Friday, January 23, 2015

Go-To Winter Soup - Warms you from the Inside Out

Fresh  Garden Vegs & Nice Spice

Chicken Sausage Soup
By Alison Rolen

This soup was created to be a low-carb soup for myself.  Everyone in the family liked it, so it has become a family favorite.  All ingredients are fresh, has a nice spice to it, and makes a beautiful presentation, especially when garnished with fresh, shredded Parmesan. Just as good the following day(s). To make gluten-free, check sausage and broth labels.

1 lb bulk sausage – Jimmy Dean has good flavor and acceptable fat
4 cloves garlic – minced
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼+ tsp cayenne red pepper
1 large Vidalia or sweet onion – diced
1 c. diced sweet red/orange pepper**
3 stalks celery – diced
1 c. sliced carrots
2 c. shredded and chopped cabbage
2 – 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes (or 1 quart home-canned tomatoes)
1 - 32oz box chicken broth (or 1 quart home-made stock)
If you have any reserved juice/stock from cooking chicken, add that as well
4 c. pre-cooked, cubed chicken – I use mostly, or exclusively, dark meat*
1 bunch green onions – sliced, including greens
¼ c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
Additional salt and pepper to taste

In large stockpot:
  1. Add minced garlic to pot.  Add and Brown the sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks.
  2. Drain off only excessive grease (some is needed to cook veggies).  Add spices to top of sausage: cumin, paprika, red pepper.  Stir, coating sausage well.
  3. Add in: onion, celery, carrots, cabbage – stir to incorporate seasonings over all, cover and cook about 10 minutes to begin to soften the vegetables. 
  4. Add in: all chicken broth, tomatoes including juice, any/all reserved juice from cooking chicken, add some water if more liquid is needed.
  5. Cover and bring to a simmer.  Cook until raw vegetables are desired softness – about 1 hr. total.
  6. Add in cubed chicken and green onions.  Simmer (do not boil) about 10 minutes to heat chicken through. 
  7. Taste broth and adjust red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste.
  8. Add in chopped parsley, simmer for 5 minutes more, serve.

 Garnish: fresh shredded Parmesan cheese to top bowl

Variation:  I have also added in greens (kale, chard, or spinach) - raw with vegetables, or with chicken if pre-cooked (unseasoned)

*I bake 2 chickens, serve for dinner 1st night, then remaining white meat goes to chicken salad, dark meat here.  
**Sweet garden peppers are chopped and frozen in 1c portions ready to drop in this soup

Friday, January 9, 2015

Seed Catalogs...where do I start?

Before I pick up my first catalog, I review my past year.  I am looking for places (plants) I can improve upon, items I didn't have enough of, things I wish I had grown (based on my current cooking and preserving).  

This past year: most things did well.  My first year at making salsa, left my family wanting even more.  In fact, all the "hot" items I made and canned were family favorites and they have overwhelmingly asked for "more hot peppers."  My canned mixed veggies were not, however, a hit and I will not be making them again.  I, personally, like pickled beets so as a treat to myself, beets are added to the list.

After I make a preliminary assessment of what is needed for the next growing season, I then take an inventory of my current left-over seeds.  

Seeds will keep for several years if kept dry and cool.  I keep mine in a plastic "shoe box" with some desiccant packets (the kind you find in shoe boxes).  This has served me well for years.  Most times when I purchase seeds, I have more than I can use in any given growing season.  Therefore, I have many packets I use year after year, only replacing them when they get low or after 3-4 years.  

After all that is done, my list is made of what I need and I begin from there.  

Why do I take all this time and planning?  I am like a kid in a candy store when that first catalog is opened.  I begin to circle item after item and end up with a list if items that I could never plant and take care of, let alone, afford.  Doing these things helps to keep me "in check." 

Now, true confession.  In the process of writing this post, I jumped on the opportunity for "free shipping" from a company I purchase some of my seeds from.  What do you think happened?

Homeschool: planting a different kind of seed

I homeschooled my four for 13 years.  I had those wonderful "bluebirds chirping around my head" moments and those "small ship being tossed by a raging sea" moments.  If you homeschool, or if you are considering it, I want to extend my "olive branch" of knowledge and encouragement.

January is one of the "tough months" for homeschoolers.  The holidays: excitement, vacation, play time, "sugar", is over and it is back to work.  A struggle for student and parent alike.  The bleak, grey days don't help.  It was in these days I would change gears a little and focus on a little less "book work" and more on covering the topics through projects, experiments, dioramas, and games to supplement math assignments.  Mind you, not all at once, but nonetheless used as a means to add some creativity to the work and help ease the transition back into the "grind" so to speak.  

So, dear homeschooling parent.  Keep up the good work and your spirits.  Remember that homeschool isn't about "bringing the classroom into the home" but an opportunity to encourage your child(ren) toward a lifetime quest to learn. When was the last time you wondered about something and "googled" it to find an answer.  That is the love of learning you want to pass along.

Happy homeschooling.