Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roasted Chicken Stock

I found this wonderful recipe for Roasted Chicken Stock that I just have to share with you! I had recently made a soup with some chicken thighs and then soon after roasted a whole chicken, and really (for the first time) wanted to do something with the leftover bones!! I had also been reading a great blog post on how to keep your family healthy during cold season, which is of high interest to me since we were far more sick last season than we had ever been! You have to check out her post!
So, this stock is great to use in soups/stews, but is also great to drink when you are feeling under the weather or starting to get sick! And it pretty much used produce that I already had on hand, and needed to use up in fact, so it all worked out!

Roasted Chicken Stock
Elana's Pantry

Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 Chicken Carcass
3 Quarts Cold Water
1 Onion, halved
4 Carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
10 cloves garlic, no need to peel
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
10 sprigs fresh thyme
5 celery tops (the leaves and ribs from the inside of a bunch of celery)
2 bay leaves

1. Place the chicken in a large stockpot with the water.
2. Bring pot to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
3. Place onion, carrot, and garlic cloves on a parchment lined baking sheet.
4. Roast at 400 degrees for one hour.
5. Add roasted vegetables to stock, then add parsley, thyme, celery, and bay leaves.
6. Simmer stock one more hour, then cool and strain into glass mason jars.
7. Drink alone or use for soups or sauces.

It is seriously the easiest thing to make, and makes the house smell wonderful for about 2 hours! Let me tell you some things I learned in this process. You don't have to drizzle any kind of oil or anything over the vegetables that roast; they will turn a blackish color, and that is okay. They are suppose to do that. I was tempted to drizzle something over them, but judging from the picture of her roasted vegetables, you don't need to.
The first time, I only used some chicken thigh bones, and used the suggested 3 quarts of water, and it didn't make a lot of stock, once it cooked down. The second time I made it, I used a whole chicken carcass, and so I didn't measure the water, I just covered that carcass and then some, and got a lot more stock out of it.
I also was picking the chicken off of the carcass for the first time and though I tried to do the best I could, there is some that stays on it, and I figure it added extra flavor anyways! You will be straining the stock anyways, so it's not like you will have chicken chunks in it!
The big no-no that I stupidly discovered the second time around, is to let the stock cool before you put it into mason jars and pop it right into the freezer. I lost almost my whole second batch due to cracked mason jars in the freezer. Duh!! So, don't do that!
If you go to Elana's post about this recipe, she also includes a link to all sorts of soups you can use this stock in! Since it is so dark and flavorful, I don't know that you would want to use it in place of chicken broth for a recipe!
So, here's to keeping healthier this season, stocking up on vitamins and water, and drinking this hearty stock!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Meal Preparations

Holiday Cranberry Sauce as the cranberries were bursting.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, it was about that time to make my menu and start planning my schedule for when I would start cooking/baking so that I wouldn't have to do it all at one sitting! Especially with being pregnant, I can't be on my feet for too long at a time, so I really wanted to stretch out my cooking to preserve my back!
This year, it really helps that we are spending Thanksgiving with Tad's family, so I don't have to do all the cooking, and we pretty much cut the menu in half and are each cooking so that the burden doesn't fall on either of us! And the great thing is that she has a roaster that she cooks her turkey in, so I don't have to even think about buying the turkey, thawing it, and cooking it so that it doesn't kill my guests!! In years past, I was frantically reading all the how-to's and turkey 101's so that I would properly cook the thing so that it would taste good and not send anyone home in pain! I have cooked about 3 turkeys now, but it still seems like a foreign thing to me, so I'm glad to not be cooking it this year!
My portion of the Thanksgiving menu is as follows:

Cranberry Sauce
Cheese Balls
Pumpkin Soup (which might actually be eaten at dinner with leftovers)
Corn Souffle
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie

I tried to map out my cooking according to what would keep best in the fridge/freezer and what I could make ahead of time and still taste like it was just made! So, here is my schedule for the week:

Pie Crust Dough before putting them into Ziplocs and rolling them out to be frozen until later use.

Sunday: made Cranberry Sauce and Perfect Pie Crusts for my pies
Monday: made the Cheese Balls
Tuesday: no cooking
Wednesday: will make Pecan Pie and Stuffing
Thursday morning: will make Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie
will prep Corn Souffle (church cookbook, will include recipe later!)
Thursday late morning: will cook Corn Souffle and Stuffing at Tad's parent's house
will cook Pumpkin Soup on stove top either right before the meal, or later that evening with dinner leftovers.

Cheese Balls to be refrigerated and then rolled in chopped pecans before serving. Yum!

So that's the plan for this year. Not too complicated, and yummy recipes pretty much that I have made before! It should be good, easy, and not too much at one time! I'm looking forward to it! My mother-in-law is making the turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, pumpkin pie, and apple pie. It should be a yummy, fun time!

What does your Thanksgiving menu look like this year?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Thankful Tree

Well, I finally got on the Pinterest train!! I had heard so many bloggers talking about it and all the wonderful ideas they had gotten from it, and I thought I should check it out! I wouldn't say I am completely obsessed with it, as some are, but there are certainly great ideas for every interest you could possibly have! The above picture is one of the ideas I got! It is called The Thankful Tree and it comes from Simply Vintagegirl Blog.
It is simply some twigs put into a pretty vase, with some ribbon (or yarn if you don't have any ribbon) tied around it! It has been a fun activity for Madelynn and I each day as she picks one thing that she is thankful for! I cut out little leaves of different colors and hole-punch them, and then her or I will write the thing she is thankful for on the leaf! Then she gets to hang it! It is a little different on the blog, perhaps a little prettier, but I found that I liked the leaves better and it actually looks like a little fall tree now! And it makes a great Fall centerpiece!
Also, it has been a good way to get Maddy thinking about being thankful and taking the time to pick one thing each day that she is thankful that she has. It has gotten us talking about those who are less fortunate and how so many other kids don't have the things that she has. I hope it has made her more thankful!
Pinterest is basically a bunch of pictures taken from different blogs or websites that could create a good idea for you. Once you are signed up, you can pin different pictures to your own boards for future reference. You can even tag different websites that you are on if you would like to save an idea to your board on Pinterest! It's pretty fun! I have boards for homeschooling, Christmas decor, my style, kids activities, favorite recipes (of course!), etc. It is pretty fun to get these new ideas in a lot shorter time than looking up each of these things individually!
Try it out!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Writing a Letter

image credit

A letter. Who does that anymore? Who receives them anymore? Not like a short thank-you note, or an invitation to a party, which are also becoming obsolete, but a true, long, heartfelt letter? I will tell you this much, a letter means a lot more than a quick email, an online invitation, or a quick, one-liner message on Facebook! Now, I'm not saying that I don't do these things, or that I'm offended when I get these things, but I'm just saying that taking the time to sit down and hand-write a letter to someone could make their day.
I was encouraged to do this from the book Large Family Logistics by Kim Brenneman and also in the book Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Kim Brenneman encourages you to sit down a write a letter once a week to a friend as a part of your office day. Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages you to write notes/letters to people who have meant a lot to you in your life, and not to wait until you are standing at someone's funeral and wish you would have expressed how much they had meant in your life. She had amazing stories of how people had really touched other people who might not have otherwise known the difference they had made in someone's life.
I just think a letter is endearing, charming, and extremely thoughtful. For someone to sit down, and take the time to get out paper and pen, and to think of the words to write to you, to put that letter in an envelope and find a stamp to put on it, not to mention dig up your address, it really means a lot!
So, in light of this, I sat down and wrote my first letter a couple of weeks ago. I wrote to a friend who means a lot and who I haven't seen in several months. Someone who will always remain one of my closest friends, no matter the distance between us. She received that letter, and said she had just been thinking how we needed to catch up, and then she got the letter! It made her day! I was so glad I took the time to write to her, and look forward to writing to more people who mean a lot to me but are (sadly) far away!

So, who could you write a letter to this week? We could even write love letters to our husbands!! How much would that mean to them if we took the time to write out what we appreciate about them and how we appreciate all the work they do for our families, especially if that means that we get to stay home with our kiddos!

The possibilities are endless! Make someone's day today, and write them a letter!

Hop of over to to read more about other people's new adventures this week!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Having the Husband at Home

This might sound crazy, but after 6 years of marriage, 2 kids, and one on the way, I still adore my husband and wish he could be home all the time. I just don't get that he has to be at work full-time, or more to make ends meet, and be away from us so much!! Growing up, I just accepted that this is what all families did, what all husbands/fathers did. But with being a wife to a man I am totally in love with, I just don't accept it!
I know, I know. I'm crazy. Of course he has to go and work so that we can have money so that we can support our family and I am so blessed that I don't have to work so that I can stay home with my precious kiddos! I get that! I'm just saying, if I had it my way, I would keep him home!
Tad's 30th birthday is coming up, and for his birthday, he wanted to take a crazy hiking/camping trip with his brothers and a guy from our church. They took about 3 days and went to Texas and went hiking, swimming, running, and camping. They had a blast! I am so glad he went and had such a good time!
But it was hard for me. Tad hasn't ever been away since we have gotten married! I have gone away with the kids to Ohio numerous times to visit my family. But we have never been the ones to be left. It wasn't so much that I couldn't handle the kids for the long weekend. I just missed him and was worried about him and his long drive. And I'm not used to being away from him for days on end with almost no communication!
But alas! He is home, safe and sound! It makes me appreciate my time with him so much more. And even though he is back to work, and I miss him again, I am so glad that he is only at work and not in another state with no cell phone reception!!
So, to end this rambling of a blog post, I will just say that I am so in love with Tad, and am grateful for every minute I get to spend with him! I'm so glad that I married someone who I can't stand to be away from, and not the other way around! Love you, baby!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Okra

You will not believe how good this meal is! I was drooling over the ingredients in this melt-in-your-mouth, unbelievable dish! Now granted, you have to love shrimp, cheese, grits, and okra to start with, but if you do, like we do, then you will love this! I have been cooking almost all recipes from Rachael Ray's magazines lately, and I have not been disappointed, let me tell you! It seems like every single meal I have made of hers is not just average, but delicious! And this is definitely one of them! I can't wait to make it again!

Shrimp and Cheese Grits with Okra
Rachael Ray Magazine October 2010

One 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking grits
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 5 ounces)
5 scallions, white and green portions thinly sliced separately
Salt and Pepper
6 slices bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound frozen cut okra, thawed and patted dry
3 tablespoons flour

1. In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups water and the evaporated milk to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, stir in the grits, partially cover and simmer, stirring, until just thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cheese and three-quarters of the scallion greens, season with salt and pepper and cover to keep warm.

2. While the grits are cooking, in a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until almost crisp, about 8 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and stir into the pan along with the scallion whites; cook until the shrimp is opaque, about 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp mixture to a bowl; wipe out the skillet.

3. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Season the okra with salt and pepper and toss with the flour. Fry the okra in a single layer, stirring occasionally, until golden in spots, about 3 minutes; drain on paper towels and season with salt.
4. Divide the grits among 4 bowls and top with the shrimp mixture and okra. Sprinkle the remaining scallion greens on top.

This is one of my favorite meals I have made! When I am craving something delicious, gourmet- tasting, and savory, this would do the trick! You will love it!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


We had so much fun on and around Halloween this year! It was fun being in a town with lots of little activities for little kids, that are geared towards them having fun and not being scared on Halloween! One thing we did this year was go to the big church in town for their Fall Festival! They had carnival games, tickets, food, a bouncy house, a hay ride, and little games for the kids! They had so much fun! Aunt Lydia came and helped me with the kids since Tad had to work, and we had a blast!

Maddy and Judah loved this game! They just grabbed a little duckie out of the pool, and whatever number was on the bottom of it determined which basket of prizes they got to pull out of! They did it several times! And it was just easy enough for Judah to participate!

Maddy at the bottom of the bouncy house. There were tons of kids in there!
Hay ride! Lydia said Judah loved it and was waving to people from it! It was one of his favorite things there!
Finally, we have a front porch to carve pumpkins on! No more messy clean-up in the house, or on our super tiny balcony in our old apartment! And Halloween day was around 75 degrees and sunny, it was beautiful!! Tad mainly did all the work and carving, but the kids had fun watching and playing outside!!

And I got to make pumpkin puree from my pie pumpkins and Tad made some really yummy roasted pumpkin seeds!
It was so warm, the kids didn't have to bundle up to go out!! Another church in town had a little trick-or-treating time at their church where people sat out in costumes and gave the kids candy. So we did that right before we went out to the houses. It was fun seeing all the kid's costumes!
At this age, all Judah "understood" is that he had a bucket of candy, and he wanted to eat it. He didn't really get going from house to house, or people's costumes. He just wanted candy!
After going to some houses on our street, we finally came back and got to hand out candy to the kids who came here, which was fun! Our apartment building always had trick-or-treating, but it's really not the same as having your own house! We sat on the front porch and waited for the kids to come!
Pregnant belly, anyone?
Tad tried to do this whole pumpkin in little dots, cute!!

eJudah, no more candy! Sheesh!!
We finally put Judah to bed a little early that night! He was tired and fussy and only wanted candy!! But they had fun, and we have now hidden the gigantic bowl of Halloween candy to be given out only at certain times!!! We will now have to detox and go see the dentist to make sure we aren't eating too much!!!
So, here's to another adventure in our little house, and a fun time with the kids. They get more and more fun the older they get!! Love those kiddos!!