Easy, allergy-free chicken noodle soup


We love soup around here!

Spring is here which also means “soup season” is on its way out.  Luckily in my part of the world, {insert sarcasm} a nice freeze is guaranteed to show up right after I decide to plant my garden.  The good news is I’ll have an excuse to make several more pots of homemade chicken noodle soup.  Since I haven’t figured out how to add extra hours to my day just yet, this meal is a time saver for a busy family.  It’s also very flexible.  While Will and I prefer chunky vegetables in any soup, some of our children tend to conjure up thoughts of arsenic and cyanide at the sight of chopped celery, carrots, or onions; veggies can be blended until completely invisible.

Of course, there is no dispute that homemade chicken noodle soup is a defensive line powerhouse against colds, the flu, and other viruses.  It contains a host of natural healing properties that rival the best OTC medications.  Even when my eyes are glazed over and limbs have been reduced to less flexibility than Barbie herself; I can turn out a pot of this with little effort.  Enjoy!


    • Whole fryer
    • 32 oz. organic free-range chicken broth (Organic choices tend to be gluten and additive free. Watch for high sodium content!
    • 1 – 12 oz. bag of gluten-free noodles (I use GF/DF fusilli. If there are egg allergies in your family, make sure and check the labels.)
    • 5 medium carrots
    • 5 large stalks of celery stalks
    • 1 medium onion
    • 1 to 2 pressed garlic cloves (Garlic is a natural antibiotic.)

**This soup can also be made without store-bought broth. Increase water to compensate and salt to taste.**

1.  After removing the neck (keep it!) and any giblets (with parental supervision, this can be a fun job for kids), rinse the whole fryer plus the neck and put it into a large pot.  Cover with water and cook thoroughly.  Make sure and keep an eye on the water level.  (Inattentiveness on my part has led to a robust, charred flavor a time or two.)

Boiling times vary; if you happen to forget to give your fryer enough time to thaw out completely in the refrigerator (like me on occasion) it can take a little longer.  Most of my bird’s average around 4 lbs. and boil anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half.

2.  While your chicken is boiling, either chop your celery, carrots, and onion, and into small pieces or puree everything in a high powered blender.  (The latter is much quicker and makes my children a lot happier but is not nearly as pretty.  Who cares about appearance when they’ll eat it, right?)

3.  Remove boiled fryer from the pot and set into another dish to cool.

4.  Add in your chicken broth and chopped/pureed veggies plus the pressed garlic.  Boil until tender.  (Obviously, puree takes no time at all.)

5.  Debone chicken and remove as much meat from the neck as you can.  (Make sure and use all of the dark meat around the bones as well.  Connective tissue is a valuable asset to the soup’s curative properties.)  Have the meat ready to go when the noodles are finished.

6.  Add to the pot any combination of; salt, pepper, garlic powder, and/or season salt to taste.  Other options are e.g., oregano, cumin, basil, thyme, bay leaves.  (I like to experiment.)

7.  Pour in noodles and cook until almost tender. (If you cook them completely, they will become mushy very quickly.)

8.  Dump in all of the shredded chicken and stir. (We prefer lots of chicken in our soup. Adjust to your liking.)

9.  And…that’s it!


I always keep a whole fryer, chicken broth, and noodles on hand just in case…

The power of encouragement

When I became ill in 2012 after the birth of our fifth son, and we decided to have our children attend public school for a year; all of their educators were an answered prayer during that difficult time. Yesterday I had the blessing of running into one of Drew’s third grade teachers. Within a minute of speaking to her, it was easy to see why my son had flourished under her instruction:

She is an encourager.

Whether by nature or discipline, encouragers have a way of bringing out the best in everyone they encounter and motivating them to achieve…

Greatness; awesomeness; desire to (sometimes unknowingly) fulfill the role God designed them for.

As I pondered my conversation with Drew’s teacher, I was astonished by the way she took a simple discussion of, “How are you feeling?  How is the family?” and turned it into an opportunity to build me up in less than ten minutes!  There I was exhausted; my brain packed with concerns over things I hadn’t accomplished yet she was able to calm my agitated spirit, leaving me with renewed strength to recollect myself.

Being a parent, positive reinforcement and praise are a big part of raising our children; and who wouldn’t desire to uplift a family member or friend dealing with hardships?

But do I strive to consciously use my words to encourage others at every opportunity; particularly when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious reason to do so?

My son’s teacher had no idea how difficult my day had been; I made sure to don my “I’ve got it all together” face before I left the house.  From appearance alone, I looked to be cruising along without a hitch.

Her encouragement came not through visually seeing my anxiety but because she understands the importance of continually lifting others up above herself. 

Using the Word of God and biblical principles He set in motion, the Lord gave all of us the ability to influence others in positive, life-changing ways.  What a powerful character trait to carry throughout our time here on earth!

Why would I not want to invest energy in strengthening such a wonderful tool in myself?  Why wasn’t I?  Sure, some individuals are natural encouragers but after some serious self-examination, it was clear to me that I had chosen to accept whatever capabilities I employed to build another person up as being just “good enough.”  I mean, painting a silver lining for a friend can be effortless when we recognize the need but what about emboldening others…just because?

And what about encouraging those I am at odds with?


I had arrived at a sore spot.  Journeying through this life, it is nearly impossible to not find ourselves in disagreement with someone.  Whether it be family or friends; a co-worker or classmate; even a fellow brother or sister in Christ, we will not see eye to eye in every circumstance that arises.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1 Peter 4:8-10 NASB

As I thought about the implication of these verses, it was clear that neither Paul nor Peter indicated I should only “encourage those I agree with”; they meant EVERYONE.  Period.  With Drew’s teacher (and apparently now mine as well) fresh in my thoughts, it was easier for me to recognize why God desires us to continually build others up:

Encouragement changes how the giver and receiver views themselves and others. 

Encouragement emphasizes the best in both parties; softening our often strict criticism and harsh perspectives of one another we may unfairly hold onto.  Encouragement is expressing love to an individual despite what we ascertain as their flaws and serves to remind ourselves of our own shortcomings.  When we encourage a person whose viewpoints don’t coincide with ours, it is much easier to see where there is beautiful harmony between us in Christ.

When I make a choice to inspire and bolster the confidence of someone else, it allows us both to attain spiritual growth.

Lesson learned.  May I work more diligently to not just uplift and praise the obvious; the uncomplicated but be challenged to intentionally insert words of encouragement into every conversation…especially those where I struggle to find peace.



Mom socks

No, those are not my ankles...

No, those are not my ankles…

Imagine my surprise the other day when we were out for a walk and as my eight year old leaned down to tie his shoe; a vision of blue covered in polka dots popped out.  He was wearing a pair of my fuzzy socks!

“Sam, those are my socks!”  I was in a state of giggles and shock.
“I know,” he said, “and they fit my feet perfectly.”

What? This is not supposed to be happening. I have boys–boys don’t wear girl socks.  This is one of those battles where being in an all-male house was meant to work in my favor.  Not only that, but he had on my “mom socks”; my comfy, around-the-house (sometimes the grocery store if I have on jeans–no shame here) socks.

After raising boys for twelve years now, you’d think I’d be used to the concept that nothing is off limits.  I mean, these are the same kids that fashion my headbands into slingshots, confiscate my nail care products for survival kits, and use kitchen utensils that resemble weapons in any way, shape or form (thaaat’s…pretty much everything) to go into battle.

As I pondered these facts and the visibly assaulted socks, it struck me that a pattern was occurring.  My oldest had been caught red-handed with my favorite pair of lime green running socks on several occasions lately.  (Who cares that he ran in them more than I had in an entire year; they were mine!)  And Drew had on some of my whites ones a few days ago that I had yet to see come through the wash again.  (I am certain I will end up donating those to him.)  I hated admitting this to myself but I knew what the culprit was; the dreaded “community sock basket.”

Apparently, many homes contain one of these to some degree.  Ours is very scary and intimidating.  I’m not really sure how over half of the socks belonging to seven people don’t come through the laundry with their mates but…they don’t.  I promise you; I can put a pair into the dryer together and one will go M.I.A.; hence our machine’s nickname the “Great Pit of Carkoon.”  (Sarlacci exist and no one can convince me otherwise!)  It is because of this reality that I created the “community sock basket.” It can be a magical place complete with happy reunions of long, lost sock mates or a death trap; anything in that container is free game.

I had several choices to consider in solving this problem:

1.  Clean my clothes separately from theirs and fold them immediately.  (I really liked the sound of that idea but have learned over the years that being “real” with yourself is the best way to function as a homemaker.)

2.  Start buying socks with pink princess and flying unicorn themes to deter them.  (Something in my gut said they would wear them anyway since 30 minutes outside in red sand would make Barbie and Batman look exactly alike.)

3.  Tell them NOT to touch my socks.  (Seeing that typed out I can’t believe I allowed it to even qualify as an actual solution…moving on…)

4.  OR start borrowing their socks when mine went missing.

I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

Homemade Granola Bars

Quick.  Easy.  Cheap.  Those three words, plus healthy?  Yes, please!  When we started a new food adventure with the boys earlier this year (more about that later), I needed a snack that was filling and of course, the kids would actually eat.  At first, I tried purchasing several different brands of gluten and dairy free granola bars.  While they did in fact have less preservatives and sugar; the price was ridiculous, the taste was lacking, and they were hard as bricks.  After some research, I found a great blog called Allergy Free Alaska.  Using her No Bake Granola Crispy Treat Bars recipe as a base, I was able to finally create a treat our entire family enjoys.  The best part?  In about 15 minutes, I can put together a healthier version of store-bought granola bars that will last my family of seven an entire week!  High in fiber and protein, and an excellent digestive aid; these little gems are ideal for breakfast on-the-go and pack up great in a lunch.  (Did I mention they taste amazing?)  Once you get the hang of making these, their flexibility allows for dried fruits and nuts in any combination.  Have fun experimenting!

Homemade Granola Bars

• 4 cups quick cooking oats
• 2 cups rice crispies
• 4 Tbsp. black chia seeds
• 4 Tbsp. white chia seeds
• 4 – 5 Tbsp. ground flax seed
• 5 Tbsp. crushed pumpkin seeds
• 5 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
• ½ cup finely shredded coconut
• ½ tsp. cinnamon or to taste
• Dash of salt
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 1 cup honey
• 1 cup almond butter or peanut butter (sometimes I use a half cup of each)
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 – 4 Tbsp. dairy free chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips)
• 11 x 17 jelly roll pan
• Wax paper

Pour all of the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into an extra large mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer).

Dump all the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into a mixing bowl.

Dump all the dry ingredients (minus brown sugar) into a mixing bowl.

Put honey, almond butter (or peanut butter), and brown sugar in a pot on the stove.  Turn the heat on to right under medium and stir for about 6 – 8 minutes.  (This allows the mixture to almost “caramelize” so the granola bars will hold together.)  MOST IMPORTANTLY…do not stop stirring or leave the pan unattended because it will burn really fast!  (I have found that peanut butter tends to brown quicker than almond butter.)

Take it off of the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.  Moving quickly, pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix evenly.  (This takes a few minutes.)  Drop globs of it all over a jelly roll pan and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.

Dump the mixture onto your jelly roll pan and add chocolate chips.

Dump the mixture onto your jelly roll pan and add chocolate chips.

Using a piece of wax paper (parchment paper works as well or even greasing your hand), press the contents down into the jelly roll pan evenly. The key is packing the granola bars super tight and really molding the sides into the shape of the pan!! 

Make sure and pack them tight working your way around the edges.

Make sure and pack them tight working your way around the edges.

Let sit for 2 hours or pop them into the freezer for about 30 minutes.  Flip the pan over onto a countertop or table (a cutting board will be necessary to protect surfaces unless you have a “special” table like mine) and cut to size.  (I use a pizza cutter or sharp knife.)

After freezing or allowing to sit for 2 hours, flip onto a flat surface and cut to size.

After freezing or allowing to sit for 2 hours, flip onto a flat surface and cut to size.

Store in an airtight container, small snack bags or gallon freezer bags in the pantry.  Enjoy!


1)  Mixture is dry and won’t hold shape.  This has happened to me when I’ve decided to use more dry ingredients (e.g., nuts, cereal, seeds). Make sure and increase the wet ingredients (more honey/almond or peanut butter), too or they will not stay together.  If you are at the mixing stage and realize it is too dry, try adding some honey.  I have also used a little coconut oil in place of honey.

2)  So sticky they fall a part. Adding too much liquid will make them too soft and not hold their shape.  If you decide to try coconut oil, I would start with just a tablespoon and increase from there.

3)  Too sweet.  In an attempt to use less sugar when I first started making these, I was substituting agave in place of the honey.  Through research, I do not recommend using agave any longer as it is very processed.  Coconut oil is an optional way of adding sweetness and decreasing the amount of sugar and honey.

It may take a few tries to “perfect” your granola bars but in the mean time, they will taste great no matter what they look like!

To me

There are so many reasons why I love this picture of my boys. It captures our lives perfectly; giving description to our home without uttering a word.

Boys and mud just go together.

Boys and mud just go together.

It’s true. My “normal” involves a lot of dirt and mud. Clean surfaces do not exist in our world. The couch, fish tank, and every possible crevice are packed with; food, toys, and missing items I have long since forgotten about. The socks my kids were wearing before they took this picture are probably still out in the pasture decomposing in the West Texas sun. The above constitutes a bath for them. (We offer spa treatments if you’re interested.) Several days of grime and grit have just been exfoliated from their limbs. I didn’t even have to keep peeking to see if soap was actually being used or their heads were completely submerged underwater; they were more than happy to bathe and rinse each other off in the water hose afterwards.

Individual personalities are pasted all over this picture. Some of the boys were yelling, “Cheese” and others growled it; I could hear, “Hurry up, Mom (so I can sling this mud!)” through their gritted teeth. The artillery of sludge that went airborne following this snapshot covered the yard, trampoline, and back porch. And yes, there were a few tears involved in the battle. (While the “rock-free” rule was instituted, the younger ones didn’t always check their ammo close enough.)

Several articles of clothing were ruined this day. Play attire is a real idea within our home but in all honesty, there are times when I lose track of who is wearing what. Designating outfits for various activities is brilliant except that ours tend to become flexible quite rapidly. I know, I know; I should make them go change first. Occasionally I do but those unforeseen moments…these moments…don’t always last—and sometimes making memories is worth a dirty shirt or two.

You see, I wrote this post for myself today: “To me”. This week has been hard. Raising our boys can be difficult and there are days when I am in the thick of things that I need a reminder of what is important. If I’m not careful, I often find myself going into autopilot. Oh, mom is still in the house but she has checked out. Sometimes I need a picture—a piece of time standing still—to remind me that I am a good mother; to remind me that there are periods in my life when I get too busy; instructing, cleaning (did I mention cleaning?), cooking, and being occupied with other obligations; so much so that I miss out on capturing these flash moments with my boys. Unanticipated laughter and spontaneous fun make for some of the best memories; today I just needed to remember to embrace the gift of joy each one of my children brings into our family.