easy chicken soup

chicken soup

It’s been years since I’ve made regular old chicken soup. I usually make vegetable barley soup or ham and bean soup. But I used to make chicken soup all the time — weekly in the fall and winter. And this week I needed to make chicken soup because my husband was having a medical procedure done (nothing serious) and chicken soup was the requested and recommended food to have on hand for the afternoon of the procedure. When I had the same procedure done just last week, he didn’t make me soup, or pasta …  or anything. He got yelled at by the discharge nurse and then was sent out for takeout from a favorite restaurant of mind. Just to prove I’m a good wife, and a better spouse than he is, I made him homemade chicken soup. Bonus points for me.

Instead of using my standard chicken soup recipe, the one I haven’t touched in a while but made for the first time over 20 years ago, this time I tried some shortcuts. And they worked very well. There is nothing new or unique about this recipe. It’s just basic chicken soup. But you know what? That’s the best kind, in my opinion. Soup like my mother and grandmother used to make. Soup that tastes good alone or with warm from the oven rolls, or with a toasty gooey grilled cheese sandwich, or simply with a wedge of cheese and a crunchy apple. Perfect cold weather comfort food.

I will definitely be making this version of chicken soup more often. So easy and perfect for a cold day, which today is. Hello Winter. Goodbye Fall. Yummy soup.

***

Easy Chicken Soup

Into a large soup pot pour 32 ounces of chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium.

Season generously with salt and black pepper (and garlic powder, if desired).

Place into the liquid 3 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless), cut into large-ish pieces. Cover.

chicken in stock

While that is cooking, clean and chop 5 stalks of celery. Then peel and thinly slice 6 carrots. Finally, chop one onion.

veggies

By the time all the chopping is done, the chicken will be cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.

chicken

Add the veggies to the pot.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot.

Also add 32 ounces of cold water to the pot.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until you get a gentle boil.

Add 1/2 – 1 cup barley.  *Note: You can also add 1 cup dried pasta or 1/2 cup uncooked rice. If you choose rice, this meal is gluten free.

barley

Reduce heat to medium/low.

Cover and cook until barley (or pasta or rice) is tender, about one hour, or longer if desired or busy or if you just want your house to smell like delicious homemade soup.

quick spicy spaghetti sauce

quick and spicy pasta sauce

Pasta is one of my favorite foods. It’s comfort and delicious and can be prepared so very many ways. If I don’t have pasta often enough, a craving with start and grow bigger as each day goes on. I’ve learned it’s not smart to ignore such a craving.

The other day, after a week of being sick, which means I didn’t cook at all, but rather survived on tea and crackers, the craving grew to a beast after reading this food blog (possibly I should say “watching” since it’s in video form). I knew my cold was on its way out when I found myself drooling over the homemade pasta and arrabiata sauce.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resources to make homemade pasta (no idea which box in the basement holds my pasta maker), nor did I have any fresh tomatoes in the house. I had no energy and was also short on time, but very hungry. And this hunger was for pasta. For pasta with arrabiata sauce, to be precise. So I tossed this recipe together. It’s similar to the recipe linked above, but a cheater version. It satisfied my pasta craving, and it was very good!

Note: For my slow cooker pasta sauce recipe, click here.

**********

Quick Spicy Spaghetti Sauce

olive oil

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 large onion, quartered and sliced

salt

pepper

2 generous shakes cayenne pepper

1 28-ounce can coarse ground tomatoes

dried spaghetti

shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

~

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Cook spaghetti as directed on its package.

In a deep sauce pan, cover the bottom with a decent layer of olive oil.

Add the garlic and onion and cook over medium heat. Stir often.

After a couple minutes, reduce heat and cover. Stir occasionally.

When the onions have become tender, about 5 minutes or so, add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and the canned tomatoes. Stir.

Put the cover back on and cook over low heat until the spaghetti is done.

Serve sauce over the cooked spaghetti (toss gently) and top with shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

quick and spicy sauce

mozzarella meatballs

I don’t make meatballs often. Yet every time I do, I wonder why I don’t make them more frequently. They’re easy and my family loves them. Making a mental note right now to add meatballs to the weekly meal plan!

##########

Mozzarella Meatballs

1 egg

1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

salt

pepper

2 cups pasta sauce (any kind you prefer — homemade or from a jar), divided

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

1 pound ground beef (I use either 80/20 or 85/15 for meatballs)

Olive or vegetable oil

~~~

In a large bowl, stir together the egg, bread crumbs and seasonings and 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce. Mix in the ground beef and mozzarella and Parmesan.

(*Note: I do not enjoy mixing raw meat with my fingers, and have found that stirring with a large serving fork mixes the meat and ingredients well.)

Form into balls about the size of golf balls. From the one pound of beef I get about 15 meatballs.

In a deep skillet, heat the oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan … don’t skimp!).

Place the meatballs into the hot oil and cook over medium heat; turning the meatballs frequently, to brown them on all sides as best as possible. You may need to reduce the heat so that they don’t cook too quickly.

When brown on all sides, add the remaining pasta sauce.

Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least 15 minutes (I like to let these simmer for up to 30 minutes).

Serve with pasta or on a sub roll.

fettuccine alfredo with chicken and asparagus

As a teen I babysat a lot. There were a couple of the moms that would hire me to help when they had parties, to prep the food and set up and to clean up afterward. One lovely lady, Alice, entertained often, and I enjoyed helping her out with her party prior to getting the kids to bed before the party started. Her standard party food was marinated flank steak with fettuccine Alfredo. After helping her make this many times, it became my special dish. I never wrote down her recipe, and I still make this from memory. Therefore it’s not authentic, and it may be a bit different each time, but it is always quite yummy!

Over the years I’ve made it for roommates, co-workers, and it was the first dish I made for my husband, on our second date — rumor has it this is the reason he married me.  😉

Sometimes I make it with the traditional pasta, but I also like it with spinach fettuccine, as in the photos in this post. I find the taste is the same. And instead of asparagus, I often make it with broccoli — whichever looks best when I’m shopping at the store that week.

In order to make this not-so-horrible-for-your-health, I often make it with whole milk or 2% milk rather than cream. And I greatly reduce the Parmesan when doing so. But at least once a year (typically New Year’s Eve) I make the full-fat version, because sometimes you just need it the way it was intended to be.

Thanks Alice … wherever you are!

##########

Fettuccine Alfredo With Chicken And Asparagus

Start by boiling water for the pasta. Cook as directed on the package.

While that’s cooking, heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Cook 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts on both sides (about 3-5 minutes per side) until they’re nice and golden brown. I season them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Remove the chicken from the pan and put into the pan chopped onion, chopped garlic, and asparagus (cut into 1-inch pieces), along with about 1 tablespoon butter. (*Note: If there isn’t much liquid in the pan from cooking the chicken, add up to 1/2 cup chicken broth or few tablespoons of water if need be.) Cook this over medium heat until the asparagus are just tender.

Turn off the heat and return the chicken to the pan. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan as well.

If you haven’t made the sauce yet (if time permits I make mine while the chicken is cooking), cover the pan with the chicken, asparagus and pasta to keep warm while making the sauce.

~~~

To make the Alfredo sauce:

In a small sauce pan, melt 1 stick butter over low heat.

Whisk in 1 cup cream (I use light cream, or sometimes half & half, but it can be made with heavy cream if you are willing to be totally sinful).

Add 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Whisk well.

Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Serve.

crockpot chuck roast with tomato sauce

*Updated to add links to my other crock pot recipes for chuck roasts: here and here.

~~~

This recipe was based on one I found on the website of my local grocery store. I printed it off a year or two or three ago and never did anything with it, until today.

This morning I had chuck roast on hand, intending to cook it in the crock pot as I’ve done before, but was thinking of doing it a bit differently this time. Knowing I’ve had success cooking a chuck roast with tomato sauce in the past, I searched my recipe binder and found the printed out recipe to use as a guide. The recipe from the grocery store wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so basically I just took their guidance as to the amount of canned tomatoes and beef broth and did the rest on my own.

Because today’s meal was for my family as well as for a friend’s family, I did not include onions and garlic (this other family isn’t a big fan), but next time I will, since my husband enjoys the meat cooked with those flavors. Today I also used two chuck roasts to accommodate everyone. If making this with just the one chuck roast, I may decrease the liquids, because the sauce was a bit watery. Maybe I’ll just try draining the can of tomatoes. When I try it with these changes, I’ll post again!

*Edited to add: I’ve since made another version of this, and my family loved it! You can find the recipe here. Enjoy!

##########

Crockpot Chuck Roast With Tomato Sauce

vegetable oil

chuck roast

1 cup beef stock

1 onion, cut in half and sliced (*optional)

2-4 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced (*optional)

1 can (28-ounce) Roma tomatoes

1/2 cup pasta sauce

1 tablespoon dried basil

salt and pepper

Heat oil in large pan and cook meat on all sides — about 2-3 minutes per side — over medium heat. Remove meat from pan and place in the crockpot.

Turn off the heat under the pan. Drain the oil and fat from the pan and add the beef stock to deglaze the pan. Pour this liquid over the meat in the crcokpot.

Add the onion and garlic (if desired), and then the tomatoes and tomato sauce to the crockpot.  Season it all with the basil, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for at least 6 hours or high for at least 4 hours.

Serve over egg noodles, if desired.

crockpot red sauce

An earlier post was for chicken and pasta — my version of chicken cacciatore. That recipe was created to make a complete meal out of the sauce recipe a friend had told me about. She found it on allrecipes dot com.

Here’s a little funny story. Turns out I’m soooo much like my mom, because I never actually made the sauce recipe in the way it was intended. Not once. Nope. Instead, I read it, considered some changes that would incorporate the recipe into meals that I serve to my family on a regular basis, and went ahead and did those. Came up with a couple versions of the chicken and pasts recipe using this sauce as a base. All successful, I should add. But not once did I make the sauce as is. Well, until now.

Oh my nostrils! Yesterday, when this sauce was cooking in the crockpot for hours and hours, my house smelled AMAZING!!!!! Really, I think I’ll make this weekly, even if it didn’t taste good (but it does), just so my house will smell this awesome on a regular basis!

##########

Crockpot Red Sauce

1 large can (28-ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 large can (28-ounces) San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

4-8 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

dash cinnamon (no more than 1/2 teaspoon)

Place all ingredients in a crockpot set to low or warm (on my crock pot, the low setting should be renamed “only slightly lower than hot”, therefore I use the warm setting for this). Cook for as long as you can … 10 to 15 hours is what the original recipe suggested. The longer it cooks, the more intense the flavors. They’re not kidding. Yesterday I let mine cook for 15 hours and it was delicious!

Use for any pasta dish.

this is *some* of the garlic I put into this sauce yesterday

“before”

*after*

lasagne

Sauce, pasta, cheese.    Sauce, pasta, cheese.    Sauce, pasta, cheese.

I’m one of those people that can say a phrase or a list a hundred times, attempting to memorize it, but then get confused ten minutes later. Was it “sauce, cheese, pasta”? Or maybe “pasta, sauce, cheese”? Set to music, though, and it’s in my head forever. So years ago, when I needed to remember which order to place the ingredients in the pan for lasagne, I’d repeatedly sing “sauce, pasta, cheese” (I made lasagne very often, therefore I sang this very, very often). Now when I make lasagne that little ditty still goes through my head over and over. I’d sing it for you, but I don’t sing well — good thing there’s no sound on this blog post!

*Note: I make this in a variety of ways — cheese only, with spinach, with ground beef, or with sausage. Depends on who I’m cooking for and what mood I’m in!

*Another note: The original recipe was found on a box of Barilla lasagne years and years ago. I’ve modified it slightly. Barilla is the only pasta I use to make lasagne now, because you do not need to cook the pasta before assembling the lasagne. I’m a big fan of saving time and work if it results in a wonderful meal!

##########

Lasagne

1 box Barilla lasagne (look for “no boiling required” printed on the label!)

1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 container (bag or box) frozen spinach, thawed and drained (if desired)

1 pound ground beef or sausage, cooked and drained (if desired)

2 jars pasta sauce or 2 batches of homemade sauce

*From these ingredients I made two lasagnes. One was cheese only, and the other had ground beef. Because I make two instead of one, still using casserole (9x13x3-inch) dishes, they don’t end up tall (thick?), but I’m okay with that… makes me feel less guilty for having a second (or third?) piece! I’ve done the math and if using half the ingredients in one lasagne, then eating two pieces is equivalent to one piece of a normal lasagne…. At least that’s what I tell myself!

In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, 3 cups of mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheeses. If using spinach, add it to this cheese mixture.

In a deep casserole dish (9x13x3-inch casserole dish or similar), place the ingredients in this order:

  1. 1/3  of the sauce
  2. pasta
  3. 1/2 of the cheese (& spinach) mixture
  4. 1/3 of the sauce
  5. pasta
  6. 1/2 of the cheese (& spinach) mixture
  7. half of the remaining sauce
  8. pasta
  9. finish off the sauce
  10. remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese

If adding the cooked ground beef or sausage, use this order:

  1. 1/3 of the sauce
  2. pasta
  3. 1/3 of the cheese
  4. 1/2 of the meat
  5. 1/3 of the sauce
  6. pasta
  7. 1/3 of the cheese
  8. 1/2 of the meat
  9. half of the remaining sauce
  10. pasta
  11. finish off the sauce
  12. remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350F.

Cover your lasagne and bake for 50 minutes. Take it out and remove the foil. The lasagne should be bubbly. If not, put the foil back on and put it back in for at least 10 more minutes.

When bubbly, remove foil and return to the oven for 10 minutes for the top layer of cheese to melt.

Important: Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Hint: I prefer to complete the cooking process ahead of time (early in the day or the day before you plan to serve it). When you want to serve it, put it back in a 350F oven, covered, for half an hour to warm it through.