Friday, May 30, 2008

Wrapping Up School

My posts have been rather girl heavy lately, and so it's time to give equal footing to Offspring #1. Our homeschool year is winding down and it's almost time to say goodbye to 6th grade. My young man continues to amaze me with his awesome memory, and I'm always so impressed with his willingness to try new things.

We homeschool using the Calvert curriculum, and I absolutely love it. I have a unique opportunity to gage our progress since I have twin 6th graders. One is homeschooled and the other attends private school. I really like our private school. It has a comfortable family feel to it, and the staff and teachers really try to provide a sound education to the students. Since starting homeschooling, I have a new found respect for teachers and appreciate their dedication. How they can present material to 30 kids at a time astounds me. That said, I LOVE homeschooling. There are so many reasons that I value it ... the time with my child, the 1:1 instruction, the positive balance it provides the family, the ability to adjust materials to learning styles, the depth and pace of materials, and elimination of busy work. The list goes on and on. So, I guess it's appropriate to say that we walk comfortably in both worlds ... but I sure do miss my girls when they are gone and I get frustrated seeing them bogged down with homework after being at school all day long. Summer break is just a week and a half away, and I'm giddy that we'll have lazy days to spend just "being". It's a good thing.

Anyway, here's a pic of my boy who's growing up way too rapidly. In this photo, he's busy typing in the latest installment in the adventure story that he's writing and illustrating. He is a talented artist, and I'm amazed at how he draws his characters. He's recently started experimenting with what I consider advanced marker coloration, and his newly colored illustrations really "pop" off the page. His little sister just got a pair of 3D glasses to use with a chalk kit, and he borrowed them to see if they would alter how he sees his drawings. Oh. My. Gosh. It was so cool to look through those 3D glasses at his creations. I swear it made the illustrations come alive!

Psalty Play

The third grade class at our school puts on a "Psalty Play" at the end of the school year, every year. It's something that the students look forward to all year long, and was something that offspring #3 was especially excited about when she rejoined her schoolmates after a year of homeschooling. I have fond memories of the Psalty play since her older brother and sister also were in the play back when they were in third grade. In fact, Offspring #2 had the lead role of Psalty. For those unfamiliar with Psalty, it is a delightful, short play based on the book of Psalms in the Bible. The Psalty character is actually a book, and the costume is hilarious to see. I remember my Offspring #2 waddling around on the stage in the cumbersome book costume. Anyway, there is lots of singing and dancing on the stage, and lots of laughter and teary eyed proud parents in the audience. The play is only about 45 minutes long, and the kids get to wear "free dress" instead of their uniforms.

My offspring had a small speaking part, but her lines were super funny. I could tell she was having a great time, and she loved it when the audience laughed at her delivery. I was one of the teary eyed parents ... proud of my girl and happy that she was happy. It's good stuff. Oh, by the way, she's the one in the blue t-shirt, glasses, and headband.

It's time for nine

It's official, my littlest offspring is 9 years old. As the cliche goes, it truly seems like yesterday that she entered into the world. I remember the doctor holding her up and hearing her lung-strong cry. At 7 lbs 4 oz, she was my biggest baby which is hysterical because she is in the -5th percentile on height and weight ... yet she's healthy and even better, she's happy. As is habit in our family, the birthday festivities were spread out over a few days.

She had a birthday party at the local ceramics shop and was joined by six friends. They had a blast painting a little ceramic piece of their choice, and I was able to paint a large platter to commemorate the day. Each of the girls put their thumb print on the memory plate, and I painted their names on it as well. As you can see, she created some great memories that day. I was very proud of her. She was a gracious hostess and made a special point of spending time with each of her guests.

On her actual birthday, we went out to dinner and she feasted on grilled, skewered shrimp and a steamy baked potato. My sister flew out from Chicago to be with her on her special day, and we had a marvelous time.

Project Linus

Offspring #2 is required to complete 3 hours of community service projects per semester at her school. This is a good thing as it gets the kids involved in performing acts of kindness for the greater good. I'm all for acts of genuine kindness. I like the idea of the greater good. Mostly, I want the kids to realize that even performing small acts of kindness can have a positive influence in someone else's life. The old "one person can make a difference" thing applies quite nicely here ...

For this semester's project, my gal invited two girl chums over to make blankets for Project Linus. Project Linus is a wonderful organization that donates homemade blankets to children in the hospital. Since my son has spent way too much time in hospitals, offspring #2 is very aware of how something as simple as a blanket can provide comfort to a hospitalized child. So, the girls got together after school last week and followed the instructions for making a no-sew fleece blanket. It turned out darling. My gal is the one with bangs.


Whew ... lots of new things to post. First dibs goes to the fudge that offspring #3 requested in lieu of birthday cake this year. After scouring, oh, about 3 million recipes for fudge and making another trillion batches of the yummy stuff (well, ok, not that many but it seemed like it), the entire family selected their top favorites. The winners are a) for the richer chocolate category: Miss Marjie's Fudge, and b) for the mild catagory: the fudge recipe off of the condensed milk can.

As you can see, Miss Marjie's Fudge (as named by my daughter) is a decadent dark chocolate fudge that you would swear had caramel in it. It is chewy without being too soft, and was consumed in great quantities by hubby man. In deference to the kidlin's, I prepared it without nuts; however, next time I think I'll toss in some chopped walnuts. Divine stuff. Thanks for the recipe, Marjie!

The condensed-milk fudge was ridiculously easy to prepare, and had a very mild chocolate flavor. You can tell by it's lighter color that it did not have the depth of flavor of the other fudge, but was still very tasty. It was a firmer fudge and my birthday girl used a star shaped cookie cutter to cut shapes out of it. Her birthday candles were these darling little shapes attached to toothpicks which were quite easily applied to the fudge. And ... the melted wax just popped right off.

Both of these were a hit in my household and at the party! Looking at the photos makes me want to whip up another batch. Fudgelicious!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chocolate Quest

My littlest baby, my youngest one, my wee little thing has the nerve to turn 9 years old next week. Tuesday the 27th at 11:11 am, she officially says goodbye to 8 and hello to 9. Since she can't have wheat, that means a traditional cake is not an option. She actually requested chocolate fudge instead. Oh, and she wants it decorated with happy birthday messages (I need Marjie's daughter for this task!). So, I need to find a good recipe fast. Hence, my quest begins.

I am on a chocolate quest ... a recipe quest ... for the best tasting, easiest making chocolate fudge recipe. While I'm at it, I'm also after the best tasting, easiest making flourless chocolate cake recipe. Yesterday, I made the fudge recipe found on the back of the chocolate chip bag with only mediocre results. Oh, the flavor was great ... nice and chocolately, but the texture was way too soft. A couple of google searches have produced a few recipes that sound intriguing. I thought about making these chocolately rice cripsy type treats, but, and I quote, "I want my fudge" was her response. So, fudge it shall be -- no nuts or other texture type ingredients are welcome here ... just plain old fudge.

By the way, since eliminating wheat from her diet, my little gal has gained a couple pounds. She's always been a great eater, but is very, very, very petite. An unexpected side benefit to her new diet is that she's gained a couple of pounds and has crossed the 50 lb. mark! Her little body is probably finally able to digest food instead of dealing with the wheat. Life is good!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Racing Weekend

Another week has come on gone. Things have been hoppin' here in the grand old Pacific Northwest. First, on both Friday and Saturday, it was pushing 100 degrees, and today was well over 90 degrees. Why do I consider this noteworthy? Well, for starters, last weekend it was cold, drizzly, and the high was in the low 40's. Truth be told, I love feeling the sun raining down on me instead of the wet stuff.

Next, over the past few days, all three of the front running Presidential candidates dropped in the area for a visit. No matter who you choose to vote for in the election, you've got to admit that we are witnessing history and I want my kids to understand the importance of exercising their right to vote (I feel a homeschool lesson coming on) ... of course my daughter wants to be the first female President, so she has her own thoughts on the Presidential race.

Speaking of racing, the third exciting thing was that my offspring #2, -- the one who wants to be President ... oh, and she also wants to be a research scientist ... chant "full ride academic scholarship with me 3 times here -- competed in her track and field CYO Meet of Champions on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. You may recall that my wee one participated in her meet last weekend. The older kids competed this weekend. Despite the unusual heat, over 500 kids showed up slathered in sunscreen prepared to compete. My girl competed in three events: javalin, 400 meter, and 400 meter relay. She did great!

Her first event on Saturday was the javalin throw. Out in the sun. Brutal heat. No shade anywhere. Did I mention she's fair skinned? Not only did she perform great in the sun, she totally shined and threw further than she had in any of the regular meets. She finished 7th overall out of all those kids! Check out her concentration!

Today she only had one event, the 400 relay. She's on a team with 3 other girls, and ran the 2nd leg. Usually she runs 3rd, and so she was receiving and handing off differently than in practice. No sweat though (well, actually they were quite sweaty, but you know what I mean). She ran her heart out ... so much so that after the curve and heading into the straightaway her shoe fell off!!! Can you believe it!!! Undaunted, she kept on running with one shoe on and one shoe off. She was so worried she'd be disqualified, but there was no penalty at all. Another team mate retrieved her shoe, and when all the scores were tallied, her 4 person team came in 3rd place overall ... out of 18 teams or something like that!

I love how she persevered despite losing her shoe! That's my kid ... make lemonade, babe! She kept her focus which is commendable for a 12 year old. Doesn't she look triumphant standing on the podium getting her ribbon? She's the one in green with the bangs.

What ever will we do next weekend without track and field meets? Hmmm .... well, I think we (meaning hubby man and son) should get those raised garden beds built and planted. For gardening inspiration, check out Kalyn's awesome blog here. I've also got a group of 6th grade girls coming over to make blankets for Project Linus, a great charity that distributes homemade blankets to kids in the hospital. Oh, and then there's the fact that my sister will be visiting from Illinois. Plus, there's my wee one's birthday party. Oh yea, we'll find something to do! I need a vitamin. And sleep. Lots of sleep!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I need a clone!

It's official ... I need a clone. Not want one; I neeeeeed one. Way back before children came on the scene and hubby man and I were part of the corporate world, we periodically had someone come in and clean the house. Ridiculous, I know. Especially since I would clean before the cleaning woman showed up. What was that all about? I have this "thing" about not letting anyone see the house untidy. (Just like Snidely Whiplash had a thing about train tracks.) Oh, and I didn't want anyone to change our bed linen. Also, a stranger doing my dishes ... uh, I don't think so. So what's the point of having a service if I cleaned before she arrived and then didn't want her to do half the stuff? Needless to say, the service was cancelled. I preferred to just get it done myself.

Now, with 3 active offspring, 2 housebound cats, 1 non-stop hubby man, all day homeschooling and then all night homework-ing with the non-homeschoolers, I concede defeat. My constant cleaning days are hereby, officially over, yet I still want a clean house. Since I still have a "thing" about anyone seeing an untidy house, getting a cleaning service is out of the question, plus I'm just too cheap. So, to me, the most obvious choice is to get a clone. Someone that knows just what I want done and how I like it done. Though we would still be outnumbered, between the two of us, I think we could manage it.

Until I figure out how to split my DNA (I do homeschool, you know), everyone, yep everyone, must pitch in. (Insert family groan here.) It's a work in progress, but eventually we'll get there. And the troops are learning. On Mother's Day, the morning dishes were done for me, and I was treated to eating out -- not carryout -- at the restaurant with just hubby man. This was the kids idea, so don't think for a minute that I planned something to exclude them on Mother's Day. Nope, they came up with the idea and off I went. Hmmm, now that I think about it, they are suggesting that often ... wonder what they're up to. Anyway, living in suburbia, we have a plethora of restaurants to choose from, and one of my favorites is a Thai restaurant in the neighboring city. So, 15 minutes after leaving home, I was seated at said restaurant, staring lovingly at the menu. Not a take out menu; nope, it was the actual restaurant giant size menu. We had a great meal and, even better, no dishes awaiting me when I got home. My idea of heaven.

While eating at the restaurant, I commented to hubby man how nice the interior of the restaurant was. It's not a big place, but has a loyal customer base due in part to the great food and attentive staff. As we left the restaurant, we both agreed that we should dine there again soon. Today, hubby man sent me an email showing me what happened to the restaurant ... a car drove right through the front entrance area smashing tables and decor in it's path. Thankfully, the accident happened inbetween the lunch and dinner hour, and the restaurant was empty except for staff. Gosh, I couldn't believe it. We were just there!

Good news though, the restaurant will reopen, so future eating out plans remain intact. And, uh, looking at this photo reminds me, it's time to get the brakes on the car checked. And, sigh, time to put the laundry in the dryer. I repeat, I need a clone!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

My baby rocks!

And they're off! Well, almost. That's my offspring #3 in green lining up for the 1500 meter race in the 2008 CYO Meet of Champions that took place today. Man, I get winded just thinking about running let alone actually getting out there ... in a race. Not in this lifetime, baby. Anyway, that's my peanut in green, getting ready to run her socks off. There were over 500 kids participating today. Yep, you read that right - 500! Luckily for her, she inherited her daddy's love of participating in athletics. This is her first year participating in CYO track, and she totally rocked today!!! This is a big deal folks. She's the youngest on the team, with some girls being 2 years older than her. In addition to her high velocity performance in the 1500, she also ran the 400 meter, and participated in the long jump. She had so much fun today. In fact, when she left the house this morning with hubby man to head out to the field, I told her that her only job today was to go and have fun. And, she did! My baby rocks!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Hoagie Beef

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? For the past couple of weeks, everywhere I turn ... newspaper, tv, blogs ... I'm greeted with sumptuous photos and recipes for hoagie style hot beef sandwiches. You know the kind ... yummy hoagie style bread layered with steamy, thinly shaved roast beef. Some are smothered in savory toppings like sauted golden onion slivers, or roasted peppers, or creamy cheese sauce. Are you salivating yet? These sandwiches are not for the faint hearted. It's the type of thing you envision lumberjacks requesting after wrestling with trees. It's a chewy sandwich and requires a supersize drink to wash it down. It can stand on it's own without the addition of lettuce or tomato, and a simple salad is a perfect accompaniment. A half portion is perfect for me for lunch, but nothing less than two will do for hubby man. My 12 year old son, who prefers his plain -- meat and bread -- would snarf down as many as I would allow -- but then he's a growing boy, quite lumberjack sized himself!

Today, as I was assembling the ingredients for this feast of a sandwich, my young man followed his nose into the kitchen and announced that he'd like to make one, too. Picture me, deer-in-headlights look followed by two rapid, hard blinks, responding, "Did you say you wanted to make one?" My son, my oldest, my "mom, please-do-this-for-me" child, was unphased by my dumbfounded expression and says, "Yeah, can I make one?" He then launches into his explanation of how he makes his grilled cheese sandwiches and that this wouldn't be that much different. All the while, I'm standing there blinking over and over until his next words shake me free of the trance. "Mom, just tell me what to do." I'm thinking to myself, "Well, son, first you can peel me off the floor and help me adjust to the fact that you asked to do something for yourself instead wanting me to do it for you." At that very moment, just like the scene in the movie When The Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch's heart grew, my inner-mama's heart got all warm and fuzzy as I realized that my little man is indeed growing up and will be able to take care of himself. This is what we mom's do ... prepare our kids to venture out into new self-reliant territory. It was a good moment, a little bittersweet, but still very good. In all fairness, my young man has been maturing by degrees this past year. Just this past week, he's made his own breakfasts, and now he's making steak sandwiches.

This sandwich is a cousin to a french dip and is so easy to assemble. All you need to do is make a simple white sauce and as soon as it's thickened, whisk in some good quality provolone cheese. You could substitute whatever cheese you like .. a combo of mozzerella and parmesean would be good. Remove from heat; sauce should be smooth and fairly thick. Season the sauce with several grinds of black pepper and a dash of sea salt. For the meat, slice steak as thin as you possibly can ... super thin ... thinner than paper thin. Quickly saute it in a non-stick pan, seasoning it as you prefer. Remove it from the pan, and place it on a plate, cover with plastic wrap or a paper plate to "steam" the meat. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to the pan you prepared the meat in, and saute sliced sweet onion just until the onion starts to soften. Now assemble your sandwich. Slice the hoagie roll open without cutting all the way through. Spoon some sauce on the bottom, layer a heaping portion of steak, and top with onions. My littlest offspring, who can't have wheat, eats her steak rolled in soft corn tortillas ... hold the sauce, pile on the onions.

My next venture will be to make a hoagie style sandwich using pulled pork. Yummm, maybe with some coleslaw to go with it. Southern Italian folk smile upon pork recipes, and I'm, you guessed it, of southern Italian heritage. Check out Marjie's version of a great pulled pork sandwich. My son just about crawled through the screen to get at her posted photo.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Science Kudos

Offspring #2 is a happy clam, or should I say 6th grade pseudo-scientist. Hard to believe just 6 months ago, said lab coat wearer wanna-be was not so keen on the subject. Then came ... drum roll please ... the Middle School Science Fair. And so began her quest to find the perfect project. Only a few criteria were enforced: No experimenting on any living creature (whew, her siblings were in the clear) and no toxic chemicals (whew, no need to call 911 and haz-mat). She decided upon testing phototropism, specifically if certain types of colored light affect phototropism. Learning the outcome of this could improve the plant's life cycle as well as help develop efficient ways to grow food resources. Yeh, yeh, we try to be a green family. Protect the earth and all that.

Ok, we need a second drum roll here .... #2 dd took 1st place in her division at the school fair, thus qualifying to compete at the regional level. The regional level is a seriously big deal around here. The competition is much stiffer, and they had qualified professional individuals judging the materials. The interesting part was that parents, teachers, and anyone other than the exhibiting students and the judges were not allowed into the judging area, which was cavernous. So, my little Einstein put on her dog and pony show without anyone around to lend support ... she knew no one there ... not the kids and certainly not the judges. The exhibits, by the way, were incredible. I've seen the future ... and I think society will be okey-dokey. These kids are smart!

Anyway, offspring #2 gave her presentation, remained poised while she answered tough questions, and walked off with 2nd place and a ji-normous (yes, that word applies here!) trophy! She was outstanding! We are very happy for her!!! The gal who won 1st place did an outstanding job, too. Offspring #2's school wrote up a nice little by-line in their school newsletter.

My budding scientist was homeschooled for about a year and a 1/2 before returning to our old private school. I'm so tempted to pull her out and homeschool her right along with her twin offspring #1; however, she's coming out of her shell and is happy where she's at, so I'll just bide my time. This coming out of the shell is coinciding with her major growth spurts. She's almost as tall as me. Hmm .... I can only hope that my authority will not decrease as her height increases.

Congrats Offspring #2! I'm so proud of your accomplishments!

PS: By the way, said offspring was also appalled that she's referred to as offspring. Can you hear her cry of disbelief? "Offspring? Offspring? You are calling us Offspring on your blog? Mother (with heavy emphasis on the "ther" sound ... kind of drag it out like this: Muh THURRR), I am a human being with a name." My reaction will have to wait for another post!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dreamy Beanies Please

My littlest offspring #3 was really sad yesterday. This is newsworthy because #3 is usually the happiest living being in the entire universe. Really. She's definitely a "cup 1/2 full" kind of child, so her quiet, glum little expression caused warning bells to rouse me to full mommy mode. After a quick check to insure that she wasn't feverish, and pulling her onto my lap, I asked "why the sad face, little peanut?". The proverbial dam burst open and the little lass poured out her dismay that she can't eat anything anymore. Ah, I fully understand. You see, in the past couple of weeks, I've removed, as best as humanly possible, wheat from #3's diet. Despite doctor's reassurances that stomach aches are common in children and that I should simply ply her with antacids, I've decided to trust my gut, as I should have long ago, and retort that no it's not ok for a child to have this many stomach aches, particularly a well adjusted, well loved, well liked sprite of a girl. Soooo, I removed wheat and what do you know ... no more tummy aches. Plus, both #3 and offspring #2 don't drink milk and can only have limited dairy (it's a milk protein thing, not a lactose thing). Now, while that may seem daunting, I'm pleased to report that there are actually zillions of choices of what to eat. Mostly meat, seafood, fruit, legumes, rice and veggies ... all of which are good for you. I'll admit that I miss being able to whip up a big batch of pasta (it's an Italian thing), and sandwiches and pizza are out, yet I also have to admit that it's actually working out quite well. An adjustment, for sure, but not that bad. Anyway, back to youngest offspring ... after a nice heart to heart chat, I got out my cookbooks and had her flag any recipes that she would like me to make. Said cookbooks now sport about 10 zillion post it notes flagging her stomach's desire. Her first request was "dreamy beanies, please" A variation of that wonderful concoction known as white bean spread; it's easy, fast, and full of protein. Simply blend white beans cooked with garlic, olive oil, rosemary sprig, a couple grinds of sea salt, and sage. (remove the rosemary before blending) A finishing drizzle of olive oil and a couple grinds of pepper make it a great appetizer or light lunch. I mash it by hand, but it's also delightful whipped up in the food processor. This photo shows it pared with Rice Chips. It's great spread on crostini, too. Next is our full flavor Santa Fe Stew. This made the entire house smell heavenly. I made it with ground turkey, but the meat can be completed omitted or feel free to substitute whatever type of meat you like. This comes together quickly, so prep everything in advance.

2 T olive oil
1 lb ground meat (I used turkey)
Salt to taste
1 large onion diced
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon (yep, cinnamon)
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 cup minced peppers (I used a combo of Anaheim, Poblano, and regular green)
2 T chili powder
1 cups chix broth or water
1 medium (2 lbs) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 can red beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a dutch oven, and add the meat, onion, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Cook over low heat until the onion is soft, about 10 min, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic, peppers, and chili powder. Cover and cook about 5 more minutes. Add the broth or water, stir and cook another 5 minutes. Add the squash and lemon juice. Stir, cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes until the squash is cooked, but not mushy. Gently stir in the beans, cover, and cook for about 5 more minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt if you desire it. Serve hot as is or with warmed soft corn tortillas, a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, a little bit of cilantro, and sr. cream.

PS: Offspring #3 is once again a jubilant little sprite.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Food of the gods

Soup ... aaahhhh .... steamy bowls of yummy comfort that can bolster a body to perform great feats. How did Napoleon conquer other nations? Why he ate soup first, of course. And the Trojan War? Sorry Helen, your face didn't launch a thousand ships after all. It was soup those Spartan warriors coveted. What enabled Washington to conduct his famous feat of Crossing the Delaware? Yep, soup again.

Uh, ok, perhaps I'm bending history a bit. But I adore soup. Heaps. I'm Soup Girl. I mean, come on, who doesn't love soup? Well, *sigh* actually 2/3rds of my offspring turn up their noses at any foods that touch, plus Hubby Man isn't a big fan. He's more of a meat/potatoes guy. What cruel twist of fate is that? He's married to Soup Girl! However, less servings of soup for them, means more bowls of goodness for moi and offspring #3. Every week, I lovingly assemble the bounty required to prepare several servings of the wonderful stuff. Is it fancy or hard to make? Nah. Is it good? You bet.

This recipe started off as many good recipes do. I had guests coming over and needed to prepare something wholesome ... just some chicken soup and bread. "Ok", I say. "No problemo." So, off to the fridge I go, pull open the door, and start the up and down cartoon motions of taking stock of the shelf contents. Hmm, carrots? Check. Celery? Nope. Let's see, plenty of cabbage and zucchini. A quick side glance at the counter reveals lots of onions and garlic waiting to be used (I am Italian, afterall). Alrighty then, now I just need some chicken. Could have sworn I just bought some. Where is it? Come on, fridge, just give up one plain old cut up chicken. No dice. However, there is a package of ground chicken. Right bird, wrong format. Dare I make soup with ground chix? Could I doctor it with *wince* canned broth? New territory for Soup Girl, but yeh, I think it can be done.

Not only can it be done, it's awesome. One of those recipes where you don't measure anything, just chop, drop, and stir on instinct. Like Grandma would do. The kind of good where you sit down and don't talk with anyone because it would prevent you from eating. Where you want to pick the bowl up and let the last drop drip into your mouth. I like using the ground chix so much, that whole chickens are relegated to the inside of my roasting pan instead of the stock pot. Here's the loose recipe. Don't be put off by the list ... it comes together in a flash. Really. Use whatever you've got. It's a Chix Veggie soup, but would answer to the name Use Whatever You've Got.

2 T Olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced with sea salt (old wives trick)
1 clove garlic sliced paper thin
5 carrots sliced or diced in smallish pieces (think: what will fit on a spoon)
1 baby zucchini sliced or diced like the carrot
1 cup finely shredded cabbage (can omit or substitute napa or even bok choy)
1 lb ground chix (or turkey)
2 cans Low Sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson)
1 can of water (add more if you like lots of broth)
4 oz white wine (chardonnay is good)
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (or 1T dried)
scant teaspoon dried thyme
Season salt to taste (Spike is good)
scant teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (yep, dill)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup leftover rice or noodles (I like to use "wild" rice)
Dash Hot Sauce - optional (I like it; Offspring #3 eats it plain)

Have all ingredients ready to go. Set a large stock pot on medium high heat. As soon as pan is heated (not smoking), add the oil and immediately dump in the onion, minced salted garlic, and carrots. Stir. Let the vegetables soften a bit, stirring frequently, no more than 3-4 minutes. Dump in the cabbage if using as well as the zucchini and sliced garlic. Let wilt for maybe another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. The goal is to soften, not brown or carmelize. Adjust your heat if necessary to keep veggies from browning. Now comes the fun part. Add the ground chix, stir into the veggies and break it up with a spoon or spatula. Do NOT brown the meat. Immediately add all the broth, water, wine, herbs and seasonings. Bring to a vigorous rolling boil and stir so that the meat is evening dispersed throughout the liquid (like chili). Plop a lid on the pot, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the left over rice, heat through for about 5 minutes, and viola, serve your chix veggie soup with crusty bread. (I usually add a dash or two of hot sauce to my bowl.)

This gels up just as if I had made it with homemade stock; especially when prepared with ground turkey. It's high in fiber and low in salt. Plus, the meat stays on the spoon (an added plus as I'm also Laundry Girl). I get requests from friends for this soup. This concoction is a Soup Girl favorite and is pretty to look at, too. Although, in this case, the best part of the photo is my late grandma's soup bowl. Growing up, every summer I ate many a bowl of pastina or wedding soup out of those bowls. Miss you, Grandma!