Friday, January 19, 2018

Chicken Soup to Combat the Flu

Mindy here, in for the Belle today. And unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you know that the flu and other forms of the creeping crud are running rampant. Both Jan and Cate talked about ways to fend off the dreaded virus. One of our favorite, not to mention most delicious weapons, is chicken soup. A hearty, heart-warming, good-for-what-ails-you comfort food that's oh so good whether you're sick or not. 

This chicken soup recipe came from my SIL. It's fairly easy and the actual cooking time isn't long. However, there is some prep work, so plan on about an hour and half  from the time you start chopping until the time you're sitting down to eat.

Here's what you'll need:
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
5-6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
4-5 stalks celery, sliced
2 quarts chicken broth
1 quart vegetable broth (or use 3 chicken)
2-3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1-2 dashes red pepper flakes
l large bay leaf (optional)
3-4 cubes (or equivalent) chicken bouillon
1 package Kluski or Bohemian noodles

I like to chop and gather everything for this dish before I actually start cooking.
Once that's done, place a large Dutch oven over high heat and add your olive oil. 
When the oil is heated, add the chicken, onions and garlic.
Cook until meat is browned.
Okay, so it doesn't exactly brown because there's a lot of moisture in there from the onions. The main thing is that you don't want to see any pink meat.

Next, add your carrots, celery and all of your seasonings.
Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Boy, oh boy, does the house smell yummy. Talk about whetting your appetite.

Add noodles and simmer for an additional 20-30 minutes.

Now that's one lean meal with loads of flavor. You can even up the garlic and red pepper flakes, if you like, to clear those nasal passages. 

Nothing like ending the week with an armada of weapons to get you through this flu season. From Jan's tips and vitamin C packed Orange Smoothie (recipe here) to Cate's natural remedies (find those here) to a flavorful chicken soup, the Yankee-Belle Café has got you covered.

So what's on your agenda for this weekend? Cleaning? Shopping? Football playoffs? Perhaps a Hallmark Channel movie marathon (I wish)? We want to hear what you're up to.

Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Loving Chicken French Redoux!

Playoff season across the U. S. of A. and we know what that means... great food, easy to access, and cheering for someone's favorite team once yours is knocked out of the running! So for us this year it's "GO VIKINGS" because my son-in-law Jon is from Minnesota...

Chicken and Artichoke French are big family favorites here... Farmer Dave doesn't like them, but the rest of the family loves both so we make it/them for big family parties, doings, whatevers... I'm repeating this post today with an eye toward playoffs and Super Bowl fun because it's a great make-ahead then heat up and cook the pasta at game time! And the videos are not exactly Ree Drummond-friendly skill level but I kept them in because you guys are always loving and forgiving! Here you go, from February 2014:

Okay, this may be a complete waste of your time, because I'm not exactly a camera guru. I'm barely literate with the PHD systems: Push Here, Dummy!!!!

But I thought it would be fun to video tape the step-by-step of making chicken and artichoke French for Super Bowl Sunday. Therefore, you get to see my lame attempts, laugh at me, get HUNGRY when you hear that food sizzle, and if you're a Seattle fan, you're feeling mighty happy still!!!!

I'm feeling happy about THIS:


I'm not quite as happy about THIS:


Okay, so I was looking for a dinner that wouldn't require me to be in the kitchen during the game.  All cooking/clean up was done pre-game.


Here we go:

5 lb. bag of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 large jars of artichoke hearts
Extra virgin olive oil
2 sticks butter
Marsala wine (or dry sherry)
1 Quart lemon juice

For dredging:

A bowl of flour
A bowl of 6 beaten eggs, thinned with 1/2 cup water (I don't measure this, of course!!!)  :)

Drain artichokes. Pat dry with paper towel. Dip in flour first, then EGG....

Slip into heated olive oil in large "chicken fryer" type frying pan and cook on medium- medium low until cooked on all sides, golden with a hint of brown.... Don't use too high a fire and turn them every few minutes.

Then, when they're ALL GOLDEN, CRISPY NICENESS, you add in two tablespoons of butter,  1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup wine. Let simmer for 5 minutes or so to blend flavors, then pour the whole thing into a big baking dish to be warmed up later...  Wipe down pan between batches to avoid burn spots.

Burn spots taste blech!!!!!

Repeat this until all artichokes are done.

When all the batches were done I put them into two BIG aluminum roasters and covered them with foil, kept them cold (in the car, LOL!!!!) until time to reheat... then all I had to do was boil water for pasta and burn the garlic bread.

Which I did, as usual.  :)

There are NO PICTURES of the burned garlic bread. None. I removed all cameras from the smoke-filled area.  Trust me. It wasn't pretty.

But there is a picture of THIS:  More to come on this amazingly delectable three-chocolate extravaganza delight!!!!

 And of course our signature Floating Island Punch made my Casey, my amazingly talented and beautiful helper!!!

This is Casey doing Crayon Art projects with kids this week... Yes, our kids are off this week, and some of my little ones are on cruises, one is in Florida, and the others are STUCK WITH ME AND CASEY.

Poor babies!!!!

We have now officially found the solution to KILLING OLD CRAYONS with no guilt or remorse!

Melt them!!!!

Multi-published author Ruthy Logan Herne is on deadline and meting out time like she metes out M&Ms... very, very carefully! She is buried in a snow cave in Western New York, busily writing a beautiful story for Waterfall Press/Amazon and working on an absolutely fun mystery for Guideposts Books... and having the time of her life! 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Natural Remedies aka Trying to Stay Healthy

Remember when Jan posted about the flu on Monday? I didn't get back to comment because it had me running scared. All these reports about how bad the flu is this year and how important it is to get a flu vaccine.

But what are you supposed to do when you're allergic to the vaccine?

Yup. When I ended up back in my doctor's office with a 104 degree fever after some vaccine in my teens, he very clearly warned me never to get a flu vaccine, that it could kill me.


So each year I try to figure out how to stay healthy when I can't get the shot and everyone around me is sick (multiplied by the # of students in any given class).

Over the years I've come to rely on a few things.

#1 - Emergen-C

I know this has been around awhile and isn't totally "natural" but it's awesome!
One of the kindergarten aides mentioned to me that her school nurse used to keep a huge box on hand and dispense to all the adults who came in sick.

First I tried the Pina Colada flavor. Yum! The Meyer lemon was also delicious. But I settled on the Cranberry Hibiscus when I bought the big box. The flavor reminds me of the punches my mother used to make for parties. All the vitamins and minerals actually make me feel like I have a fighting chance of making it til spring!

I've also learned to use the Emergen-C Immune Support which has additional vitamins like D.

Which brings me to

#2 - Vitamin D

I remember reading somewhere years ago that in Canada they give Vitamin D rather than flu shots. I have no idea if that's really true, but the years I was good about remembering to take Vitamin D regularly, I caught nary a sniffle.

 #3 - Ginger

I'll admit, fresh ginger always kind of scared me. I wasn't exactly sure how to pick it out or what to do with it.

But in my desperation for something to help the endless, tickly cough, I saw a recipe for ginger tea that promised great results.

I overcame my fears :) and bought some ginger. Just a little piece at first.

I peeled it, sliced it, and boiled it for ten minutes. Then I drained it, let it cool a bit, and drank the liquid. Can I say MIRACLE? By the next morning, I felt so much better!

Here's where I admit that I never actually liked the taste of ginger in anything but cookies. But fresh ginger - that I really like!

If you're less a fan, you can add some honey or lemon.

You're supposed to drink the liquid three times a day.

#4 - Gargling with salt water

A neighbor's pediatrician recommended this when her child was young. I've also tried it with apple cider vinegar, but salt water is a whole lot easier on the throat and mouth.

#5 - Herb tea

I came up with this concoction to fight a nasty cough one year and it's pretty good and reliable.
Boil some water and toss in a mix of herbs with anti-bacterial/anti-viral/anti-fungal properties. I'm talking thyme, oregano, basil. If I have it, I throw in some cayenne pepper, maybe some garlic or turmeric, and let it simmer awhile. Strain and drink like tea. I'll admit it's an acquired taste. Honey and lemon help.  But I also have an herb tea I like to drink regularly.

Tulsi Herbal tea: I knew this was supposed to be healthy (and it always makes me feel good), but when I went searching for benefits, I found this list of amazing benefits.  😇

There are so many varieties available now.

So what do you do when the dreaded winter bugs strike? Head to the medicine cabinet or the kitchen cabinet? Drugstore or grocery store?

Let's share some ideas.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pantry Overhaul

Mindy here, and we have officially moved into the big house. Things aren't perfect, not that they ever will be. Some finishing touches still need to be done, like the exhaust pipe for the venthood over the stove, some shelving, etc. Little things that we can get by without for a short time.

In the meantime, there's still that physical act of moving-in. While most of our things had been moved into the house the day after Thanksgiving, we didn't spend our first night in the new house until December 15th. Then it was a rush toward Christmas, hopping into the car Christmas morning to meet the rest of the family in Ft. Worth, welcoming baby Taegan, coming back for a day and half with one daughter and her 4 boys before I headed back to FW for 10 glorious days of getting to know my new granddaughter.
I can't believe she's 3 weeks old already.
And this little guy...
He's 8 months old now and trying his hardest to crawl.

But I digress. Babies will do that. 

Moving in. Yes, that's what I was talking about. So you know how it goes. You're unpacking boxes, not sure where most things are going to go, but shoving them here and there as you go. Then, once you get most of the rooms kinda settled, you go back and figure out where to put all that stuff you just stuck somewhere for the sake of putting somewhere.

Which leads me to my pantry. For two months, it pretty much served as a catch-all. When something needed to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind, we stuck it in the pantry where it wouldn't be in the way of the workers. I mean, not only did it have all those shelves, it was also the the first space that was truly "finished." So by the time we got somewhat settled, the pantry looked like this.
Which was okay, for a time. I mean, for the most part, we knew what was in there. Then I woke up one morning with a determination for some sort of organization in the house. Living in chaos for several months will do that do you.

And so it began.

But where to begin?

At the bottom.

Bet you weren't expecting that. 

Notice all the crapola on the floor, rendering our walk-in pantry un-walk-inable. So the first thing I did was remove everything cluttering the floor.
This isn't all of it, but these boxes took up a lot of space. We'd purposely kept boxes for things, knowing we'd be moving, but now that we're in our forever home, it's time these things had a permanent place to live where they're easily accessed. 

Next, I segmented similar-use items into their own areas. Like my baking supplies.
Of course, flours and sugars were already at home on the counter.
Cereals were grouped together in clear containers so with one look I can see which ones need to be added to my grocery list.
Even snack foods were grouped. Now I just need to come up with something to hold all those individual little packets, but that's a job for another day.
Once everything was grouped and put back in, this was the result.
The stuff I rarely use went on the top shelf. While the things I use regularly...
Are easy to grab. Note the air fryer on the shelf. Now it's ready to go whenever I want to use it. No unboxing necessary.
Notice how much more free space I have. And would you look at the floor.
No more tip-toeing around things while I'm looking to see what I need from the grocery store. 

You know, when I envisioned my new house, everything was perfectly appointed and clean as a whistle. Reality, though, is that I am not an organization freak, nor a clean freak, and my rooms rarely turn out as beautifully decorated as they were in my mind. However, I'm pretty proud of my tidy little pantry. And all it took was some time and determination. If only the rest of the house were that easy to tackle.

Now it's your turn. Does organization come naturally to you or do you have to work at it? If you're a natural, the rest of us would love some tips. 

Mindy Obenhaus lives on a ranch in Texas with her husband, the youngest of her five children and two dogs. She's passionate about touching readers with Biblical truths in an entertaining, and sometimes adventurous, manner. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking and spending time with her grandchildren. Learn more at  

Monday, January 15, 2018

An Orange Smoothie for Cold and Flu Season

Yes, it's here. Flu season.

It's that time of year when the sun hangs low in the southern sky and the cold temps make most of us want to stay inside.

Jan here, with some tips on how to avoid catching the flu...or to lessen its impact on your life.

1) Get your flu shot.

No, it isn't too late. And no, I haven't gotten mine yet. (And yes, I had the flu over Christmas!)

Ever since a younger, fitter, and healthier acquaintance died of complications from the flu a few years ago, I vowed I would get my flu shot every year. This year? I kept putting it off. Now that I'm finally healthy again, I'll be getting my flu shot this week.

I've heard (from reliable sources) that even if you catch the flu after getting a shot, your experience with the virus will be much less serious than if you hadn't gotten the shot. My hubby is the perfect example. He got his shot in the fall, but then came down with the flu in December...and he didn't even realize what he had until I came down with the same symptoms a week later, but more severe and longer lasting. He felt better after a few days. It took me nearly two weeks to feel like I could put two sentences together!

2) Wash your hands.

Your mom was right. Washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself from being infected with a virus like the flu.

3) Get enough rest.

Your immune system needs to be in tip-top shape, and sleep is number one in keeping it there.

4) Eat well to keep that immune system revved.

Orange juice anyone? How about a smoothie?

And here's where today's recipe comes in!

Just over a year ago, I shared a drink recipe that I love - my Winter Sunshine drink! Check out the recipe here: Jan's Winter Sunshine

I love this drink, but sometimes I want something a little...sweeter? creamier?...filling?

This smoothie answers all of those cravings. I'm going to give you two separate recipes. One for normal folks, and one for those with some restrictions on their diet (voluntary or otherwise.)

Orange Julius-Style Smoothie

This recipe is for those who have no dietary restrictions. It was a favorite with my children when they were younger!

1 6-oz can frozen orange juice
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
10-12 ice cubes

Blend the first four ingredients in a blender. Add the ice cubes 2 or 3 at a time until well blended. Drink right away, or freeze and eat as sherbet.

Easy-peasy, right?

Unless you want to avoid sugar and happen to be lactose-intolerant (a recent development...I blame age). Then, this smoothie is for you:

Orange Dreamsicle Smoothie

The original recipe for this is in the Trim Healthy Mama cookbook, but it calls for cottage cheese. The only dairy I can eat is yogurt, so I substituted a couple things, and came up with this delicious, protein-rich smoothie.

1 medium, or 2 small oranges, peeled and seeded
1/2 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk
1/2 cup unsweetened plain Greek yogurt
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
3 teaspoons stevia/erithrytol blend (like Truvia)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vitamin C powder
2 Tablespoons integral collagen, or 1 scoop whey protein powder
1 1/2 - 2 cups ice cubes

In a blender, blend the orange slices and almond milk until the orange is completely blended. Add the yogurt, orange extract, sweetener, salt, Vitamin C powder, and collagen (not the whey protein powder).

Blend until smooth.

Add the ice cubes, 2-3 at a time (or if you have a powerful blender like a Ninja or Vitamix, add them all at once) and blend until smooth.

If you use whey protein powder, add it now, and blend for an additional 10 seconds.

Pour it into a large glass (I use a 1 quart canning jar) and enjoy!

Last week, I shared pictures from a drive we took to Custer State Park on a cold, foggy/cloudy day. This week, we went up in the Hills on a gorgeous sunny day! Don't let the sunshine fool you, though. It was still cold!

First, we went to Custer State Park. The week before, we hadn't gone to see how Badger Clark's cabin survived the fire. We knew it hadn't burned, but what did the area look like?

Safe and sound. Whew!

Those big trees were scorched, though.

If you don't remember who Badger Clark was, I wrote about him in this post: Badger Clark

After leaving the southern end of the park, we drove up to Sylvan Lake. The Needles Highway begins (or ends) here.

This is what it looks like in the summer:

And here's what it looks like in January:

Only hikers and cross-country skiers use the highway in the winter!

And the lake was beautiful in the sunshine!

Then we went to visit the Boys on the Hill - our first visit of the year to Mt. Rushmore.

And the air was so clear, we could see the Badlands from Mt. Rushmore...just about 60 miles away.

I've often seen the Badlands from Mt. Rushmore, but never as clear as it was that day! There is a lot of prairie and a lot of ranches between here and there!

So, how is your January going? Have you avoided the dreaded flu? Or were you smart and got your flu shot early?

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan