Confessions of an Unintentional Domestic Goddess

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Words to Live By

Yesterday, the world changed for many people. A wonderful, sweet and loving man was suddenly taken from us. Every time someone who is seemingly healthy, dies suddenly, it always brings our own mortality to the forefront, at least it does for me anyway. Think about it, every day, we go about the busy-ness of living: going to work, taking children to school, paying bills, doing the laundry, making plans assuming everything will carry on the same as it always has.

When I lost my dad 16 years ago, my world stopped. I found it difficult to believe that life went on, people went about their business: going to lunch, buying stamps, getting their oil changed. How? How could those people not see how awful things had become? the truth is, we all live in our little bubbles, oblivious to what may or may not be happening in the lives of others. My grandmother had things that she considered ‘too nice’ to use on a daily basis, clothing, jewelry, dishes. She was saving them for a ‘special occasion’. The thing about that is, every day is special. I found myself thinking the same thing about a pair of nice earrings once. They’re diamond studs, an anniversary gift. I thought these are too nice for this outfit. But then my thinking changed. Diamonds go with everything, but the reality is every day is a gift, special in its own way.

My point here is this, life is short and fragile. We never know from one minute to the next what can happen. How many times have you been delayed at work for some irritating reason when you’re trying to get somewhere, only to find out there has been a massive pile up on the freeway that happened at the exact time you would have been there?

Take the time to enjoy the journey that is life.

Try new foods.

Wear the clothes that are ‘too nice’ for every day (maybe not the ballgown to work, but…)

Go to the places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Say hello to that guy/gal you’ve wanted to talk to.

Take chances, don’t live with regret.

Be present in your life.

Forgive those who hurt you.

Tell the people you care about how you feel every opportunity you get.

Live fearlessly.

Love without limitations.

Drink lots of water and eat foods that don’t come from a box or can.

Exercise and take care of the vessel that is your body.

Read and challenge your brain.

Put your feet in the ocean at least once.

Accept responsibility for mistakes you’ve made, learn from them and move on. Mistakes do not define who you are.

Learn how to cook at least one dish really well.

Grow something.

Take 5 minutes everyday to just be. Be still, listen to the sounds of the earth and your heart.

Catch snowflakes on your tongue. Watch a bee collect pollen. Watch a squirrel bury its nuts.

Wear lipstick.

Dance in the rain.

Smile at a stranger.

Make donations to charitable organizations that mean something to you.

Laugh, often.

Be grateful.

Spend time outdoors.

Focus on what it is and not on what it is not.

And for Pete’s sake, take as good care of yourself as you do the people and things you have in your life. If you don’t have your health, nothing else matters.

This message brought to you by the ‘appreciate life’ committee (aka me!) And please let me know what additions you’d make to this list!

 

 

 

 

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Delish summer salad

Hey y’all! It’s summer and I’m back! We had more spring rains in May than in the history of ever. We were out of school for an entire week before we ever saw the sun. It didn’t feel like summer at all. The temps were in the 60’s and 70’s, cloudy and rainy. Bleh. In May, we only had 2 days that were considered ‘sunny’ That’s not summer, that’s monsoon season. This week when the sun finally came out, I promise I heard angels singing! And since the sun finally came out and my yard has become less than a swamp, I’ve been able to do some of the yard work and gardening that has been put off. It’s no fun doing yard work in hip waders. So here I am, putting my basil and my mind is running all over the place. Apparently my mind just ran the 40 yard dash in record time, because this is what it came up with.

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This is pure summer deliciousness in a bowl.

Delish Summer Salad

4 Roma tomatoes – quartered and sliced
2 avocados – cubed
2 cloves garlic – minced
5-6 leaves fresh basil – sliced
4-6 oz fresh mozzarella – sliced/cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and dive in! This is an incredibly flavorful, fresh, light salad that I think I could live on. It has everything you could ever possibly want, right? It’s got the goodness of the unsaturated fats of avocados, the vitamins of the tomatoes, the protein of the mozzarella, the health benefits of the garlic and basil. What more could a girl ask for? More. I could ask for more. Come to think of it, I think I will.

**Note – If you’re not too keen on the *POW* of fresh garlic, you can use one clove instead of two. We love the POW, but you can easily tone it down.

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A Few Simple Rules

Yes, I am still alive and causing trouble! I’m sure I’ve got a new recipe to share, but today, I’m going to share some advice, free of charge! Yes, I know, unsolicited advice is always worth what you pay for it. But I had an experience a few weeks ago that inspired this post. that and a few other thoughts that some people (mainly of the male persuasion) may not really know and/or understand when it comes to dealing with those of us who belong to the fairer sex.

I almost want to quote Elle Whatshername from ‘Legally Blonde’. Remember the courtroom scene when shes’ questioning the daughter who has the terrible perm? ‘The rules of hair care are simple and finite.’ But with maybe one little revision. ‘The rules of speaking to women are simple and finite.’

Are you ready? Take notes if you like, or book mark this page for future reference.

Oh, wait, I almost forgot, the inspiration for my post. So I was shopping, and at the checkout, I looked down to get my card out, and the young man behind the register said ‘Are you a senior?’ I must have given him the ‘you go to hell! You go to hell and you die!’ look because he quickly backtracked, muttering under his breath, ‘nevermind, you don’t look like one.’ Um, look. I know it was time to get my hair done and there were more grays in there than I normally like to have, but I still have more pepper than salt. So, I’m not the sweet young thing I used to be, but I’m not in the nursing home just yet! I’m years, YEARS I say, from receiving my AARP card in the mail. You know, that is just one of the things you don’t say to a woman.

Now that you’ve heard the kind of day I was having, here are the rules:

1. Never ask a woman ‘Are you tired?’, which translates to ‘You look like hell.’

2. Never ask a woman ‘Are you pregnant?’ unless you are 100% sure she is, better to keep your mouth shut, otherwise you may find yourself with a fat lip!

3. Never ask a woman ‘Have you gained weight?’ This needs no explanation. Although, you may want to be out of throwing distance because you’ll likely find a lamp, book, or some other heavy object lobbed at your head.

4. ‘Do these pants/skirt/muu muu/table cloth make my butt look big?’ The only way to answer this, and I mean ONLY way, ‘No honey, they make you look hot!’ ‘No honey, they make you look 10lbs slimmer.’ To simply answer with a ‘No’ or a ‘You look fine’ you should also be prepared to duck from flying objects. Or, you could avoid it all together and say, ‘I’m going to get myself a glass of wine/comb my hair/whatever. Do you need anything?”

5. Never ask a woman ‘Are you feeling ok?’ Once again, equates to ‘you look like hell’. And I can almost guarantee you, if she’s not feeling ill, YOU will be very, very soon.

6. Never say to a woman ‘It looks like you’ve had a long day.’ See numbers 1-3 for clarification.

7. Never come home from work, and ask the wife who’s been home with small children all day, ‘What did you do today?’ In addition to having things lobbed at you, including poopy diapers, there’s a good chance you’ll get daddy duty for many hours in return, most likely with a crying and inconsolable child. Rather, say ‘How was your day?’, and pay attention to her when she tells you what happened. I promise, you’ll be glad you did later, as boring and tedious as it may be at the time, and I’m not talking about feeling like being part of your child’s day, if you catch my meaning.

What to say if you want the day/evening to go well:

Have you lost weight?
What are you doing, your skin is glowing?
Is that dinner? It smells delicious (even if it smells like straight up shit)
Let me take care of the laundry/dishes (better yet, just DO IT w/o saying a word. HUGE brownie points)
Is that a new dress? It looks amazing on you.

Any questions? Oh, and yes, at some point, all of these things have been posed to me. Yes, the results were not pretty, and no, the person who said/asked did not make the same mistake twice.

Oh, and one last thought to leave you with. Never. And I mean N.E.V.E.R say ‘It must be your time of the month.’ Or ‘Is it your time of the month?’ I don’t care if she’s levitating over a bed and projectile vomiting pea soup straight at your head, say this or any version of it, and your reproductive future will be in serious jeopardy, you’ll be sleeping on the couch with one eye open, and you can’t say you haven’t been warned. You can think it all you want, but verbalizing this single statement will get you in more trouble than all of the others put together. Combine it with any of the above, and you’ll have some sort of mysterious ‘accident’ never to be seen again.

That is all. Carry on.

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Margherita Pizza on steroids

Yes, it’s me, I’m back. I have garlic and I’m not afraid to use it! In my house, garlic is a food group, along with chocolate and red wine. Sounds like a party, no? 🙂 Last summer I had a bumper crop of basil. I love me some fresh basil, also a food group. Because I didn’t want to waste any, I ran it thru my food processor with a little olive oil and put it in ice cube trays & froze it to use later. Since pesto is just basil that’s been put through a food processor with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts & parmesan, I figured I’d have the hard part already done, right? Great. So, now I’m coming up with new ways to use my bounty. And just in case you’re curious, yes, I will have basil in my garden again this year.

Today I was trying to decide what dinner would be and I saw the premade pizza shells at the grocery. I love the thin & crispy crust pizza and was thrilled to see a pre-made thin crust. Pizza Margherita is wonderful and I rarely see it when I go out. Hmmm, thin crust pizza shell, tomatoes in the fridge and basil ready to go? I’m in! But….here I go again, changing things up. You’ll be so proud, I took pictures!

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In case you don’t know what Margherita pizza is, it’s a pizza crust with olive oil, minced garlic, mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and basil. Yum! It’s a very light & flavorful pizza. Mine, well, mine was essentially pesto pizza with tomatoes. In my fridge, I happen to have some gorgeous fresh asparagus that I picked on Friday at Thunderbird Berry Farm (I so wish they had a website). And a jar of pine nuts in the cabinet calling my name too. Yep, I did it. I added them to my Margherita pizza and, well, all I can say is WOW. amazing! So, if you love caprese salad, you’ll love Margherita pizza! Give it a try! You won’t be sorry!

Margherita Pizza on Steroids

1 pre-cooked thin pizza crust
2 roma tomatoes sliced thin
4 oz shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp. olive oil
5 garlic cloves (you can use less if you don’t want to stink!) finely minced
5 tbsp. chopped basil (or 1/2 C fresh basil cut into thin strips)
6 stalks of asparagus
2 tbsp. pine nuts
salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. On pizza crust, spread 1-2 tbsp. olive oil all over crust using a pastry brush to be sure and get all of the crust
3. spread chopped basil over olive oil, sprinkle garlic & pine nuts over basil.
4. sprinkle cheese over basil & top with tomato slices
5. arrange asparagus around tomatoes
6. bake 10 minutes or until crust reaches your preferred crispness
7. enjoy with altoids!

****NOTE-if you don’t want your tongue to slap your brains out, feel free to decrease the amount of garlic and/or basil. If you use fresh basil, the taste will be delicious, but not quite as powerful as my version.

enjoy!

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Happiness?

Forgive me for taking a tiny little break from my usual DG kind of posts, I promise I’ll post a new recipe tomorrow! I suppose I’m feeling sort of introspective these days. With lots of drama and trauma in the lives of many around me (some real, some fabricated), it really makes me take a moment and look closer at my own life.

There are so many adages I’ve heard before and as I’m growing up (not older!), I realize the reason they’re around is because they really are true. Life is what you make it. It really is, and I learned this in my mid 20’s when I moved to LA. On a whim, I followed my roommate out there. I had no job, no apartment, no real reason to say no, so I went. It became a life altering experience. I was completely overwhelmed. If you haven’t been to LA, I can’t begin to describe just the vastness of everything there. Everything you can possibly imagine and even more. My roommate’s relationship progressed to the point of them getting engaged, which left me to find a new place to live. I had some really wonderful coworkers (newly weds, no less) who let me rent a room from them. I was miserable. 1500 miles from home, working full time and sharing a little 2br/1bath house with people I barely knew. Finally, someone smacked me and said “Hey! You are in the most exciting city, everything you’d ever want to do is here, and you’re sitting there feeling sorry for yourself? What’s up with that?’ And after that point, everything was different. I went to Dodgers games, museums, the beach, all sorts of things and really started enjoying everything that incredible city had to offer. I learned that so much of it is within my control. Of course, there are some things I can’t control: traffic, weather, cost of living. The one thing I can control (as I continually tell my children) is myself and my attitude and outlook.

Happiness, that’s a choice. The family we’re born into, our eye color, the weather, these are things that we really don’t have a choice in. We all have our wishes, but in reality, we have no say over these things and cannot change them, no matter how badly we’d like to. I have a friend, we’ve known each other since high school. She is beautiful, was always drop dead gorgeous, but was the type who really didn’t know she was as beautiful as she was. Down to earth is how I”d describe her. She has had some not so nice things happen to her. Her ex-husband & father of her children committed suicide. A different ex was abusive and a total jack-hole. She was brutally attacked and injured. And yet, she continues to look on the bright side of life. We all have our crap days. We all have things go wrong, or happen that we wish were different or better. The difference is how you respond to it. Do you let it defeat you or do you dust yourself off and say, ‘ok, that sucked. What’s next?’

Happiness is a choice. Yes, I’ve experienced adversity, difficulty and even tragedy. But I choose to be happy, because my life is not over yet and I refuse to let anything negative define me or who I am.

So, my question for you is, what’s your choice?

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Penne with Ham & Asparagus

Yum. That’s all I can say. I’ve been making this dish for years (and yes, my children whine about it! Well Done!) and we really enjoy it. I snap up as much fresh asparagus as I can when it’s on sale. LIke last week. When I bought 4 lbs. Don’t judge. Seriously, we put away 2lbs on Easter. My favorite way to prepare it is to flash steam it for about a minute or so in about 1/4″ of water. Although I’ve heard grilling is good too, I’m so trying that this summer.

In the meantime, I’ve been putting my best asparagus recipes to use. I bought a ham at HoneyBaked Ham for Easter and guess what! I have leftovers, and yes that was intentional. I love their ham, besides it freezes well, so I’ll have some for later. I broke out this recipe a couple of nights ago and I’m telling ya, the HoneyBaked Ham really made a difference. It’s natural ham, not the processed stuff from the deli. The flavor and texture was amazing in this pasta dish. And….I took pictures! Don’t everyone applaud at once! 🙂 We had leftovers, which hubby usually takes to work. After eating it Monday night, and yesterday for lunch, when I tried to give it to him again, he gave me the face. Oh, ok. He’s had enough. So I took it to work and shared w/my boss & my cohort in crime. Cohort – Nikki loved it. Boss, not so much. He’s a meat & taters kinda guy and even though there’s meat in it, there’s no taters, AND there’s green stuff! But he did say it was good, minus the green things.

You’ll be so proud of me….I took pictures!

Penne with Ham & Asparagus

1 lb fresh asparagus, woody ends trimmed & cut into 1″ pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion diced
2-3 fresh cloves of garlic
4 C uncooked penne pasta
1/2C half & half
4oz cream cheese cut into chunks & softened
1/4 – 1/2 C freshly grated parmesan cheese (not the bottled stuff)
1 lb HoneyBaked Ham ham – cut into bite size pieces
salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
1. Cook pasta according to directions on pkg.
2. While pasta is cooking, sautĂ© the asparagus & onions approx. 5 min or until tender. Press garlic cloves into pan (you can just mince it if you don’t have a garlic press) cook another 2-3 minutes.
3. Pour in half & half & add cream cheese, stirring to help cream cheese melt.
4. Add ham & stir, salt & pepper to taste.
5. Drain pasta, tossed to coat all with sauce. Sprinkle parmesan over the top & toss to mix. Serve w/a salad & some crusty bread & you’re good to go!

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Tools of Torture AKA Chicken Piccata

Remember I mentioned the short ones in my house and how they like to complain? I thought maybe they’d be getting old enough now to try new things and like them, they’re 9 & 12. Honestly. We took them on a cruise 3 or 4 yrs ago and my daughter was brave enough to try octopus, and claimed to like it. Fast forward to mom’s home cooking, nothing doing!

My husband loves capers. Any time we go to an Italian restaurant, or any restaurant for that matter, he gravitates toward menu options containing artichokes or capers, or both if he’s really lucky. We recently spent a weekend in Eureka Springs, AR and tried a new restaurant which got me thinking about changing things up, as I am wont to do. I decided it was time I try my hand at chicken piccata. It’s not really as intimidating as I’d thought. I suppose it was the capers I was afraid of. So not scary, they’re just little pickled flower buds. Hah. I never knew that. They’ve been around for thousands of years. Interesting.

Here is what mine looked like. Please refrain from licking your monitor. 🙂

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Super Simple Chicken Piccata

3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, flattened to about 1/2″ thickness
1/2 C flour
salt & pepper to taste
2tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp capers drained
1/2 C white wine
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 C water
3 tbsp butter cubed
hot cooked angel hair pasta

1. Put oil in skillet and heat on med-hi.
2. Dredge chicken breasts in flour, season with salt & pepper and put in skillet. Cook approximately 5 min on each side, or until chicken is browned and is no longer pink inside.
3. Remove chicken to plate & keep warm.
4. Put capers in skillet, slightly smash to release brine & heat through (about 30 seconds).
5. Pour white wine into skillet & deglaze, scraping browned bits from the bottom. Heat to a low boil and allow wine to reduce for approximately 2 minutes, or until wine is reduced to half.
5. Pour in lemon juice and water, bring to a boil again. Add in cubed butter. Stir until sauce thickens.
6. I used angel hair pasta just because the sauce is a lighter sauce. Put chicken on pasta & top with sauce. Be sure to eat the capers too!

Husband and I were quite pleased with the resulting meal. It was delicious and different from my normal repertoire. My kids, who will eat a jar of pickles or pickled okra faster than any human should (they’d even drink the pickle juice if I let them) refused the capers. Flat out. And they didn’t care much for the sauce either. My son refused to eat the pasta and my daughter developed a sudden belly ache. We thought it was a perfectly lovely meal, they missed the boat. Some day they’ll appreciate my kitchen experimentation!

Enjoy!

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A Swing and a Miss, Almost

Yes, a baseball reference. It’s nearly spring, time to break out the boys of summer talk, right? I suppose. I’m still in mourning over the end of college football season (I don’t do pro). I mentioned the torturing feeding of my younglings and how they love to protest. And protest they do. Loudly. And often. Especially when the meal involves vegetables, grilled fish/chicken, and no cheese. So imagine my surprise when they needed cheese to go with their whine tonite when dinner included onions, red & yellow peppers and, wait for it…..NO CHEESE.

I found an insane sale on red & yellow bell peppers last week at the grocery and scored as many as I could, knowing how well they freeze and how expensive they normally are. Here are these gorgeous winks of summer staring at me every time I open the fridge, so of course I had to find a way to use them. In my book, anything with peppers and onions has to be good!

Enter Smoked Turkey Sausage jambalaya. If you are in the mood for healthy Cajun, I got it, righcheer. Hooo boy, this some good eatin righcheer! (ok, I have no idea how to sound Cajun, just go with it!)

Yum yum yum! Torture kids on a plate!

Yum yum yum! Torture kids on a plate!

Smoked Turkey Sausage jambalaya

1 pkg jambalaya rice mix (I used Zatarains)
1 pkg smoked turkey sausage, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

1. prepare Jambalaya according to pkg instructions.
2. While rice is cooking, put sausage in large skillet and cook 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning.
3. Add onion & peppers to sausage and cook 5 to 10 minutes, or until peppers are soft.
4. When rice is done (some water in pan & rice is tender), add sausage/peppers/onion to rice mix, stir well and serve.
Eat alone or w/a green salad. It’s got a bit of a kick to it. And although my children didn’t like it much, my husband totally scarfed it up!

Enjoy!

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Ham and Beans For Dummies

I know, I’m probably going to be hit for the title, but really, this recipe is so easy, I wanted you to know it when you clicked on it. You see, if you’re new to my blog, I’m easy. Yes, I said it. I am. I freely admit it. when it comes to recipes anyway. Not easy that way, you naughty friend! When I’m choosing a recipe, ease of preparation is key. If the ingredient list is as long as my arm, I’ll read it, but when it’s got 24 steps to completion, I’m gone. A couple of years ago, we had ham at Thanksgiving and when the food was gone, and leftovers packed away, I was looking at this great big gorgeous ham bone and really not wanting to just throw it out, it seemed so wrong to waste such potential. So I scoured the web trying to get an idea how to use this hunk of meaty goodness. The result is a mashup of several good ideas I found. If you can boil water, you can so make this! In fact, I’ve got a beautiful ham bone from Thanksgiving I’ll be cooking up tomorrow, just in time for a nasty cold front coming through. Get ready my friends!

Ham & Bean Soup
1 big fat ham bone w/meat on
1 lb navy beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced or cut into chunks
2 celery stalks chopped
2 medium onions chopped
5 whole garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
handful of peppercorns
2 tsp dried thyme

1. In a large pot, put ham bone & water to cover it completly. Put onions, garlic, peppercorns, & bay leaves. Boil at least two hours covered, stirring occasionally.
2. Remove ham bone. Debone ham; cut up meat, put back in pot.
3. Drain beans, add to ham stock.
4. Add carrots, celery and thyme.
5. Simmer two hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, simmer another 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until beans are soft.
This is delicious with crusty bread or biscuits.
Enjoy!

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Super EASY Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

Long time no hear, I know. I”m a slacker. But I”m here to share a really delicious and easy recipe. Really what I wanted to title it was ‘The chicken soup recipe for those who don’t cook’ or maybe the ‘if you can boil chicken, you can make this’ but I just thought it’d be a little too long. Crazy I know.

I’ve always loved a nice hot bowl of chicken noodle soup when it’s chilly out. I mean, really, who doesn’t? But I really want to avoid all the salt in the condensed soups, besides, isn’t fresh always better? So, here we are. This really is easy, so if you want a tough, complicated recipe, you’ll just have to go elsewhere! Are you ready? Ok, here we go.

Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

2 containers of chicken broth (32oz each)

2 to 3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

3 carrots-peeled and sliced

3 celery stalks-sliced

1 med to small onion diced

1-2tbsp butter

1 tsp each dried basil & thyme

1-1/2 c rotini cooked al dente OR 12oz pkg frozen egg noodles

salt to taste

Instructions

1. in a large pot, chicken breasts w/at least 1-2″ water to cover them. boil until chicken is completely cooked.

2. in a separate large pot, melt butter, add onion/carrots/celery and cook until veggies are crisp/tender

3. pour in chicken broth, salt & spices. bring to a rolling boil & reduce heat to a nice simmer, or you can leave it on a nice gentle rolling boil for a while, it won’t hurt anything, just keep an eye on it.

4. Remove chicken from pot DON’T THROW OUT THE WATER and either cut into chunks or shred using two forks-this one is your preference, I like it both ways. (My family has decided they prefer the frozen egg noodles to the rotini. I cook the noodles in the chicken broth/water, then put in the pot with the soup mixture)

5. Add the chicken, as well as the water used to cook the chicken to the bigger pot w/the broth.

***NOTE: If you have the time, you can let it simmer for a few hours, it will condense and strengthen the flavors, as well as making the chicken really tender. Or you can add the noodles directly after adding the chicken, let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve.

6. When noodles are done, add them to the big pot w/the chicken broth etc. Let it cook another 10 minutes or so and serve. It goes really well with crusty bread or biscuits for a nice hearty chilly evening dinner.

If it’s not soupy enough for  you, you can always add more broth. I’ve done it and it makes a really big batch, but in my world, that’s not a bad thing!

This is just so darned simple, and delicious, I seem to find myself making it about once a week. At first my kids were really excited. Now, well, not so much. It used to be ‘Oh yay! chicken noodle soup!’ Now its ‘oh great. soup again.’ But they eat it, b/c it’s good and it’s what they get for dinner. They know I”m not a short order cook, you get what you get.

Enjoy!

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