Easiest Recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup (ever!)

For some folks, the winter season is just an excuse to crank up the heater and indulge in an endless supply of homemade pumpkin spice lattesbut for those of us who live in a house full of dirtbag climbers, the winter months are all about survival.

You see, we don’t run the heat, so at this very moment, it’s about 55º in my kitchen – which means everything is cold. So cold, in fact, that when my housemate poured fresh coffee into his tall cup, the glass was so cold that it shattered upon contact with the hot liquid. In a world where everything is cold, hot food becomes a dietary staple.

My favorite way of warming up with edibles? Homemade soup! Stew a giant pot of hearty liquid warmth, and you’ve got instant heat to last up to a week. And while I love a fancy soup just as much as the next gal, there’s nothing better than an easy, simple soup. Plus, the entire house seems to warm up with the smells of stewing veggies and simmering broth.

This homemade chicken noodle soup recipe yields 10 mason jars worth of goodness – plenty to last you at least a week – and this may just be one of the easiest soup recipes, ever. The most difficult part of making this soup is merely the effort that it requires to patiently wait for your soup to reach optimal soup-age – but there’s no shame in sneaking a spoonful or two during the cooking process.

What you need:

  • 50 ounces (6 ¼ cups) of 100% natural chicken broth | Since I’m on a dirtbag budget I used the 99% fat free canned version from Swanson.
  • 3 cups carrots  *
  • 2 cups celery *
  • 1 yellow onion *
  • 12 ounces of wide egg noodles
  • 1.25 lbs of chicken breast * | We get ours from Earth Fare; it’s ‘local’ chicken from Springer Mountain in Georgia!
  • 2 cubes of bouillon/seasoning of your choice
  • 4 cups of water | Purely to add to the soup as it cooks; additional water will be used to boil the noodles.

* Bonus Points if you get these items from a local farm or market!

How to make the easiest homemade chicken noodle soup (ever):

1. In the biggest pot you’ve got, start boiling some water. Chop your chicken breast into smaller pieces (think about 8 per breast), and toss ‘em into the water to boil.

2. While the chicken is cooking, begin preparing your vegetables. Dice the onion; slice each celery stick in half, and chop; slice and halve the carrots. The size and thickness is up to you – I prefer to make my veggies in a variety of sizes to make each bite a surprise.

3. After about 10 minutes, check the chicken – if there is no pink left in the middle, drain it and set it aside to cool for a few minutes.

4. While you’re working on the chicken, toss your vegetables and two cups of water into the pot. I added a small amount of chicken broth, to soak up some flavor while the veggies softened. Add celery and carrots first, then onions later. Now is a good time to add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the pot.

– At this time, you should also set a separate pot to boil, and cook your package of egg noodles.

NOTE
: I do not cook my egg noodles all the way; I leave them al dente because they will continue to absorb the broth in the soup (this is a great way to avoid getting them too mushy during storage).

5. Once you can handle the meat, begin to pull the chicken apart with your fingers (or a fork). You’ll quickly find that what began as a small pile of chicken chunks will grow into a rather large heap of shredded meat.

6. Add the chicken, remaining broth, noodles and any other leftover ingredients, to the pot (I didn’t drain the noodles, I added the water along with ‘em). Once the soup reaches a bubbly brew, toss in the bouillon/seasoning cubes. Continue to season to taste, if necessary.

7. Begin the waiting game. Set the soup to a simmer, and occasionally stir and taste for at least two hours. The longer, the better – but it may be hard to resist the temptation of pouring yourself a bowl.8. Ladle your soup into mason jars, and set some aside in the freezer (not completely full), and some in the fridge to be eaten quickly.

After an afternoon spent tending to my vat of homemade chicken noodle soup, I was left feeling almost eager for all the mason jar rations to be devoured so I could cook up another big batch of soul-warming soup. I’m thinking loaded baked potato soup may be next up on the schedule…

Do you love soup, too? What’s your favorite flavor?

I reckon I’ll be making quite a few more kinds of soup this season,
so let me know which variety I should experiment with next!

For more foodie fun, check out my “For The Foodies” board on Pinterest.
And if you liked this recipe, add it to your boards – and give it a ‘thumbs up’! 

How to Make a Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (in a mason jar!)

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte (in a mason jar).This week, I wore my favorite flannel shirt for like 3/4ths of the day without dripping in sweat – and therefore, it is totally autumn.

While long-sleeved shirts and knit scarves are both worthy reasons to get stoked about the fall season, we all know the real reason folks get hyped once the temperatures start dropping:

Pumpkin spice lattes! 

As always, I woke up extra early and bolted to the nearest Starbucks to get my first fall-flavored latte on September 4th – the first day they appear back on the menu – but I must admit, it was a bit painful to shell out the $5 for my tasty treat.

So I decided to make my own.

After testing out a few different recipes, I nixed a few ingredients, made a few tweaks, and came up with my own (slightly) healthier version of this pumpkin-flavored drink.

And when I say ‘healthier‘, what I really mean is that I used 2% milk instead of whole milk, and only refilled my whipped cream once instead of five times. Baby steps, right?

What could be better than a homemade pumpkin spice latte served in a mason jar?

Here’s how to make your own homemade pumpkin spice latte
(with unlimited whipped cream refills, of course):

What you need:

For the pumpkin-y mixture:

½ cup 2% milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar (I use light brown)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon canned pumpkin puree (I use unsweetened)

To complete the latte:

1 cup coffee (the stronger, the better, if you ask me!)
3 cubes of white sugar
half & half creamer (to taste)
whipped cream
ground cinnamon (optional)

How to make your pumpkin spice latte:

  1. In a microwavable bowl or cup (OR MASON JAR!), mix together the pumpkin mixture ingredients (milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin puree). It’s best to use a whisk, but for us dirtbags, a thorough mixing with a regular ‘ole spoon will do.
  2. Microwave the mixture for about 1:45 (minutes). The timing may vary, so keep an eye on your milk – you want it to get nice and frothy.
  3. Pour the frothy mixture into a tall glass (ahem, MASON JAR!), and add your coffee. Stir in half & half, and sugar. I use sugar cubes to control my outrageous sugar portioning, but a spoonful or two should be fine if you use it in non-cubed form. It’s all about personal taste!
  4. Load up on the whipped cream. And feel free to continue loading up on the whipped cream! Sprinkle some cinnamon on top, if you so please.

Note: Personally, I tend to take forever to finish my coffee. I like to let it sit around and get a little cold before I drink my coffee – disgusting, I know. If you’re like me, be aware that the pumpkin puree tends to settle on the bottom after sitting around for too long – so drink up quicker, or be sure to stir your latte so you don’t get a mouthful of pumpkin at the bottom.

This recipe will provide the yummy goodness of one fairly sizable latte. I usually end up making one for both Niko and myself, so I just double up on the ingredients for the mixture, then let Niko add cream/sugar as he pleases – he likes his coffee more bitter, so he adds way less sweetener than I do.

There you have it folks, a homemade alternative to your favorite Starbucks drink. This do-it-yourself pumpkin spice latte is way more budget friendly than the Starbucks version, and you don’t have to change out of your pajamas to enjoy one! I’ve been drinking them in the mornings out in my garden, and it’s become my favorite way to begin chilly fall days. Plus, everything is better in a mason jar.

Do you love pumpkin spice lattes as much as I do?
Have you tried any other homemade versions of Starbucks drinks?

For more foodie fun, check out my “For The Foodies” board on my Pinterest.
And if you liked this recipe, add it to your boards, too! 

How to Make Your Own Healthy Baked Kale Chips

I’m on the path towards edible righteousness, attempting to cut out all the junk and focus on healthy, local food – but I have one serious obstacle that keeps bringing me down:

I love to snack.

I work from ‘home,’ which means one of two things: I’m either cooped up all day at the little wooden table in our kitchen, or I’m holed up for hours at a coffee shop. Either options inevitably puts me way too close to tempting munchies. And let’s face it, my willpower is weak.

Snacking is something that I simply can’t not do. I love to munch, my belly is always begging me for treats, and frankly, I just really adore food.

My first experience with kale came when my lady friend Teresa (who is a truly phenomenal gardener/baker, this chick defines “green thumb”) moved away to Texas. She bequeathed me one cherry tomato plant, one Tabasco pepper bush, a chard, and three little kale stalks. I had never eaten kale before, but had seen a few recipes for kale chips – so I decided to give it a try.

The first three batches were a complete disaster. I was using this kale chip recipe, which instructed me to bake them for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. I burned those poor kale leaves to an inedible crisp every time.

Eventually, I realized this recipe simply wasn’t working, so I decided to do things my own way – and now, I get perfectly crisp, perfectly flavorful kale chips. 

Here’s your seriously simple, seriously delicious guide
to baking your own batch of seasoned kale chips:

20120912-114646.jpg

What you’ll need:

1. KaleBonus if you buy it local at a farmers market or grow your own!
2. Salt and/or your favorite seasonings
I am all about garlic salt and black pepper; keep it simple.
3. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4. A Sookie Sheet
Or, in my case, many cookie sheets. 

How to make ‘em:

1. Preheat your oven to 275 degrees.

2. Prep your kale. I buy mine from local farmers, so they’re often full of little caterpillar buddies – which means I have to take about 15 minutes to scrutinize each leaf and save any critters who might be snacking on my kale. Rinsing your kale is recommended, but be sure to properly dry it afterwards. I just got a salad spinner, and aside from being really fun, it’s really essential for drying out the kale.

3. Break up each big leaf into bite-sized pieces. Mine are usually about two inches long, with some smaller pieces mixed in. Tear the leaf along the thick spine, and toss that spine afterwards. It’s a bit tough to chew on compared to the flaky leaf parts.

4. Toss all the kale into a big bowl, and drizzle olive oil over it – the amount depends on preference and how much kale you’re cooking, but be sure that each leaf is slightly coated. Season to your liking, but don’t be shy with the salt! It really does a lot to overpower kale’s natural bitter flavor – and makes your kale chips taste just like potato chips.

20120912-114806.jpg5. Arrange the pieces on a cookie sheet. I try to get ‘em all pretty flat, but they inevitably overlap a little – which is fine, kale shrinks A LOT when it bakes. Just don’t make it a big jumbled mess; you’ll need to toss ‘em halfway through.

6. Put your cookie sheet into the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Halfway through, pull the tray(s) out, and flip each piece of kale to ensure even crisping.

7. After 20 minutes, check on your kale to see if each piece is entirely dried out. I often end up pulling out the majority of my kale chips, then putting a handful back in the oven to finish up – the pieces are never perfectly uniform, so some may take a little longer.

Final step: Devour your delicious kale chips, totally guilt free. In the rare event that you don’t finish your entire batch in one sitting, you can store kale chips for a few days in airtight containers. Just be sure that there is no moisture in any of the kale chips – that’ll make the rest of ‘em soggy. And no one likes a soggy kale chip.

Did you know kale is loaded with antioxidants, and provides 100% of your daily Vitamin A, C, and K in just one cup? Yeah, it’s that good.

Have you ever made your own kale chips?
Have any suggestions or tips to add to my how-to?
Do you love kale chips as much as I do?

For more delicious foodie recipes, and healthy eating tips (with a few totally not healthy indulgences mixed in), check out my For The Foodies board on Pinterest.

I ate flowers for dinner last night – an adventure in cooking squash blossoms

About a month ago, Niko and I instituted what may be our greatest tradition of all time – Saturday morning dates to the farmers market at Tallahassee’s Market Square pavilion. Each week, we take a leisurely drive across town to the familiar covered gathering spot where a collection of local farms congregate to peddle their edibles.

This weekend, we made the ultimate discovery – well, I did. While scouring for fresh garlic, Niko guided me over to a smaller stand run by an unfamiliar woman I hadn’t seen before. Her table was heavy with winter melons, chanterelle mushrooms, fresh green onion stalks, and two baskets full of squash blossoms. I immediately bounced on the blossoms, while Niko looked at me with a very puzzled look on his face.

Uh, flowers for dinner?” is basically what his expression read.

Silly boy, Niko had clearly never experienced the tasty delight of noshing on an edible flower. I hadn’t eaten squash blossoms in years, let alone ever actually cooked it myself, but I was determined to make it work – so I paid the meager $3.00 for my basket of blossoms, and dumped the dainty flowers into my produce bag.

[Read more…]

Starting a day of skiing in Vail, Colorado with a big breakfast from The Little Diner

The trek from Denver to Vail was a harrowing experience packed with white-out snow conditions, icy roads, and the thrill of reuniting with my parents to explore the wintry Colorado mountains. We arrived at the Vail Marriott Mountain Lodge a bit around midnight, and quickly crashed into plush beds.

In the morning, we woke at the crack of dawn to make an early breakfast at The Little Diner, which had attracted my attention with rave Yelp reviews and claims that it offered reasonable prices – a miracle in this expensive ski town. Arriving shortly after the tiny eatery opened, we easily snagged seats along the U-shaped counter, which offers space for less than two dozen hungry patrons at a time. The cozy, open atmosphere of this little shop reminded me of my favorite Cuban eatery in Miami, Ruben’s. The menu offers a variety of early morning grub, from traditional breakfast skillets to sweet and savory crepes. The small cooking space is situated in the middle of the counter area, so you get a meal and an entertaining experience at the same time. My bar stool sat next to the grill, and as soon as I laid my eyes on huge chunks of sizzling hash browns, I knew I had to try them.

As usual, I ordered the traditional breakfast platter with wheat toast, scrambled eggs (with cheese, of course), homemade hash browns, and extra crispy bacon. My father opted for the chunky french toast – another dish that was prepared right under my nose, and smelled delicious. Always the elegant one of the group, my mother was keen on sinking her teeth into a spinach, mushroom, and egg crepe.

Everything tasted outrageous. Not one for fancy plates and food that looks more artistic than edible, I can always appreciate a home-style helping of hearty grub. I surprised myself by demolishing the entire platter, even though I was stuffed full about halfway through. I regret not snagging a bite of the thick french toast that was sitting just inches away from me at the counter, but I definitely enjoyed a small sampling of the healthy crepe my mother ate.

Don’t let the title or cramped quarters of The Little Diner fool you; this restaurant packs big flavor and breakfast satisfaction into generous portions that will leave you struggling to clean your plate. Being early birds, we were amongst the first handful of people to arrive at the joint, but by the time we left, the diner was jam-packed with eager snow bunnies waiting to load up on savory goodness before hitting the slopes. I wouldn’t have asked for a better way to start my first day of skiing in Vail, Colorado.

Getting stoked on the wintry Vail spirit?
Stay tuned for updates on my very first ski lesson, exploring Vail Village, and more!

A very climber Thanksgiving feast full of Floridians in Colorado

With twenty-two years of bacon-covered, avocado-filled Cuban Thanksgivings under my belt, I experienced a strong mix of emotions while preparing for this year’s November celebration – it was my first holiday spent away from home. Thanks to miniscule budgets and newly-acquired jobs, the rest of my Colorado climber family stuck around too – and we even had a Tally Rock Gym-er fly out to join us in the mountains.

I was determined to keep some of my Cuban meal traditions alive, and my fellow cohorts embarked on similar missions of creating dishes to mimic their favorite family fare. I cooked up black beans drenched in homemade sofrito with rice, avocado salad, and green bean casserole. McGoo experienced his first (and adamantly declared only) foray into chefdom with a delicious sweet potato casserole topped with pecans, and his grandfather’s savory stuffing. Niko made a great batch of garlic mashed potatoes, and donated a Honey Baked Ham gift certificate that got us a delicious brisket.

In addition to the first round of preparations, we had multiple waves of kitchen use that produced an enormous spread of Thanksgiving grub. Steve got a huge turkey from his new job, which Douso draped with bacon before popping into the oven. Steve’s mom pitied our homesick holiday and ordered a beautiful ham for our buffet. Hannah diced up a huge selection of yams, potatoes, peppers, and pearl onions that she doused in a brown sugar and butter glaze. Douso rounded things out with made-from-scratch pumpkin and apple pies.

And of course, McGoo made sure to keep the drinks flowing all morning, afternoon, and night long.


Before long, our guests arrived bearing edible and drinkable gifts. Jerimiah and Adam arrived with arms full of fresh bread from Whole Foods, exotic cheeses and prosciutto, and a hoard of spicy olives. Our bar was soon stacked with everything from Baileys, Kahluha, and cheap tequila to Absolute vodka, Red Stag whiskey, gin and tonic makings, and a huge variety of bottled beer. We made merry while the final casseroles and pies basked for a last few minutes in the oven, then it was time for our grand noshfest to begin.

The meal began with lots of chatter and silverware clinking against glass, then gradually grew into a quiet affair with a gut-clenching crowd. We pleasantly gorged ourselves on every morsel of food we could shovel into our mouths, and I couldn’t have asked for a better family to share my first ‘grown-up’ holiday with. We had all began our adventures down in Florida, and had journeyed to this very moment, crowded around a dinner table in Denver.

Our cookware was largely purchased last minute, upon realizing that none of us vagabonds had proper supplies of kitchen utensils suited for our needs. We purchased the table the night before our meal, and our chair arrangement consisted of every seating vessel scrounged up around the house, and an upside-down tub draped with fabric. It may not have been the fanciest meal, but to a vagabond like me it felt fit for royalty.

While my heart ached to have spent Thanksgiving shouting Spanish across the table and enjoying family traditions that I grew up with, this Colorado celebration was one of the best Thanksgivings I have ever experienced. We were all forced to spend the holiday away from home (besides Niko, who very sweetly came to Colorado to spend the holiday with me), but we had a beautiful time sharing this part of our current adventures. For some, this was the first holiday spent in their new home of Colorado, others saw their last true family meal before moving on to new countries, and some came from across the country just to spend the time together. Me, I was just in it for the bacon and black beans.

Boating to Key Largo, dolphin pods in the bay, and conch fritters at Alabama Jacks.

When reflecting on what I’ll miss about my fleeting time in Miami, spending time out on the boat is one of the biggest contenders. Propelling across the bay with nothing but the sun and the air and the salt affords for a true escape from the realities waiting at the dock. Our family boat, unofficially named the Rusty Bucket, is no sprawling yacht — just a cozy vessel for trips to the Upper Keys, and rides up the Miami River.

On this particular excursion, I accompanied my parents on a day trip down to Key Largo for lunch at a local gem, called Alabama Jacks. This joint embodied everything that the Keys represent; it was dirty, salty, full of beer, and offered finger-lickin’ grub all afternoon long. The elder Boue’s were pumped on the idea of chowing down at Alabama Jacks, but I had never experienced it before, so I just sat back and enjoyed the ride down from Matheson Hammock in Miami.

The restaurant sits perched along a bank of Card Sound — basically at the base of the Keys, to give perspective to anyone who has had the pleasure of taking the beautiful drive down through the islands. The wood planks surrounding the establishment are mismatched and sloppily painted; this place has boater dive bar written all over it. We docked the boat along the side of the restaurant, and took the best table at the house in the back corner overlooking the water.


We ordered a combo platter with fried Mahi fingers, piles of conch fritters, crispy crab cakes, french fries smothered in cheese, and homemade potato salad. Served in a messy heap of seafood glory, everything was absolutely delicious. I’m not the biggest fan of oysters, clams, or conch, but the fritters at Alabama Jacks were too outrageous to resist. The conch was perfectly breaded and had an addicting crunch as you munched away. Top it all off with a cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a winning combination.


While I deeply enjoyed my down-home, no-frills experience at Alabama Jacks, I would highly recommend that any visit to the area be taken via watercraft. Whether you roll up in a mega yacht, humble fishing vessel, or even a seaworthy canoe, half of the overall vibe felt at this restaurant is fostered by interaction with the water you sit perched above while getting your fill of seafood and salty air. Driving down to load up on conch fritters would likewise be enjoyable, but traffic and pavement shadow in comparison to a seaside ride.


On the way back to town, we encountered a pod of about six dolphins powering their way up the channel. We spent a few minutes chasing them around so I could get a good shot, and of course during the sole moment of perfectly exposed hind flukes from a dolphin just a few feet from the boat, I had put my camera in my lap to wipe the lens and missed the ideal opportunity. Here’s the next best shot:

Sadly, it will be at least until the next warm season that I’ll have a chance to head out on the boat again. I’ll be leaving on a six week solo trip on September 1, and won’t be back in Miami until the winter – which means no boat for me. In the meantime, I’ll have to get my fill of fresh air up in the mountains.

Freshly baked cinnamon buns, rolled in BACON – of course I took it there.

I love bacon. I love bacon-covered turkeys for Thanksgiving; I love bacon-cooking alarm clocks – I love bacon. This morning, Niko and I took it to a new level with one of the greatest breakfast inventions ever to grace my kitchen: bacon-wrapped cinnamon rolls.

It’s been a while since I last updated with some tasty climber lady treats, so I figured I’d make my comeback with a bang. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but I am obsessed with bacon.


Super simple to make. All you have to do is pan fry a few strips of bacon (we only made three in this batch in case it was a failure), and leave them slightly underdone. Then you unroll your tube of cinnamon buns, and unravel the buns that will be blessed with a slice of bacon.


Line up the bacon on top of your unraveled bun, and then roll that bad boy back up. Proceed with your cinnamon rolls as usual, and don’t forget the icing!


Genius, I know. Now it’s off to the rock gym! We’ll see how well I climb today with a belly full of bacon and cinnamon goodness – but it was totally worth it. Happy Sunday, readers!

A Grillin’ Potluck and Bohemian Rhapsody

I know, I know – I have a sick obsession with pot lucks. Can you blame me? It’s a perfect celebration, combining friends, tasty treats, beer and entertainment. The ingredients add up to a guaranteed good time.

Today’s featured pot luck was hosted at the adorable new house of my two pals, Monty and Ashley. The buffet spread included hamburgers, sausages, veggie burgers, green bean casserole, chicken wings and plenty of finger foods. Niko and I brought home-style macaroni and cheese with bread crumb topping, as well as a batch of chocolate chip cookies and gummi bears.

Aside from stuffing our faces with southern style eats, we rationed our time playing Mad Gab, sifting through old climbing magazines, roasting our fingers by the fireplace and enjoy a rousing performance of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, led by McGoo and Ashley in their finest forms.

Tonight, I’ll be having a girl’s night dinner with some old friends, then we’ll head out for drinks at Fermentation Lounge – pictures shall follow, as always. Stay tuned for a peek at the stunning photography of Samantha Carter, and a killer climbing video.

Why You Need to Try Monkey Bread, Right Now

A few months ago, over the usual rock gym chatter, I heard a climber mention something called “Monkey Bread.” My savory tastes automatically envisioned a cheesy garlic roll style bread with all sorts of gooey goodness. The conversation turned to a new topic, and I forgot about the mysterious Monkey Bread as I continued with my climbing.

While grocery shopping with Niko recently, I stumbled across a funny package in the frozen food aisle that proclaimed the wonders of Monkey Bread. Without hesitation, I snatched up a box. Niko inspected the box that identified the contents as a cinnamon pull-apart, while his stomach eagerly rumbled in approval.

We sped home and popped the black plastic casing that held the Monkey Bread into the microwave – yes, it’s easily made in the microwave! After a few minutes, the Monkey Bread was steaming and gooey with syrupy coating. As per the instructions, we flipped the container upside-down onto a plate, and then, there it was, the Monkey Bread.


Surprisingly, this delicious treat will last for days in the fridge – because let’s be honest, there’s no way a sane person could consume an entire package in just one sitting. We barely finished half of it between two famished climbers. It’s sticky, it’s messy, it’ll get all over your fingers, and it is absolutely divine.