Thanksgiving reflections

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Iowa. It was the 50th annual celebration! All these years my father-in-law and mother-in-law hosted it. (Unfortunately, she died before she got to see the 50th, but she was certainly present in spirit.) It is her side of the family who have come all these years to celebrate and give thanks for wonderful family. This year nearly 100 people were there on Thanksgiving Day. Of course, there are always some members who aren’t able to come each year so we could have had even more people!

As one family member posted on Facebook: “How do you fit/feed 97 relatives in a two bedroom/one bath house?? You move the party outside, of course!” Even though it was only about 40 degrees many people were outside for the day. There was a heater and tables in the garage, two brand new port-a-potties in the driveway plus some of the food stations outside! We roasted four turkeys and two hams! Plus we had lots of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salads, vegetables, rolls and, of course, many desserts. No one went hungry!

What about all of you? How was your Thanksgiving if you celebrate that? What are your plans for this week?





Chicken Soup

chicken-soupI made chicken soup last week. Although by the time I finished it was more like chicken stew!

I love soups and stews especially in the fall and winter. When I have time I like to start making chicken soup by making broth and ideally it’s a two-day process for me. I make the broth one day and the soup the next day. I use a whole chicken or at least chicken parts with the bones attached.

Chicken Broth

1 whole chicken or chicken parts such as drumsticks, wings, thighs (This time I made my chicken soup using two packages of bone-in chicken thighs.)

Note: I like to use the dark meat if I’m using chicken pieces because I like the flavor better in my soup. When I use chicken pieces I brown them first in my large stockpot or soup pot.


  • about six cups of water
  • carrots
  • celery
  • onions
  • garlic
  • herbs (fresh or dry–basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, peppercorns, dill)

Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1-1/2 hours. Take off stove. Scoop out chicken pieces. Strain out solid pieces from broth and discard vegetables. Cool chicken and broth. Refrigerate broth.

When chicken is cool enough to handle remove chicken skin and bones. Tear chicken into bite-size pieces. Refrigerate chicken.

The broth and chicken have many uses. For example, the chicken could be used for chicken salad or chicken tetrazinni or other pasta dishes. And the broth for any recipe calling for chicken broth.

Both are easily frozen. Small portions of broth–in ice cube trays–and then put in a zip-lock freezer bag work great for small portions used in a recipe. Individual servings of chicken in small zip-lock freezer bags makes it very easy to add to recipes.

Jan’s Chicken Soup

  • Broth (if you wait until the refrigerated broth is cold the fat congeals and is easy to scoop from the top of the broth)
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Other root vegetables, if desired (turnips, rutabagas, parsnips)
  • Other vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, celery, winter squash)
  • brown rice, wild rice, noodles (as desired)
  • Herbs, fresh or dried (rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano)
  • 1 to 2 cans tomatoes
  • Additional water or chicken broth, if needed
  • Chicken

Bring the broth to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add the vegetables that need the most cooking (carrots, potatoes, some kinds of squash). Add 1/2 to 1 cup rice (brown rice and wild rice both take about 45 minutes to cook–usually more time when added to soup since the soup may stop simmering when adding ingredients).  Add sweet potatoes and some types of squash after about 1/2 hour. Add tomatoes, herbs, additional chicken broth as needed. Simmer for about 1 hour.

Add vegetables (and noodles if using) that don’t need as much cooking (celery, cabbage, broccoli). Cook an additional 10 minutes. Add chicken. Cook until vegetables are done and chicken is hot. Serve.

As you can see my chicken soup isn’t an exact recipe! I made similar soups with my Mom and then as an adult I made soups and experimented by adding additional ingredients (squash, cabbage and broccoli, for example).

What vegetables I add depends on the time of year and what I buy at the store or farmer’s market. How long the vegetables cook depends upon personal preference, too. My family likes the vegetables softer than if we were eating them separately as a side dish.

For the chicken soup I made this time I used carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice and wild rice.

Do you ever make chicken soup? How do you make it? Or would you rather just open up a can!!?






Birthday weekend

We celebrated our younger daughter’s birthday a couple of weekends ago. Her sister came from Illinois for the weekend and we all had a wonderful time together.firepit

On Friday night we had a fire in our fire pit in the backyard and roasted marshmallows. So much fun. Our clothes smelled smoky when we came in and it just seemed so much like Autumn–even though it was warm (in the 60’s at 9 p.m.).

We went to a local winery Saturday afternoon and shared a bottle of wine as well as a cheese and cracker plate. We sat outside and watched as an outdoor wedding was set up outside. The wedding party salmon-vegetableslooked happy!

For her birthday dinner we had Salmon with Maple, Mustard and Dill, roasted birthday-cakevegetables (new potatoes and tiny peppers) and a Flourless Chocolate Birthday Cake with just a few candles!

My older daughter did most of the cooking and it all was wonderful!