Warm and Hearty Minestrone Soup

This started out as Pasta Fagioli, but there was no ground meat or sausage on sale this week. So, it was turned into Minestrone.  I guess if you wanted to, you could just start this same recipe with browning the meat and you have yourself a completely different soup!

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I was able to put 2 quart jars of this soup in the fridge for lunches this week and 4 pints in the freezer for a later date.  Most of the items I even had on hand in my pantry.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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Warm and Hearty Minestrone Soup

1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 ribs of celery, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 28 oz can of tomatoes (crushed, whole, diced, sauce)
2 quarts stock (can sub water but it wont be as flavorful)
2 cans of undrained beans (kidney, navy, northern white)
2 cups of small dry pasta (elbows, ditalinni, shells)
1 handful of greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard)
salt, pepper and garlic to taste (italian seasoning would be good too)

1. Add a small amount of olive oil to the bottom of a soup pot, add onion, carrots and celery, cook over medium until soft
2. Once soft, add bay leaf, tomatoes and stock, bring to a simmer, simmer for at least 30 minutes
3. When the veggies are soft, add the beans, pasta and greens, cook for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al dente
4. Season to taste, remove the bay leaf and serve, or store in the fridge for 5 days or the freezer for 4 months

Are you a Pasta Fagioli or Minestrone fan?

Sweet and Tangy Hawaiian Chicken

It is always challenging finding a new dish to add to the meal rotation that your family will all enjoy.  I was on Pinterest and came across a Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken recipe and thought it looked great but there was no way just dumping 3 ingredients into your crockpot would turn out the same as the picture.  I called BS on that.  The picture reminded me of General Tso Chicken, and that gave me an idea.  What if I combined the method for General Tso with the Hawaiian flavors?  We were all very surprised when my creation turned out GREAT! A keeper for sure.

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Sweet and Tangy Hawaiian Chicken

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast cut into cubes
1 cup of flour
spices to season flour (example: salt, pepper, garlic and turmeric)
oil for frying
16 oz pineapple juice (or flesh of 1 pineapple blended and strained)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
squirt of hot sauce (your choice)
preheat oven to 400 degrees

1. Add flour and spices to a ziplock bag and mix
2. Toss the cubed chicken into the ziplock with the flour, zip and shake
3. Heat a decent amount of oil in a cast iron or heavy bottom pan, about 1/2 inch
4. Shake an excess flour off of the chicken and fry in pan when oil is hot, making sure not to crowd the pan
5. Cook chicken until fully cooked and golden brown, drain on a paper towel or screen lined pan or plate
6. While chicken is cooking, add pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar and hot sauce to a small pan and bring to a simmer
7. When chicken is all done, toss the chicken in the sauce and place on a parchment, foil or silpat lines sheet pan
8. If there is any extra sauce in the pot, return it to a simmer and let it thicken, use as a dipping sauce later
9. Bake chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees and the sauce is thick and brown
10. Serve over rice with extra sauce drizzled on top

Does your family have a similar chicken dish they love?

DIY Fleece Tie Blanket

Yesterday we were snowed in up here in the hills, so while little man played trains, I made the hubs a super soft fleece tie blanket.  I have made many of these and given them as gifts and kept some in our home.  They are always loved and enjoyed!  There are so many DIY step by steps out there in cyberspace, but here is mine.  I hope my tips learned from many trials and errors save you some headaches!

List of Materials:
1.5 yards of solid fleece (2 yards for adults)
1.5 yards of pattern fleece (2 yards for adults)
Fabric scissors (make sure they are VERY sharp)
Small piece of cardboard

1. I usually cut a template out of cardboard, 6 inches long on each side and a 1 inch wide guide for the strips.

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2. Lay the pieces of fabric just how you want them, evenly one on top of the other.

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3. Next, your going to want to trim the sides.  Make sure they are straight and even.

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4. Then, using your 6 inch square cardboard guide, cut a 6 inch square from each corner.  I like to use these nice squares of fabric for rice bags.  Makes wonderful hand warmers and Jamberry Nail applicator tools.  (P.S. I know a great Jamberry consultant if your interested in non-toxic nail wraps!)

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5. Now you want to cut your 1 inch strips, using your 1 inch guide. All the way across one side of the blanket.  I cut and tie an entire side before moving onto the next.

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6. There are multiple ways to tie your knots. I like this simple clean loop knot.  Over under thru the bunny hole kinda style.

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7. Cut and tie all four sides.  I also like to wash the blanket before giving it away, so it is clean, smells nice and I feel like it binds the knots together tightly. Thats it!

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Have you made a fleece tie blanket before? any tips to share?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  So if you decide to order anything that is recommended on the blog, we would LOVE it if you used the affiliated links. We thank you in advance for your support!]

Warm and Filling Basic Potato Soup Base

Lunches at home are, more often then not, reheated leftovers from dinner the night before.  But what happens when there are no leftovers?  PB and J or tuna salad anyone? Not any more!  This is a great budget friendly staple to have during the winter months, Basic Potato Soup Base.

Why not just call it Potato Soup? Because, the possibilities are endless.

1. Wash, peel and dice 5 cups of potatoes.  I used Yukon Gold but Russet or really any kind will do.

2. Place in a pot with 6 cups of stock or water.  Today, I only had 2 cups of stock, so I used that with 4 cups of water.  Really any stock will do, don’t have stock, use all water. Really its very flexible.

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3. Boil for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are easily mashed.

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4. Using an emersion blender, standard blender, food processor or a freaking fork, puree the soap completely until smooth and silky.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Store your quart (and a little more) of soup in the fridge for 4 days or freezer for 6 months, or even just enjoy right then and there.

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Now, this is just the base, yes you can eat it plain, I did and it was super tasty.  You could also add whatever you are in the mood for; cheddar cheese, any cheese, bacon, ham, chicken, turkey, cooked veggies, raw veggies, tortilla chips, fried onions, hot sauce, croutons, more potatoes, sour cream, pesto, tomato sauce, beans, noodles, so on and so forth.

Really you can throw in whatever you have on hand and have an even hardier filling soup.

Imagine doing this with sweet potatoes? YUM! What is your favorite winter soup?

Quick and Easy Oatmeal in a Jar To Go

Now that we are settled into our new home, our family has been able to fall into a nice routine.  In the morning while the hubs gets ready for work, I make the little guy some breakfast and pack the big guy a lunch and a breakfast to take to work.

Lunches are easy, actually, and mostly consist of leftovers from dinner the night before.  But breakfast is a little more challenging.  I started with breakfast burritos, and he quickly became tired of those.  Then moved onto bagels with an assortment of condiments, tho most of the time it was cream cheese and jelly.  Just recently I discovered a great idea for quick and easy Oatmeal in a Jar!

This is not really a recipe, per say, but more of a guide.  So here is what you do:’

First, gather your ingredients; oats (any kind really), fruit, sweetener, nuts, whatever you like in your oatmeal.  We like dried cranberries and brown sugar, John likes to add apples.

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For a single serving fill a pint jar to the 100ml line.  You can use any size jar really, you just need to put equal parts oats to water.

Boil your water, we use the tea kettle, and fill the jar with the oats up with water to the 200ml line, quickly add the toppings and screw on the lid tightly.  Turn it up and down a few times to mix.  Let sit for about 15 min until it is the desired consistency you like.

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Enjoy immediately with your favorite beverage, or throw it in your bag for a meal on the go.

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It really is yummy!  The proof is in the bottom of the jar!

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How do you like your oatmeal? Besides oats, do you like any other hot cereal for breakfast?

Seed Starting in Rockwool Plugs Hydroponically

There are so many different ways to grow your seedlings for hydroponic gardening.  No one way works better then another, you just need to decided what works best for your situation.  We are growing in an Omega Garden Volksgarden, which uses a rockwool cube as the growing medium.  We could simply have germinated he seeds between soaked towels, in Jiffy peat pellets, clay growing medium, or rockwool plugs.  Most of these methods require you to transplant the seedling, which can cause shock and the plants might die.  We went with the least traumatic method of rockwool plugs.

Rockwool Plugs

Visit this past post for a step by step guide to starting your seeds in the rockwool plugs.

Here is a day by day look at our first batch of hydroponic seedlings.  We have planted, bush beans, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, Russian kale, red lettuce and arugula.

Day 1:

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Day 2:

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Day 3:

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Day 4: by tomorrow we will have the majority of the plants breaking the surface of the rock wool and we can remove the cover. This will allow them fresh air and room to grow tall. If we leave the lid on we run the chance of rotting the tender baby plants or growing a mold.

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Day 5: Look at those crazy tall beans!

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Day 6: I just cannot get over the beans lol

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I will continue to update the pics as the seedlings progress, in about a week we should have enough height to transplant them into the Volksgarden unit.

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  Thank you for your support!]

The Beginning of Our Hydroponic Vegetable Growing Adventure

I have been wanting to write this post for a LONG time now.  We decided on venturing into Hydroponic Growing almost a year ago and just now were able to make it happen.  First, we needed to save some funds to purchase the Hydro unit.  The hubs experimented with a few build your own ideas but none seemed to live up to the potential of our chosen unit, the Omega Gardens Volksgarden.  The Volksgarden outshines its competition in almost every aspect; it is built durably to last, fully automated and easy to operate, produces strong rapid results in almost 1/3rd of the time, and provides clean, local, year round produce.

Volksgarden

Being a large investment we needed to make sure this was a priority and something we really felt passionately about, which it was and we were.  After procuring the funds and purchasing the unit, we needed a home to set it up in.  Then the waiting game to finish the new house ensued.  FINALLY! We were able to start our seedlings and build the unit.

First, we had to choose plants that not only would perform well hydroponically, but that our family would enjoy eating.

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We decided on bush beans, cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, Russian kale, red lettuce and arugula.

Next, we had to pick a seed starting method.  We chose to start the seeds in a round rockwool plug that would then be inserted directly into the square rockwool block.  We purchased a starting tray, somewhat like this, to start the seedlings in.  Light and humidity are important for fast germination.  We have one large florescent and two smaller blue/red lights currently on ours.  Along with the lights, we set up a heat mat with temperature control to keep a constant 75 degrees.

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Besides water, plants need nutrients to grow.  We went with a three part Flora type.  Because of the process involved in extracting the nutrients, these products cannot be labeled “organic.” However, we are willing to look beyond the label and read up on the process and feel safe knowing we are feeding our family a safe, nontoxic product.

The rockwool needs to be soaked in the nutrient solution before your can plant the seeds.

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After soaking in a 5 gallon bucket for 1-24 hours, you can lightly shake off 10 percent of the liquid from the rockwool and place in the tray.  We used a small pipette tool to create a 5mm deep hole for the seeds to rest.  Using tweezers, we placed 2-3 seeds in each hole and covered slightly to create a cocoon.  The Volksgarden holds 80 plants but the tray only 78, so we will have at least 2 empty spots until we purchase another tray.

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We then made a home for the seedlings in the basement, under lights.

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Depending on the seeds and set up, the seeds will take 12 hours to 1 week to germinate.  We did have some bush beans starting to open the first night.  Next post, we will discuss the Volksgarden its self.

Have you ever tried to grow produce hydroponically? Or any other alternative growing method?

[Disclosure: Salty Suburban Homestead is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We receive a small commission whenever a product is purchased through these links.  Thank you for your support!]