Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hearty Chicken Soup with Dumplings

This soup is a meal.  The chunks of veggies and the hearty dumplings will give you a wonderful dinner or Sunday Brunch.  This is the last Chicken Soup recipe for January 2018.  Next month the theme is still on comfort food but we are moving to Beef Stew and just like last month I will find a meatless alternative to even Beef stew!  But before we go we end the month with my favorite Chicken and Dumplings.  This version was a family favorite because my father loved Lima beans.  If you don't try cannelloni beans instead.

Hearty Chicken Soup with Dumplings
Serves 6

1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 lb frozen lima beans (broad)
2 Tbls oil
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced
3 leeks, well-washed, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 medium zucchinis, chopped
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbls chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

For the Dumplings:
1/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 Tbls cold butter, grated
1/2 cup water

Rinse the barley under cold water until the water runs clear; drain. Pour boiling water over the beans, drain and remove skins. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the chicken in batches, cook until well browned all over - this is important to achieve color and flavor.  Remove chicken.  Add the leeks, garlic, celery, carrots and zucchini, cook, stirring, until leeks are soft. Add the chicken stock and tomato paste, bring to a boil. Add the barley and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan with the beans.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, stir in the cheese and butter and mix well. Add enough of the water to form a soft dough. Drop level tablespoons of dumpling mixture into the simmering soup, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the dumplings, are cooked through and the barley is tender. Stir in the herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper, serve immediately.

The soup can be prepared a day ahead, however, the barley will thicken the soup overnight. The dumplings are best made just before serving as they will thicken soup also.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew (StewFeb)
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Friday, January 26, 2018

Chicken Tortilla Soup Weekend Recipe

I have made this during the winter months to awaken our taste buds. This can be a hot to the tongue recipe, so substitute mild chili peppers for jalapeno peppers, if that is not your style.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 chicken breast halves (cooked & diced)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbls olive oil
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano, dried
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 10.5-ounce can condensed chicken broth (or 3 cups chicken stock and leave out water)
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup yellow hominy
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 4-ounce can of jalapeno peppers (diced)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen, thawed)
1/2 cup picante sauce

Fresh cilantro
Tortilla chip crushed or strips
Shredded Mexican cheese
Sour cream

In a stock pot, heat oil and sauté the onion and garlic. Add chicken and sauté or 1 minute, then stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, chicken broth and water. Bring to boil, then simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the hominy, black beans, jalapeno peppers, corn and picante sauce. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve topped with cheese and tortilla chips. If it is too hot, add a dollop of sour cream.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Italian Oregano - Herb of the Week

I covered Italian Oregano in a short paragraph in post about the many varieties of oregano and decided that this time I would discuss this plant in detail and help dispel a few myths and inaccuracies about it. 

So the Herb of the Week is Italian Oregano
                                            (Origanum x majoricum

Italian Oregano is a cross of Oregano and Marjoram and has a mild flavor that blends well with other savory herbs like Basil and Tarragon.

Technically Italian Oregano can be cut back to the ground. Often when we are trimming oregano in the field we will use a weed eater and cut it back to about an inch. But with one as old as this we usually only cut back to where the main mass is. For this plant that was at about 10 inches. We take our grass sheers and find the top of the tuft and cut back to there. It takes about two or three weeks before new growth covers the plant and it both looks beautiful again and has usable leaves once again.

To Grow
An aromatic, hardy, bushy evergreen perennial with thick dark green leaves and white flowers, this hybrid between sweet marjoram (O. majorana) and Greek Oregano (O. vulgare.) Both of these parent species are native to the Mediterranean, so it is best suited for zones 6 thru 9 in North America.  Although I can grow it here in Zone 5b, if we have a polar vortex or long stretches of cold without snow cover it is unlikely to live through the winter. Italian oregano may develop stiff, woody stems in regions with mild winters.

Italian Oregano is easy to grow in well-drained soil, forming an attractive, clumping mound of trailing branches with rounded, aromatic light-green leaves about 1-inch long. I find in some cases it looks like thyme at a distance, but close up you see the fuzzy veined leaf that is characteristic of oregano.  In early summer, it's topped with spikes of tiny white flowers. Very adaptable, you can plant it at the edge of your herb garden, in the front of a border, or in a container. To encourage the bushy growth habit, pinch it back before flowering begins. Grows 12–24″ tall.

The aromatic leaves occur in opposite pairs. Anytime from early summer to early fall, plants display tiny white to ivory flowers. They emerge from whorled bracts in a cone-like cluster on stem tips. Both bees and butterflies are attracted to them. Usually Italian oregano is sterile, but occasionally seed is produced. Winter cold kills back the plant to its roots or stem bases. The best propagation method is from herbaceous stem cuttings that can be rooted in soil or water.

It bears white flowers that are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees. You can grow it in any well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Non-acidic, poor to moderately fertile soil is best. This means you can grow it in a container or garden bed with equally good results. Too much fertilizer and shade causes this herb to falter. Loose, sandy potting mix with some added compost is excellent for container culture. Trim back plants to prevent flowering if you wish to maintain an abundant crop of fresh foliage to use in the kitchen. In regions where this oregano becomes shrubby, cut back the plant to the ground in winter or early spring. The oldest stems aren't as productive as new growth in yielding foliage.

It resembles O. majorana in appearance and aroma, and has the same culinary uses.

To Use
Many gourmets consider Italian oregano the best oregano for culinary flavor. The seemingly perfect, mild intermediate flavor is the result of its origins: the hybrid between sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana) and Greek oregano (O. vulgare). Leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. The flavor resembles a blend of thyme, rosemary and sage. It goes well with eggs, cauliflower, tomatoes and in salads and marinades. Use it in herb butters, vinegars, stews and sauces. It is an amazing flavor in salad dressings and oils for use on vegetables, greens and legumes. The flower bracts may be cut and used in arrangements, or allowed to dry. Leaves may also be used fresh or dried in a variety of foods, especially pastas and pestos, meats, dressings and both cream- and tomato-based sauces. Italian oregano tastes less sweet than sweet marjoram, but its flavor is pleasantly less pungent than Greek oregano.

The gently pungent flavor of Italian Oregano makes a delicious contribution to savory meats and vegetables, gives a pleasant accent to cheese spreads, and is often the key to a good pizza sauce. A cross between Sweet Marjoram and the more piquant Wild Marjoram, Italian Oregano tastes like a blend of its parents. The milder flavor makes it more versatile than Greek Oregano—it's not likely to overpower a recipe if you add a pinch more than intended. In short, it's probably the most popular culinary Oregano and we think it belongs in every cook's garden. Use the leaves fresh or dry and only add towards the end of cooking. An herb tea is made from the fresh or dried leaves.

Medicinally it is an antiseptic, relives involuntary muscle spasms, relives flatulence, stimulates the liver, it is a diuretic and causes sweating, making it good for fevers, it stimulates or increases menstrual flow, works as both an expectorant and a stimulant, promotes appetite and digestion and mildly provides a feeling of vigor and energy.  It has been taken internally to treat bronchial complaints, tension headaches, insomnia, anxiety, minor digestive upsets and painful menstruation. But as such is not recommended for medicinal use by pregnant women.

Because of its ability to relieve muscle spasms and other muscle pain, Italian Oregano is perfect to use in an Herbal liniment.  Liniments offer instant relief for pain, inflamed muscles, bruises, and sprains.

Italian Oregano Liniment
Rubbing Alcohol
Fresh or dried Italian oregano in combination with Calendula flowers (about ½ cup total per 2 cups of rubbing alcohol)

Chop herbs finely and place in a clean glass jar. Cover thoroughly with rubbing alcohol and cap with a tight-fitting lid. Place the jar in a warm area and shake daily or as often as possible. After 4-6 weeks, strain the herbs out using cheesecloth and pour the remaining liquid into glass bottles with mister tops. When properly stored in a cool dark place, the liniment will keep almost indefinitely. Make sure to label the liniment for “External Use Only”.

To Use:  Spritz inflamed or irritated muscles or bruises and rub in gently with fingertips.

The essential oil of Italian Oregano (sometimes called oil of Sweet marjoram) is used as part of aromatherapy as a muscle relaxant. And is added to salves and lotions for the treatment of muscular pain, arthritis, sprains and stiff joints. Italian Oregano has also been used to disinfect bee hives.


Italian Herb Dressing (makes 1 1/2 cups)

2 small garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup sunflower oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon vidalia onions, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh marjoram, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh Italian oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese (optional)

Whisk garlic, sugar, mustard, grated onion, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, vinegars,

and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisk together oils; add to vinegar mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in herbs, celery seeds, and Parmesan cheese. Season with extra salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week. Use over seasonal greens.

Herbed Marinade for Vegetables
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
2 Tablespoons honey
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 teaspoons fresh chopped herb mix
      (rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano)

Combine ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight lid and shake to combine.  Pour the mixture over cubed vegetables in a non-reactive container and refrigerate for 2 hours.  This recipe is enough for 2 pounds of vegetables.  You can enjoy the vegetables as a cold salad or grill them for extra flavor.

This month we have focused on Chicken Soup as our recipe theme and I found this perfect recipe using Italian Oregano and Italian Pasta to keep up with that theme.

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes (vegetarian dish) 
10 large tomatoes
3/4 cup un-cooked short grain rice
2 zucchini, peeled and grated
1 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh Italian oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons dry mint
4 tablespoons fresh parsley (or 4 teaspoons dried)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice the tops off the tomatoes (keep the tops, though) and use a spoon to empty out the middle of the tomato. Reserve the juice in one bowl and insides of the tomato in a separate bowl. Make small slits in the inside bottom of the tomatoes – making sure not to cut all the way through the tomatoes. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish and place the tomatoes inside the pan. Put the onion, garlic, a teaspoon of oil, and a pinch of salt into a food processor and mix it just a bit. (Or, simply mix in a bowl with a spoon if you don’t have a food processor – just chop the onions and garlic a little more finely). Take the insides of the tomato and chop them into small pieces, and then add them to a large bowl with the grated zucchini. Then, add 1 tablespoon of salt, the dry mint, parsley, and tomato paste and combine. Finally, add the uncooked short-grain rice, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 3/4 cup olive oil and let the mixture sit. In the meantime, peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Toss them with the tablespoon of oregano, 3/4 cup olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Mix them well and then add the reserved tomato juice. Fill the tomatoes to the top with the rice mixture and top them with their caps. Then, place the potatoes/tomato juice in the empty space around the tomatoes – also add any leftover rice mixture in the gaps, too. Add a cup of water to the corner of the pan and tilt it so that the water is evenly distributed. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees F, and then reduce the heat to 325 degrees F and bake them for another 60-90 minutes. If it seems dry during the process, add a little more water to the pan. Makes 10 servings. You can freeze the leftovers.

Italian Chicken Noodle Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil 
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 to 2 tsp granulated onion
1 to 2 tsp minced garlic
1 to 2 tsp Italian Oregano

1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Cream of Chicken Soup
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups fresh or thawed frozen broccoli florets
4 cups Mafalda or rotini pasta, cooked and drained 

Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until translucent.  Sprinkle granulated onion, minced garlic and oregano over chicken, then add to oil and cook chicken until well browned on both sides.  Pull chicken part with a fork.

Stir in soup, water, cheese, garlic powder and broccoli in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve with prepared pasta.

To find any Chicken Soup recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan

To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup - Weekend Recipe

Bright butternut squash gives beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber to this satisfying soup.
And it is a nice flavor-filled change for chicken soup using mirepoix.  Spices give this a great warming taste, perfect for a cold and snowy day.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and ground pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, squash, onion, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until squash and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool.

Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and add broth, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky.

Discard skin and bones from chicken; cut meat into small pieces and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, top with fresh cilantro, if desired. Helpful Hint Make Ahead: Transfer cooled soup to freezer bag or airtight container and freeze, up to 3 months. Thaw, and then reheat. Add garnishes just before serving.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Immunity Boosting Herbs

There are numerous herbs which are known, both through traditional knowledge and modern scientific research, to benefit the immune system. Typically, such herbs work by directly attacking and destroying disease-causing pathogens, increasing the numbers and/or activity of immune cells in the body, or both. Here are some powerful immune-boosting herbs, in no particular order.

Astragalus was described by Mark Stengler, ND, as "one of the best herbs in the world for enhancing the protective effects of the immune system." This herb boosts immunity by increasing the numbers and/or enhancing the function of various immune cells in the body, including macrophages, natural killer cells, white blood cells and antibodies. It also stimulates the production of interferon, a potent antiviral compound. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, where astragalus is known as Huang Qi, it is used to help prevent common colds and upper respiratory tract infections.  In the US we call it milkvetch and it grows wild in fields, long roads and other places where the soil has been disturbed.  I posted some more details about this plant back in 2012 among the Wild Herbs I found in Wisconsin.

Although the taking of powdered echinacea in tablet form was debunked a number of years ago, further study has revealed it does give the immune system a boost by stimulating the immune cells that patrol the body and fight off disease-causing pathogens when extracted into tinctures. This herb raises both the number and activity of white blood cells, a core component of the body's immune system, and activates interferons, which are required for protective immune defense against pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumor cells. Echinacea also contains other chemicals which prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses, and has even been shown to have anticarcinogenic properties.

One particular study in Germany found that 30 drops of Echinacea tincture taken three times daily helped to enhance the activity of phagocytes, a type of immune cell, in the body by 120% after 5 days of consumption. The direct antiviral properties of Echinacea make it valuable considering the limits of conventional medicine in dealing with viral infections.

I covered some of its other attributes and details of how to grow it and make a tincture from the leaves, flowers and roots in an herb of the week post in 2011

3.Licorice Root
There are two compounds in licorice, glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid, which research has shown to elevate the levels of interferon in the body. This helps to keep the replication of viruses and other pathogens in check. Licorice root is actually found in many Chinese, Ayurvedic, Japanese and even Western formulas for treating infections and infectious diseases. Licorice lozenges and teas are commonly recommended by my herb friends. I shared a tea recipe back in a blog in 2012 

In Europe, physicians have a high regard for licorice root as one of the best herbal treatments for fighting viral hepatitis. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are treated intravenously using licorice in Europe.

Goldenseal has been found in research to have antiviral and antibacterial properties, as well as the ability to both increase immune cell production and enhance immune cell activity. 

Be aware however this plant is protected, so wild harvesting is generally not allowed in most places.  Instead try to grow a patch of your own (And no, this is not goldenrod or ragweed the plants that grow everywhere!)

Goldenrod (not Goldenseal)

5. Elderberries 

Elderberries are held in high esteem in areas all over the world. Known for their outstanding ability to ward off and cure the common cold and flu virus, elderberries make some of the most effective remedies and should be a part of everyone’s home healing pantry. In fact in a 1996 report researchers who studied elderberries found that they are 99% effective in fighting the Avian Flu (H5N1) virus. (Nutri-ingredients USA) Make a tincture or enjoy a syrup made with this on your pancakes or ice cream.

Garlic also contains compounds which fight and destroy bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and even cancer cells. For the best health effect, fresh garlic should be chopped or crushed, left for 10-15 minutes, and then eaten raw.  Do not kiss your partner after trying this, however.

American Ginseng
Research in Germany found that Siberian ginseng boosts immunity. In particular, the activity of lymphocytes are enhanced, which are immune cells in the body that fight infection. In addition, Chinese ginseng has also been found to give immune function a boost. American ginseng is also known for its healing properties and as a result it has been over harvested.  There are a number of regulations about harvesting this plant so know yours before you gather it yourself.

Sources for this article include:

Stengler, Mark, ND. The Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies Medical Doctors Don't Know. New York, NY: Prentice Hall Press, 2010. Print.

Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.

Gaby, Alan R., MD. The Natural Pharmacy: Complete A-Z Reference to Natural Treatments for Common Health Conditions. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2006. Print.

Haas, Elson M., MD, and Levin, Buck, PhD, RD. Staying Healthy With Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. New York, NY: Celestial Arts, 2006. Print.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Mock Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Vegan) - Meatless Monday

All month I have been sharing Chicken soup recipes, they are chocked full of vegetables, so if you could eliminate the meat, Chicken Soup would be great for a vegetarian eater.  However, then wouldn’t it just be vegetable soup?  To make it hearty, “meaty,” and more like the flavors of Chicken soup I looked for an appropriate alternative to give my vegan readers something to try as well.  I adapted this recipe from one I found on Stacy Homemaker.  She shares great vegan and vegetarian recipes and her solution for Mock chicken using jackfruit was inspired! This is a creamy soup without any dairy also if you want to avoid lactose.

Make sure to look for these things when you buy jackfruit for cooking:
  •          Fresh, ripe jackfruit is used for desserts. The unripe, young, canned jackfruit is what you want to buy to use as a meat replacement.
  •          Look for canned jackfruit that is in brine, not syrup. Make sure to rinse the brine off before you cook with it, to reduce the sodium.

Vegan Slow Cooker Chicken Wild Rice Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 cans of jackfruit in brine (rinsed and drained well)
2 to 3 tsp Italian seasoning (or a combo of basil, oregano and thyme)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 cups wild rice 
1 quart vegetable broth (about 4 cups)
2-3 cups of water (enough to just cover everything in the crock pot)
1 8 to 10-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (discard the water)
2 tsp corn starch 
Parsley for garnish

Put onions, celery, carrots, garlic, mushrooms, jackfruit, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, bay leaf, vegetable broth, and wild rice into a crock pot. Add enough water to cover all ingredients.  Cover and turn on high, cook for 3 1/2 hours.

After 3 1/2 hours, remove 1/2 cup of the broth and put into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl, whisk to combine. Pour it back into the crockpot to thicken the sauce.

Pour the coconut milk into the slow cooker, discard the water in the can. Stir to combine.
Replace the lid and cook for 30 additional minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and black pepper. Enjoy!

If you don't like jackfruit or cannot find it at the store, try potatoes, artichoke hearts, cauliflower, or another meat substitute instead but adjust the cooking time accordingly, as these will cook faster.

Do not add the cornstarch into the slow cooker! If you do, it will clump and you won't be able to whisk the clumps out. You have mix the thickener in a separate small bowl and then add it to the soup.

When you warm up leftovers, add a little bit more plant milk to help loosen the broth.

You can use a blend of wild and regular rice if plain wild rice is not available.  (I buy mine bulk from the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa in Wisconsin, but you can get some from the Native Mobile Farmers Market)

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili
   December - Herbal Cocktails

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Slow Cooker Herbs de Provence Chicken Rice Soup - Weekend Recipe

I originally shared this recipe in Advent 2014, but most of those posts have been lost, so I thought since it fit with the theme, I would post this one again.  This is another perfect weekend recipe, because you can put it in the crock pot, enjoy your weekend plans and then enjoy this soup at the end of your busy day.

Slow Cooker Herbs de Provence Chicken Rice Soup 

2 cooked chicken breasts and any other leftover chicken meat you might have from a roast chicken (abut 2 cups total), diced into ½-inch squares
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 to 3 carrots, sliced in coins
1 cup water
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 or 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed

Place the chicken, chicken stock, water, carrots and Herbs de Provence into the slow cooker and cook on low heat for 4 hours. Then, add the uncooked rice and a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook on low heat for another two hours.

Be sure to stir the soup occasionally to make sure all of the flavors are incorporated. Once it has finished cooking switch the setting to “keep warm” until you are ready to eat.

To find any recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

For 2018 the monthly recipe themes will be:
   January - Chicken Soup (ChickJan)
   February - Beef Stew
   March - Jambalaya
   April - Ham & Shrimp Dishes
   May - Bread recipes
   June - Garden Delights
   July - Grilling
   August - Salsa, Corn & Jelly
   September - Squash Dishes
   October - Pumpkin Recipes
   November - Chili

   December - Herbal Cocktails

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mini Herb of the Week - Parsley

I did a full post on Parsley as Herb of the Week back in 2015, so this will just be a mini parsley conversation.

Parsley among the herbs in a bouquet garni
This biennial herb that flowers only in the second year is brightly green leafed.  The leaves are divided pinnately into feather-like sections that lay flat like celery leaves or curl into small frilly leaflets depending on the variety.  Parsley has been naturalized throughout the temperate region needing full sun to part shade. Curly parsley grows 12 to 16 inches tall and can be grown easily as far north as zone 5.  The flat leaf parsley is taller growing 18 to 24 inches and is best for cooking.

So many think is it only a decorative green, but it is actually Parsley has more vitamin C per volume than oranges.  It also contains Vitamin A, several B vitamins, calcium, and iron.  Beyond this contribution of vitamins and minerals, however, it is not considered significantly medicinally. Some have made tea with it to use as a diuretic, but those with kidney issues and those who are pregnant should avoid this treatment.

flat-leaf Parsley
The best use of parsley is in cooking and seasoning.  Parsley has the ability to enhance the flavor of other herbs when it is not that flavor filled itself.  As a result, it is often used in seasoning blends.  I must source out parsley because I cannot produce enough for all the uses I have for it.  Be wary of store-bought parsley, however, if it seems just “too green.”  Parsley has a tendency to brown as it dries, in fact if you do not bag it after it is crisp-dry it can turn brown over time.  To avoid jars of brown herbs, many retailers dye parsley green.  You can usually tell if the color seems way too vibrant for a dried herb.  They should be a green on the dusty side of color.  When cooking with parsley add near the end of cooking to keep it from losing all its taste.

Parsley does not grow well from seed, so overplant seeds in a hill if you want to try to grow your own.  I generally buy nursery plants for my parsley and although it is a biennial, I treat it as an annual for I find the tasty leaves are short-lived in the second year as the plant strives to flower.  At the end of each season I just remove the plant with the other annuals before or after the first frost.  There are some who say that they have a parsley for years and harvest from it all season, but what I think they have is some sort of self-seeding going on because parsley is not attractive to flavorful in the second year and as with all true biennials it will die after producing seed.

This month we have focused on Chicken Soup as our recipe theme and I found a great recipe using parsley to keep up with that theme.

Chicken Vegetable Ramen Soup
1 (6-pound) roasting chicken
8 cups water
2 ½ cups chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 ½ cup ½ inch cubed parsnip (about 8 ounces)
1 ½ cups ½ inch cubed carrots (about 8 ounces)
1 ½ cups ½ inch cubed turnip (about 8 ounces)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 Tbls chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 to 4 packages of Ramen Noodles

Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken.  Remove and discard skin from chicken.  Trim excess fat.  Split chicken in half lengthwise.  Place in Dutch oven.  Cover with 8 cups water and bring to a boil.  Cook 10 minutes.  Skim fat from surface of broth, discard fat. Add celery, leeks, parsnip, carrot and turnip, stirring well. Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove chicken.  Let stand 10 minutes.  Remove chicken from the bones, shred with 2 forks to yield 6 cups meat.  Discard bones.  Simmer vegetable mixture for 10 minutes or until tender.  Return shredded chicken to pan add salt, pepper, parsley and dill.  Cook ramen noodles according to package directions, omitting the seasoning packet.  Place ½ cup noodles in each of 8 bowls, top each with 1 ½ cups chicken mixture.

Parsley Chicken Seasoning
Great in soups, but also wonderful in chicken salad, egg salad and Chicken casseroles.

2 Tbls Parsley
2 tsp basil
2 tsp red pepper
2 tsp minced garlic

Mix together and store in a tightly lidded jar.  Use about 1 tsp per ½ pound of chicken in recipe.

To find any Chicken Soup recipe featured this month - use the search box and type: ChickJan
To find any theme recipe from this year type: recipe2018

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