Homemade Chicken Stock {recipe}


The past year or so, I've been wanting to make more 'homemade' things.  I make homemade hot fudge, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, pizza dough, spaghetti sauce & pizza sauce (coming in a post soon), taco seasoning, etc, on a regular basis and never buy those things from the store anymore.  Chicken stock has been on the list for a while now, and I've finally gotten around to making it.  I use it in a lot of things.. soups, crock pot meals, sauces, etc.

We normally cook a whole chicken in the crock pot every couple of weeks.  We will eat some for dinner that night, then the rest I freeze to use in meals throughout the week.  This time, I saved all the scraps (bones, skin, etc) when I was done picking out the meat and put it in the fridge to make stock the next day.  It doesn't take much effort to make and this way I'm putting all of the chicken to use.  I get 3-4 quarts out of it, and store them in reusable containers from Garnish.  Just another thing to stock the deep freeze with.  ;)

Homemade Chicken Stock
recipe from Annie's Eats

  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 3 large carrots, cut into 1" pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 chicken carcass.. bones, skin, etc
  • 3-4 quarts of water
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • a few springs of fresh thyme & rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown slightly, about 5-10 minutes.  Add the chicken carcass to the pot.  Add enough water to nearly fill the pot.  Stir in the peppercorns, salt and herbs.  Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and let simmer 4-5 hours.  Let cool slightly.

Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer into a large pitcher or bowl to remove the solids.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator.  A layer of fat will form on the surface, which can be skimmed off and discarded.  Transfer to storage containers and freeze until ready to use.

Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese {recipe}


Who doesn't love a good homemade macaroni and cheese?  It's one of my favorite things. The ultimate comfort food.  This particular recipe is so, so simple... with a fun twist of roasted veggies... that also gives it some pretty color!

My daughter loves macaroni and cheese also, so I tried to sneak in some veggies as well for her - but who am I kidding, she just picked around the vegetables.  Other than that, this was a hit in our house.  It would be good for a meatless meal, or a side.  But since my husband can't do a meal without meat, I added in some shredded chicken that I had in the freezer.  It would also be good with some cut up sausage/kielbasa rounds (like a grown up macaroni and cheese with hot dogs?).. I think I'll use kielbasa next time.

The recipe is actually a lot quicker than it looks to make, not very time consuming at all.  You can add in some red pepper flakes for an extra kick, but I didn't just because I had a little one eating it.

Roasted Vegetable Mac & Cheese
 recipe from The Comfort of Cooking

  • 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped into small chunks
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow squash, quartered and diced
  • 10 baby carrots, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional, to add spice)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Set a medium pot of salted water to boil.   Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with aluminum foil and coating with a little olive oil or nonstick cooking spray.  Toss broccoli, red pepper, squash and carrots onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, or until vegetables have softened. Remove from oven and set aside.

Once water is boiling, lower heat slightly and add pasta, cooking according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, stirring constantly until mixture is slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in cheddar cheese until well distributed and melted. Add (optional: red pepper flakes), cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Add macaroni and vegetables.

Place mixture in a large casserole dish (or keep in skillet if it's oven proof) and sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs. Place under the broiler in your oven (500 degrees) for 3-4 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Date Night; Food & Music


We like to eat.  On our date nights we love going out to new restaurants we've never been to.. whether it's a chain or a local place.. we like tasting new foods and being in a new atmosphere.  Last weekend we went to a restaurant called ZAZA's - a place known for their big, fresh salads and wood-fired pizzas.  And wouldn't you know it, they also have really good gelato.  ;)

I had a spring green/spinach mix salad with strawberries, blueberries, pecans, goat cheese, and a side of balsamic vinaigrette.  My husband had a pizza, half ham & pineapple and half something with lots of meat and arugula.  We shared and both were really delicious - and the portions were huge.  But you could tell the ingredients were fresh.

It was gorgeous out that evening, so we were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy some sunshine.  :)

And of course I had a small bowl of gelato afterwards.  I couldn't pass it up.  If you know me, you know I like all forms of ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato.. whatever!  I chose the tiramisu.. chocolate gelato with soaked lady fingers!  And yes, I know that photo below is super attractive of me... but my gelato was melting all over the place.

Okay so this date was partially a 'birthday date' for my husband.  His birthday was back in April, and his gift was a pair of tickets to see Jason Aldean in concert.  Pretty good present if I do say so myself.  So glad he chose me to go with him.. ;) 

Jake Owen open for him.. (which is who is in the picture on the right.. my phone died before Jason Aldean came out.. sad).  They both put on an amazing show.  I'd go again if I had the chance.

We cherish our date nights, for sure.  But of course we both found ourselves saying 'I miss my baby girl' about 10 times throughout the night.  ;)  That girl has our hearts!

Fresh Strawberry Pie {recipe}


In my previous post, I shared how I went and bought a boat load of fresh strawberries from a local farm stand.  My husbands request was strawberry pie.  I've made this once before, when we lived in Korea.. and it was a hit (and I honestly can't remember where the recipe came from).  Using fresh, ripe strawberries really enhances the flavor in this pie.  It's a prefect and refreshing way to end a summer night (a great dessert to have after grilling!). 

It's pretty easy to whip up, and the only thing you need to bake is your crust beforehand.  There are many different ways to make strawberry pie.  The filling in this particular one contains gelatin, so it firms up, like jello.  I don't even like jello, but there are so many strawberries in this.. there's not 'too much' jello.  So stock up on fresh strawberries the next time you head to your farmer's market, and make this for a good way to end a family cook out!

Oh, did I mention, it's even better with a dollop of whipped cream on top?  Because it is.

Fresh Strawberry Pie

  • 1 9-inch pie crust, baked
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

Slice approx. 3 cups of the strawberries into quarters and place them in a medium bowl.  Crush the berries so you have about 1 1/2 cups crushed berries.  Place them in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and salt and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5-7 minutes, until the mixture begins to thicken slightly.

Soften the gelatin in the cold water and set it aside.  Remove berry mixture from the heat and add the softened gelatin and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Cut the remaining berries into quarters, and gently fold them into the cooled cooked mixture -- you can reserve some if you want to 'decorate' the top of the pie. Pour the filling into the baked pie shell, and chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 2 hours or overnight before serving. Makes 1 pie.  Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Fresh & Local Strawberries


Strawberries have been ripe for pickin' for the past few weeks now, but we've been out of town a lot and haven't had to time to get some.  There are two different farm stands nearby that sell them freshly-picked every day.  I've been yearning for them every time we drive by, and yesterday Clara and I finally stopped to pick some up.

They are seriously the best strawberries I've ever tasted.  I never want to eat store bought strawberries again.  They are so juicy, when you take a bite.. juice just runs down your hand.  And they're so sweet, no sugar is necessary!  There's absolutely nothing like a freshly picked strawberry!

Seriously.  Look at the beautiful color of these babies.  I love strawberries.  I bought a whole flat of them.. last night we had chocolate covered strawberries (YUM) and today I'm going to make strawberry pie.  And then of course, just snacking on some as is.. and probably freezing a few!

Clara liked to look at them.  And hold them.  And carry them around.  Then she took a bite.. and gave it back to me.  What child does not like strawberries?  She used to like them.. oh well, she can stick with her apples and bananas - more for me!  Haha.

Meal Plan Monday (5.6.13)


Better late than never?  I'd say so.

We've been busy the past month, and my little space on the net has been neglected.  I was out of town for 5 days last week, and earlier in April.  Lots going on, not enough time to think.. or breathe.

Anyway, I feel 'caught up' and semi-refreshed.  So here is what I should have posted on Monday.  Sorry for the delay.  ;)

Monday:  Mini meatloaves, mashed potatoes, and fresh pineapple.

Tuesday:  Leftovers.

Wednesday:  Ravioli.

Thursday:  Grilled honey lime chicken with rice pilaf and broccoli.

Friday:  Homemade pizza.

Saturday:  Date night/Out to eat!

Sunday:  Chicken parmesan baked pasta or Nachos (haven't decided yet!).

What's on everyones menu this week?