Welcome-Back-to-School Chicken Soup

It's the second full week of school.  I've already forgotten what it was like to leave my watch off and let the day pass.  I've already forgotten what it was like to have saturday to stay in pj's and watch movies if we wanted to.  AND.  We've already gotten colds, sore throats, runny nose, coughing... the whole lot.
As much as I hate to admit it, this chicken soup thing has something goin' on.  My experiences with chicken noodle soup have been few and far between.  They've also been particularly unpleasant.  I will easily admit to someone that life is too short to spend it eating tasteless things like chicken broth/noodle soup.

However, I will also admit that it's damn good for helping you feel better when you are suffering with a cold.  I don't even know why exactly.  It's probably all the veggies in it and the fact that it's hot.  Either way, there it is.  Chicken Noodle Soup is somehow soothing.
So with two kiddies coughing and sniffling through the day I decided to do something positive for them and get some homemade soup into their bellies.

Problem is I don't really know what the a*s I'm doing.  How hard can it be right.  Broth.  Chicken.  Veggies.  Noodles.  How do I keep the noodles from getting goopy and gross?  Use egg noodles.  I got this ridiculously huge bulb of garlic in this weeks food box.

Seriously, one of these puppies is like 3 regular ones.  I had to cut it up just to get it in the press!  Also, I thought that sauteing the veggies for a bit might help the flavour a little bit.  And you know what?  It kinda did make a difference.  I can see why this roasted veg soup thing is a hit.  I get it now people.  Doesn't take me long.
At the end of the day, we had some nice chicken noodle soup nice and warm in the bowl.

Chicken Noodle Soup
makes 8 - 10 cups

5 chicken legs (let's say 3 lbs?)
2 tbsp of oil
3 small to medium carrots, diced small
3 small to medium potatoes, diced small
1 onion, diced small
1 big, stupid huge garlic clove or 3 regular sized cloves, crushed or minced
2 cups broad egg noodles
3 bouillion cubes (which is all I had this time) plus 8 cups of water OR 8 cups of broth
1/2 cup mixed herbs, diced (I left a whole rosemary sprig and marjoram branch in too)
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
dash or two of Worcestershire sauce
lick or two of cream (optional)

Heat a large soup pot (dutch oven) over medium heat.  Add the oil and lightly saute the onion, carrot and potato for about 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and the chicken legs and cook with the veggies.  I sauteed everything until the chicken began to look like the outside was getting cooked.  I then took out the chicken and sliced it off the bones.  I put the bones back in though while the soup was simmering (Yum).  Once the chicken is off the bone and the veggies are looking cooked I added the stock/bouillion-water (could easily use some wine here folks), Worcestershire, Bay leaves and let that simmer for about 10 minutes.  Then add in the herbs, check the taste and add salt and pepper as needed.  Simmer for another hour or so.  Add a little cream into the soup if you want or add a little in the bowl when you serve it.

I'm trippin on this stuff - Spicy Noodle Stir Fry

It's true.
I'm buggin.  I'm trippin'.
Here's the thing, I used to hate stuff like this.  I used to think that making recipes like this were like ordering salad at a restaurant.  Hmmmm, I feel like that deserves some explanation but don't quite know how to just yet.
It's my food box day people.  This is a big deal this week because I now also have a bit of dough in the bank.  The food box this week is bulging.  Yeah!!!  Finally.

I've been so wanting to make this stuff.  Like I said, it's been taking over my life.  I want it hot.  I want it cold.  I want it for school lunch.  I want it for breakfast.  I even bought some special noodles for the dish.  These things are supposed to be more authentic.

They look like noodles, they taste like regular noodles to me as well but what the hell, I feel somehow better off for using them.
After my bean salad stuff last week I'm pretty sick of bean salad and my family is relieved that I'm cutting back a bit on the beans - if you know what I mean.  So, I'm pretty stoked to be taking this stuff to work for my lunch this week.

Some things that I love about this recipe.
I love the peanut butter/spicy thing.  It's just so getting to me right now.

I love that I can throw so many veggies into this and it will always work out.
I love how far you can stretch a pound of meat.
I love that you can leave meat out entirely if you want.

I love that it uses noodles.
I could go on but I think that you all get the idea by now and are probably wondering about my sanity and possibly the safety of my family.

Wanda's Spicy Noodle Stir Fry
serves 4 - 6

1 onion, sliced thin
2 cups mushrooms (I used Shitake and button)
4 - 6 cups of assorted veg., prepped and ready for stir frying
(I used bok choy, zucchini, broccoli and carrots - the zucchini and bok choy really cook down)
1 very large clove of garlic or 3 regular sized cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb stir fry beef, pork or chicken

2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
splash of Teriyaki sauce if you have
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (ie. no sugar added stuff)
pepper sauce to taste and/or crushed red chili peppers
1/2 cup toastes sesame seeds (I didn't have any but I so wish that I did)

4 cups cooked noodles (I used Udon noodles but spaghetti/linguini are fine in a pinch)

Heat a wok over med/high heat.  Add in the oil and sesame oil.  Turn down the heat a bit.  Add in the onion, mushrooms and veggies.  Stir fry the veggies until they begin to cook.  Add in the garlic and the meat.  Continue to fry until the veggies become almost but not quite cooked through - they should still have some crunch and brightness to them.

Add in the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, teriyaki and mix well into the veggies.  Add in the peanut butter.  Check the tastes and adjust if needed.  Add in the pepper sauce and/or chili's and the toasted sesame seeds.

Zucchini Lemon cake and a Rookie mistake.

Let me just start off by saying that I like this cake.  I like it a lot.  I think that even though I kinda screwed it up that it's a really good cake and I would make it if I were you.
Backing up a bit...

Saw this cake online and in Mag and knew that I had to make it very soon, if not immediately.  The picture looked like this light cake with this lovely cream cheesey icing.  Absolute yum.
After the week that I had at work I could bake for hours.  It's a stress reliever for me you see.  My Sunday has consisted of (no kids b/c they were at their Granny's!) a 16k run as part of my prep for the half marathon in October, a little walk to the store to pick up a zucchini, baking a cake and a lasagna, talking to my sister on skype for a ridiculous amount of time.  See all of the above are serious stress relievers for me.  I almost feel ready for the work week tomorrow... almost.  I need some time out with my friend KT - that will push it over the top I think.

While making the cake though I didn't pay much attention to the recipe (actually BBC Good Food website - if you are listening - the format of the recipes is kinda confusing for me.  Could be me of course but I'm just sayin').  I didn't notice for example that the butter was partly for the icing and put all 250g in the cake (I've changed the recipe below, don't worry).  I didn't think to drain the zucchini before putting it in the cake.

Now let me add that this is something that I've gotten into the habit of doing.  I'm still shocked that I've made such a rookie mistake.  But there it is.  We all screw it up sometimes right?  Don't be so hard on yourself Wanda.  I didn't realize all of this until the cake was baked already.  I was about to throw the whole lot out - done, in the green bin (compost), not to see the light of day.

Then I thought about that cream cheese icing and thought about having to make the whole thing again tomorrow and I felt like I needed to at least try it.
So ok.  My cake turned out a lot wetter than yours will.  It probably didn't rise as high as it should have and because it's wetter it probably won't last for as long as it should.  BUT it actually tastes good.  The taste is great really.  The kids won't be bothered by the mistake at all, they'll eat anything with cream cheese icing on it.  I think at the end of the day, despite the dumb mistakes that this little gem of a cake will still get it's day in the limelight here at our house.

Frosted Courgette and Lemon Cake (BBC Good Food)

200 g (round 3/4 cup) of unsalted, room temperature butter
2 unwaxed lemons
200 g (about 1 3/4 cup) sugar
3 eggs
2 med zucchini, grated coarsely and some of the water squeezed out
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp vanilla
100 g self raising flour
100 g whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt


1 250 g container of Cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups icing sugar
2 - 3 tbsp lemon juice (from the lemons above)
1 knob of butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees F
Grease and flour 2 20cm round cake tins.
Measure out the dry ingredients, combine them in a bowl and set aside.
Zest two of the lemons.  In a large bowl combine the 200g of butter, lemon zest, sugar, eggs and mix until combined and fluffy.  Add in the drained zucchini, poppy seeds and vanilla.  Add in 1 - 2 tbsp of lemon juice (from 1 of the lemons).  Combine well.   Add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Divide equally between the two cake tins and bake for about 25 min. or until a tester comes out clean (might take a little longer because of the zucchini).
Cool for 10 min. before removing from the cake tins.   Cool completely before icing.
Soften the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl.  Add in the icing sugar and mix together until well incorporated.  Add in the lemon juice and mix well.  If it gets too runny just add a little more icing sugar.
Divide between the first and second layers of the cake.

Spinach Cheese Muffins

This week was a good week.  Monday brought on our first full week of school and also brought a nice big crazy food box.  I don't think that we've ever been so thrilled to get food.  Let me tell ya, it's been slim pickings around here lately.  About 3 hrs after the food box arrived we had used/cooked almost all the veggies.  Seriously.  Went through them just like that.  I think that I've still got a zucchini and a green pepper left... that's it!

Every week when we get the food box they send a couple of pieces of paper with it.  One piece of paper has all the crap on it... everything that I ordered, what arrived and how much it all cost.  The other piece of paper holds announcements and a boat load of recipes.  There are a couple of these recipes waiting for me to try them out but this particular recipe caught my eye immediately.  I was on the hunt for something that would be suitable for school/work luches (to go with my awesome 3 bean salad), transportable and not needing to be heated up.  So... I tried it.

The recipes was easy.  Did it knock me out?  No.  Did it totally suck?  No.  Will I make them again? Maybe - probably. 
Here are some things that I would change:
Add a little more salt to the recipe (maybe another tsp or so)
Add a dash of paprika and/or some cayenne (just a pinch)
Increase the amount of cheese to 1 1/3 cups
Add 1 1/2 tbsp of brown sugar
Do Not skip the parmesan on top of each muffin (it will add a lot)  

These would go nicely with chili (a replacement for corn bread), stew, soup.  Things that need a little carb on the side.  This is definitely not just carb though but healthy carb.  The recipe below is exactly as I made it.  Think about the additions above and see what you think.

Spinach Cheese Muffins
makes 12 medium/smallish muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt (add a little more though)
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
3 cups shredded spinach
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese
2 tbsp diced herbs
parmesan cheese for the tops

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease or line 12 muffin cups.
Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.  Set aside.
Stir together the melted butter, egg and milk until well blended.  Slowly stir in the flour mixture and form a batter.  Fold in the cheese and then the spinach and herbs.

Spoon into the muffin cups.  Top with a little parmesan and bake for 20 - 24 minutes - 'til a tester comes out clean.


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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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