Rachel Maria's Chicken & Pasta Soup

Rachel Maria's Recipes

I’m fairly convinced that you can throw just about anything into a soup or stew!  (Ok, maybe not everything…)  But, at least there are fewer rules to follow (have I mentioned how much I prefer to color outside of the lines!)  All that to say, I love to make-up my own soups or stews based upon whatever I can find in my fridge and cupboard.   If I had ground beef, pork, and/or veal on hand, I would have thrown some mini-meatballs in here! I’ll reserve that for a different post.

Serves MANY bowls of soup…and freezes wonderfully, too!

Ingredients

1 Small Whole Chicken, or 2 Chicken Breasts
64oz. Chicken Broth
2 Cups Water
1 Tbs. each Salt, Pepper, Garlic, Onion Powder
2 14.5oz Cans Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbs. Tomato Paste
2 Cups Each of Chopped Carrots, Celery, and Onion
1/2 lb. of Acini Di Pepe OR Ditalini Pasta
2 lbs. Fresh Spinach
1 Can Corn
Pecorino romano cheese

Directions

*Fill Large Post with Chicken Broth, 2 Cups Water, Diced Tomatoes, and seasonings.
*Stir in Tomato Paste (which will gradually blend into soup consistency).
*Cook over Medium-high flame for about 1 hour (until chicken is cooked), stirring and straining chicken fat from the top, intermittently.
*Remove Chicken.  (It chicken has skin and/or bones, wait until cooled and separate from meat and dice.)
*Add Carrots, Celery, and Onion.
*Cook over Medium-high flame for 45 minutes.
*Bring water to a boil.  Add Pasta.  Stir Constantly and cook according to pasta directions on box.
*Reduce heat to low.  Add cooked chicken, fresh spinach, and drained corn.
*Simmer for 5-10 minutes (spinach will wilt down).
*Serve hot with grated pecorino romano cheese and Sriracha Sauce for a kick!

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Framing Has Begun!

The House on High Street

Last week, a carpenter was hired to do several framing projects.  So far, the Master Bath and Master Closet were framed out.  In addition, three upstairs doorways were repositioned to help make room for the second story Laundry Room and Jack & Jill Bathroom.

Master Sitting Area & Master Bath

 

Demo Between Spare Bedrooms for Laundry and J&J Bath

 

Spare Bedrooms Opened Up
Framing Master Walk-in Closet with Window

 

Doors Positioned for Spare Bedrooms & Laundry Room

 

Master Bath & Sitting Area

Rising to REALNESS

Foster Care & Family

I find it interesting that the majority of facebook posts are positive. I notice that people (myself included) prefer writing about nice things, which I think is almost like the expected code of conduct. More often, I find myself posting recipes I’m proud of, mini-accomplishments, and interesting experiences and revelations. It’s easy and common to share these things with my (selectiveI might add) group of Facebook contacts.

Yet, while Facebook may not be the place to air our dirty laundry (especially if your contact list extends to half the universe), I think it would be extraordinary if we, women, could be uninhibited and let our hair down without giving a CRAP about what others would think. (Except God, of course.)

Recently, someone asked me why I am writing a blog for women. My answer? I think there is a need for a woman to be real, acknowledge the lovely and the unlikable, and yet still understand that she is extraordinary. 

There is a LOT of media out there talking to us. I realize that. But, I find that most programs and publications are either too worldly and can sometimes influence us to lower our standards or too…unrealistic. I’m either completely turned off or feeling way too ordinary to compete with these perfect standards!

I mean, I would love to see the beautiful and perfect Giada De Laurentiis (from the Food Network) in her disgustingly dainty size zero (not her boobs, of course)… in her ridiculously perfect California ocean-view kitchen…Just once in a while burn a casserole and say something like, “Oh shit! I suck!”

Even better, have Giada’s toddler daughter, Jade, throw a meatball across the room while Giada is preparing a dish. If that’s too realistic…perhaps Giada can forego hair and make-up even once in a while and cook the way most of us do…in sweats!  With tousled hair! In kitchens with grease stains and fingerprints!

Seriously. Throw a little realism into this 30-minute charade and I may actually get off the sofa and cook rather than use this show as a muscle-relaxer. (I’m not kidding. Cooking shows make me sleepy.)

Now, I know what you’re thinking right now.  Rachel wrote “shit”. This is a website in which she talks about God and Jesus. What is she thinking? OR maybe you are realizing that my random recipe posts do not even compare to the process of a Giada scenario at all!

On the contrary, my humble works-of-art are not only prepared in a galley kitchen (probably the size of Giada’s bath-tub), but sometimes I yell at my pots, make a ridiculous mess, or discover Scott pulling a piece of my hair from his plate. (Ok, this happened only once that I can remember.)

Getting Real

I realized something recently. I may be encouraging with my writing. But, am I being “real” enough? I’m struggling with this right now.  I don’t know what more to share and where to draw the line.

I have some wretched health issues that are very, VERY difficult to describe. I make light of them not only because I am still learning about them every day, but also I am waiting for the right time and method to disclose these details. Although I am beyond pretending these health issues are manageable, or that I have it figured out and under control.

This past weekend was the WORST series of days with my PMDD that I’ve had in a long time.  I do not have days this bad every month. But I’ll tell you what, when they occur in this way, it is like dealing with an unanticipated tsunami. Imagine one minute taking a rest in a beach chair and the next minute getting violently and unexpectedly thrown into waters. You are drowning and flailing your arms recklessly; pathetically pleading for help… Your reactions, behaviors, and instincts would be anything but ordinary. And, after it passed, I bet it would take some time to get back on that beach chair and feel safe again.

I am still trying to wrap my brains around the “why me?” and, “why this?” I’m not going to sugar-coat and imply that I have this all together and my Christian life is the perfect band-aid to the bad stuff that does exist in our lives.

I know that I am extra-ordinary, and I know you are, too. God loves the REAL me.  And God loves the REAL you. Period.

Ok, this is the part I bring it back to you. Do you feel that you are being real and true to yourself? Is there a part of you that you are hiding from others? Yourself? Are you more concerned about what others think about you over what God already knows about you?

The LE Woman chooses to reflect on her realness and determine if she is more concerned about what others think or what God already knows.  Either way, she is not ordinary or even forgettable. She is EXTRAordinary!

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My First Sewing Project!

Foster Care & Family

I did it!  I made my first sewing item on my new sewing machine.  This is a pair of pajama pants that I will give to my sister, Gabrielle, for Christmas.   It took several hours, but I never used a patten before.  I have never made a clothing article before.  AND, this was my first time using my new Brother Innovis.  (I did it all by myself, too.)

I love sewing.  I LOVE IT.  I just hope Gabrielle likes her new PJs.  And let’s pray they FIT!

So, what does this have to do with the House on High Street?  Well, I will soon be experimenting with home interiors.  I have about FORTY window treatments to make….several quilts…tablecloths…place-mats… The list goes on and on and on.

I think it would be REALLY awesome if I could make a complete bed set for one of our spare bedrooms.

Let’s see…what else can I try to make?  OH, feety pajamas for Scott and myself!  That would be fun!

Farewell Pizza Oven!

The House on High Street

Ok, I am a little heartbroken.  Within the past few weeks, we made the decision to “ixnay” the pizza oven (in the kitchen…per se’), as it was becoming a little “too much” if ya know what I mean.  Too much weight (like 2000 pounds).  Too much space (at least 4’x5′).   And a little too much from our budget!  Just the venting alone for this extraordinary fire-operated cooking appliance, which required the installation of specialized pipe along the outside of the house…and up THREE stories, was ridiculous.

Compromise = Pizza Stove outside + In the near future

Scott gets an A+ for actually allowing me to come to this conclusion on my own.   I admit, I was rather hell-bent on my pizza oven for a long time.

Anyway, we are still determined to include special touches to our kitchen to create the look and personality that we want.

Our kitchen style?  Traditional.  Semi-Rustic.  Romantic.  Charming.  Warm.

A few ideas we have…cobblestone backsplash, authentic candle sconces, semi-worn rustic wood floors,   furniture-styled cabinets, dark with light colored contrasts, hanging pot-rack fixtures, 18th Century chandeliers, and interior window shutters…to name a few.

I never realized how much time I would spend in designing a kitchen.   I always figured I would know exactly what I wanted and have no problem in putting it all together.  (HGTV makes it look so easy!)  However, it is a lot trickier than I thought.  There are so many things to work around.

In the end, the best part is that it will be portray our personalities.  Both Scott and I are traditional, warm, and a little…authentically rustic.  I guess that’s why we had a vision with this home the very first time we walked inside.

 

The Importance of Hospitality

Foster Care & Family

indian mealThis past weekend, my husband and I attended a dinner party hosted by a lovely Indian couple that lives nearby.  Scott met this gentleman through work, and this was now the second time we had the pleasure of socializing with both him and his wife.  This particular occasion took place at their home, eating Indian cuisine, and intermingling with their friends.  We had a wonderful time, but what really stood out to us was how this hard-working couple welcomed us to their home and cooked an authentic Indian meal for us and waited on us…all for no particular reason or occasion.

Think about it.  Aside from family, how often is it that you are invited to a friend’s home for dinner?  How often is it that someone will offer to cook for you, serve you, and share their home with you?

Now, I have nothing against meeting friends at restaurants.  I mean, who can oppose to getting dressed up, getting out of the house, and having a third party cook, serve, and clean up after you?   In our times and our culture, it seems this is sometimes the only way to get together with friends.

The first time Scott and I met our new friends out, it was at a lovely Italian restaurant.  We had a wonderful time enjoying delicious food and talking about casual topics.  However, it did not come close to the intimate experience we had this weekend in their home.  We got a detailed tour of their house and listened to unforgettable stories that went hand in hand with the photographs and artifacts that adorned their walls and furniture.  They prepared delectable dishes with the unique spices of India that cannot be compared to any restaurant.  We experienced a few Indian customs and traditions.  I learned a few recipe tips.  And they refused for us to leave empty handed, as they prepared take-home bags of food.

Oh, it was just all so wonderful and…extraordinary.

During the drive home, Scott and I realized that it was more than just our palettes that were satisfied.  We acknowledged how special it was to receive an invitation such as this one.  We further agreed that it would be our intention to offer hospitality by sharing our home, our lifestyles, and our traditions with whomever God brings to our door, in the near future.

The reality today is that it is uncommon to show hospitality to our friends.  After the work day, the family obligations, and the household chores, we have neither the time nor the energy to do much more.  It saddens me to reflect on my adult years before I left the workplace when I was struggling the most with my health.   I tried very hard to keep up with the anomalous super-woman that could juggle a career, and motherhood, and family obligations, and a home.  (I happen to know women like this and they truly amaze me with their gifts!)

Since I stopped working I have more time and energy to practice hospitality, and this is important to me.  But in our culture today, people do not agree on what’s important.  I see that now more than ever.

A few weeks ago, Scott and I were at an elaborate Engagement Party.  This event also took place in a home but given the occasion, it was decked out with dozens of guests, butlered hors d’oeuvres, cocktail attire, and champagne.  Sure, it was a beautiful affair.  But the overall atmosphere was much less intimate than the environment we experienced this weekend.  Here is an example of a conversation I had with a relative.

“Do I know you?”

“Umm, I don’t think so.  I’m Scott’s wife.”

“Oh, and what do you do?”

“Uh, well…I used to be a teacher and a school administrator…but now I write…a little. 

“What do you write?”

“Well, I hope to publish a book, someday.  But, for now…I just write a blog…for women.”

“Oh.  How many readers do you have?”

“I really don’t know.  Maybe…a hundred?”

“My nieces write blogs.  They also have careers.  And children.”

(Magnificent)

“That’s really awesome.”

This is a common conversation to me.  Questions such as, “What do you do?”… “Do you have kids?” etc. are legitimate and appropriate questions; especially at an affair such as this.  But, I’ll tell you a secret, unless I feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable and talk about why I don’t have children and why I don’t have a career anymore, you’ll never know much about me.  And we will never know much about anyone unless we provide the opportunity.

In order for this to happen, we need to share a little bit of our homes, our time, our energy, and ourselves.

My mom taught me that hospitality is a gift and an action of love towards others, and that if God blesses a woman with a home and food she should share it with others who will appreciate it.

I may not have a fat paycheck these days but Scott and I are both looking forward to showing hospitality to the extraordinary couple we have come to know, in the near future and whomever else God brings to our door, for that matter.

So, how about you?  Do you feel that you would like to practice hospitality more?  If you feel overwhelmed with all the other things on your plate, perhaps these 5 tips can help make it a little more practical.

1.)   Put together a Dinner Club with a few friends in conjunction to your lifestyle. Even if it is once a year, do it.

2.)   Be selective in whom you show hospitality to.  You’d be surprised that those who have less may in fact appreciate your hospitality more.

3.)   Plan ahead of time.  Next time you make your best dish for your family…make extra and keep the leftovers in the freezer.  (I.e. I usually make extra Italian meatballs and gravy which both freeze wonderfully.)

4.)   Determine what defines your authentic touch.  If it’s your heritage, share it.  If you have a great story, share it!  If you have special artifacts, photo albums, videos, etc. share it.

5.)   Don’t go overboard making your home look perfect.  Most guests are more concerned with the quality of your time.   As long as your powder room is clean, there’s nothing wrong with closing off a portion of your house and refraining from a full home tour every time you have guests.

The most important thing is to make the time to share a part of you with someone who will appreciate it.

The Living EXTRAordinary Woman chooses to practice hospitality in conjunction to her personality and her lifestyle as a way to show love and generosity!

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