Easy Semi-Homemade Chicken Soup

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I see a recipe for “real” chicken noodle soup that calls for boiling a carcass, I just can’t.

I’m by no means a vegetarian, but I’ve always had an issue with bones. I won’t eat a chicken wing (without a fork!) and never a steak or chop on a bone.

Anyway, this version of Chicken Noodle Soup is really easy to make (especially on a weeknight) – without hours of boiling – thanks to the addition of a rotisserie chicken, and offers the roasty, slow-cooked taste of a hearty soup thanks to a quick sauté of the veggies.

What I did differently this time (that I really loved) was add some fresh lemon slices at the end to give it a little fresh vitamin C boost and more flavor. Follow my how-to below and let me know what you think!

Semi-Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 6

Start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:
• One cooked rotisserie chicken
• 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
• 2 stalks celery, sliced
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cartons (32oz each) chicken stock
• Fine egg noodles (I use about a half a bag)
• 3-4 slices of fresh lemon, seeds removed
• 1 tsp dried thyme
• 1tsp dried parsley
• Salt & pepper to taste

How To:
1. In a stockpot (or large Dutch oven), add olive oil and get hot. Gently sauté carrots, celery, and onion until onions are soft and translucent. Add thyme, parsley, salt and pepper and stir.

2. Add chicken stock to pot and stir, scraping cooked bits off the bottom. While waiting for the stock to boil, remove chicken meat from bones and chop into bite-sized pieces.

3. Once stock is boiling, add chicken, egg noodles and lemon slices and boil for 8 minutes. Cool slightly and enjoy with bread or crackers.

TIP: This soup reheats well for lunches – double the batch and have it ready to go!

Etsy Shop Holiday Update!

Hi everyone! Now that the holidays are coming up, I thought I’d take a sec to (re)introduce you to my Etsy shop. In addition to cooking and baking, I also spend a lot of time painting – in watercolor and acrylic – and all of my work is available on Etsy.

Original art makes a thoughtful gift, and is a great way to spruce up your space with something unique! Each item of mine is one of a kind and priced affordably for giving or keeping for yourself 🙂 The shop’s just been updated, so I’d love it if you’d take a look!

See all of my available pieces here, and feel free to message me with any custom ideas or questions: H2OStudio on Etsy

Thank you for reading!

Brunch, anyone?

Wikipedia says: “Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch, and regularly has some form of alcoholic drink served with it. It is usually served anytime before 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.”

I’ll just say that a weekend brunch is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to mix it up a bit and get family and friends together to enjoy a meal during the day, rather than a later dinner.

This recipe is my version of a pretty basic breakfast casserole that my Mom used to make. It’s eggy, bready, cheesy and the best part is, you can pretty much throw as many add-ins as you want and it still turns out delicious!

Breakfast Casserole | Serves 6

Start to finish: about an hour

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf white bread, chopped
  • 9 large eggs
  • 6 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 3 Cups milk (I used 1%)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 package frozen Brown & Serve breakfast sausages
  • Additional add-ins (if desired): frozen chopped spinach (defrosted and squeezed dry), cooked sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, or cooked chopped bacon or ham.
  • Serve with maple syrup or ketchup.

How to:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix up eggs, milk, salt, pepper and melted butter in a bowl.
  3. Place a layer of chopped bread into your baking dish. Top with meat and cheese, repeat until your ingredients are used up and your casserole is piled high.
  4. Gently pour egg mixture over bread/cheese/meat. Let sit 15 mins to soak in.
  5. Bake for 45-55 mins or until casserole is golden brown and puffed.
  6. Top with maple syrup or ketchup and serve.

Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Pork

My original plan for this recipe was to just throw it all in my Crock Pot and let it do its thing while I went to work, but time got away from me that morning and then I thought – “I bet I can do this in the Instant Pot”!

So I started Googling. I found lots of great recipes online, but some featured different cuts of pork, some had a lot of extra ingredients (that I didn’t have on hand), so I settled on creating my own mashup of the parts of a few recipes that I liked and it turned out great! What I like most about the Instant Pot version is the crusty bits that you can only get from searing the meat prior to cooking. I find that when I slow-cook this (even if I sear ahead of time), it ends up being a bit waterlogged and bland. This recipe has a great texture, gets nice and stringy and is full of great barbeque flavor.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6 on slider buns

• 3lb Pork shoulder roast
• 2 Cups of your favorite BBQ sauce
• 1-1/2 Cups water
• 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning Rub – you can use this, or a packaged version:
• 2 TBS dark brown sugar
• 1tsp red pepper flakes
• 1tsp garlic powder
• 2tsp onion powder

Browse through the slide show to see before, during and after!

How To:
Total time, about an hour.

  1. Turn on Instant Pot to Sauté Mode and allow to get ‘HOT’; add olive oil.
  2. Combine seasoning rub ingredients in a small bowl. Trim excess fat off pork shoulder and cut into 3 large/even chunks. Coat each piece with seasoning rub and place into Instant Pot.
  3. While pork is browning, combine 1 cup of your barbeque sauce with the water. Remove pork from Instant Pot and set aside on a plate when browned on all sides.
  4. Deglaze pot- pour BBQ sauce/water mixture into pot and scrape browned bits from the bottom. Add pork back to pot and cover with lid with vent on ‘sealing’.
  5. Set time to 40 minutes on high pressure (with keep warm off) and when done allow for a 10 minute natural release. Flip vent to remove any additional pressure before opening.
  6. Shred pork with 2 forks and add in remaining barbeque sauce. Serve on buns with pickles and coleslaw. Enjoy!

Air Fryer Pork Loin

A quick and easy no-recipe recipe!
I used a little over a 1-pound pork loin that was pre-seasoned with black pepper and garlic. One thing I learned quickly was that pork loins shrink! So if you’re planning on feeding a larger family, I’d suggest putting two in the fryer (and add 2-3 minutes to the cooking time).

Another thing I learned is that this is the first pork loin I’ve made that didn’t dry out! I tend to overcook pork on purpose, and that tends to make it a lot less enjoyable, but this one was cooked through, moist and flavorful!

Before and After – the incredible shrinking pork loin!

Air Fryer Pork Loin
Serves 3-4
Start to finish: 25mins

• 1-1.5lb pork tenderloin (seasoned, or add your own seasonings)
• Cooking spray

1. Pre-heat air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
2. Open fryer and spray with cooking spray. Place pork loin into the fryer.
3. Air fry at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove and take temperature (should be between 150-160) let rest for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Easy Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

Once your Instant Pot comes to pressure, you are only 3 minutes away from delicious Mac & Cheese!

What I love most about this quick and easy recipe is that you’re only dirtying one pot, and there’s plenty of flexibility to upgrade this Mac & Cheese with things like fancier cheeses (think gruyere), and add-ins at the end like chopped cooked bacon, or veggies (I topped this batch with Tyson’s Buffalo Chicken Strips)!

Ingredients
Serves 4 as a meal; 8 as a side dish
• 1lb uncooked elbow pasta (I used Barilla Pipette)
• 4 cups cold water
• 3 Tbs unsalted butter
• Pinch salt
• Pinch black pepper
• 3 Cups shredded cheese (I used half sharp cheddar and half cheddar monterey jack blend)
• 1/2 cup milk (whole or 1%)

How To:
1. Place water, salt and pasta into Instant Pot (mine is a 6qt). Stir. Close lid and set to high pressure for 3 minutes. Be sure valve is on “sealing”.
2. Once done, do a quick release and remove lid. Add butter and stir until melted. Add cheese, pepper and milk and stir until creamy.
3. Top with your favorite toppings, or nothing at all!

Slow Cooker-Turned-Instant Pot Creamy Tortellini with Spinach & Mushrooms

When I stumbled upon this recipe from Betty Crocker, I couldn’t wait to try it. It seemed simple enough – slow cook the broth and veggies all day, then add the tortellini and cream cheese at the end. Well of course I was running late for work, and forgot to get my slow cooker together before I left the house!

I had a nice girls night planned, and really wanted to make something different, so I thought all day about how I could still make this recipe when I got home, and not have it take almost 8 hours. My solution: The Instant Pot!

I think I’m in favor of this version better, since you get a lot of extra flavor from sautéing the vegetables first – give it a try and let me know what you think!

d4040b77-d817-4e04-93f1-ec7e19f9e38ePhoto: Bettycrocker.com

I used the same ingredients in the same proportions as the original recipe, just changed the steps to make an 8-hour meal take just 45 minutes!

Instant Pot Creamy Tortellini with Spinach & Mushrooms
Serves 4-6 • Approx 45 minutes start to finish
Ingredients:
  • 1 package (8 oz) white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 package (20 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened and cubed
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 oz)
  • 1/4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves

How To:

  • Turn on Instant Pot to SAUTE mode and add butter, allow to melt.
  • When the Instant Pot reads HOT, add mushrooms, onions, soy sauce, salt and pepper in cooker. Saute until vegetables are soft and lightly browned.
  • Pour vegetable broth over vegetable mixture and turn off SAUTE mode. Stir and scrape to pick up brown bits on the bottom of pot.
  • Add tortellini and cream cheese to pot. Stir and cover, and select SLOW COOK for 30 minutes.
  • Open Instant Pot when done and stir in fresh spinach. Let stand 5 minutes (sauce will thicken). Top with Parmesan cheese and basil.

Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Looking to mix up your Taco Tuesdays? Try fajitas! My recipe is quick, easy, full of flavor – and best of all – the entire meal cooks on one sheet pan!

So far, I’ve only done this with chicken, but you can definitely use steak, turkey breast or even just stick with a ton of veggies. The key to even cooking is to be sure that your ingredients are cut all around the same size – that way you don’t end up with under-cooked meats with over-cooked vegetables. Another great tip is to use a large Ziplock back to mix up your ingredients – simply knead the bag of ingredients to get them evenly coated with your seasonings. Alternately, you can use a large bowl, but use your hands to mix for the best result!

This recipe easily serves a family of 4, but you can double it up for a crowd and simply use two sheet pans.

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Easy Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
Serves 4 • 30 Minute Cook Time

  • 1 to 1-1/2 lbs Chicken Breasts
  • 3 Bell Peppers (I used a combo of 1 green, 1 yellow and 1 orange)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 2 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 2 Tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Steak Seasoning (optional, but delicious – I use McCormick Montreal Steak)
  • Drizzle of Olive Oil
  • Corn or Flour Tortillas

B014EA53-3567-406E-87CE-5B55B136D0B0 (Fajitas Before and After Baking)

How To:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; spray a large sheet pan with nonstick spray.
  • Wash produce and pat dry chicken. Slice peppers and onions into strips and place into a large Ziplock bag (or large bowl).
  • Slice chicken breast into thin strips so that they’re about the same thickness as the peppers and onions and place into Ziplock bag (or large bowl).
  • Combine all seasonings in a small bowl and add to chicken and peppers. Drizzle with olive oil and mix all ingredients well, so that they’re all coated with your seasoning.
  • Dump mixture on to your prepared sheet pan and bake about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked and vegetables are soft and starting to brown. At about the 5 minutes left mark, warm your tortillas in the oven on a piece of foil so that your whole meal comes out at once.
  • Topping Ideas (maybe the best part!): Shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, fresh tomatoes, jalapenos

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Air Fryer Banana Bread

Yes, you read that right! Moist and delicious banana bread IS possible in an air fryer. I’ll include links below to the exact air fryer and pan I used, but this should work with any air fryer, and any round cake pan that fits into yours!

My banana bread mix is the same I use if I were to bake it in the oven – filled with ripe, sweet, bananas, chocolate chips, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon – except in the air fryer, it takes 35 minutes instead of an hour!

Air Fryer Banana Bread
Makes one 7″ Cake Pan (or small loaf pan)

• 3 TBS Unsalted Butter, softened
• 1/2 C White Sugar
• 3 Ripe Bananas
• 2 Large Eggs
• 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
• 1 C Flour
• 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
• 1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp Salt
• 1/2 C Chocolate Chips (optional, but recommended!)

How To:

  1. Preheat air fryer to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together eggs, bananas, butter, sugar and vanilla (by hand, stand mixer or electric mixer).
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and gently blend until combined.
  5. If using, fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Spray cake pan with nonstick spray and pour batter into pan. Place in air fryer basket, close and cook at 300 degrees F for 35 minutes.
  7. Remove from fryer and flip to release from pan. Let cool completely before serving.

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Links to products I used (I have no affiliation with these, just passing on items I have had success with!):

Tomatoes from… tomatoes!

One of the easiest ways to grow tomatoes is, well, with tomatoes! This fun hack gets started right in a paper or plastic cup, and once your seedlings are nice and tall, transfer them to a pot outside to continue growing!

I did this trick last spring and we got a nice bunch of tomatoes by the end of the summer. Give it a shot and let me know how yours grow!

Step 1: Pick your favorite tomatoes and slice into 1/2 inch thick slices; prepare a cup filled half way with garden soil (I use organic Miracle Grow).
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Step 2: Place tomato slices into soil and press down about 1/4 inch. Cover with about a 1/2 inch of soil and pierce hole in the base of cup to allow for drainage.

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Step 3: Water lightly and cover with plastic wrap. Place in a sunny spot inside or outdoors.
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Photo #1 was taken FOUR DAYS LATER! Photo #2 was taken 8 days after planting!
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Happy Growing! I’ll update as my plants keep growing 🙂