Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Soup, Soup, and more Soup!

I am so sorry this has taken me so long to post. I ended the weekend with a migraine. I am just getting my act together today. So without further ado...Soup!

Most casseroles call for a can of cream of something soup. You know, the gross stuff that seems to plop out of a can. The sound is so yucky.
Slurp, burp, SPLAT!

This past Saturday, I decided to tackle the creamed soups that we seem to go through like crazy in the winter.

These recipes are a guide. You can follow them word for word. But if you do not have an ingredient, no big deal. Substitute it or just leave it out. One thing I have learned about cooking is: a recipe is a guide. It is not something to agonize over. If you like more garlic, add it. If you hate it, do not put it in at all. Most of my cooking is NOT measured. I feel it out as I go. My wish is that you guys will have as much fun making these recipes for your family as I had making them for mine.

Cream of Mushroom was the first on my list. I was actually shocked by how easy it was.

Cream of Mushroom Soup
4 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic
8 oz chopped mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 medium sweet onion
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cans chicken broth
(I did not have cans so I used about 3/4 a box)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream (or half and half or milk)
1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp dry thyme)

Clean the mushrooms and chop them roughly.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Saute garlic until golden. Add mushrooms, onions, and salt. Cook until onions are soft.

Add flour and cook stirring constantly until smooth. Slowly add chicken broth. Simmer, stirring often until thick. Add nutmeg and pepper. Taste. You may want to add a little more salt.

At this time you can blend your soup to remove the larger pieces of vegetables.

Add cream and bring to a SIMMER.

Allow to cool on the counter before you freeze or refrigerate. I bag my soup 2 cups per bag. It usually is just enough for a sausage and rice casserole (my hubby's childhood favorite).

Next up was Cream of Celery.

I really made this one because the Cream of Chicken soup calls for 2 stalks of celery. What was I supposed to do with the rest of the stuff. I mean I like celery, but we both know I am not about to snack on it. :)

Cream of Celery Soup
(I put all of the vegetables in the food processor
and chopped them as fine as I could before it became a paste.)

4 tablespoons butter
15 ounces celery, coarsely chopped (about one head)
4 carrots, chopped finely
2-1/2 ounces onions, chopped
2 Tbsp flour
3-3/4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3-3/4 cups warm cream
Pinch of nutmeg

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add celery, onions, carrots, and salt. Allow to cook until the onions are soft. Add flour and stir in well. Add chicken stock and pepper. Allow to thicken.

At this time you can blend your soup to remove the larger pieces of vegetables.

Slowly pour in them cream. Add nutmeg. Bring to a simmer.
Do not BOIL.

Hubby and the girls actually returned from the weekly Lowes trip about the time this one was finished. He and girls walked in and said YUM!
It was really good. I think it was our favorite.

And finally Cream of Chicken.

I made this one last only because I totally forgot to defrost the chicken.

 Cream of Chicken Soup

1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery (with leaves), chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 tablespoon flour
1 box chicken broth
3 sprigs fresh thyme (1/4 tsp dried)
2 3/4 cups cooked, diced chicken
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Sprinkle with salt and allow to cook until the onions are soft. Add flour and stir until mixed well. Add chicken broth. Allow to boil until the carrots and celery are soft.

At this time you can blend your soup to remove the larger pieces of vegetables.

Add chicken.

Slowly add cream. Add pepper, salt, and thyme. Allow to simmer, but DO NOT BOIL.

*I blended my soup after I added the chicken. Why? Because I added the chicken to early. But, don't fret. It tasted wonderful. And who cares? It is going in another dish anyways.*

These really are not very hard to make at all. I made about 20 cups of soup in about three hours. It would not have taken that long if I would have defrosted and precooked my chicken.

My total cost was about $10. Which comes to about $1 per can of soup. I don't think I did bad at all.

I hope you enjoy these like we did!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chocolate Syrup

I am not sure about you guys, but we go through a ton of chocolate syrup. Well, maybe not a ton, but we do use it a lot.

The girls have at least one cup of chocolate milk a day, then we have ice cream, and anything else we can find to use it on.

Since I read everything on the label these days, I was SHOCKED to find what was in chocolate syrup. After all, it is chocolate syrup. Does it need all of that junk I can't pronounce? NO!

So I set out to make my own. I know, shocker! Huh?
My hubby just laughs these days, when I say I am going to try to make it myself.

This is what I have found: experimenting with chocolate is FUN! That and making your own chocolate syrup is beyond easy.

You will need the following things:

Sugar, Cocoa, salt, and vanilla
(We use vanilla powder because some vanilla extract contains gluten. But either will work fine.)

Chocolate Syrup

1 1/4 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Whisk together sugar and cocoa in a medium sauce pan.

Add water and salt. Stir well.

Bring mixture to a boil and allow it to thicken slightly. Once it has thickened remove from heat.

Allow the wonderful stuff to sit for 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Allow to cool slightly before jarring.
(Let it come to room temperature before you put it in the fridge.)

The little squeeze containers would work great, but I have jars on hand!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The zoo! (part 2)

The girls were amazed at a bird that big. We told Ansley she could nap in that huge nest. She was ready to go check out the other animals after that. ;)

These next two pictures are for my Daddy. He wants a few of these for pets. Can't you see that? My Mom would flip.

Charlotte loved that the sloth was asleep in a crib! :)

Milking a cow!

Barn owls!

Ansley wants a bunny. What do you think the cats would say about that?

Ansley was looking at the snakes. She was slightly freaked out. Speaking of freaked out. While we were looking at these crazy lizards this one bearded lizard ran up to the glass and hissed at me. I, of course, screamed. Ansley fell over and Charlotte pooped. Yes, the amphibian exhibit was quite interesting.

This is what the happens when I ask the girls to pose with each other. Enjoy!



The zoo!

A few months ago (yes, I said months) we finally took the girls to the zoo for the first time.

All week long we had been telling them about an exciting new place, but we wouldn't tell them where we were going. By the way, Ansley does NOT do well with this. These first few pictures are of the girls after we told them.
"The what?"

"Are we there yet?"
We were still in the parking lot!
"Seriously, you are finally taking me to the zoo?"
They were so excited. Ansley, literally, talked the entire way there. When we pulled in the parking lot, she looked at us with a very confused face and asked, "This is it?"

This was seriously the BEST trip to the zoo EVER! We saw things that I have never saw. Like, the tiger chasing its tail. Well, it was at least walking in circles before it laid down.
The tortisis came right up to us. Actually, a few of them did.

The elephants were extremely active. I am pretty sure we stood there about 15 minutes.
Ansley was amazed about how big they are.
She could care less.

The best Daddy ever!

Drinking water!


Yes, we were spot hogs for quite some time!

Monday, August 15, 2011

1st Day of School!

Well, according to Ansley, today is "tomorrow". That is what she asked this morning when I told her that we were starting school today.

See all week long I have been counting down the days until we get to start school. She has been so excited. Last night, I told her "tomorrow, we will be starting school". She was so excited. And this morning, she asked "Mommy, is today tomorrow?" Meaning "do we get to start today?"

I absolutely love her enthusiasm. She is a learner. I do believe she will be a lot like me, a collector of all types of useless information. My hubby, as well as, my daddy give me a hard time about this all the time. I love facts. They are fun! Most of the time they are useless facts, but I don't care.

Ansley is a lot like this.

This morning, my children actually slept in! If you know  my children you know that this is a miracle in itself. Normally, our day begins somewhere between 5 and 6 am with a child begging for chocolate milk. If I try to get up before them, they hear me!

Sadly, the TV is my friend this early in the morning. :( I swore I would not be one of THOSE parents.

But seriously, how can a child wake up going 100 mph with questions?

Thankfully, chocolate milk and Mickey Mouse keeps them entertained while I try to remember what my name is.

We finally had accomplished our Monday routine by 9 this morning and school began!

We all cuddled up on the couch and read story after story! I really think I am going to like Sonlight. I love that we are reading the Old English versions of Mother Goose. They make me stop and think. I love that the girlies will hear these poems. I think it will be great considering we memorize scripture from the KJV. Now they will be able to hear something else worded the same way their Bible is. (I will blog about why we memorize KJV another day).

After about 30 minutes of reading and discussing the topics we were done reading (Sonlight starts you off slow. After all it is preschool). Ansley was very upset about finishing so quickly. I had to assure her that tomorrow we would read some more and it would be a little bit longer. That seemed to help.

The best part was we were already learning new things. She has used a few new words already!!

We discussed "similar", "alike", and "different" today. And when we went for a walk after school she used some of those words comparing trees. AWESOME mom moment!

After our walk, we had snack. Then Charlotte settled down coloring a picture and drawing smiley faces (her favorite thing for you to do). Ansley and I started Prewriting Skills and Singapore Math. Wouldn't you know that we talked about "similar", "alike", and "different" again. :)

I do believe Ansley is going to love school. But I believe I am going to love teaching her more than she will ever know!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

BBQ Sauce

I love BBQ sauce. Many people eat ranch on everything.
Not me.
I want the sweet, spicy, tanginess of that beautiful sauce. However, my love of this wonderful creation forced me to think outside the box since going gluten free.

Did you know that most BBQ sauces contain gluten?

Me either.

But there is a little ingredient who shall remain nameless (caramel coloring) that can contain gluten. So that means no sauce. :( Unless, I want to read everything on the back of the box. And lets face it, I have two small children. I am lucky to get everything on my list, much less read the ingredients.

Until TODAY!

But before we get to the yumminess, I have another confession. I am obsessed with blogs. I want to look up things to make and things to try at our house. After all, we have basic cable. So blogs are my HGTV and FoodNetwork.

Recently, I have been looking up homemade sauces. I have found a few that looked interesting. Honestly, I have been a chicken to try them. However, I found myself staring at the BBQ sauces again this morning. Reading every ingredient.

Did you know there are ALOT of BBQ sauces out there?

You may not realize how many until you have to read the ingredients on every package. That being said, most of the ingredients are the same. I finally decided to stop wasting time reading and just make my own. After all, how hard can it be?

So, I found a recipe this morning and tried it. It was OK. I was going to go with it, but the recipe I had for BBQ chicken called for a few more things.

After I added those things, beautiful things occurred!
It was wonderful!
It was gluten free!
It was cheap!
It was homemade!
Can we get better than those?

So here you go!

BBQ Sauce Granger Style
3/4 cup ketchup
2 T. minced onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. liquid smoke
1 T. molasses
1/4 c vinegar (I used 1/8 c balsamic and 1/8 c white)
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 c brown sugar

Mix ingredients in a small sauce pan. Simmer for a few minutes until flavors are blended.

*I am not a fan of large chunks of onion in my sauce. So I put it in the blender so a few seconds. Perfect!*