Grandma’s Chicken Soup

One of my most vivid memories of my grandma’s kitchen as a kid was creeping around for treats. If we were making chocolate chip cookies, I stealthily ate little pieces of butter when no one was looking. I would lick the batter from my fingers until I felt sick, even though the raw egg made my hands and mouth itchy. When she made chicken soup, I would sneak into the kitchen and eat handfuls of the cooked egg noodles that were waiting to be tossed into the soup. They were starchy, bland, plain and absolutely the best. I didn’t crave candy and ice cream, but put noodles, bread or rice in front of my and I was in heaven. I’ve pretty much been a carb tooth since I could chew. (I was also known to throw tantrums in the car if I could not have olives as a snack, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Though a loaf of bread is still my favorite dessert, I have come to enjoy the fresh veggies and rich broth of chicken soup and can survive without the noodles. I think the ritual is the best part. Putting on a pot of soup and filling my apartment with the smell is cleansing and brings be back to center. This weekend’s snow storm was an added bonus, making for a perfect Saturday.

Grandma’s Chicken Soup
makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, with skin
1 sweet potato, peeled
2 onions
1 turnip, peeled
1 parsnip, peeled
4 carrots, peeled
2-3 celery stalks with tops
2-3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
small bunch of fresh dill
small bunch of fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste

A note before we being: This soup is very user friendly. The list and number of veggies above is just a suggestion, and the more you add the richer your soup will be. Feel free to add anything you have in the house.

bunch-of-fresh-soup-veggies-in-a-kitchenTo start, make a bundle of herbs by tying together the dill and parsley with kitchen twine or sewing thread. Fill a cup with cold water and soak the bundle until adding it to the soup.

bundle-of-fresh-herbs-for-stockWash and peel all veggies and cut into large chunks. Add them to a large soup pot. Rinse chicken and add to the pot as well.
fresh-cut-veggies-and-chicken-for-soup
Add just enough cold water to cover all the ingredients. The less water, the richer your soup will be, but everything should be covered. Sprinkle in salt and pepper.

Bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat and skim off any brown foam off the top of the liquid.

Add herb bundle and return to a simmer. Cover and simmer on med-low for about 1.5 hours. Check in on it a few times, you may have to skim the top again. Also taste periodically, and add salt or pepper if necessary.

Once finished, separate out the chicken and veggies from the broth. Throw away the herb bundle. Then run liquid through a strainer to make it nice and clear.

clean-strained-chicken-soup-broth-in-containersTo serve, add chicken and veggies back into broth. Some nice additions are brown rice, barley, quinoa or my new favorite, wheat berries!

Any unused broth can be frozen and used in other recipes. I also figured out (by accident) that you can use some leftover broth in place of water to make another soup. Cooking it again with a fresh batch of veggies and chicken makes the color and flavor even richer.

Happy New Year!

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Squeaky Clean Shepherd’s Pie

As I am posting this it is about 40 degrees, damp and misty outside. On a night when I am most likely staying in and watching a movie under blankets, it is equally important that the movie choice is perfect and I have some awesome comfort food in the oven. Here’s what is on the menu tonight:

Clean Venison Shepard’s Pie
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 small head of cauliflower
3 large carrots, peeled diced
1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
1.5 lbs ground meat (I used venison but any ground meat works well)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tbsp of fresh chopped herbs (I mixed Oregano, Parsley and Thyme)
1 tbsp parmesan or Romano cheese, finely grated
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper

Preheat over to 375F. Cut cauliflower into 1-2″ chunks and lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Drizzle with olive oil and roast until tender and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. When it’s done, let it cool and then dice it into very small pieces. You can leave the oven on when you pull the cauliflower out.

chopped-roasted-califlower-for-shepards-pie-topping

While that is cooking, peel and dice your carrots into 1/2″ pieces. Boil them for about 10 minutes until they are soft, but do not have to be fully cooked, then drain.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large fry or sauté pan. Add onion and sauté on medium low heat until translucent. Add ground meat and turn up the heat to medium. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. When meat is brown and mostly cooked through, add the cooked carrots and corn and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat.

ground-venison-with-carrots-and-corn-shephards-pie

Combine 2 tbsp olive oil with chopped herbs and parmesan. Add a pinch each of black and red pepper. In a large bowl, toss chopped cauliflower with the mixture until coated.

Line a baking dish with ground meat mixture, about 1″ deep. Cover completely with cauliflower.

layering-venison-shephards-pie

Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!

In Interrupt This Blog to Bring You the Hunting Season

Sometimes I feel like I lead a double life. Part of me, the part I’ve known for longer, is horrified by the idea of meat production. She likes bunny rabbits, cute cuddly things, animal adoption and wildlife rehabilitation. She became a vegetarian and enjoyed that it made her conscious about eating every single day. The other part of me, the newer part that I understand better, watches in fascination as a deer is butchered on her kitchen table. She takes pictures so she can write about it, and eats venison sliders hot off the stove in the same room with the butchered carcass. She recognizes that a squirrel with a broken leg left to the coyotes in the woods is not a total waste. She knows that nature can be as brutal as humanity. She is more sure of this lifestyle than any that has come before.

I admit it, the shock value of eating squirrel or trying a little bite of deer heart (because why not?) have long since gone for me. Things I never even knew were a part of life have become common place, and living with a hunter has been a huge part of that. This elicits mixed responses from the people in my life who know me best. They still can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it. I just know it’s right.

The thing is, at this point in my life I have a hard time even picking up a package of organic chicken at Whole Foods without wondering how many miles away that chicken was slaughtered, or why it’s wrapped in so much plastic. I have no reservations, however, about the fresh and “free range” meat in my freezer. Since I have made the decision that I am ultimately a meat-eater, I might as well know everything about it and understand exactly where it comes from. For a while I thought I couldn’t handle that, that I just didn’t want to know about or experience most of the lifecycle of these animals. That’s not the case any more. Knowing is the only way I can do it.

As a bonus, all of the wild game I cook is incredibly lean, lending itself well to the culinary experiments of a clean eating blogger. This brings me to the newest freezer challenge: 30lbs of ground venison and about 30+ more pounds of steaks and stew meat.

freezer-full-of-venison-and-other-wild-game

I think I squeezed in a few frosty beer glasses and an ice cube tray on the freezer door, but other than that there is not much else in there. Well, there also might be a pheasant and/or a snow goose. I’m really not sure.

What did we cook first, you ask? Read on my friends, read on.