Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

IMG_1787.JPGThere’s definitely a chill in the air and everyone seems to be passing the sniffles back and forth, which means it’s time for some chicken soup. While I do love a steaming bowl of chicken noodle soup, I admit that sometimes I like my soup sans noodles. This version is gluten free, but hearty and delicious. The batch here serves a crowd of 8-10, so cut it in half if you have fewer people, or, better yet, invite some family or friends to share it with you, unless you are sick, in which case enjoy a bowl a day for a week as you recuperate.

The amounts and types of vegetables aren’t set in stone here.  Feel free to experiment with other types or use what you have on hand.  Regular peas would be fine in place of sugar snap.  Green beans, broccoli and corn would also work well.  If you don’t have wild rice, you may substitute plain brown rice in its place.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups wild rice blend
2 tsp salt (or more depending on the saltiness of your stock)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1/2 cup diced sugar snap peas
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (may use canned)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Cook onion in butter until soft and beginning to brown.  Add rice, salt and pepper and stir for a minute.  Add chicken stock and simmer for 45 min – 1 hour or until the rice is cooked through and the darker grains split open and begin to curl.

Add carrots and celery and simmer 10 minutes.  Add peppers, peas and chicken and return to a simmer.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley and enjoy.

This soup is great alone or topped with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of pesto.

Salted Maple Pecans

Did you know that a once ounce serving of pecans contains ten percent of the fiber you need in a single day? They are also a great source of low-carb protein and low in saturated fat. A little research will yield a myriad of health benefits gained from regularly enjoying pecans. I do love them for their health benefits, but mostly I eat them because they’re delicious!

While I don’t grow my own pecans in the backyard (yet), we do cook with them regularly at home. We grind them into pecan butter, toss them in salads and enjoy them over hot cereal in the morning. They are a great addition any time of the year, and while they are delicious cloaked in the caramel of a pie, they have a natural sweetness that needs little adornment. These five-minute salted maple pecans are perfect in a spinach salad, chopped and sprinkled over grilled fish or on their own as a snack.

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Five-Minute Salted Maple Pecans

2 cups pecan halves
1/3 cup real maple syrup (no substitutions!)
¼-1/2 tsp salt

Heat the pecans on medium-high heat in a large skillet until fragrant and beginning to brown. Pour syrup over nuts and stir or toss continuously for 30-45 seconds until the syrup begins to thicken and stick to the nuts. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle with salt. Allow to cool and enjoy!

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Bonus Simple Spinach Salad Recipe

4 cups baby spinach, washed
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup salted maple pecans (above)
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

30 Day Eat-In Challenge Evaluation

Here are some lessons and ideas I came away with from our challenge to eat strictly from home for the whole month of November:

  • Having a meal plan is imperative if you intend to eat more home-cooked meals. Look over the calendar and make arrangements for each day (I usually just plan dinner as breakfast is oatmeal, smoothie etc. and lunch is leftovers or something quick). If you have a busy night upcoming, plan for a freezer or slow cooker meal.
  • Leftovers are worth their weight in gold. Making several extra portions can save time and hassle during the following days. Who doesn’t want to open the fridge to an already-made lunch or dinner staring back at them?
  • Involving your kids in meal-planning and preparation usually means they will happily consume what is served.  A definite win-win!
  • Grocery-shopping with a menu and list means you really do save a few dollars!

I enjoyed tracking what I ate each day (through my Instagram posts).  I liked the feeling of self-reliance that came from planning and preparing all our meals and I can say with certainty that we will take this challenge again at least once in 2016.  Hopefully you’ll join us!

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