Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Top on my husband's list of comfort foods is chicken noodle soup! (Accompanied with a grilled cheese sandwich haha).  A few years ago, we used to always buy the canned "home style" version of chicken noodle soup from Progresso (they often had BOGO deals), but as I have mentioned in previous posts, we've changed our habits and stopped buying canned soups.  So as you would expect, this year I've made chicken noodle soup from scratch a lot, and it is so easy to make and tastes much better than the canned version!  Below is my basic recipe for classic chicken noodle soup.  The thing I love about this recipe is that you can really add any type of veggies you want to the soup or substitute the noodles for rice. Peas and corn have been a great addition in the past!

Makes about 4 servings.


Choose organic ingredients where possible, and if you have fresh herbs, use those! I just use what I have on hand, which is usually dried.

  • 8-1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 pound chicken breast (if you have one with skin and bones, it gives the broth the most flavor!)
  • 2 whole carrots, peeled
  • 3 celery stalks (if you have the little leaves on top, they add good flavor to the broth so keep them!)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed (or use minced if you don't have fresh garlic on hand)
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme (separate into 1/2 and 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt + more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Slice 1/2 of a carrot stick, 1/2 of a celery stalk, and 1/2 medium onion.
  2. Place 8-1/2 cups of fresh water in a large pot. Add the chicken breast, and the veggies you sliced in step 1. Add garlic, bay leaf, basil, 1/2 tsp thyme, parsley, and 1/2 tsp sea salt to the large pot of water.
  3. Bring large pot of water to a boil then simmer for about 40 minutes (making sure the chicken cooks fully!). 
  4. When broth is ready, carefully remove the chicken breast and place it in a bowl to cool.
  5. Strain the broth into a large bowl and discard the veggies and bay leaf.
  6. Return the broth to the large pot and skim off any fat on top.
  1. While chicken is cooling, cook the noodles.
  2. While pasta is cooking, dice remaining carrots, celery and onion and place in a medium sized pot.  Cover with some of the broth you made and simmer veggies until they are tender (about 15 minutes or so). 
  3. When noodles are ready, drain water and place noodles in large pot of chicken broth.
  4. When veggies are ready, pour cooked veggies and broth they were cooking in into the large pot of broth.
  5. When the chicken is cool, shred the meat and add to the large pot.
  6. Stir ingredients in large pot and add 1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp oregano and sea salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Heat up soup and serve!
~ Hannah

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuna Salad from Scratch

I hate to admit it but after making our New Year's Resolution of no-canned foods, our one fault was canned tuna.  When I decided to start the No-can-ber challenge this November, I knew I had to stop our canned tuna habit.  Below is a picture of a fresh tuna salad I made. It was so easy! I couldn't believe how I had never thought to make it from scratch. The salad was so fresh. I don't have a specific recipe for tuna salad becuase I always make it different, but I welcome all recipes! Below, however, I do give instruction on how to make the main ingredient ...TUNA! 

I took a 10 ounce fresh, organic tuna steak, brushed it with olive oil, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I placed the seasoned tuna steak on a lightly oiled stainless steel pan and put it in a preheated over at 375F.  The 10 ounce tuna took about 20 minutes to cook.  Check on the tuna while it's cooking to make sure it doesn't overcook (not a fan of dry tuna!).  Once the tuna is fully cooked, remove it from the oven. While it is still hot, break it with a fork into small tuna flakes. Let the tuna cool completely before adding your tuna salad ingredients!

~ Hannah

Monday, November 19, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Soup

Tomatoes are interesting. They are one of those "acquired taste" type of foods, but isn't it funny how even if someone doesn't like tomatoes, they may like ketchup, tomato soup, or salsa? That was me!

It took me 21 years before I started liking tomatoes.  I grew my liking for vine ripe tomatoes eventually, thanks to my husband's parents introducing me to tomatoes from their garden with a bit of cottage cheese and black pepper (yum yum!). 

Because it is No-can-ber month, I wanted to share a no-can recipe for tomato soup. Not just any tomato soup though. This will probably be your new favorite! Below is my recipe for Roasted Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup. You will love it, I promise! I even used some of the soup as a salad dressing :). 

  • 2-1/4 pound ripe organic tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 large organic red bell peppers, quartered and seeded (or a variety of green, red, and yellow which is what I do)
  • 1 shallot, chopped (I like using shallots, but a yellow or sweet onion will work perfectly)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Place tomatoes, cut side up, bell peppers, onion, and garlic cloves on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast veggies until brown and tender (about 40 minutes).  Turn peppers and onion occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Once veggies are cool, place them and their juices into a food processor (used our Vitamix!). Add basil and thyme.  Puree the soup while gradually adding enough stock to thin the soup to your desired consistency.  The 2 cups is just an may want more!
  4. Once pureed, put the soup into a pan, heat through, and serve hot.
~ Hannah

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cinnamon Kissed Cranberry Sauce - Homemade and Can-Free!

Cranberry sauce is on the list of my dad's must-haves at Thanksgiving table.  When I was younger, the only "cranberry sauce" I ever had was the kind in a can, which I now realize is why I never used to like it.  A few years ago, I started making it from scratch for Thanksgiving, and that's when I joined my dad on team cranberry sauce.  Using fresh whole cranberries gives cranberry sauce such a great texture (unlike the jellied roll) and strong, sweet flavor with just the right amount of tart.  Below is my cranberry sauce recipe with a slight twist...adding cinnamon and a dash of cloves!  What do you add to your homemade cranberry sauce?

Makes about 2 cups of cranberry sauce.


  • 12 ounces fresh organic cranberries (can use frozen too)
  • 1 cup organic orange juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves

  1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring them to a boil, stirring often.
  2. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until many of the cranberries have burst.  Stir every once in a while...this should take between 12 and 15 minutes.
  3. Remove saucepan from stove and allow cranberry sauce to cool in the pan. Once cool, transfer to another container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve!
*While the sauce may be soupy in texture at first, it will thicken while it's in the fridge.

~ Hannah

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Canned pumpkin is an unnecessary Fall staple since making fresh pumpkin is easy, BPA free, preservative free, fun, and you get to roast the seeds!  (Unlike my husband, I love love love scooping out the seeds from a pumpkin haha!).  Especially in November, pumpkin is used in so many recipes from pumpkin pies to bread and pasta dishes, which is why this no-can pumpkin puree recipe is perfect for our No-Can-Ber month!  Do you have any recipes for using your pumpkin puree? Please share!

Choose your organic pumpkin:

For a pie, look for sweet pumpkin varieties like Sugar Pie, Long Pie, or Cinderella pumpkins.  Or, your local grocery store may have pumpkins labeled "Pie Pumpkins."  If you use a regular carving pumpkin, the flesh will be too watery and flavorless.  As for size, choose a pumpkin no more than 3-4 pounds. Smaller pumpkins tend to be a little sweeter.

Roast your pumpkin:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cut pumpkin in half vertically.
  3. Scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting!).
  4. Place pumpkin halves cut side down on an oiled or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake pumpkin in the oven until it is tender throughout.  This may take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.  I had a 7" diameter pumpkin which took exactly 45 minutes.
  6. Remove pumpkin from oven and let cool so you can easily scoop out the flesh from the peel.
  7. If you want to make pumpkin puree (which I did below), simply puree the flesh in a blender or food processor or mash it with a spoon or potato masher.  If you want chunks of pumpkin, you can cut it instead of blending.
  8. Store pumpkin puree (or pieces) in glass mason jars. My pumpkin made about 3 cups of pumpkin puree. I divided them into two mason jars and froze one.  The other I put in the fridge (going to make a pie soon!), where it will keep for 5 days.

Roasting pumpkin seeds:
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Rinse seeds in water and remove any of the flesh sticking to the seeds.
  3. Toss seeds with a little salt if you wish.
  4. Lay seeds in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes in the oven.  After 15 minutes, stir seeds.

~ Hannah

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch

Canned beans line our grocery store isles.  Refried, black, pinto, red, kidney, and the list goes on.  Beans are a great addition to so many dishes, and taste amazing plain too!  When we made our New Year's Resolution to give up canned goods, beans was one of the first things I wanted to tackle. I was always intimidated by the thought of cooking dried beans from scratch for one main reason: TIME. I always find that to be the reason why people go for the canned version, and for good reason, it does take time! But if you plan ahead, it really doesn't take that much involvement..and in the end, too much of your time.  Making beans ahead is great because you can make a bunch and freeze!  Also, once you eat homemade beans, you'll see how much better and fresher (obviously haha) they taste than the canned version.  And, of course, you'll avoid BPA in the canned versions.  Below is a recipe I used to make kidney beans, and aside from the time of cooking, you can apply this recipe to most varieties of dried beans.  The most important thing is to make sure you cook the beans thoroughly. Undercooked beans can cause discomfort in your stomach!

Thanks to Alice Waters, I've found this rule of thumb to be useful:

1 pound dried beans = 2 cups dried beans = 6 cups cooked beans

Steps to cook dried beans from scratch (looks like a lot, but I put a bunch of tips throughout here!):
  1. Dried beans should be soaked for several of hours. The easy part about this step is that you can simply soak them over night!  Just place the dried beans in a pot with plenty of water and leave them on a counter. Because the because absorb the water and swell, you want to make sure you have enough water to keep them from poking up above the surface.  If some poke up above the water over night, the beans will cook at a different rate.  A good tip to follow is to cover the beans up with at least three times as much water as beans.  If you don't want to soak the beans over night, 6 hours is a good amount of time to soak the beans (they can be soaked up to 24 hours).
  2. Drain beans after soaking and rinse with water. 
  3. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with fresh water.  The wider the pot the better because the layer of beans shouldn't be too deep.  If the beans are too deep, it will be hard to stir and the beans at the bottom may get mashed.  The water level for cooking the beans should always been an inch or two above the level of beans.
  4. Bring the beans to a boil.  Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. Skim off any foam that accumulates at the top of the pot.  If you noticed you need more water, you can add more. Simmer gently for about 2 hours (this is what I did for the kidney beans).
  5. You can start testing the beans after an hour. Depending on the type of bean it can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. The nice part about cooking the beans is you really don't have to do much except wait for the water to boil, put it to a simmer, and check on them after an hour!  The beans will be done when they are tender but do not fall apart.  It is better, however, to overcook the beans than to under cookthem!
  6. When the beans are fully cooked, let them cool in their liquid before you drain.  Draining the beans right away will cause the skins to crack and look rugged.  I actually save a good amount of the cooking liquid, because there is lots of flavor here!
  7. Add your cooked beans to your favorite recipe and season them the way you like!
~ Hannah

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Making a Simple Tomato Sauce from Scratch

Canned tomato sauce or canned tomatoes for a quick and easy weeknight pasta dish is something we are all familiar with.  Whether we use canned tomatoes or not, we know someone who does or we once did (I'm a culprit of both!). In addition to being a simple way to spice up noodles, canned tomatoes or sauce often pops up in a lot of recipes. But what about the BPA liner in the canned tomatoes or canned sauce?  Because tomatoes are acidic, the BPA in cans is more likely to leach into the contents of the can, which is why I think this post is so important.  Making tomato sauce for pasta is really so easy!  Whether you like it chunky or smooth, all you need is about 20 minutes and a few easy to find ingredients.  Below is a recipe I make for chunky tomato sauce that tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the canned or jarred version.  The best part about this recipe is you really can add whatever spices you love, and just taste as you go (reminds me of those Rom Com movie scenes with the wooden spoon, pasta sauce, and the nice touch spooning feeding a taste haha).  Enjoy!

Recipe makes about one cup of tomato sauce.

  • 1 pound vine ripe organic tomatoes (peeled, seeded, and diced...see instructions #1)
  • 1 TBS of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium sized organic yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed and chopped (I had minced on hand so used that)
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of chile flakes if you like spicey (we do!)
  1. Peel, seed, and dice tomatoes (saving juices).  To peel the tomatoes, simply core the tomatoes and plunge them into boiling water until their skins loosen (usually about 15 seconds in water till they are peelable).  Remove tomatoes from water and put them in a bowl of ice cold water to keep them from cooking.  Drain the water and peel. Cut tomatoes in half horizontaly and remove the seeds into a bowl.  Strain the seeds and save the juice!  The juice is important here for a great sauce in my opinion.
  2. Heat up a pot on medium heat.  Once heated, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Then add onion and saute until cooked thoroughly (onions should be translucent looking).
  3. Add garlic and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Add tomatoes and juices to pot with a pinch of salt.  Stir and reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. Cook at a simmer for 15 minutes.  When you have 5 minutes left, add fresh basil (or any other spice you love! Oregano is good too.)

~ Hannah
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