Chicken Soup – Part 2 – Cooking and Canning

The bone broth is finished. I strained it twice and put it all in a stock pot. I added water until I had a total of 5 quarts of liquid for the soup. Next I began to chop. It didn’t take as long as I had thought itIMG_20161227_084552_398. I chopped up 3 cups of carrots, 3 cups of celery, one cup of onion, and picked off all of the meat from my chicken thighs that I used for the bone broth. I got 4 cups of meat.

The bowl on the upper right is holding my strained vegetables and meat from the bone broth. I just pulled out the big pieces and put it in a bowl in the fridge overnight. The meat was easy to get off, and I was really surprised at how little of the chicken became waste.

It was time to fill the jars. I followed a recipe from the Amish Canning Cookbook,  putting more meat and vegetables in than the recipe called for. The recipe said that it had a lot of broth so that you could add noodles and cook it right in the soup. I prefer to make my noodles separately so that all of my broth from the soup remains, soIMG_20161227_095347_154 I filled them more. It was so easy, about 1 cup of raw carrots, 1 cup of celery, 1/2 cup of onion and 1 cup of chicken meat was put in a hot jar.

It was obvious pretty early on that I would need more vegetables. So I ended up chopping up the rest of the carrots and celery that I had bought, and another small onion. I added the hot broth to the jar, leaving one inch headspace, used the tool to get out all of the air bubbles, wiped the rim with vinegar to remove any meat oils, and put on the lid and band. Back into the pressure canner it went until all of the quart jars were filled. This recipe made 5 quarts with enough soup leftover for us to eat for lunch, which was good because the family had been smelling it all day and they wanted some!

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I processed them in the pressure canner following the manufacturer’s directions (adding 3 quarts of water and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar to the canner.) Once the canner had vented for 10 minutes, I set the 15 pound pressure regulator on top and waited for the jiggle. My altitude requires 15 pounds of pressure.  I then processed it for 90 minutes, turned off the heat, and waited for it to return to pressure before opening the lid.

While it cooked, we ate the leftovers!





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Chicken Soup – Part 1 – Bone Broth

It’s winter. Christmas is finished. The house is chilly in the mornings and we are home for a week from school. What’s a great way to warm up the house on a day where the high temperature is only 19 F? Can up some chicken soup!!

It’s an easy two day process, and surprisingly, it isn’t a lot of work. Of course I use my Electric Pressure Cooker, which is one of my favorite tools,  to make it even easier! This makes the best broth I have ever made. My youngest daughter will drink the broth alone, it’s THAT good! (Read 5 Things I Love About My Pressure Cooker)

I start with chicken legs or thighs. Today thighs were priced pretty cheaply, so I picked up a family pack.

Bone Broth Ingredients – 6 Chicken thighs, 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, one onion, garlic, 12 cups of water.

I used six thighs for the bone broth and froze the other four to be used in another meal. I tossed the meat in the electric pressure cooker, washed and cut up (cutting in large hunks… you don’t have to dice this up to look pretty because it won’t be eaten, it is purely for flavor) 2 carrots, 2 stalks of celery, an a large onion. You can leave the leaves on the celery stalks for even more flavor. SO EASY! Put it all in the pot, add a clove or two of garlic if you like (we do) and 12 cups of water.


No seasonings are added, and still, the broth will taste fantastic! I do add salt when using it for soups, but I don’t add it here. I add the salt after the broth had been cooked and cooled. Next, the lid for the pressure cooker gets locked into place, the vent is set to closed, and the timer is set for 60 minutes. That’s it. Now we wait.

After it has come up to pressure and cooked for 60 minutes, I let it come down from pressure naturally. This takes time. I usually make bone broth on a weekend, or a Friday night when I get home from work so that it is finished by the time I’m ready for bed. When I open the lid, it is beautiful! And the smell? Whoa!

I wish you could smell this!

I let it cool a bit and then I carefully scoop out the big pieces of chicken (trying to keep them in one piece as much as possible), and I scoop out as much of the carrots, onion, and celery as I can. I set them in a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for tomorrow. Next I remove the inner pot of the pressure cooker, cover it with plastic wrap, and  put it into the fridge.

Done. For today. Tomorrow, we make and can the soup.

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Merry Christmas Meal!

Within nine months of one another, we lost both my mother and father-in-law, leaving my husband and I without any living parents. Both of them would come to my house for Christmas each year. My father-in-law would stay with us for over a week, and we loved having him with us. My mother, because of her Alzheimer's Disease, would only come for the day, and even that became hard for her on her last Christmas.

Last year, with only my father-in-law with us, I decided to scale back on my Christmas. Instead of the mega shopping, the hours of wrapping, and the explosion of gifts under the tree, we each brought a $20 gift and played a game to see who would get each gift. My father-in-law loved it! We also had a bonfire with chili and hot dogs, no big meal to prepare. Everyone was happy.

So, finding ourselves very alone this year for the first time, we decided to change things again. We had our bonfire with chili and ham sandwiches on Winter Solstice with a gift exchange. Santa brought the girls a few presents on Christmas morning, but the entire event was MUCH smaller than years past. And much happier.  Our new tradition was getting out of the house and going snowshoeing. It was beautiful!


We met a nice couple on the trail and wished them a Merry Christmas. We stopped for some hot tea and hot chocolate that I always carry along in my backpack. The woods was so peaceful and beautiful with snow hanging from the limbs of every tree.

Afterwards, it was time to get supper started. On the menu was roast lamb with roasted potatoes, cran-raspberry pineapple jello salad from Linda's Pantry, and vegetables and rolls. I love to cook, so this is not a huge event for me. My family loves lamb, and if you don't love it, or if you think that you don't love it, I encourage you to try this roast. It isn't as expensive as an entire leg of lamb, and if you are serving four or five, there won't be a lot of leftovers if everyone has just one serving. I worried that by starting at 4:00pm, we wouldn't be eating until 7:30pm, but then again….. we ate when we ate! It was actually done by 6:00pm.

I seasoned the boneless lamb roast with oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, a bit of cayenne pepper, rosemary, lemon juice and olive oil. That wet rub was slathered over the lamb on all sides and the roast was set on carrots to cook with onion around it. The roast was covered and cooked at 400 F for 30 minutes. The house quickly began to smell amazing! Then I added the potatoes and returned the roast to a reduced temperature of 325 F until the internal temperature was 150 F.

For the final 30 minutes of cooking, I removed the foil cover to let things brown up a bit, and after it was done, I let it rest for a good 15 – 20 minutes. We set the table, complete with Christmas crackers that have been our family's tradition for years. We love the silly hats and the jokes!

Our table, waiting for the meal. 


It was strange having a table set for so few, no kid's table needed this year, but our small group enjoyed the day. The hike in the afternoon left us hungry and ready for some good food!

The food was devoured! Even my kids liked the lamb (one more than the other) but there were so many other choices that if they didn't eat the lamb they could still fill up on potatoes, vegetables, rolls, and the jello salad.

Roasted Boneless Lamb Roast…YUM!

I love our new holiday traditions! My adult and young children love them, too. There is no rushing around, no wrapping until the middle of the night, and much less stress. That leaves us with a lot more time to enjoy each other!

I hope that you enjoyed your holiday and that you also had an amazing Christmas meal!





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Crumpets for Breakfast!

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Several years ago I tasted my first crumpet. I was in a bigger city and saw a package of them in the grocery store. I had always wanted to try one, so I bought the package and warmed them up when we got home. Oh, man! Sometimes British food can be so surprising! Why hadn't I grown up on these? They were fabulous!

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about those crumpets and wishing that I had a big store in my little neck of the woods where I could buy some more. But, sadly, after searching every grocery store within 30 miles, I came up empty (there are only 5 different stores to check). No crumpets anywhere. Well, I'd prefer to make my own anyway.

Not one to give up, I searched the Internet and YouTube for a recipe and found this King Arthur Flour Crumpet recipe . I followed it to the letter, and …. FLOP! They were hard and solid on the outside, and raw inside. I knew what the problem was. My yeast was old. I also didn't have muffin rings, which would have helped a lot. They aren't necessary, but I knew that I wanted some.

I made a trip to the store for some new instant yeast and a new lease on crumpet making, I also purchased these Crumpet, English muffin rings and went to bed filled with dreams of the perfect crumpet. I was ready to try again!

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Crumpet Rings… a multi-purpose tool.

I mixed the dough, and from the very beginning I could tell that this time, things would be different. This time, it just might work! The dough rested for 1 hour and doubled in size just like it should (funny what fresh yeast will do)!

Next, the new rings were greased up, the pan was set on low, and I poured in the batter. After 10 minutes, it looked like this:

Crumpets after 10 minutes of cooking.

I was giggling, I was so happy. Waiting ten minutes to flip them was BRUTAL!

I constantly wanted to check them, fiddle with them, and adjust things, but my head kept telling my heart to, "Be patient." That battle paid off.

Crumpets flipped for the final 4 minutes.

After the first round, I turned down the heat a bit. Big mistake. Three rounds later, I finally had the heat set at the best temperature so that I could replicate my first round results.

They were a hit! The kids each ate three of them with jam right away and so did my husband. They were eaten as fast as they came off of the frying pan. Even the burnt ones!

Here is a record of my results:

Round 1 – perfect

Round 2 – undercooked (the pan seemed too hot so I turned down the heat)

Round 3 – undercooked

Round 4 – burnt (I turned up the heat because the last two rounds were so pale)

Round 5 – perfect (set the heat to low AND LEAVE IT ALONE!)

Round 6 – perfect – but needed to leave them in a bit longer than the 15 minutes.

Last one – I added water to thin the batter and see how that  would work. WOW! THE PERFECT CRUMPET!!!!

The three on the left were from Round 6 and the one on the right is the final crumpet. You can really see the difference!

A review of the recipe:

This is NOT something you want to make at the last minute. While the batter mixes up quickly, it sits for an hour before cooking, and each batch you make takes from 15 – 20 minutes. Total time cooking from beginning (mixing the batter) to the end (cleaning up) was 3 hours. I could do things while each round cooked (like write this blog post), but I needed to stay in the kitchen.

My final crumpet was the best, making me think that I will add water to the batter after it has risen next time. Rounds 1 – 6 were  a thick batter that had to be scraped out of the measuring cup when putting into the rings.  The rings are a MUST! The first time I made them, my batter spread and sometimes connected to another crumpet. You can make your own rings by using tuna cans and removing both top and bottom lids, or I have seen a picture of someone using canning jar lids. After 4 minutes of cooking in the ring, I giggled when each ring could be removed cleanly! So much fun!

The temperature settings need to be low, but sometimes the pan cooled too low. The original recipe called for a setting of 325 F on a griddle. I don't have a griddle, so  I am left to  wonder if that would have solved the problem. Maybe this will be a last minute item for my gift list?

Considering everything that went into making these, the time they took from beginning to end, the ease of mixing the batter, and the fact that my family devoured them as soon as they came out of the pan, I will make them again! In fact, my husband and both little girls at home asked for them again next weekend! Rule, Britannia!




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Weekly Meal Planning Using Google Apps!

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For a long time now I've noticed that when I take the time to plan meals for the week and create a shopping list from my plan, mealtimes become much less stressful.

Instead of the daily "what are we going to have for supper tonight?" I know what we will have, and I've picked foods that can be done around our plans each night. Sometimes I use my slow cooker, sometimes I use my electric pressure cooker, and sometimes I cook a meal the old fashioned way on the stove or in the oven.


I thought that I would share my process with you! I use Google Apps because I can share all of my recipes and shopping lists with family members near and far, and I can access the information on my smartphone at the store, from my work computer, or anywhere I may be. It has been a saving grace on vacation!

I primarily use Google docs and Google Calendar for menu planning. If you already use google docs, then you are ready to start! I opened my google drive and clicked on the blue NEW button. I selected +folder at the top created a file named "Recipes."

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I then clicked on the new file and added a new google doc for each recipe I had. Yes, I did spend two afternoons typing in handwritten recipes that were family favorites. After the hand written recipes were done, whenever I found a website with a recipe I liked, I just copied it and pasted it in a new document. Very quickly I had over 200 recipes in my folder.

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Here is a link for creating a Google Account, if this is new to you.

I then shared the recipe folder with everyone in my family using their email address.

For google drive, click on the drop down menu from your folder name and click on share. You can then add email addresses and decide if each person can edit or only view your folder. I suggest that no one be allowed to edit them, or your recipes could accidentally change over time.

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Now my adult children who moved away have instant access to my grandma's famous dumpling recipe and they don't have to call me or hope that I'm at home and can give it to them. When I travel, I can make oriental coleslaw, pressure cooker seafood boil, or give my cousin our grandma's Christmas cookie recipe. Everything is with me, all of the time.

Next I opened my google calendar and created a new calendar named "menu." I clicked on the drop down menu to the right of the heading "My Calendars" and it prompted me to create a new calendar. I have a "Family Calendar" that is yellow and a "Menu" calendar that is red. Both calendars are shared with every family member who wants access. My teenage daughters would check the calendar if they came home and we weren't there to find out if someone had an appointment, and my husband checks the menu calendar almost every day to see answer that question, "What's for supper tonight?"

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Once I have the menu calendar established, I simply click on the date to create an event. I type in the name of the meal I'm scheduling for that day and make sure that it is saved to my menu calendar.

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When you click on "create" the item is saved. It should save as an all day event and appear at the top of the calendar. Here is what it looks like with the yellow family calendar items and my red menu calendar items for a week back in 2014.

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Yes, I even put in "leftover" or "Grab nights!" I can also go back to my google calendar from last year of the same month to get ideas of things I made then!

I share the calendar in a similar way that I shared the google drive folder. By clicking on the drop down menu to the right of my menu calendar (listed on the left column under "My Calendars" I can choose the color, and share this calendar easily.

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So, now you have the recipe files saved in a folder, created a calendar, and shared everything with family members. It's time to make the shopping list. It couldn't be easier!

In my drive, I open a new google document named "Shopping List."

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You can see that I've already copied and pasted items from my recipes onto this document. If' I'm making cabbage casserole, I open the google file for that recipe and copy all of the ingredients. I don't worry if I already have some of the ingredients, I copy and paste the ENTIRE ingredient list. Once I have done this for all of my recipes for the week, I scroll down the list, combining like items. For example, I might need 1 can of diced tomatoes for the casserole and 1 can for another recipe later in the week. I just change one item to buy 2 cans and delete the other time it appears on the list.

Before I leave, I use the list to shop from my pantry, checking to see if I already have salt, spices, soup mixes, or canned mushrooms for example. If I have them, I take it off of the list.

I never have to worry about forgetting my list at home on the kitchen table, or worrying that I have a pen in my purse to cross off items. I simply open the shopping list document on my smartphone and delete the items as I put them into the cart. The document is empty again at the end of the trip, ready for a new week!

Let me know if you use google apps for your meal planning! It sure has made my life easier! Post a comment, please!



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