Saturday, February 18, 2012

Chicken soup to cure a cold

So I've been sick... really sick. I've had a chest cold for about a week, and then I ended up in the ER on tuesday night (yup, that's right folks... spent Valentines in the ER) with severe back and abdominal pain, which ended up being a kidney infection. Who knew they would hurt so much?? So I've been hanging out and taking it easy, but whenever I'm sick I become totally obsessed with soup, and I knew I wanted some homemade chicken soup. So I got my better half to pick up a rotisserie chicken on the way home, and I got to it.

Step one: Making the stock
This is totally optional. You can get a big 5 qt pot and fill it with boxed stock, but I really like making my own as it tastes amazing and you just know that it isn't full of MSG and sodium. So after we've devoured some of the chicken, I go ahead and take the rest of the tasty chicken off of the bones and set it aside. Then I take everything else (bones and skin- I mean all of it!) and put it in a 5 qt pot. I fill it up about an inch and a half from the rim, as some of it is going to evaporate. Some people add veggies and that's fine, but I hate having to throw them away at the end, so I pass on that step. Turn the burner onto high heat. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and put a lid on it. I like to let mine go for about 2 hours, although it mostly reaches the "meat falling off the bones" stage at about an hour. After it is done, you can fish out all of the bones and skin and discard them.

Step 2: Making the soup!
You will need:
- 1 bag no yolk noodles (I prefer the extra wide kind- they're cuter)
- 2 cups cooked chicken
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 stalk of celery heart, finely chopped
- 3 peeled carrots, finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper (use 1/2 tsp if you are crazy and don't like spicy foods)
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp ground thyme

Add 2 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add the herbs and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the veggies to the stock. Chop the chicken in bite sized pieces and add to stock.

Bring the stock to a boil and add 3/4-1 bag of no yolk noodles. We were pretty hungry this time, so we added all of them, but if you like less noodles in your soup, feel free to adjust! Cook according to package directions.

Serve into bowls and top with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

This is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. It made me feel so much better, and I hope it can brighten your day as well! Make sure to share it with a friend, but kitties probably shouldn't have any, even if they beg...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Let's Sew!

So, when starting a new craft, it can be pretty intimidating. I certainly felt that way when I decided to crank up my sewing skills this past summer. I've been hand sewing since I was about 5 or 6. Instead of spending money on barbies or play makeup, my mom took me to the craft store and I would carefully select several fat quarters which were destined to become clothes and mini quilts for my dolls (which I also hand sewed- they were a bit freaky looking, but I loved them). Then, for my high school graduation, my grandma went out and bought me a Singer Inspiration. I tried it out, and promptly gave up. But last spring, the urge to start sewing again hit. I had a great idea- I was going to be a fantastic, DIY queen! All of my clothes would be handmade! DOWN WITH CONSUMERISM!! I hauled out that sewing machine and went to town- and it broke. End of dream sequence. Apart from that, I had no idea what I was doing, and barely had any of the proper tools. Thankfully, after a quick stint working at a stitch lounge, I'd had all of the sewing basics hammered into my brain, and now I want to share them with you so you can get started with this awesome craft.

Buying a machine
So, my first big mistake was the machine I had. While it seems super easy and convenient to traipse over to JoAnn fabrics and get one of those plastic things that are always on sale, I really don't recommend this. See, these machines are made to break and then simply be replaced. When you go to browse machines, try to stick to a local sewing store that does their own repairs (trust me, it's easier and they mostly give you a warranty if you buy there). And the most important thing: look for a machine that is ALL METAL. That way, if anything goes wrong you just bring it into the shop and get it fixed. With a plastic machine, it really doesn't work that way, and it just ends up getting thrown out. You might think that a metal machine is out of your price range, but you're so wrong! My machine cost me $100. I love it. So my next advice is to buy used. That's what I did- my machine is a Singer Touch and Sew from the 70's. That baby is all metal, and runs very smoothly. When buying used, just as if you buy new, make sure to test drive your machine- it should run smoothly without shaking the whole room or making any scary noises. And honestly, when it comes to sewing machines, less is more. Sure, you CAN buy one of those machines with about 5 million buttons on it that all program different wacky stitches, but that doesn't mean you should or need to. All you really need is a basic machine that sews back and forth, and has adjustment knobs for stitch width/length and tension. That's it. How easy is that!

Setting up your space
Make sure to set aside a large table for your sewing. I like to have mine near an open window- I think crafting should be relaxing, and sewing while basking in sunlight or watching the rain fall is very therapeutic. Have a comfy chair with good back support, or else you're going to be aching after a while. Keep an ironing board and iron close by- you're going to be jumping back and forth between ironing and sewing, so you may as well make the commute as easy as possible.

 Oh hi!

My go-to tools
These are some of the tools that I use pretty much every single time I sew. I understand that all of these add up to a rather hefty sum of money. I am super cheap, so I only buy things like this when I have those awesome coupons to JoAnn/Michaels/AC Moore. Make sure to join their mailing list and rewards programs, and you'll save yourself some serious cash.

1. Scissors/cutting implements
I always have 4 pairs of scissors at my work table: paper scissors, pinking shears, tailors scissors, and snips. I also have a rotary cutter, with a straight blade and a pinking blade. This was possibly the very best thing I've ever bought- I use it all of the time, and it makes cutting squares a breeze. You definitely want one of these if you are thinking about doing some quilting.

2. Marking tools
My go-to marking tools are: water soluble marking pen, thin sharpie, pencil, and pen.

3. Pins, pins, and MORE PINS
Just get one of those big ass boxes of pins- you'll loose them, your kitty will bat them around (mine pulls them out of whatever I am working on at the time), and you'll always need more. I suggest the 2 inch ones that have the large yellow balls at the end.


 4. So much thread
As you continue to sew, you're going to accumulate tons of thread. I recommend getting some sort of thread organizer. Also, make sure you NEVER use any thread that has a wax coating on it- the wax builds up in your machine and does serious damage. I recommend a 100% cotton or polyester thread. I'm a big fan of Gutterman, but only when it is on sale!

5. Rulers and mats

I usually have one normal, foot long ruler, as well as a yard stick nearby. I take a measuring tape and hang it around my neck as I sew for easy measuring. It also makes me look super bad-ass, which is a bonus. I have a ruler that I use with my Olfa cutting mat. Again, a bit pricey, but use coupons and invest in both- you can thank me later.

6. Extra bobbins!
You are never going to have enough bobbins, but I recommend getting a pack of around 10 so you can have multiple colors ready to go.

7. Iron and ironing board
Whoever tells you that ironing "isn't important" in sewing it totally wrong. It is SO IMPORTANT. Whenever the instructions tell you to iron, just do it. And do it thoroughly. It will make your life so much easier.

8. The seam ripper
At some point, you will do something wrong. Maybe something a little wrong, maybe something SO WRONG you cannot believe you were stupid enough to do it. No worries! Pull out your handy dandy seam ripper and go at it.

So now that you are properly equipped, I hope that you are ready to tackle the toughest sewing projects! I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend, and happy Superbowl Sunday! GO PATS