Sunday, January 28, 2007

Spicy Chicken Soup

Ever on the look-out for a recipe worthy of entering the annual Chili Cook Off Contest, I decided to try this recipe this weekend. At first taste I thought beef would have been better; but after finishing two bowls of this, I've decided that chicken is the perfect meat to use. It makes a LOT - my 6 1/2 quart stock pot was full to the brim. But it freezes well so don't be afraid to make the whole thing.

I did "spice it up" a bit with my choice of ingredients. So, grab your hankies and dig into:

Catherine's Spicy Chicken Soup
(Posted on

2 quarts water
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used 4)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon onion powder (didn't have any - left it out)
5 cubes chicken boullion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (16 oz.) jar chunky salsa (my pot was so full, I only had room for about 4 tablespoons)
2 (14.5 oz.) cans peeled and diced tomatoes (I used one can of Rotel and one can of plain)
1 (14.5 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes (oops! forgot to add this! oh well...)
1 (10.75 oz.) can condensed tomato soup
3 tablespoons chili powder (I used McCormick's Hot Mexican Style Chili Powder)
1 (15 oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
2 (16 oz.) cans chili beans, undrained (I used ONE can of Mrs. Grimes Spicy Chili Beans and ONE can of Black Beans - drained)
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream (I left this out too. You can always add a dollop of sour cream over your soup in the bowl.)

1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine water, chicken, salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, onion powder and boullion cubes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 hour or until chicken juices run clear. Remove chicken, reserve broth. Shred chicken. (I skipped this whole thing and just chopped up my chicken and threw everything in one pot. You could even do it in the crock pot and let it cook all day.)

2. In a large pot (ain't THAT the truth!) over medium heat, cook onion and garlic in olive oil until slightly browned. (I didn't do this either - see above.) Stir in salsa, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato soup, chili powder, corn, chili beans, sour cream, shredded chicken and 5 cups broth (...oh...maybe that's why my pot was so full! I really should read my recipes more carefully.). Simmer 30 minutes.

This is seriously good soup and I hope you all try it. Make it with my ingredients and it'll knock your socks off!

Wind Chills

My computer tells me it's zero degrees outside with a wind chill of 13 below. Brrrr! It must be January in Iowa. I was reminded of the last winter I hauled mail. We had ice and snow with dangerous wind chills. I had gotten stuck in a snow drift and had to walk back to a farm house and ask to be pulled out by the farmer. Luckily he was kind enough to brave the 65 below wind chill to start up his tractor and get me out of the ditch. That's when I realized that $10 an hour wasn't worth risking my life over.

I had wanted to be a rural mail carrier pretty much all my life. I remember watching Don Reese load his VW Bug from floor to ceiling with packages and bundles of mail when I was a little girl and thinking he must have the best job in the world. I especially liked watching in the spring when he delivered the baby chicks. He carefully placed the peeping box of fluff on top of the mail, wedging it into place with boxes and bags until he could get his precious cargo to its destination.

The desire to deliver mail never left me. I took my Rural Carrier exam in Sioux City along with about a hundred other hopefuls in 1986, and in 1988 was hired as a sub for a route in Onawa. I was so happy because part of my route covered my beloved hills. I even delivered Don's mail, which made me so proud. I believe he was proud of me as well. Even when I demolished his mail box by pulling out with the lid still down! He graciously forgave me and told me of his "mishaps" on the job as well. (I will say that his was the only mail box I toppled in all the years I hauled mail.)

In 1989, when we moved to West Bend, I was able to transfer my route to the Rolfe post office. I also liked that I worked every weekend as the sub. (The different length and size of the routes dictate how often a sub can work.) I drove 128 miles, in three different counties and was rarely out of sight of the West Bend Elevator.

Most of the time, it was a pleasant drive in the country. Except in winter. Especially in that winter of 1993. That's when I almost died trying to find someone to help pull me out of the ditch. That was before cell phones of course. Now, I wish I still had the route. It was the perfect job for me. I went to work and cased my mail, loaded my car and took off. Other than the visit with the postmaster in the morning, I didn't have to talk to another soul for the rest of the day if I didn't wish to. I could listen to what I wanted on the radio, smoke a cigarette when I wanted, pet the dogs who greeted me at the mail box, and just generally have my "alone time" with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. Pure heaven!

But - on days like today - I sure am glad I'm not out freezing my butt off lugging mail to boxes that have been plowed in by the snow plow and praying that the wind won't blow me into the ditch. Give and take, eh?

Wishing anyone reading this warm thoughts.

Blogger Postcards Around the World 2

Meeta from What's For Lunch Honey? has organized a second Blogger Postcards Around The World event for our enjoyment. Her theme for this one is Valentines Day and the race is on! This time there are 60 entries from all over the world. So go check out who all is participating. Maybe you'll discover an interesting new blog to add to your ever-growing list of really talented people yacking it up over this wonderful thing we call "The Internet".

Here's my postcard which will be dutifully dropped in the mail tomorrow morning. Some "lucky" person across the world (or across the state) is going to get these cute cows for their Valentines Day card from yours truly.

Thanks again Meeta for thinking up this really wonderful event. This makes our world just a tad bit smaller and a lot more friendly. Plus, it's fun!

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Walls

Now that I have a nice shiny new floor, it's time to put the wall covering up. So last Thursday Robin and Beth from the Perfect Touch came in and worked their magic.

Why is it old houses all have those slanty ceilings upstairs? There is no way I could have done this! When they finished I had beautiful "new" walls. All I had left to do is paint. Piece of cake, right?

Friday afternoon I painted the woodwork figuring I'd have all day on Saturday to paint the ceiling and the walls. I love our painted Italiante woodwork - I just hate painting it. I need a ladder to reach the top and I'm on my knees for the bottom. It's hard on my old body and I was aching and tired when I finished. I was actually looking forward to painting the walls.

Saturday morning bright and early I was up spackling and taping off in preparation for painting the ceiling. I decided to re-prime the ceiling as I was painting it an off-white over that deep pink and knew that I was going to have to put two coats on to cover it. After fillng my rolling pan full of oil based primer I put it on the ladder and moved the ladder into position - rather I started to move the ladder - when the entire pan full of paint fell upside down on my new floor! I stared in horror at the mess. Sure, I had layers of papers on the floor, but when I tried to roll up the papers to get the ones full of paint off the floor, a huge puddle of paint spilled out ON to my floor! Now I was truly in a panic. I don't normally use oil-based paints and I had nothing to clean it up with. I mopped up most of it with rags and ran to the lumber yard for something to use to clean up my mess. Charlene sent me home with mineral spirits and that seemed to do the trick. However I won't truly know if I've done any damage until I remove all of the papers when I'm done and see what is underneath. I was devastated - we just had that laid on Wednesday and it wasn't even paid for, now I've done this!

After (shakily) finishing the ceiling it was time to start on the walls. I taped off the ceiling and woodwork and (carefully) put my rolling pan on my ladder and started on the walls only to discover that the roller I had wasn't the right one to use on my deeply textured wall covering.

What should have taken me one day and one gallon of paint is now taking me a day and a half and two gallons of paint. Why does this not surprise me. I spent all day yesterday, with a brush, painting the walls. (I kept thinking of Karate Kid - "Show me 'paint the fence' ") Today I'm going to the lumberyard and getting the correct roller and another gallon of paint to give the walls the second coat of paint. That color is a deep plum - I call it eggplant - and it is going to be beautiful. It's darker than the little paint sample card but I'm really liking it (thank God!).

Tuesday Tom will be replacing the tub and stool into the room and I'll be finished. I hope. My "little" project will finally be finished.

New Floor

Out with the old....

and in with the new!

View From My Window

Saturday it was gorgeous! Everything was covered with frost making it look like a winter wonderland.

Sunday we had six inches of snow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Bean Soup - Sorta

Unlike many of the wonderful food bloggers out there, I don't like to bake. I used to. When I was younger a cold, snowy day always drove me into the kitchen to bake some cookies or a cake. Age, weight and laziness has replaced this drive with another - soup! This weekend has been miserably cold and snowy so it was a perfect time for soup. Since DH has a cold I decided I would make him some home-made chicken noodle soup. After thawing out a pint of chicken stock I discovered nary a piece of chicken meat in the entire house. No problem - I've got vegetables languishing in the refrigerator from my party, dried beans, pasta, and rice. I had already thawed out the stock so I was good to go.

Unfortunately neither of us wanted broccoli or cauliflower soup, so it looked like the winner was bean soup. I know that I've posted my bean soup recipe before, but since I know most people never look at the archives and since I was too lazy to go look for it to link it here, and since I knew this bean soup was going to be a little different, I decided just to fly with it so you can see the steps I took to give us something good to eat today.

As I've said before, I use as many types of legumes I can get my hands on. Any single type of bean is boring to my palate and I've found the texture and flavor is much improved with this technique. Nyda Gleason is the one who taught me to "de-gas" my beans with baking soda. This is easy - you just cover your beans with water, throw in about a tablespoon of baking soda and bring it to a boil. It will boil up some nasty looking foam, but that's OK as you'll be pouring that off.

Do this three or four times rinsing the beans after every boil. Then on the last one, rinse the beans well. You'll pour off all of the husks.

Be sure and pour it through your colander. You don't want to clog your drains with this crap.

Now it's time to start the fun stuff. I always make any soup using The Holy Trinity - Carrots, Onions and Celery. It turned out I didn't have any celery so I just had the carrots and onion say an extra Hail Mary and threw them in the pot with the beans. Next came my stock which, of course, wasn't enough to fill the pot so I added some water and a beef bouillon cube. (This is bean soup not chicken noodle soup - I wanted a deeper flavor.)

Next came my second "Holy Trinity" - Bay Leaf, Salt and Pepper. I really like that Crazy Mixed-Up Pepper. Don't know what all is in it, but I like the flavors.

Another thorough look through the freezers confirmed my suspicion that I didn't have any smoked ham hocks. No problem. I've made bean soup using kielbasa, ring bologna, even hot dogs. The only thing I don't put in is bacon. That shit is just nasty when you bite into it while eating your soup. (By the way, Nyda used to throw a stick of butter in her bean soup... just thought I'd throw that in.... .) The only acceptable meat I found was half a stick of Summer Sausage (left over from the party). So, in it goes!

I also had a package of Baby Bella Mushrooms that desperately needed used. Even though I've never added mushrooms before I had to either use them or lose them, so in they went.

That's it. All it needed now was time to cook. I left it on low for about four hours, nursed DH with herbal tea, played a little Pogo - it doesn't get any easier than this! When dinner time came, DH decided he was hungry for spaghetti, so I put the soup in the fridge. All soup tastes better the next day anyway.

Today I made some Jiffy Mix cornbread to go with the soup. The verdict? Well, the mushrooms gave it a beautiful deep brown color along with a nice "earthy" taste, but I don't think I'll routinely add them to bean soup. The Summer Sausage was OK, but wieners probably would have been better with the ham hock being the best. I missed the flavor of the celery too. But, all in all, it was pretty good soup.

As I've said before, you can make (literally) anything into soup. Paired with sweet cornbread this was a wonderful meal to eat while watching the snow fly.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year's Day 2007

I think I've finally recovered from our annual New Year's Day party. It was a short crowd this year owing to flu and weather. Considering some of the parties we've had in the past, this was a nice, manageable size. This is our seventh year hosting this party and it is looked forward to each year. I fixed George's Maid Rites, Ham and Bean as well as Chicken Noodle soups, snackie things, plus a full bar. Kathy made hot wings and Bettina brought deviled eggs. After New Year's Eve, it's nice to just eat, drink, visit and relax with friends. Here are some photos I'd like to share showing family and friends gathered for a day of eating, drinking, football and a nice friendly game of Scattegories:

The table is full, but the hot stuff is in the kitchen. As you can see, that's where everyone gathers:

That's my DH directing traffic.

There's ice in the ice chest in the living room....

Kathy's favorite spot,

and Quinten's too!

Traffic jam.

Bettina's daughter, Dani.

Bettina, Gary, Natalie and Dustin. And what did you do last night, Dustin?

Dustin and my daughter Della. Wonder why he doesn't want his photo taken?

The contestants in the "best pickled egg" contest. Mine are the beet eggs. I lost.

"Doc" and Karla Vernon. And, yes, that room really is orange.

Concentrating hard for Scattagories in the north room. Notice we had a blizzard the night before.

Santa among the herbs. That's it for this year folks. Hope your New Year's celebrations were lots of fun too.