Soup for the Sick

Chicken soup is the quintessential "sick" food. Always has been and always will be. When the kids or the hubs gets sick, they always request chicken soup. In the past, I've relied on pre-made stock or broth as the base for my soup, but I've honestly never been incredibly happy with it. There is a ton of sodium in canned or boxed stock and they add preservatives and who knows what all else. For some reason, I always thought that homemade stock or broth would be a pain to make and never really tried it. WELL, I finally found an easy yet incredibly flavorful recipe to use as a base for my soups. Guess where? Come on, guess...give up? Pioneer Woman, of course! Hyacinth's Chicken Soup is amazing! I mean it, a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Throw everything in the pot and simmer for a long long time. Easy! It does take a while to cool enough for the fat to coagulate at the top so that you can remove it (fatty chicken stock is just gross!) so, with that in mind, I would make it the day before you actually want to make soup. The only change I made to the original recipe is that I cracked the chicken bones before putting them back into the pot-a little tip I picked up by reading all of the comments on Pioneer Woman's blog. I always read the comments on recipes. People always leave suggestions on ways to improve the recipe or variations that they have made. It's one of the reasons that I love using the Internet for new recipes.

Anyway, after you make the broth, your possibilities are endless. You can use it in any soup you like. Little chic's favorite is chicken noodle with egg noodles. Always a good option when you're feeling under the weather. But, the last time I made the soup, I made my new favorite variation...matzo ball. I think matzo ball may be the best sick food around. Matzo balls are basically cracker dumplings which means they are soft enough for a sore throat and "crackery" enough to help soothe an upset stomach. I'm telling you, it's perfect!

One last thing before I most wonderful and incredible doctor has started a blog that I think is chock full of great ideas and tips for healthy living! I've seen this same doctor for almost 20 years (wow that makes me feel old!)and one of the reasons that I really like him is that we share a passion for a more natural, chemical free lifestyle. On his blog, he's discussed all sorts of topics from red dye to grass fed beef. You should all check it out! Your Health, Your Life

Birthdays, Birthdays, Birthdays!

Well, I'm still here. I haven't posted in a while, but it's not because we haven't been cooking! We've had some family emergencies to deal with and vacations and we are finally back into the swing of things...I hope! Lunches have pretty much been "second verse, same as the first"- a whole bunch of repeats. I mean, even I will admit to the fact that there are only so many things you can do with a pb&j! So no real lunch updates this time. Birthday goodies though? Yeah, I got some of those!

The beginning of the year always brings a three month stretch of birthdays. And the end of January/first of February is particularly crazy because little chic's birthday, my birthday, and big chic's birthday are all one week after another. What this means to me? Well, I'm sure most of you can imagine what happens to mommy's birthday sandwiched in between the chics' gets greatly diluted! OR I inevitably end up at American Girl Bistro because it is smack dab in the middle of the girls' birthdays. Anyway, the chics love taking treats to school to share with their friends and they are very opinionated about exactly what those treats will be (Hmmm...wonder where that comes from?).

We'll start with little chic. She requested, "strawberry cupcakes with strawberry frosting with a strawberry on top with B's like you did sissy's cupcakes". Pretty specific and pretty easy to accomplish. Exhibit A... She added the hearts as I was piping the B's.

Now big chic's birthday request was a little more challenging. She wanted rice marshmallow treats with chocolate inside. I suggested adding chocolate chips to them, but was shot down. I told her I could do a layer of chocolate sandwiched in between the squares, but was shot down again. Many ideas, many rebuttals. Finally I said that her request might be kinda difficult. To this she replied by patting my leg and saying, "That's okay mommy. You're a good cook. You'll figure it out." The hubs almost fell out of his chair laughing so hard. Soooooo, after a little experimentation, I decided to put the chocolate on the outside...and put them on a stick...and roll them in sprinkles. Exhibit B... Then I wrapped them in treat bags and made little tags for them.

I have to admit that I was THRILLED with how they turned out! They were a little finicky to figure out though, so if you wanna try them yourself, here's are a few secrets to success...

I made a test batch a few weeks ago and I am glad that I did! At first the balls fell off the sticks the second that I stuck them into the melted chocolate (oh and I used Candy Melts, by the way! Regular chocolate doesn't dry as hard or as quickly.) Fortunately, one of my friends was hanging out with me that day and she suggested I freeze them before dipping. Genius idea, I tell ya! Not only did they keep they're shape, the chocolate hardened much more quickly. The other trick is the exact timing for sprinkles. If you put them on too soon, they sink into the chocolate, wait too long and they won't stick to them at all. There's no scientific method to it. I wish there were! It'd make things much easier. But I found that as soon as they were a bit difficult to pull off the parchment, they were just tacky enough to hold the sprinkles but not let them sink in. After figuring out the first batch, these were super easy to make. The most time consuming thing was wrapping and tagging. The end result was worth the effort, though and I will definitely be making these again for other school and party treats!