Planning a Smarter Menu and a Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

Hi folks! This weekend was flat out crazy. On Saturday, I had both kids by myself from sun up to sun down for the first time in Lexi’s short little life. I think it went pretty well, especially considering that I kept our usual Saturday routine (which included trips to the Farmer’s Market and library). Parker was perfectly behaved all day and was the picture of silence during his sister’s nap times. Of course, I bribed and cajoled this absolute acquiescence out of him. The prize for his good behavior was a coveted box of Legos, which we picked up from our local Walmart at about 6pm.

I was pretty proud of myself until I realized that I got fleeced! Parker would have probably agreed to cooperate all day in exchange for two M&Ms. I admit, it was the error of a novice, but I was scared and desperate. Ridiculous, I know, but I’m not very good at new experiences. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – single parents are my heroes. I rely very heavily on my husband for support and back-up in all areas, but particularly with regard to parenting.

Right about the time when the Irishman got back from the beer festival, out Internet went out…and stayed out until this morning. Without my usual online distractions, I finally whipped our disastrous house into shape and got everything prepped for our menu this week.

You know, I used to plan menus around what I felt like eating each week. If those recipes shared ingredients, that was definitely a bonus, but certainly not a requirement.  Since Lexi’s arrival, I’ve made our menu plans much simpler. For example, both the meatballs and the turkey burgers are made with ground turkey and I can also prep them at same time. I’ll just cook the meatballs up tonight and refrigerate the burgers to use for Thursday.

I did the same thing with the chicken noodle soup that I made last night. I boiled all of the chicken legs at the same time, but when I was pulling the meat off of the bones to put back in the soup, I set some aside to use in the fried rice. Same with the veggies – both chicken noodle soup and fried rice shared diced onions, carrots and celery, so I diced up a bunch and divided it for use in both recipes. What’s great about doing menus this way is that I’m only prepping dinners one or two nights a week and I’m also not having to run out to grab missing ingredients at the last minute. Nice, huh?

Oh and in case you were wondering what my vegan substitutions were, if I can’t just omit the meat from a dish (like the fried rice and spaghetti), I’ve been making black bean and guacamole burritos instead (which I’ll wax rhapsodic about later in the week).

Okay, we’re finally at the chicken noodle soup recipe (boy, has this post become long-winded, but I guess that’s what I get for not blogging for 3 days). I learned how to make chicken noodle soup from my mother-in-law and this classic recipe (which is probably in grandmothers’ arsenals across America) couldn’t be simpler.

Ingredients for making your own chicken stock:
1 cut up chicken WITH the bone (I used 8 drumsticks since the boys prefer dark meat)
1 celery stick, cut in thirds
1 onion, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in thirds
12 cups or so of water
parsley, oregano, salt and pepper to taste

Put everything into a large pot, bring it up to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Using tongs, take out your chicken and set aside to cool. Strain the remaining contents of the pot through a fine colander and reserve the broth for your soup.

I usually do this part over the weekend and then refrigerate everything until the day that I’m serving the soup.

Ingredients for the finished soup:

2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
meat from chicken
reserved broth (from the previous step)
egg noodles (we use about 6 oz.)
salt and pepper to taste

Once your stock is made, the soup comes together in about 30 minutes. Saute your carrots, celery and onion in a bit of olive oil until tender (about 10 minutes). Add in the chicken stock, bring it up to a boil, add in your noodles and chicken meat and reduce heat to medium. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until your noodles are done.

That’s it! Naturally, you can add whatever seasonings that you love (like thyme and rosemary), but my husband prefers the 1950s traditional version of this recipe and since I don’t eat meat, who am I to argue? Enjoy this little slice of Americana my friends!

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