Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

What’s more healthy and hearty than chicken noodle soup? Hot broth, tender pieces of chicken, lots of fresh veggies… yum. Some of my fondest memories as a child were of coming inside after a long hard day of playing out in the snow to a big bowl of this soup. Much of the prep work can be done ahead of time, too. If you prep everything ahead, all you need to do is pop everything into a pot and let it cook!

The backbone of this soup is the chicken. You can boil up your chicken as the first step of the soup like the recipe suggests, but I usually have some ready in the freezer. I buy rotisserie chickens when they go on sale, strip off the meat and keep it bagged up in the freezer. When it’s time to make soup, I just thaw it in the microwave enough to break it apart, and toss it in the soup when it’s time. One chicken’s worth of meat is enough for one recipe of soup. Alternately you can use a whole raw chicken or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts. If you boil your chicken, boil it 20-30 minutes for breasts. Chop up the meat and set it aside for later.

If the chicken is the backbone, the rest of the skeleton is the veggies. I use a standard mix of carrots, celery, and onions, but you could add corn, beans or whatever other veggies you like to the soup.

Vegetables
Vegetables

Next you need a big pot of water. I have a stock pot I use mainly for making this soup. Fill your pot with 5-6 quarts of water (that’s just shy of a gallon and a half). Your stock pot should be at least of 8-gallon capacity. Turn the heat on high to get it started heating up.

Stockpot with water
Stockpot with water

While the water is heating chop all your veggies to whatever size you like. I chop mine rather small. I also add a couple spoonfuls of pre-minced garlic. If I were to use fresh, I’d probably pop in 4 or 5 cloves, because I like a lot.

Chopped veggies
Chopped veggies

Pop all your chopped veggies into the pot of water.

Veggies in pot
Veggies in pot

Add in 6-8 chicken bouillon cubes. If you preferred, you could probably use chicken broth in place of the water and the cubes, but you’d need a gallon and a half or so of broth.

Chicken boullion
Chicken bouillon

At this point we add what gives this soup it’s Italian flavor. I add a handful of dried basil (approx. 1-2 tablespoons), and a can of stewed tomatoes. You can also add oregano or any other herbs or spices you like. I also add in a handful of dried parsley and two bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Handful of basil
Handful of basil

Let all the veggies cook for an hour. The water should go down a bit, but not too much.

Boiling start
Boiling start
Boiling finish
Boiling finish

 

 

 

 

 

After the veggies are cooked, add in your chicken.

Chopped chicken
Chopped chicken

Next add dry pasta of your choice. I add about 6 handfuls of egg noodles, which is roughly half a pound.

Egg noodles
Egg noodles

Let that cook for another 30 minutes and your soup is complete.

Finished soup
Finished soup

Serve it up in bowls, accompanied maybe by a nice crusty bread.

Soup is served
Soup is served!

Italian Chicken Noodle Soup

1 whole chicken or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 carrots
4 stalks of celery
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 large tomatoes (may substitute a can of stewed tomatoes)
Parsley, basil, salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1/2 pound of pasta of your choice
6-8 bouillon cubes
Other veggies or herbs as desired

If using pre-cooked chicken, set aside. Otherwise, boil chicken in a pot of water for 1 hour or until done. (Boneless breasts are usually done in 30-40 minutes.) While the chicken is boiling, chop the vegetables. When the chicken is done, remove from the water, chop, and set aside. Place the vegetables into the water. Add herbs and cook the vegetables for 1 hour. Place the chicken back into the soup along with the pasta, and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy. Makes approx. 5 quarts of soup.

 

Pizza With Homemade Crust

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. But take out pizza is expensive and hit-or-miss on quality, and frozen pizza tastes like eating the box. What is one to do? Make your own!

For a long time I avoided making anything involving dough because of the long wait times while things rise, then rise again. I didn’t want to spend hours rising dough and all day to make a pizza! I finally found some recipes online with short rise times, and after some experimentation and adapting to my taste, I found a combination that I like. Making a fresh homemade pizza for dinner isn’t a long chore any more, and it’s delicious and made exactly the way you want it.

It starts out with yeast. You can use any kind of quick- or rapid-rise instant yeast, but I’ve had no luck with the yeast that comes in a packet, so I buy the kind that comes in a glass jar and keep it in the freezer until its needed. I use bread machine yeast for this recipe, because it’s usually what I have on hand, and I find it works well for just about any recipe, machine or not. The yeast goes into a  bowl with sugar for fuel and warm water to wake it up. I warm the water in the microwave for 30 seconds. Don’t make it too hot, or it will kill the yeast. At this point you should also turn your oven up to 450 degrees to preheat.

Yeast and sugar
Yeast and sugar

Gently mix the yeast so that the sugar dissolves and leave it to sit for 10 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when your yeast mixture is foamy. If it doesn’t foam, throw it away and start again with fresh yeast.

Yeast mixture
Yeast mixture
Foamy yeast
Foamy yeast

Next up the dry ingredients. While you’re waiting for your yeast to foam up, get a bowl big enough for your final dough and add your dry ingredients. This is where you can get really creative and make the crust your own. The base is flour, garlic powder and salt, but I also add onion powder. I’ve also made it with parsley flakes, but you can add dried basil, oregano, italian seasoning, or any other herb you like to this. Even some grated parmesan if you like. Just be careful with the amounts. You don’t want to add more than a teaspoon or so to the dough of anything you add. You can use any flour here you prefer. I use all-purpose, but you could also use bread flour or whole wheat, or even a gluten-free flour.

Dry ingredients
Dry ingredients

We also want to add some oil to this, but I don’t like dumping it into all that flour and then adding the wet yeast mixture, so I just put the oil into the yeast mixture before dumping it into the flour.

Add oil to yeast
Add oil to yeast

Now mix everything together to form a dough. You can use a spoon, and if you have a stand mixer this might be even better. I have one, but I tend to just use my hands to mix everything. I may try the stand mixture and a hook next time. The dough can be sticky, and I find it’s even more so when the weather is very humid, as it has been here lately. My dough this time was pretty sticky, but that won’t hurt anything. Once you have everything mixed together, set the bowl aside and let it rise. I usually rise mine for 10 minutes, then turn the dough over and rise another 10 minutes, to help get rid of some of the stickiness.

Mixed dough
Mixed dough

While your dough is rising, it’s time to prepare your pizza pan. If you have a pizza stone, awesome! But I don’t, so I use a 16″ aluminum pizza pan. If your pan is smaller you can break the dough up into smaller pieces, or make a thicker crust. You will probably have to cook it a bit longer if it’s thicker. You can probably also set some aside and use it for making bread or rolls. I’m one of those people that usually won’t eat my pizza crust, but give it to my dogs as a treat. But this crust I end up eating. I like to dip it in bleu cheese dressing. Yum! To prepare your pan, grease it with a solid fat of some kind. I use butter. Just run it around the pan, then dust the pan with a little corn meal. This will help keep your crust from sticking to the pan, and help it to cook better on the bottom.

Grease the pan
Grease the pan
Dust with corn meal
Dust with corn meal

When your dough is finished rising, spread it out on your prepared pan. I put a little oil on my hands to help stop the dough from sticking to them as I’m spreading it. Spread it to the thickness you prefer, and leave a rim around the outside edge.

Spread dough
Spread dough

The next step is to pre-bake the dough. I do this because once the toppings are on it doesn’t take long to cook them, and usually the dough isn’t quite done yet. Bake your crust for 10-15 minutes, until the dough has dried and just begun to brown a bit.

Pre-baked crust
Pre-baked crust

While the dough is baking, time to grate up your cheese. Every pizza has a base of mozarella to start with. I don’t buy that pre-grated dried up stuff that doesn’t taste like cheese. Take the extra time to buy a block or chunk of mozarella and grate it yourself. It will be much fresher and tastier.

Grated mozarella
Grated mozarella

Next is the sauce. I admit, I use a jarred sauce for my pizza only because I haven’t yet found a pizza sauce recipe that I like. When I do, I’ll use that. If you know of a good one, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Apply the sauce
Apply the sauce

You can use as much or as little sauce as you like, and you can use something other than traditional tomato sauce here. You can use a white sauce, like alfredo, or even no sauce if you prefer. Now add your grated cheese.

Add mozarella
Add mozarella

At this point you can get creative again! Put anything you like on top of this pizza. Pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, olives, sausage, chicken, whatever you like. I’m making this one a 4-cheese and half pepperoni pizza, because I don’t like pepperoni but my husband does. I added cheddar, asiago, and romano cheese to my mozarella.

Cheeses added
Cheeses added

I also like to add a drizzle of olive oil over the cheeses. This helps the cheese stay moist as it cooks. I don’t like my cheese dry or browned, and usually it will get that way in the time it takes to cook the pepperoni.

Oil and pepperoni
Oil and pepperoni

Now cook your pizza. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on your oven, the thickness and moisture of your dough, and the toppings on it. Just cook it until the crust and toppings are at your desired level of doneness. I cooked mine for 15 minutes, but it probably could have gone for another couple of minutes. The longer you cook it the crispier your crust will get.

Finished pizza
Finished pizza

Slice it up any way you like and enjoy. I have leftovers for lunch. Yum!

Homemade Pizza

1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoons of rapid-rise or instant yeast
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup of warm water (105-110 degrees F)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of any other dried herb or spice desired
2 tablespoons oil
Butter or other solid fat for greasing pan
Corn meal for dusting pan
1 cup or 1/2 jar of pizza sauce, alfredo sauce, or other sauce as desired
1/2 pound of mozarella cheese
Other cheeses as desired for topping
Other toppings as desired

Add yeast, sugar, and water to a bowl. Mix gently to dissolve sugar, then let stand 10 minutes or until foamy. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, and herbs. When yeast is ready, add olive oil to yeast mixture and pour into dry ingredients. Mix well into a dough. Let stand to rise 20 minutes, turning the dough over half way through.
Grease a pizza pan with a solid fat, then dust lightly with corn meal. Spread the risen dough on the pan and bake for 10 minutes or until crust is dry and lightly browned. Top with sauce, cheese, and other toppings as desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-20 minutes or until cheese is melted, toppings done, and crust at desired crispiness. Slice as desired and eat. Makes one 16″ pizza.

 

Vanilla Ice Cream

I love ice cream. My favorite flavor is vanilla, and though I will eat it with chocolate chips or sprinkles or hot fudge on top, I really like it best just plain or on the side of a nice hot piece of pie or cobbler.

Several years ago I decided to switch from drinking regular milk to soy milk. I thought this would be a healthier option. I tried a few different kinds and decided I liked the taste of Silk Double Vanilla soy milk best. For two years I drank this in place of milk and then I started getting sick. I would have terrible stomach cramps so bad I would have to just lie in bed and wait until they passed, usually hours later. It got worse as time went on, and I knew it had to be something I was eating or drinking. I narrowed it down to the Silk soy milk. When I stopped drinking it, the pains stopped coming. Why? I went online to find out what was in the soy milk that was making me sick, and found other people with similar stories. The culprit was carrageenan. This is a food additive used as a thickener in many dairy products including heavy cream, buttermilk, eggnog, ice cream, chocolate milk, and powdered chocolate drink mixes. Because it’s derived from seaweed it’s considered a natural ingredient and approved by the FDA. But many people like myself eventually become sensitive to it through exposure over time. I later found out it’s also used in laboratories to induce gastrointestinal distress in lab animals so they can test remedies, so this side effect is well known.

In trying to avoid this ingredient I had to cut all the aforementioned products out of my diet. Oh no! I love buttermilk biscuits, and eggnog on the holidays, and heavy cream in sauces, and chocolate milk with donuts, and ICE CREAM! Well, I couldn’t go through life without ice cream, and even though I eventually found one or two rare brands that were free of this ingredient, they were expensive and really weren’t that great tasting. That’s when I got the idea that I could probably make my own at home. It would be less expensive, free of artificial ingredients, and like most things home made, great tasting! My husband was nice enough to buy me an ice cream making machine online, and it’s one of my most treasured appliances now.

I’ve tried quite a few different recipes for ice cream, but this one is the easiest and uses only four ingredients. How great is that?

Four ingredients
Four ingredients

For this recipe, I recommend using a metal pan, preferably stainless steel. You do not want to use non-stick for this. First up, dump your sugar in the pan.

Sugar
Sugar

Next up, add your cream.

Cream
Cream

Then, add the milk and vanilla. Crank up the heat to medium and slowly heat the milk mixture until it just starts to simmer. Do not boil it.

Steaming ice cream base
Steaming ice cream base

Next, turn off the heat and pour the hot mixture into a bowl that can be covered. I use a stainless steel bowl that I have that had a lid. Let the mixture cool on the counter to room temperature, then cover and place it in the fridge overnight to chill.

Pouring Into Bowl
Pouring Into Bowl

The next morning, prepare your machine. My machine is pictured below. Although the label on mine says it makes 2 quarts, when you churn your mixture it gets filled with air and expands, so I only make 1.5 quarts, or 6 cups of base. It expands to fill the machine’s bowl pretty well.

Ice Cream Machine
Ice Cream Machine

This is the type of machine where it has a bowl that you keep in the freezer until you’re ready to use it. It’s very simple to use and clean, and I just keep the bowl stored in the freezer all the time, so it’s always ready when I want to use it. If you plan to make a lot of ice cream, I’d suggest getting a second bowl, so you always have one ready to churn while the other is being cleaned, or for making a bigger batch at one time.

Freezer Bowl
Freezer Bowl

You want to have the bowl out of the freezer and in the machine, the lid and paddle on top, and the machine on and running when you bring your base out of the fridge. While the machine is running, carefully pour the base out of the bowl and into the machine. If you want to add anything to it like fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, etc, you can add it now. If adding fruit, I would chop it into pieces if needed and freeze it before adding it.

Pour Into Freezer Bowl
Pour Into Freezer Bowl

The hardest part of this whole recipe is the waiting. Waiting for the mixture to heat up to a simmer, waiting for it to chill, waiting for it to churn, then waiting for it to freeze so you can eat it! (Ok, sometimes I cheat a little and eat some soft right after it’s churned.)

Set your timer for 30 minutes and let the machine work its magic. When you come back you’ll see that the base has thickened and expanded into a loose soft-serve consistency.

Churn Done
Churn Done

Doesn’t that look yummy?

Churn Paddle
Churn Paddle

At this point you can technically eat it, but it’s very soft and will melt quickly. Scoop it out of the freezer bowl into your container of choice, put a lid on it, and put it in the freezer to freeze completely, at least an hour, but preferably overnight.

Soft Ice Cream
Soft Ice Cream

That’s all there is to it. Once it’s hardened a bit just scoop and enjoy like any normal ice cream. It’s all natural, with no preservatives or chemicals.

Home made ice cream
Home made ice cream

The four ingredients to this recipe are milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. There are many combinations you can use. I will post the original recipe below. The milk part is half-n-half in the recipe, but you can also use whole milk or any kind of milk. The higher the fat content of what you use, the better it will taste, but I’ve made this with 1% milk when I was out of everything. The ice cream tasted more like ice milk, but it was still tasty. I normally use whole milk, because I can use the remainder for other things like cereal, coffee, or just drinking.

The cream part of the recipe is heavy whipping cream. I can’t use that because of my sensitivity to the carrageenan in it, so I use half-n-half here or light cream, which isn’t available in some stores.

For the vanilla part of the recipe I use vanilla extract, but you could also use a vanilla bean, which would give your ice cream that signature look of little vanilla bean bits in it.

The original recipe has also been modified for the size of my machine. The original makes one quart, and if I double it for my 2-quart machine it overflows, so I make 1.5 quarts.

Vanilla Ice Cream

3 cups of half-n-half
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

Combine all the ingredients in a metal pot and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Heat just until a bare simmer is reached, then remove from the heat and pour into a metal bowl. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then cover and place in the refrigerator overnight to chill. The next morning, prepare your ice cream maker, turn it on, and then pour in the chilled ice cream base. Let churn for 30 minutes. Place the finished ice cream into containers and freeze for at least an hour before serving. Makes 6 cups, or 1.5 quarts.

 

Hungarian Goulash

When I was a child, my dad went off to work each day, and my mom stayed home. Every day we were treated to a home-cooked meal, and for that I’m very thankful. My mom was a wonderful cook, but sadly she passed away before I learned all her magical kitchen secrets. She did pass on some of my favorite recipes to me before she was gone, and over the years I’ve tweaked them a bit for my own tastes. I hope to blog many of those recipes here, so that I can pass them on to others as well.

Today’s recipe is Hungarian Goulash. This stew is a wonderful comfort food that is great on a chilly day. Today it wasn’t so chilly here in early June, but this was a meal I hadn’t had in a while and I had all the ingredients on hand, so off I went.

The recipe starts with beef. For recipes like this, where the meat is cooked slowly over low heat for a while, I usually use chuck. I will often buy my meat in bulk, cut and wrap it into pieces the size I want, and freeze them until needed. I use a 2-3 pound piece of beef chuck. Since I keep the meat frozen, I’ll usually thaw it in the microwave, but not all the way. The meat is easier to cut up if it’s still a bit frozen. Trim off the bigger chunks of fat  and cut it up into pieces. The recipe calls for 2-inch chunks, but I just cut it up into bite-size pieces I like.

Cut up beef chuck
Cut up beef chuck

Next add the olive oil and bring the heat to medium, to brown the beef on all sides. You could use butter, vegetable oil, or any other fat you like instead of olive oil.

Brown beef at medium heat
Brown beef at medium heat
Browned Beef
Browned Beef

Once the beef is browned, add in the flour and mix it together to make a roux. This will help to thicken the mixture as it cooks.

Added flour
Added flour

Some recipes at this point will tell you to cook the flour for a minute or so to get rid of the raw flavor. This mixture will cook for a while, so that’s not necessary here. After the flour is mixed in, add the onion and garlic. I used one whole onion from a local farm and a couple spoonfuls of pre-minced organic garlic in a jar. I hate mincing garlic.

Add onions and garlic
Add onions and garlic

Mix that in and we’re ready for the liquids. The original recipe called for 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, and 2 cups of beef broth. I replace the chopped tomatoes with a 15-ounce can of stewed tomatoes that I puree a bit in my food processor. I love the taste of stewed tomatoes, but I don’t want a lot of big chunks. I was out of tomato sauce this time, so I used a small can of tomato paste mixed with an equal amount of water.

Liquids added
Liquids added

Last up are the herbs and spices. I add parsley, salt, paprika, and a bay leaf. You could add other things here if you like, such as basil, oregano, thyme, but be careful with amounts so they don’t overpower the dish. Don’t leave out the paprika, that’s what gives this dish its distinctive color and flavor.

Add spices
Add spices

Now the easy part! Just mix everything together, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for 2 hours. Be sure to check it every 15 to 30 minutes and give it a stir so it doesn’t stick on the bottom. That’s one reason I always use a non-stick pot for this recipe as well. After an hour of cooking, you can put a lid on it if it’s evaporating too fast. If it gets too thick, just add a little water.

You can serve this over noodles or rice. I always boil up some egg noodles to put it on, and serve with a nice side of bread, rolls, or biscuits. I had some home made rolls in the freezer, so we had that.

Finished goulash
Finished goulash

Hungarian Goulash

2 pounds of beef chuck, cut into 2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of flour
1 cup of chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 cups of beef broth
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
2 cups of peeled diced tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon of paprika
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
1 bay leaf

Brown the beef in olive oil at medium heat. Mix in the flour. Add onion and garlic and mix in. Add liquids and stir to combine. Add herbs and spices. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cover if needed to prevent too much evaporation. Serve over cooked noodles or rice. Serves 4.

 

 

Welcome to my blog

DayLily

Windy Gap Farm is the name of my new blog. I want to document my adventures as I make my way to becoming a homesteader. On this blog I will write about cooking, canning, gardening, woodworking, auto repair, animals, and anything else I get into.

My blog will be a part of my overall story, which will include Youtube videos, a Facebook presence, and an online store. You can check out my existing Youtube videos at my current channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXLh-oOqZG6lmoOj14BhudQ