Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chicken Soup Starter

When we have anyone come down with an illness, the first thing they want is homemade chicken soup.  But I know that I don't always have time to get a good homemade chicken soup made right at that moment so a few years ago, I started using this method to get "Chicken Soup Starter" in the freezer and it's been an amazing gift.  To have that liquid gold ready to go - and to be able to get homemade chicken soup in front of a sickie in about 20 minutes is priceless.   I will always make this when we have a roast chicken for dinner because it's like free food!  Rather than tossing the carcass, make this and toss it when you're done.  It's amazing how much it breaks down making the stock!

Here is my batch from today:

The recipe isn't much of a recipe but more of what I just toss together that sounds good and it always makes a great soup.

Chicken Soup Starter

1 chicken carcass from a roasted chicken
2 small onions, cut in half (can leave skins on - even the dark ones)
1 head of garlic, most of the papery skin taken off and then cut into 1/4s (it seems like a lot but it's not and garlic is SOOOO good for illnesses)
3 stalks celery cut into big chunks, including the leaves
3 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1-2 tsp. salt (you can add more later so go lower for this)
about one teaspoon of each of the following dried herbs or whatever combo you prefer:  thyme, parsley,  rosemary, dill, sage
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
water to cover

Put the chicken carcass and all other ingredients into a 7 quart crockpot.  Set the crockpot on low and cook for 12 hours or so.  I will put this together after dinner and then deal with it in the morning after I'm done with breakfast.

After 12 hours, set a colander over a large stockpot and pour all of the contents of the crockpot into the colander.  Let it sit for 5 minutes to make sure you get all of the liquid out, pressing if you need to assure this.  Cover the stockpot and refrigerate then put the colander into a large bowl and refrigerate until cool enough to handle.  You will now pick through all the solids and discover just how much meat was still left on those bones!  Most of it will be little shreds of meat but that is OK.  Pick through and get all the meat you can, watching for the small little bones and any tough stuff that's in there.  Discard the solids.

Remove the stock from the fridge and skim off the fat that has gathered at the top.  Now you have gorgeous stock and plenty of chicken meat.  Divide the stock and meat into smaller freezer containers of your choosing.  I like to use containers that hold about 4-6 cups so that I can get a few bowls of soup out of the starter.  Label and freeze your starter.

When it's time to serve it, pull it from the freezer, set it into a bowl to thaw enough to remove the starter from the container and set into a pot and put on the stove over a medium low heat.  As the starter is melting, cut up one or two carrots, one or two stalks of celery and prepare a small amount of either rice or egg noodles.  Add the vegetables to the starter and cook until tender.  When it's ready, add the rice or noodles and serve.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Meatball Minestrone Soup

I saw this recipe online at Jamie Cooks It Up and decided to try it.  Hubby and the two littles were home to try it out and we got ratings of 9.5 to 10!!  So it's a keeper!!  I actually assembled it Saturday night and plugged it in Sunday morning before church.  We had a meeting at 5 pm so I figured we'd eat early but hubby wanted to eat afterwards so the soup ended up cooking for almost 12 hours!  But it was still absolutely delicious!!  I could see using just browned chopped meat (turkey or beef) in the recipe or even leaving it out for a vegetarian soup if you use vegetable stock.  DEFINITELY try it out!!

(photo credit: from Jamie Cooks it Up since I forgot to take a picture before we ate it!)

Meatball Minestrone Soup

2 (14.5 oz.) cans Italian style stewed tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups carrots
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green beans, fresh or frozen
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans
6 cups (about 1.5 lbs.) Italian meatballs, fully cooked [purchased frozen or homemade]
1 (16 oz) box ditalini pasta or elbow macaroni [I found that I used only about 1/4 of this)
1 (10 oz) can tomato soup
Parmesan cheese

[I'm typing the directions more in my own words because they had listed a lot of steps to basically say "Toss it all in".  LOL ]

1.  Into a large crockpot, mix all ingredients but the macaroni, tomato soup and cheese.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

2.  Add 1 can of tomato soup into the soup and stir.  Cover the soup and let it heat through.  This will thicken the soup just a bit.

3.  Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain.  Either place a portion of pasta in the bowl and serve the soup over the pasta or add in the pasta straight to the soup and stir.

4.  Serve with a bit of grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Shepherd's Pie

I don't know why but I was in the mood for Shepherd's Pie this week so I went searching for a recipe and found what I thought would be great.  I was right!  I made a few modifications and here's what I got - a definite keeper!

Shepherd's Pie

3 lbs. ground meat (I used turkey, lamb and beef)
2 medium onions, minced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup dry red wine
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen peas and carrots, thawed and heated for 2 minutes in the micro to cook a little
ground black pepper
3 lbs. russet potatoes (about 6 medium), peeled and cut into large cubes
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup milk or heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender.  Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot.  Add butter and milk and mash them to a smooth consistency.  Set aside.

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, cook the meat in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking the meat into small pieces with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes.  Drain the meat through a fine-mesh strainer, reserving the drippings.

3.  Return 2 Tbsp. of the reserved drippings to the pan and heat over medium-low heat until shimmering.  Add the onions and 1 tsp. salt and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the broth and wine, scraping up any browned bits.  Stir in the drained meat, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and rosemary.  Cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the peas and carrots and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer the mixture into a deep 13x9" casserole dish.

4.  With a large spoon, dollop the mashed potatoes over the meat filling.  Using a spoon or rubber spatula, smooth the potatoes out into an even layer and push to the edges of the baking dish.  Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheddar.

5.  Place the casserole in a preheated 400 degree F oven and bake for 35 minutes.  You might want to put a piece of foil under the casserole in case it bubbles over so as to keep your oven clean.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

6.  You can make this ahead of time up to before baking and cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and then foil and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.  (If frozen, the casserole must be thawed completely in the refrigerator for about 24 hours before baking).  Increase baking time to 1 hour for a cold casserole.