Spicy Chicken and Orzo Soup (crock pot)

2013-11-17 18.42.05

With my husband sick last week I wanted to make a good but easy chicken noodle soup.  Using a whole chicken, I broke it down and cooked it all day in the slow cooker to develop a spicy homemade broth.  Adding orzo noodles at the end you can finish the meal with little effort.  The hardest part of this dish was breaking down the raw chicken, very different from carving a cooked bird.  I had never really done this before, but I have read about it in my cooking magazines.  Don’t let them fool you, it is a bit of a process.  For those of you who don’t like to handle raw chicken…this is not for you.  I unfortunately don’t have pictures of the process as I didn’t want to get raw chicken hands on my phone.

Here is a link to a brief tutorial.  http://www.marthastewart.com/967789/how-cook#973692

Now I cut mine a little differently because I didn’t watch the tutorial first, rather went from memory.  Using kitchen shears I cut the bird in half through the spine and finished separating right from left by then splitting the breasts.  With the two equal halves I cut off the legs and wings.

If you don’t want to deal with bones you can use boneless and skinless chicken breasts, but I’m not sure you will develop the same flavor in the broth without the bones and skin.

I decided to use the orzo noodles for a smoother consistency with the large pieces of chicken, but you can use a traditional egg noodle or whatever noodle you want.  The fun part of cooking with orzo is that on day two the noodles will soak up almost all of the broth making a thick casserole consistency for the leftovers.

The best part about this meal is that it is very cheap to make a large quantity of food.  Whole chickens are inexpensive compared to buying the pieces separately.  I paid $5 for the whole chicken and about $3-4 for the rest of the ingredients (except spices that I had on hand).  After we had this for dinner I put the rest into mason jars for lunch, it made enough for 2 of us for the entire week.  Less processed and way less sodium than the canned stuff!

2013-11-17 19.16.09


1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), broken down into pieces.
1 large onion, diced
6 large carrots, peeled and diced
6 stalks of celery, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 dried chili pepper (Optional for heat)
4-5 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
1 bay leaf
1 lb orzo noodles, uncooked.
salt and pepper to taste (be generous, at least 1-2 tsp of salt and pepper each)


1. Break down your chicken as instructed above.

2. Layer the crock pot with onions, celery, carrots and top with chicken.

3. Season with salt and pepper generously, add garlic, thyme, chili pepper and bay leaf.

2013-11-17 11.27.17

4. Fill the crock pot with cold water.  Cook on high for 2 hours then cook on low for 4 hours.

5. At least 30 minutes before serving add orzo noodles and stir gently.

2013-11-17 18.39.18

6. To serve ladle out noodles and vegetables with a whole piece of chicken per person.  The chicken will literally fall off the bone in your bowl, so you can grab end and it will come out clean with little effort.

2013-11-17 18.46.54

7. For storage remove the rest of the pieces of chicken and separate meat from bones, stir to mix well (you can do this immediately if you don’t want to serve the chicken pieces whole).



Taco Seasoning

2013-11-05 19.51.13

The first time I made my own taco seasoning I made it because I was in a pinch and didn’t have time to go pick up a packet at the store.  I always used to purchase the pre-made packets thinking they were cheap and easy, but there is something so much better about making the seasoning yourself.  Plus you can adjust measurements based on your personal tastes.  I’m not exactly sure where I got this recipe, but it is flavorful and spicy and perfect.  I have used this with chicken, pork, and ground beef.

2013-11-05 19.18.26

Taco Seasoning Ingredients: 

1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper


Add seasoning ingredients together, store in airtight container to use as needed.  This amount will generally be enough for 1 lb of cooked meat and vegetables.

Tonight I sliced pork thin and sauteed with peppers and onions until cooked through.  Once mixed I added enough taco seasoning to coat.  Of course this is wonderful in a taco or burrito shell with conventional ingredients, but tonight I had it on a salad for a healthy and filling dinner!

2013-11-05 19.58.00

Spicy Pork

2013-11-19 19.35.53

I recently saw a recipe with a sriracha sauce drizzled on top of salmon, and it got my wheels turning.  Tonight for dinner I made some quick marinated boneless pork chops and topped it with a sriracha drizzle to spice it up.  AMAZING!  I imagine this would be good with chicken, beef, shrimp, or even salmon.  I served this with a side of garlic broccoli, but it would also be good over a bed of rice as well.  I will definitely make this again, I think it would be great as an appetizer with the meat skewered and sauce on the side to dip.

Sriracha drizzle Ingredients:

3 Tbsp of mayo
1 Tbsp sriracha (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 tsp of agave

2013-11-19 19.04.59


1/4 cup of soy sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder

2013-11-19 19.24.41


1. 30-60 minutes before you want to cook dinner, get your marinade ready.  Combine marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag and shake to combine, add 2-4 boneless pork chops to bag and allow to marinate for at least 30-60 minutes.  You can marinate the meat longer, but I was short on time and it ended up being the perfect match for the sriracha drizzle after just 30 minutes.

2. Make your sriracha drizzle by combining sriracha, mayo, and agave.

3. In a medium-hot skillet heat a generous amount of olive oil.  Cook marinated pork chops ~4 minutes on each side until cooked through.

4. Remove from heat and top with sriracha drizzle.


Whole Sage Chicken and Stock (slow cooker)

2013-11-11 18.28.09

Starting with a small roaster chicken, an easy weeknight meal can be made in the slow cooker while you are away at work.  I found this recipe online a few years ago, so easy and inexpensive to make.  The best part is that this chicken is super moist and the flavors can be unique based on the spices you want to use.  I used dried sage, onion, and garlic for tonight’s chicken.  I am including two options for stock with this post as well.  The quick stock is nice but unnecessary for basting during cooking, the chicken will be delicious if you leave it alone all day.  I used this quick stock to make a butternut squash soup to have as a side to the chicken, yum!  If you have the time and patience, you can make a true slow cooked stock in the slow cooker after you eat the chicken.


– 1 small roasting chicken 4-6 lbs
– 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
-1 medium yellow onion, half sliced in rings and half diced.
– 2 Tbsp of dried sage
– salt and pepper to taste

Quick Stock:

– chicken neck and organs (that are usually neatly cleaned and packed in chicken).
-1/2 onion, diced
-2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced
-1 bay leaf
– 1 tsp dried sage
-1 tsp ground pepper
-1 tsp salt (more to taste)
-4 cups of water

2013-11-11 13.09.23


1. Line bottom of crock pot with sliced onion and 1/2 of the sliced garlic.

2. Remove organs and neck from chicken (reserve for stock), rinse with water and pat dry.

3. Season inside of chicken with salt, pepper, and 1/2 the sage.  Fill with diced onions and 1/3 of garlic.

4. Place chicken breast side up on top of onion bed.  Season with salt, pepper, remaining sage and garlic.

5. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until fully cooked.  (Optional if home while cooking) Baste chicken with a small amount (1/8 cup) of quick broth after 1 hour.  Then baste every hour after with juice on bottom of crock pot.

6. Carefully remove chicken when fully cooked from crock pot and carve.

Quick Broth:

1. Place reserved chicken neck and organs in medium sauce pan.

2. Add garlic, onions, seasonings, and water.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer for at least 45 minutes, up to 2 hours if able.

2013-11-11 13.15.33

Slow cooker Broth:

If you have the ability, after eating the chicken reserve the bones and return to crock pot with residual juices from cooking and sliced onions on bottom of pot.  Fill crock pot with water to cover bones and cook on low for 8 hours.

Strain and store in refrigerator until ready to use for up to 3 days.


Hot Spiced Cider

2013-11-11 15.07.25

The first fall snow has fallen and the cold weather appears to be here to stay.  On these cold nights a glass of hot apple cider is the perfect beverage to keep you cozy and warm.  Add some dark rum and you have a real treat on your hands.  I have made this recipe on the stove top letting it simmer at least 30 minutes, or in the crock pot on low for a few hours.  I find that the cider turns out better if you start with a good quality and fresh apple cider.  The spices can be expensive to purchase, but the jars will typically last you for several rounds of cider.


2 quarts apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
5 whole allspice berries
10 whole cloves
2 anise stars
1 orange thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
Dark Rum

2013-11-11 14.28.37


1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes on low.  If you want to make this in the crock pot, place all ingredients in the crock pot and place on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.

2. Ladle out of pot being careful to not spoon the loose spices into mugs.

3. Add 1 shot of dark rum if desired and garnish with cinnamon stick.


Roasted Sweet Momma Squash

2013-10-27 19.52.56

Sometimes a side calls for a flair of sweet instead of savory.  Today I made a marinated pork tenderloin and decided it was just the dish for a little touch of sweetness.  I found an adorable squash at the farmers market last month, and as the season goes on I have decided to remove it from the decoration basket to serve for dinner.  It is called a sweet momma squash, looks like a larger and more plump acorn squash…unfortunately I did not take a picture before cutting it.  It tastes similar to acorn squash and has the same texture qualities.


1 sweet momma squash (or acorn squash)
2 Tbsp  brown sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp coconut milk

2013-10-27 19.22.44


1. Cut squash in half and remove seeds.  Slice into wedges 1-2 inches thick.

2. Spray lightly with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes in the oven at 400 F.

3. Remove from oven and coat with mixture of brown sugar, melted butter, and coconut milk on both cut sides.  Return to oven and roast for another 10-15 minutes until tender.

2013-10-27 19.52.56


The skins of the squash got really tender so I ate the whole thing.  If the skins don’t get soft enough or it weirds you out too much, just go for the fleshy center .


Teriyaki Marinated Pork Tenderloin

2013-10-27 19.57.39

Making your own marinade is a great way to know exactly what you are eating.  This is an easy recipe that brings a sweet teriyaki flavor to a nice cut of meat.  I am sure there are different proportions that can be used and other ingredients that make a more teriyaki worthy marinade, but this combination tasted wonderful and cooked well.  Add a vegetable side or two and you have a full meal.


2 lbs of pork tenderloin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup diced onions
2 ” slice of ginger, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon, juice
1/2 cup water
1 tsp sugar or agave nectar
3 tbsp oil (sesame oil if you have it)

2013-10-27 18.23.52


1.  Mix together all ingredients for marinade into a large ziplock bag.  Add pork tenderloin and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 6-12 hours.  If you are able, shake the bag to re-mix several times while marinating.

2. After the pork has had the opportunity to marinade, remove from fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking.

3.  Arrange in small baking pan 2-3 inches deep with a small amount of marinade.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until internal temperature reads 145 degrees.  Allow to rest at least 10 minutes before cutting to serve.

2013-10-27 19.54.16Enjoy!