Friday, January 31, 2014

Chicken Noodle Soup - Part Two

This is the second part of my posts on making gluten and dairy free chicken noodle soup. On this post, I will focus on making the noodles, and finishing the soup. Part one discusses making the broth and preparing the chicken, and that can be found here. All measurements used here are for making a very large pot of soup, but it will last in the fridge for a few days and is great to reheat for lunches.

First things first, I pull the chicken broth that I made the previous afternoon out of the fridge and gently pour it into a large pot; most likely the same pot I made the broth in. As mentioned in the previous post, I have really close to a gallon of broth. I often pour it through a strainer. Also, pouring slowly helps keep some of the fat that has solidified in the container, and not in the finished product. I don't mind some of it making it's way into the soup, as it does add to the flavor and how satisfying the soup is.

Next, add:
3 cups of chopped carrots
5 garlic cloves (minced)
Salt and pepper to taste

While the broth simmers away, move onto making the noodles.

2 cups white rice flour (brown rice flour is not a good substitute for this)
2 cups tapioca flour
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. herbes de provence
6 eggs
1/3 - 2/3 cup of water

Mix together all the dry ingredients. This can be done on a bowl, or just in a pile on your countertop. I use the counter, since that means one less bowl to wash, and gives my children the impression that I am awesome. They sometimes gather to watch....

Form a well in the middle of your dry ingredients that can can crack the eggs into, and guessed it....crack the eggs into it. It will look something like this.

Use a fork to break up the eggs and start incorporating them into the flour mixture. After a minute, you will need to use your hands to knead and squish the mixture to get it as combined as you can. It will not be holding very well together at this point, but you should be able to see it start forming. A little at a time, add water and mix it in well. In our super dry climate, I need to add almost 2/3 cup, but you might need quite a bit less. It is best to stick to a tablespoon at a time, mixing and kneading, until you get a a dough that holds together well. Your hands will be covered in dough by this point, so chase a kid of hubby around for a minute.

Dust your surface with the rice flour and start rolling the dough. Thickness can be a matter of preference, but remember that the noodles will get a little thicker when they are dropped into the broth. Roughly 2/8 inch is a good thickness. Ours tend to be thick, where my husband's grandmother made hers amazingly thin. This may be because I lack patience.

I am not reached perfection at rolling, and neither is my 11-year-old who was helping me. We always end up with a weird shape and not a nice circle or rectangle. If that is what you end up with too, that is alright! We are going for a comfort food item that would more likely be served in a grandmother's kitchen that in a fancy restaurant.

Using a pizza cutter, cut long strips that are 1/2 inch thick, or at least close to it. As I am usually just trying to get dinner on the table, mine are all sorts of thicknesses. The kids and hubby don't seem to mind. Make cuts cross-wise so that the noodles are about 5 inches long.
Using a spatula, pick up the noodles, separating any that stick together as you place them on a plate. Carry them over to the broth with about a plateful at a time. Grab a small handful and drop them in almost like you are sprinkling them into the broth. If they go in too quickly together, they will stick together into a big noodle blob.

Chop up chicken that was prepared previously, if needed, and then drop into the soup.

Bring to a low boil and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, and checking the noodles to make sure they are done.

Serve yourself and your loved ones up a comforting bowl of soup and relax.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gluten Free Chicken Noodle Soup - Part One

My husband's grandmother recently passed away, leaving a big hole in the hearts of everyone who knew her. One thing that she was particularly known for was her chicken noodle soup. When I was first introduced to the dish, I have to admit, I did not quite see the appeal. I did not eat meat for number of years growing up. Those years which I was eating meat, I was more of a canned soup kinda kid. While they were a little abnormal to me, the homemade noodles were very tasty, but it took some time for me to warm up to the thought of homemade chicken broth. As I ate chicken noodle soup at her home over the years though, it became more and more apparent that while the soup was good, it was the love she served with it that made everyone love it so much.

Nowadays, I am a homemade chicken broth maker on a regular basis and think back with a smile to my former trepidation on the subject. I serve a gluten free version of her soup in my home now, with a few tweaks to make it my own. Just like she did, I make a big batch so there is plenty for everyone.

I am going to split the instructions into two parts. Today I will focus on making the chicken broth, and Part Two can be found here and be involve making the noodles and finishing the soup.

The chicken I use is the rotisserie chicken from Costco. It is something of a go-to meal for us when we have a lot going on. We eat the meat from them on one evening, along with whatever vegetables I can throw together, and the next morning the leftover carcasses get made into broth.

Broth Ingredients:
Two cooked carcasses
Half an onion
Four garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1 1/2 gallons of water

Place all  of the above ingredients into a large stock pan, using enough water to cover the chickens. Place a lid on the pot and bring to a low boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for three hours, periodically checking on the progress. The broth will be a lovely golden yellow color when it is finished.

Once your broth is finished, turn the heat off and allow it to sit for a while and cool off. It doesn't need to cool off a lot, but enough that it will not burn you if it splashes. I use a large colander like a scoop and get as much of the chicken out as I can. The chicken will be falling apart at this point.

Place all the chicken pieces into a 8 by 13 inch pan to cool off further.

The chicken broth can be used just as it is at this point. I like to clarify mine a little bit. I pour the broth through the same colander I used to get the chicken out, and into a large pitcher. Then I let it sit on the counter for a little while, and then place it in the fridge so that the fat separates and hardens on the top. I do leave some fat in the broth, but I also do not want a super oily soup. Use your judgement, and scoop however much of the fat you want off of the top of the broth.

As it cools, the broth will solidify a little. It will have a consistency a bit softer than Jell-O. This is thanks to the gelatin that you get when you boil the carcasses. It does look strange if you have never seen it before, but don't be alarmed. The broth will turn right back into liquid once heated, and the gelatin is wonderful for your fingernails and hair!

Once the chicken is cooled enough to handle, pick off pieces of meat from the bones. Even though we use most of the meat when I carve the chickens on the first night, there is a surprising amount left.

I love the thought that I am not letting it go to waste! Place all the chicken meat in a container and save until it is time to prepare the soup.

When you are ready to make your soup, just pour the desired amount of broth into a pot and heat it up.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Get Air Trampoline Park

Our school-age children attend a homeschooling type charter school, in which they attend either one or two days a week, and the rest they have school at home. It has provided a great way for them to still have the education we were seeking by homeschooling, but still participate in group activities (like choir or speech and debate). This week we had the opportunity to go on a field trip to a trampoline park with their school. There was quite a turnout, but not enough to make the park seem crowded.

We went to Get Air Sportsplex, which boasts that it is the largest trampoline park in Utah, and the kid's all had a blast. Admission is charged by the hour, and we chose to stay the full two hours that the school had reserved the park. I had lots of fun playing with the kids, and we all left a bit flushed and tired.

The big kids spent quite a bit of time doing large jumps and flips into the foam pits, Princess took small jumps, and Squirt just ran right in. It was extremely difficult to get out there, and Squirt especially enjoyed lounging out amidst the foam cubes.

To prove that I was no party pooper, and was jumping right along with the kids, Gizmo took pictures of me as proof.  Brady says I should have tried doing flips.....maybe next time.

There was also a large area to jump and run to your heart's content. Gizmo and Spike mastered jumping up onto the raised platforms and landing on their feet quite well. The trampoline ramps and slides were also a lot of fun.

 The trampoline park was a great way to blow of some of our spring fever, although I think I may have annoyed at least one of my children with all of my picture taking.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I-Spy Bottle

Like most small kids, sometimes Squirt needs something to keep him quiet and entertained. This can be the case when I am trying to help an older child with schoolwork. I don't mind him watching some television shows on Netflix, because there is benefit to some that are educational, but a line does have to be drawn at some point or else he would sit and watch shows all day.

He got a small I-Spy beanbag last year, but that has lost some of its luster, and I figured he would appreciate that same idea on a larger scale.

The bottle I used is a Voss water bottle. It is rather expensive water, but the bottle is really neat. I picked this one up at the nearby health food store while grabbing some vegan cheese.
Things you will need:
  • Water bottle (emptied and dried)
  • Small, interesting items
  • Poly-pellets or rice
  • Hot glue gun complete with a glue stick
First, use a knife to scrap off all the branding on the bottle. It comes off quite easily, even if the noise is a little unpleasant. After having Gizmo take a picture of me doing this, I realized I was completely ignoring the primary safety rule of not pulling the knife towards you. And of course, I realized this after I was done, so there was nothing else to photograph. Oops. Scrape safely out there, folks. Do as I say, not as I do.
Next thing to do is to find yourself a bunch of small items. I was being super-cheap with this project, so I just scoured the house. The craft room and the bottoms of the children's toy boxes seemed to give me the largest pay-off. It is best to use items that will hold their shape. I briefly though about using a strip of ribbon, but then realized it would not ever show up well in the bottle.

These are the items I used.

I tried to find a variety of sizes and colors, but sticking to a certain theme could be really fun as well. I began thinking of ideas using all one color, or using all pirate or princess type items. I am planning on having the picture of the items printed out and laminated, so that the kids could cross out the items they have found using a dry erase marker.

The Nemo in the items is a sticker that I put on cardstock and cut out. It was my own geeky joke for "Finding Nemo."

Fold a paper into a basic funnel shape and pour in whatever you choose for a filler. Rice would work well; I am just a little weird-ed out by having a food item in the bottle. I used Poly-pellets, which can be purchased at a craft store. They are normally used for making stuffed animals and weighting the legs or bottom. Leave about an inch at the top left unfilled. I screwed on the top and twist and turned the bottle to test the if the amount of poly-pellets was what I wanted.

To make sure that no kid can get the bottle open, squeeze a large amount of hot glue all around the threads at the mouth of the bottle. While it is still hot, hurry and twist the top on. Decorate as desired. I had envisioned adding a cute ribbon around the top, but nothing of the sort has happened since Squirt gleefully took the bottle from me as soon as it was finished. Decoration or not, it seems to be a kid pleaser.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Double Layer Skirt Tutorial

We are all very excited for an upcoming Disney cruise. Waiting can be very tough, so I really like doing projects for our trip to help the time pass by. It also makes the cruise even more fun.

Gizmo had a Minnie Mouse shirt that I had previously purchased for her. She has outgrown it, and so it was passed on to Princess. While I think it is a too long, she loves it, and refuses to let me take a couple inches off the bottom. With the picture on it, I am not sure how well that would work anyway. To go with her shirt, I decided to make a cute matching skirt.

To make the skirt, first get some measurements from the child it is for. The first measurement will be around their waist, and the second measurement is how long you want the finished skirt to be.

To the waist measurement, double the amount. This is the width of both of the fabric rectangles you will be cutting out.

To the length measurement, add 1.5 inches. This is the length of the underlying fabric, which I will call Fabric B.

Next, take Fabric B's length measurement and subtract 2. Now you have the length measurement for Fabric A.

                  23 inch waist measurement
                  12.5 inch length desired

                  23 x 2 = 46

                  12.5 + 1.5 = 14

                   14 - 2 = 12

                   Rectangle of Fabric A will measure 12 by 46 inches.
                   Rectangle of Fabric B will measure 14 by 46 inches.

All seam allowances are 1/2 inch.

Cut out your fabric pieces with the measurements you just made.

Fold the pieces in half, matching the short ends, with wrong sides facing out. Sew along that edge. I chose to trim that edge afterward with pinking shears.
 Choose which open end will be the bottom of the skirt. This only matters if your fabric has a directional print. Fold up the bottom edge 1/2 inch, pressing as you fold. Repeat and fold up another 1/2 inch, pressing once again. Repeat this on both fabric pieces. This will give you a nice finished edge along the bottom of the skirt. Sew around both hems.
Arrange the skirt pieces with the underskirt inside, and the wrong sides of the fabric facing out. Pin along the top edge, and then sew the skirts together.

Turn the skirts to the correct sides out and press.

Measure along the top of the skirt and mark 1 1/4 inches down. Chalk is helpful for making the marks, and will wash off easily.
Sew along that marked line, stopping a few inches before you reach the point where you started. This creates an elastic casing.

Cut elastic to child's waist measurement, and thread into the casing. This is easiest using a safety pin attached to one end, pushing it along through the casing. Just make sure to watch the end of the elastic and don't let it slip into the casing. You will need both ends hanging out of that gap you left unsewn. Make sure that your elastic has not twisted anywhere. It is much easier to check now, then to find out later....

Holding both ends of the elastic, pull them out enough to hold them together under the sewing machine foot. Zig-zag stitch several times back and forth to attach them.
 Holding the skirt up, give the waist band a few stretches. The elastic ends should pop up into the casing. Sew up the gap in the casing. 

Enjoy giving a sweet kiddo in your life a new skirt made just for them. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On the Needles

I have mainly been working on two knitting projects lately, even though I have been itching to get something else started.

I started the sock yarn blanket roughly a year ago. It is not very far along, but that is alright, since I did not think I would finish it anytime soon. It is a great way to use up the little balls of sock yarn that were not enough for anything else I wanted to do, but too much to throw away. This project is a nice, mindless, knitting project. I work on it a lot while watching shows or movies with Brady and the kids.
 The pattern for the sock yarn blanket can be found at The Heathen Housewife. Her finished blanket is quite impressive.

The other thing I have been working on are Jaywalker socks, made by Grumperina for the now defunct MagKnits. The pattern can be found here on Ravelry. I had previously been working on Skew from Knitty with this yarn, but that was frogged. While fun, it was too complex for the "shove in my purse to work on while waiting for kiddos" type thing. I am happy with the simplicity and easy memorability of the Jaywalker pattern, and am excited to see how they turn out.  The yarn is Deborah Norville Serenity sock weight. I ran across it on clearance at Joann's craft store a while back, and for the price it was worth a try. I would have liked the wool content to be higher than 50%, but have no other complaints.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Beatrix's Sweater

During the hot summer months this past year, our family brought two new pets into our household. They are two adorable English angora rabbits. Brady had watched me stare at pictures of fluffy bunnies online, sighing over breeder websites for a while, and we finally decided to go for it. Gizmo certainly had quite a surprise waiting for her when she came home from camp.

Both our bunnies are girls. We made the long drive to the breeder's home with the intention to bring one bunny home, but ended up with two. I am really glad we did, since I have had a wonderful time getting to know them.

Today I am going to focus on Beatrix, our chocolate agouti rabbit. Just in case you did not know, English angora rabbits shed their coats about every three to four months. That is the time when their fur needs to be plucked or sheared from them, mainly on their backs. Their hair comes out extremely easy then. They do get annoyed with me, but I am careful to make sure they are as comfortable as possible through the process. It is possible to wait longer, and keep them in "full coat", but maintenance to keep them mat free becomes a much bigger responsibility. Their hair is finer than cashmere, and can mat up quickly if they are not properly taken care of, which can be painful for the poor bunny and bad for their health.

I had been toying with the idea of keeping Beatrix in full coat for about a month, but decided this morning that it would be best to go ahead and pluck her. After I finished an area on her back, I was startled to see some of her pink skin through the very thin layer of fur that remained. On her past pluckings, she has had her next coat already growing in when she loses the top one, but not so much this time. I knew it could happen, but it was still very alarming to me. She was just so naked!

Since I was worried about her getting cold with the sudden loss of a large amount of wool from her back and belly, I made her a sweater of sorts from a leg of one of Gizmo's old sweat pants.

 She is the smaller of our bunnies, but looks so much smaller after she has lost her coat. We all agreed she looked very cute in her sweater. Gizmo loved it and spent a lot of time cooing over Beatrix while working on her schoolwork. Well, all of us except for her....she was not all that happy about it. I think we could work out something a little more fashionable in the future, but this satisfied my need to make sure she was warm.