Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chicken Soup with Rice

I've been sniffling and sneezing all day so I decided to make a pot of chicken soup. Since DH is vegetarian I also made a pot of carroty rice to go with it, then I put the two together in my bowl to make chicken soup with rice. This is the second or third time I've tried to make the soup and rice like this, and this time I nailed it! Here's what I did:

Chicken Soup with Carroty Rice
by Ramblingfamilymanager.blogspot.com

Ingredients

For the soup:
Whole chicken
Water
Salt
Pepper
Dill (fresh or dried; fresh is stronger)
Olive Oil
Vegetable Bouillon Cube, large
Carrots
Celery
Vidalia Onion, 3/4 of a large onion

You'll notice I haven't given many amounts and that's because this is a "throw it together without measuring" kind of a recipe. I'll give you some ideas about amounts within the recipe directions.

For the rice:
Water
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Dill (fresh or dried; fresh is stonger)
Vidalia Onion, 1/4 of a large onion
Carrots
(You can also add some celery but DH doesn't like it, so I left it out
Rice, 1 cup

Soup Directions:
Prep the chicken by removing the giblets and cutting of any big fat globs, then plop it into a really large soup pot and fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken by an inch or two. Add in the salt and pepper to taste. (I use probably a couple of teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of pepper from a pepper mill. One of the kids is not a fan of pepper so I don't use a lot of it.) If you're using fresh dill, chop it up into little bits and throw, oh, say, a tablespoon in there if you like dill, less if you don't. Actually, if you don't like dill very much, you may want to use dried, then even if you use a lot it won't taste too dill-y. The fresh dill is really strong so a little goes a long way. Glug in a good amount of olive oil, to taste. I used a decent amount today, maybe a couple of tablespoons, and it was yummy. Toss in a bouillon cube. Don't leave it out- even though the chicken gives a lot of flavor, when I skipped the bouillon cube once everyone complained. Let all that start cooking on high heat at a fairly good rolling boil while you prep the veggies. Keep an eye on it, stir occasionally, and add water as needed to keep the chicken submerged. (You can also put a lid on it so you don't have to add as much water.) Turn the chicken a couple of times so it's good and cooked through on all sides. While the chicken is bubbling away, peel and chop up the carrots, celery, and onion. How much? To taste! I use a bunch of carrots because I like them, probably a pound (one small bag) and a half, a couple of good sized stalks of celery, and a large Vidalia onion. Reserve a handful or so of the carrots and about a 1/4 of the onion for the rice. Once you get it all prepped, go ahead and gently (so as not to splash yourself with boiling soup) place the veggies in with the chicken.

The chicken needs to boil for at least an hour. If the veggies are in the broth by about the last 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time they should be done with the chicken. You can test the chicken to see if it's done (and time will vary depending on the size of the chicken and the heat you use to cook it with) by CAREFULLY using a pair of tongs to see if it will pull apart. When it falls apart, it's done. I like to CAREFULLY lift the chicken out of the broth (piece by piece, because it's falling apart, right?) and into a separate bowl, let it cool until I can handle it, then pick the meat off the bone and throw it back into the soup. Before serving, test for salt. I tend to under salt in the beginning so I always need to add more at the end.

*Optional: if you are planning on leftovers, right after I throw the veggies in I'll also toss in a few frozen chicken tenders, the kind that are flash frozen so you can pull out only as many as you need. This is great for advanced meal prep- I can use that chicken for so many things! I love to eat the soup for a couple of days then use any additional chicken for a chicken salad. You don't have to defrost or anything- the tenders are small enough that they will cook quickly.

Rice Directions:
I use a medium sized pot for the rice and prepped it right along with the chicken since it used many of the same ingredients. First put in a good amount of water, at least 4 cups or so. Season it up just like the broth for the chicken- throw in salt and pepper to taste, add some of the fresh dill, and a vegetable bouillon cube. Also glug in some olive oil. I accidentally poured in way more olive oil than I planned on tonight and it came out really, really good and buttery; DH loved it. I'd say it was at least a couple of tablespoons. Let that all come to a boil then add the carrots and onion reserved from the chicken prep along with a cup of basmati rice. (Or adjust the amount of rice to how many servings you are looking for, but make sure there is way more water than rice- you aren't cooking regular rice, you're making a rice soup.) Boil it for one minute then slap a lid on it and turn it down to a simmer for another 20 minutes. (Don't forget to turn it down!!) I like to use a pot with a glass lid so I can check that it's simmering without lifting the lid and letting out all that steam.

If you don't want to make the rice separate from the chicken, you can just throw a cup of rice in with the chicken 40 minutes in to the cooking time, make sure it boils for a minute, then turn it down to a simmer for 20 minutes more. The problem with this is if you are planning on leftovers- the rice will continue to absorb liquid and get mushy. You also have to make sure that the chicken is all the way done, and with simmering instead of boiling it may take a little longer than an hour. You can also wait until you pull the chicken out of the broth; put the rice in at that point and let it cook for the 20 minutes while you let the chicken cool and pick the meat off the bone, then throw the meat back in when the rice is done and stir it all up. Oh, yeah, I like that idea! I think that would work really well if your family is going to eat the whole pot of soup at once.

You can also scale this up or down depending on the size of the chicken and the size of your family, and how much you like leftovers. I've been watching meal prep/batch cooking videos on You Tube lately and this is a great option for meal prep. It's also really delicious, and the perfect thing to cook if you are feeling not so great. It's comfort food that's really easy to throw together and only takes a little over an hour from start to finish.

Enjoy!

Lots of yummy deliciousness left over and ready to go in the refrigerator!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Hurricane Prep 2015

It's been 10 years since we've been hit with a hurricane, and that one was Wilma in October of 2005. I still prepare, though, because it only takes one to turn your life upside down! So far this year I've been updating some of my food storage. DH and I invested retirement money in a second house a couple of hours away so I've stocked our storage room there with emergency food supplies. (We rent it out seasonally but we keep one room locked where we can keep personal items.) I inventoried what I have, removing things that are either expired or close to expiration, and made a list of everything that's up there. I keep a 10 meal box there as well as one at home with everything I need to make five recipes twice each, as well as other supplies like boxed macaroni and cheese, jars of pasta sauce, pasta, rice, oatmeal packets, seasonings, oil, and so forth. I listed every single item from cans of beans to a can of peanuts and their expiration dates, along with a list of items I'm now missing since I cleaned up my inventory. I spent extra time going through the 10 meal box; I need a bunch of items for that. From my lists, I now have a shopping list that I can take to the grocery with me, buying a little at a time until everything is up to date with fresh stock, then I'll take it back to the house the next time I'm able to get up there.

I feel very organized now! Everything is sorted and neatly packed away, the 10 meal box is ready to pull out and use, and anything bugs could get into is stored in air tight containers. Now I have to do the same thing at home!

Other things on my prep list to do at home:
~ go through the bug out bags, especially since the kids are older; I'll need to trade out the clothing and entertainment items
~ call the tree trimmer!! I used to get the trees trimmed yearly but I've neglected them for a couple of years now
~ update my food inventory at home, which is a job with multiple parts:
*go through the 10 meal box and rotate the stock
*go through the pantry, donate any items we haven't used, refresh the things we do use
*inventory the items in the freezer and make some meals to use up the frozen food; I don't want to loose a full freezer of food if we are without power for some time, so I try to keep it fairly empty during storm season (plus that way I have room for making more ice and freezing bread, which we can thaw out and use after a storm- you can't find bread in the stores when a hurricane is on the way!!)
~ catch up and keep up with laundry (if you are without power for some time it's nice to have clean clothes!)

Purging and Organizing:
This counts as emergency preparation because if you have less stuff, then there's less to deal with in the aftermath of a storm, plus you have the space you need to store prep items. I've cleaned out cabinets in our computer room but then I piled everything in boxes in my living room, which is a disaster. I was thinking about trying to sell some of it since there's so much (a lot of homeschooling/educational items, much of it not even used) but I'll never get around to it so I'm going to donate it all, most likely to a local non-profit after school program. Both of my daughters have given their rooms a good clean out so that's all piled in my living room too, and it's all going to go!! I can't wait. I actually am waiting right at the moment, however; The Eldest was planning on having a yard sale of some sort (we're not allowed to have them at our house due to city zoning) at a friend's house, or work, or on-line, to raise money for a volunteer trip she's going on, but it's not happening and she leaves in a week, so that's my deadline. Once she's gone, I'm loading up the car and getting that stuff OUT of my house!!! It will be so good to have my living room back to normal again.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pinterest!!

I haven't been blogging, but I have been busy pinning! Yesterday I hit a milestone- 500 followers on Pinterest, and the 500th one was rather exciting. The New York Times!! They are following ME on Pinterest!! Woo hoo! I mean, I know they probably follow practically everyone, and a lot of my 500 followers are actually spammers, but I can ignore that for a minute and just bask in the glory. Shhh- don't burst my bubble, please.

I've pinned 14,339 pins, which seems kind of improbable, but there it is. I don't feel like I spend too much time on it, although I probably do, and it's taken a while to accumulate those numbers, but I've done it. I find pins all over and it's all stuff I'm interested in and want to go back to and look at... some day. I'm not really one to pin a lot of crafts, although I do have a crafts board, so it's mainly articles, informative videos, recipes, TED talks and NPR stories. I haven't read all of the articles or watched all of the videos I've pinned by a long shot, but I have given them all at least a once over to determine which board to pin them to, and I've read or watched a significant number. I find the information I pin endlessly fascinating. I love finding information and sharing it with others who may find it useful- I was probably a librarian in a past life.

Well, there you have it- I'm a Pinterest-a-holic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Another Scam... Sigh

Am I the only one who's having this issue with liquids from the store lately? This is the second time I've purchased a bottle of laundry detergent from Target, only to start using it and realize it's been watered down. Sounds like a scam to me- people are buying detergent, pouring a portion of it into a container at home, refilling it with water and returning it. It's then placed back on the shelf by store employees who don't realize what's happened. So not happy. Both times this has happened at TARGET stores, although I did notice a bottle of conditioner at Publix that was missing about a fifth of the contents. (And of course it could happen at any store.) Even worse- the laundry detergent I just bought had a loose cap and a good portion of it leaked onto my laminate floor and ruined a sizable section of it. I realized it was watered down when I went to use what was left. Not happy.

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Time to Garden!

Actually, it's a little past time to start my garden, but whatever. My philosophy is throw it in the ground and see what happens, and that's just what I've done. I have 7 cherry tomato plants going (the only kind I have any luck with), 5 kale plants, 2 collard plants plus some collard seeds I planted just today, 2 green bean seedlings plus 2 different kinds of green beans I planted today as well, and a few onion sprouty things. And some marigolds to keep the tomatoes company. Pretty good for the little tiny plot I have in my little tiny backyard, I think!

So far I've lost one collard seedling, several of the onion sprouts, (I planted about 6 or 7), and a bunch of the green bean seeds when a critter dug them up. (Which is why I only have 2 green bean seedlings; there should have been more!!) The tomatoes, kale, and collards were all seedlings purchased from Home Depot. The onions weren't seedlings; they were in a dried bunch. I don't have much experience with bulbs, but I'm guessing that's what they were. I had about 6 to 8 each of the kale and collard seedlings but I took way too long to get them in the ground so I was lucky any of them survived! I didn't have room for all of them by a long shot, but of the ones I planted I am shocked I only lost one, and the survivors look great! We can harvest from them right now but only a few leaves so I'm leaving them alone for a bit longer. They are both such hardy plants, and tasty, too! They grow like crazy; we'll be over run with kale in a few more weeks. The 2 collard plants might not be enough; I'm hoping the seeds I put in the ground today will sprout for me. We'll see!

I love growing my own food; I wish we had a bigger back yard so I could get a larger garden going, but this one is a great learning experience. I've learned a few things over the past several years of gardening that have made my previously black thumb a little greenish, things like you can't plant tomatoes in the same spot 2 years in a row; the dead leaves falling off the trees in my neighborhood make a great mulch; I can't grow large tomatoes to save my life, or lettuce, or spinach; tomato hornworms and cabbage worms are all horrid little creatures; and most importantly, home grown food is the absolute best!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why I'm a Prepper

I belong to a prepper group for women on Facebook. Today a member asked for some encouragement and said prepping is a very stressful thing for her, especially when she hears about people going off grid and doing so much more than she's capable of doing at this point. I started typing in a long elaborate comment, but then thought why not post it here? So here it is, my advice to a stressed out prepper.

First of all, look at the likely disasters in your area. Where I live it's hurricanes and I've lived through a few of them. I rode out Hurricane Andrew at my grandmother's home in Dade County and spoke with my mom on the phone while the storm trashed her house south of us. Further south still the homes were flattened; I saw those a few months later when I went down into that area on an errand. I saw what people went through in the aftermath just trying to get back to some semblance of normal life again.

I know that should my home be flattened all of my preps could very well be flattened along with them so I try to be realistic, secondly. (I get really irritated when people in the prepper community can't show compassion for disaster victims. "They should have prepared so it's their own fault", they say. Yeah, well, maybe they did but the disaster wiped them out, including all of their preps!) The most likely scenario after a hurricane, however, is roof damage and losing power for an extended time, possibly as long as a couple of months, so that's what I prepare for.

Here's what I've learned to expect. In the immediate aftermath roads are impassable, both due to debris and damaged stop lights, phones (cell definitely, land lines if it's really severe) can stop working and you can lose water. (Although make sure you have a land line with a corded phone, which will work without power. Cordless phones need power and cell phones need intact cell towers, both in scarce supply after a hurricane blows through, but sometimes the land lines will still be OK.)

The question I ask myself is this- if that were to happen again, how can I survive and keep my family fed and clean and reasonably comfortable? That's where I come from when I think about prepping. I'm not an "end of the world" prepper, I'm a "temporary disruption of my world" prepper. My family got through Andrew (although my mom knew a child who was killed in the storm, so not everyone made it) and managed to get themselves settled, housed at my grandmother's home (which sustained minor damage), fed, and taken care of. It was absolutely horrific, but we got through. (Once she got her house fixed up my mom moved several states away so she'll never have to go through a hurricane ever again!!) A strong family network was invaluable; my husband and I went down (this was before our first child) and pitched in with the clean up at my mom's house. My brother and his wife were there, my grandmother helped as much as she was able, and we did what had to be done. No one talked about prepping at that time but my parents had storm shutters that probably saved their lives. They had non-perishable food they were able to salvage and take to my grandmother's. My grandmother lost power but she was from an era where that was a normal thing and she pulled out her kerosene hurricane lanterns and her sterno stove and kept right on going.

My grandmother was from a generation that knew how to function without our modern conveniences because they didn't have those conveniences growing up, especially country kids. She grew up on a farm in rural Alabama and knew how to do all of those things we are trying, as preppers, to re-learn in today's world. She had a garden (just a few tomato plants by the time I came along) and raised chickens and cows with my grandfather when my mom was a child. She told me all sorts of stories about her childhood, how her mom would make a huge lunch including homemade biscuits every day, wash their clothes by hand on wash day, butcher chickens, and thump misbehaving kids on the head with her sewing thimble, how her dad was a jack of all trades including a bus driver, an untrained yet very competent vet, a farmer, and in later years a builder, in order to take care of his family, and how they all had to go and pick cotton in the family fields when she was just a kid. They were "off grid" for the most part, but it was just the way they lived!

Now that I've walked down memory lane a bit I'll get back to the point I'm trying to make, which is preparing for disasters shouldn't get you stressed out. Take it one step at a time, beginning with defining what you are prepping for. Learn skills as you can. Volunteering with Girl Scouts provided me with excellent opportunities to learn new skills such as camping and first aid, for instance. Learn by doing, too. Say you aren't very good with plants, the only way you'll get better is if you try! If you throw some plants in the ground to start with you'll quickly learn what works and what doesn't, especially if you do your research as you go. I'm not good at researching in advance when it comes to gardening, it's too abstract, but give me a plant that's all wilty when I know I've watered it enough and I'll research the heck out of that little problem!

So that's how I've approached prepping. I plan for hurricanes so I've prepared my house as much as possible with storm shutters and roof straps and, as soon as we could afford them, impact windows, I've learned about other steps I need to take such as yearly pruning of the trees on my property, (and I had a few trees cut down that were too close to the house for comfort), and I've prepared for an extended time without electricity. I've planned for having to live in a tent if my house is damaged by learning to camp. (And now that my husband and I are older we've been able to purchase a second home with retirement savings so the bug out location isn't a tent anymore!) I've taken first aid classes. I can cook without electricity or gas. I can grow food, sort of. Not enough to go live off the grid, but I'm pretty sure I could get through the aftermath of a nasty storm or two. It's taken a bit to get here, I am 50 after all, but I just keep plugging away!


Friday, January 3, 2014

A Quote and Thanksgiving

I'm not much of one for quotes but sometimes things stand out, like this one from A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness:

"Marthe belonged to the sustenance school of crisis management", location 5379-5385, Kindle version.

I love that!! It stands out because I can relate. When a crisis comes along, if I'm not the primary sufferer then my job is to make sure everyone is fed. That doesn't mean I necessarily cook, sometimes I do, but sometimes I orchestrate things, like sending someone out for take out, or calling for the pizza. I also grocery shop; I'm really good at grocery shopping. Whatever it takes, I make sure there's food for everyone because if you're going through a stressful event you need to eat. (Just don't send me to pick up the take out; I HATE getting take out orders.)

Now here's a picture of a very special meal, our Thanksgiving dinner. It was delicious! I didn't cook all of it like my grandmother used to do, or even close to all of it, but I coordinated our efforts so no one person had to do too much yet we all contributed and had a fantastic meal. (And yes, those are my silly little white Corelle bowls, which I love, on the red stoneware. I never bought bowls to go with the plates so I had to make do! Well, at least the white and red look pretty together.)