little more researching and try them again soon.

One of the best parts of my Sunday was getting surprised by my wonderful husband with some cute pink daisies!  He always asks when we go to the store and pass by the flowers if I want some, but there’s nothing like getting them by surprise!  He is such a sweet heart – I am a lucky woman!

I hope you all had a great weekend and the week is off to a great start!  Only 3 more days until the next weekend!

Fresh-Picked Blueberries!

3 Jul

Summer is quickly becoming one of my favorite times of year because of all of the fresh fruit that we can go and pick ourselves.  In case you didn’t know, I am a fruit-aholic.  I have a major sweet tooth and generally fruit fits into the sweets category too.  If I could live on just fruit I probably would.  From watermelon to pineapple I like almost everything.  Fresh-picked fruits are my favorite though.  The freshness just makes them a million times better.

We are pretty lucky here in Maryland that we have 3 different orchards within 30 minutes of our house.  It makes it nice because we can go and pick just about anything we want all summer long.  Last year was really our first time picking fresh fruits.  With school and internships we were just too busy during previous summers.  We were excited last year to find a strawberry field less than 10 minutes from our apartment.  We picked close to 20 lbs of  strawberries last summer and froze a bunch of them.

Picking strawberries last summer

Unfortunately we missed strawberry season this year.  It was just too hot for us plus the strawberries we could get at the grocery store were actually really good.

Since we didn’t get to pick blueberries last summer I knew we would not miss them this year.  This was actually my first time ever picking them.   When I was a kid my family went to pick apples every fall and sometimes peaches.   Last year Karl and I picked strawberries, blackberries, and peaches.  This year I want to do them all – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, and apples.   And probably some tomatoes too.

I was pleasantly surprised that the blueberry plants were almost as tall as me!  I was expecting it to be like picking strawberries where you spend the whole afternoon bent over and your lower back hurts for the next two days.  I think we are right at the beginning of blueberry season out here and there were still tons of green berries out there. We still picked 1.5 pounds and only spent $3.65 (a lot better than $3 a pint!), and we’ll probably go back to get more blueberries and some raspberries next weekend.  Now I just have to figure out what to make with these beauties…  I know for sure a blueberry banana bread with my favorite struesel topping will be made tomorrow to take to work on Tuesday.  Some of my co-workers have been asking about banana bread, and I aim to please.  I think a blueberry buckle might be in the future for Karl and me.  Just have to get the recipe from my mom.

But before I get to work on that I’m going to help myself to this delicious salad I just made.  Hope you are enjoying your three day weekend!

Do you and your family have any orchard traditions?

Hummus?

23 Jun

Here is the post I meant to put up last night…

I’m so excited to be writing my first blog post!  I am hoping to write a post every day or so.  Today was pretty much my usual day.  Get up, eat breakfast (cereal today because I forgot to get my overnight oats ready last night) and head to work.  I am in a Technical Writing Class this week which is surprisingly interesting!  I am hoping that I am learning some new techniques to improve my writing skills.  One of the toughest skills he has been trying to drill into our heads this week is what he calls “slopping”.  He says that when you want to write something you should sit down at the computer and just type for 6-8 minutes without stopping to think about what your next sentence should be or going back to correct mistakes.  After that 6-8 minutes you can go back and make whatever tweaks you might want to make.  Stopping distracts you from your original thoughts and makes writing more difficult.  Sounds like a simple concept, but it is actually much harder to sit and continuously type without correcting your errors.  I am also enjoying the class because he gives out books when you say something intelligent or ask him a question that helps him teach the class.  For my prize I picked out the book The Help, which I hear they are turning into a movie.  Hopefully I can finish the book before the movie comes out.

After work we came home and I made a quick dinner while Karl did a little picking up around the house.  Tonight’s dinner was a simple veggie stir fry of onions, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, cucumber, and chickpeas  served with quinoa.  Karl and I just tried quinoa about two weeks ago, and we are in love!  Before we would’ve served the stir fry over spaghetti or brown rice, but I like knowing that we are eating a much healthier grain and getting some protein as well.  Most of the time we would make a stir fry sauce from scratch, but since I was trying to get things done quickly I used a light amount of store bought sauce.  Stir fry is such a simple dish, but it is definitely one of my favorite ways to get in so many veggies!  I love the beautiful assortment of colors on the plate.

stir fry heating up in the pan

the stir fry heating up in the pan

plated and ready to eat!

Thirty minutes later we were out the door on the way to the gym.  One of my favorite classes to take is Les Mills Body Combat which our gym offers on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.  The Monday/Wednesday instructor is just amazing.  I love that she knows me by name and tonight, since I hadn’t been to the gym in awhile, she  asked me where I had been.  It’s really good for me to have someone other than Karl who holds me accountable for my workouts!  She is something like 3 months pregnant and still going strong.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do when she has to take a maternity leave!

After the gym we headed to the store to stock up on a few of the necessities, including one of my favorite fruits of the summer, watermelon!  Eating a big bowl of watermelon is definitely a good way to hydrate after a tough workout.

When we got home I decided to try out a new recipe for some hummus.  I’m always excited to use our new food processor which we received as a wedding gift about 2 months ago, and I feel like I hear people talking about eating hummus quite a bit.  I’d actually never tried it and was excited to make a healthy dip that we could eat even with veggies.  I used a recipe for “Classic Hummus”.   Here’s what the recipe looked like:

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper (I added about 1/2 tsp. because we like things a little spicy)

1/4 tsp. salt

Olive Oil

Making the hummus is very simple!  First, drain the chickpeas, reserving 1/3 cup of the liquid.  Throw the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, crushed red pepper, and salt into the food processor and process until it starts to get smooth.

everything thrown in the food processor

Then drizzle in the reserved chickpea liquid and continue to process until you see a smooth consistency.  After I had added all of the chickpea liquid, I still wasn’t happy with the consistency – it was a little gritty still.  So, I decided to try drizzling in some olive oil while continuing to process the hummus.  I probably added about 2 more tablespoons oil when it started to look right.

the gritty in-between stage

Then it was time to try it.  And, I was very unimpressed!  I’m not sure if it is the strong chickpea flavor or the seasonings, but I do not like it at all.  I’m wondering if there is a different recipe out there that I might like better.  If you have a better recipe, please share it with me!  I’ve also seen some black bean hummus recipes, and, since I am a bigger fan of black beans, I think I will try that sometime in the near future as well.  I’m going to throw the hummus in the fridge and see if I like it any better when its cold.

Well, that’s it for today.  Time for some much needed sleep!