The only thing I don't really care for is how busy fall can get. Just as the weather has turned just a bit this week, so has the feeling in the air. Meetings have started up, registration forms are all over the place, and we are entering back into the scheduled life :) So before it all really hits (for us..I know some of you are already there) we wanted to take a little time out for a date and Cheese Tortellini Soup and homemade bread sounded like the perfect choice to properly welcome fall!
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 large onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
3 garlic cloves diced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bag fresh spinach
1 bag of frozen cheese tortellini
2 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
finish with Parmesan cheese if desired
Saute onions, carrots, and celery for 5-7 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so. Then add all of the other ingredients (starting with stock) and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until tortellini is cooked through. Pour into bowls and finish with a generous portion of Parmesan and enjoy!
My little tips and tricks include:
1. I buy frozen chopped onion in the freezer section. Love this option for soups. Cheap and easy!
2. If you were going to add meat to this (which I think would be awesome) I would probably go with left over rotisserie chicken, chicken sausage, or real deal Italian sausage.
3. If you don't have stock on hand you can use canned stock (I like Swanson the best), if you don't have canned stock, bullion will do...but if using bullion by all means get it from the Hispanic section in the store. It is cheaper and has way more flavor...if you trust me on this one, you will thank me. :)
4. Garlic...this is the best tip EVER. I mean it. If you are using powder:stop. If you are using the kind in jars: I promise this is a superior option. If you are using fresh: go right ahead...but I have found something that tastes just as fresh, costs less, and takes all the work out of garlic! Trader Joe's sells Crushed Garlic in these amazing little frozen packages for $1.99 and each package contains the equivalent of 20 cloves of garlic...you are definitely getting you're money's worth. You just pop one little portion into whatever you are cooking...and you are instantly a better cook. I am completely serious. These little beauties will take you from 4 stars to 5. My freezer is literally never without them.
Okay, now onto glorious homemade bread! This recipe is Annamarie Windham's and it is awesome for multiple reasons. It is quick, easy, half whole wheat, and yummy!
1 and 1/2 tbsp yeast
1 and 1/2 tbsp salt
3 cups warm water
6 and 1/2 cups flour ( I use half whole wheat and half white)
Above is the final product! Yum! Annamarie's still turns out better then mine...her version is A-mazing... mine is still great. That's how I am assured you can do this too.
Here is the final product! Hot Cheese Tortellini Soup with Homemade Bread!
We finished off with a chocolate chip cookie (Damion's fav). No recipe to share..Betty Crocker Pouch is all you need :) After dinner we snuggled on the couch and laughed about nothing in particular. I love to see Damion laugh, makes it all worth it!
Okay, now to completely switch gears. I have chatted with some of you about chicken prep. We eat a lot of chicken around our house so it only makes sense to buy it in bulk. I have been purchasing my chicken from Zaycon Foods. The chicken comes in whole breasts straight from a local farm and is never frozen and it is a great deal, usually around $1.65lb. It comes in 40lb boxes so I have been splitting that with a friend. So when its chicken pick-up day...its also chicken prep day! 20lbs can be overwhelming if you don't have a plan. Thus, I came up with one and I am sharing it with you!
I am currently out of Zaycon chicken..and needed some more to tie us over until another sale. I bought 4.5 lbs for $1.99 per pound. I have found that my two favorite ways to freeze fresh chicken are: 1. to flash freeze whole breasts 2. To marinate bite size pieces in meal sized portions. So here it my process:
Straight from the butcher's block.
I clean my chicken in my colander under cold running water.I started chicken prep while the kids ate breakfast. My station includes my cutting board, awesome kitchen scissors, and large bowl for chopped chicken, and a small bowl for garbage.
Here are all the ingredients for the marinades.
The kids happily coloring as I am chopping! Look how happy my boy is :)
This is what the chicken breasts look like after trimming the fat.
Then I take my trusty scissors and cut the breasts into strips like so.
Meanwhile, coloring has turned into an under the table affair.
Which then turned into nap time (but you can see by my bowl we are making progress :)
And, in full disclosure, an under the table fit.
And finally a full bowl of bite sized chicken pieces.
2 tsp grated lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chili powder
Just mix it all together!
I use my measuring cup so I can do all the measuring and then pouring out of the same container! Then I place all the chopped chicken into freezer bags and add the marinade. The marinade recipe above is for 1 lb of chicken...so I doubled it. So now I have 4 bags of chopped and marinated chicken for meals. I did 2 chili-lime tacos and salads, 1 soyaki for stir-fry, and 1 lemon chicken for salad. Lastly, I label them and then lay them out flat on a baking sheet to freeze. Then once they are frozen I remove the baking sheet and have nice stack-able portions! From start to finish this took me just under and hour...but that includes, breakfast clean up, picture taking, putting Noah down for a nap, navigating through Ava's fit and a phone call :) Oh, the life of a momma! Hope this helps! I would love to hear any of your tips and tricks if ya want to share. Love you all!