Old-Fashioned Cooking: Chicken and Noodles

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Real chicken and noodles starts with heritage breed chickens.


In this modern-day-take-it-out-of-the-freezer-and shove-it-in-the-microwave world, we often lose sight of what real food tastes like. Not too surprising, when you look at the ingredient lists on most prepared foods. Many so-called foods have more chemicals than food ingredients. I figure if you can’t even pronounce half the ingredients, you shouldn’t rely on it as a major food source. On the other hand, just think about beef stew or chili simmering slowly through the day, ready to warm the cockles of your heart – not to mention your cold hands – come dinner time. Or home-made breakfast burritos or Cornish pasties, stored in the freezer for those mornings when you can barely find the kitchen, let alone think up a menu.

If you want to watch my husband get excited about something, tell him you’re going to make this dish. Actually, he’ll get excited about almost anything made with chicken, which seems a little odd for an Idaho cowboy. In his younger days he could put away most of a fried chicken all by himself – although he would choose dark over light meat every time. Whenever we went to visit, his mother always made either this dish or fried chicken – sometimes both if we were going to be there for a while. As was the case with so much of her cooking, she didn’t use a recipe. She cooked by eye, feel and experience. So of course, the first few times I made this, hubby would taste and tell me it was good, but not quite like Mom’s. Having already been through this with red velvet cake, I just kept making it as she had taught me. Eventually, even though I had not tinkered with the original recipe, he decided it was “right.” This is another one of those dishes that really does taste better if made with home-grown chicken, preferably a heritage breed. It also makes a difference if the eggs are ranch grown and parsley is fresh-trimmed from the garden. With simple dishes like this one, premium ingredients are important.

Chicken and Noodles
Place a whole chicken in a stockpot and add enough water to just barely cover. For richer flavor, toss in the vegetable peelings (onions, carrots, celery) you keep in the freezer for making stock. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam and then simmer until the meat is falling off the bones – four to six hours. Remove the chicken carcass and all the meat scraps. Strain the broth, discard the veggie peelings and put the broth back in the stockpot. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a pinch – no more – of sage. Pull the chicken apart with two forks so it will cool enough to handle. Shred the chicken and cut into bite-sized pieces. While the chicken is cooking, make the noodles as directed below. Bring the broth to a boil. Cook the noodles in the boiling broth for three to five minutes. If there is still a lot of excess broth, either drain the noodles or scoop out the extra broth – this is not supposed to be soup, but more like a wet casserole. Add the chicken and stir a couple of times. Serve with a generous sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Home Made Noodles
You can make this with a pasta machine if you have one, but I think it’s faster to roll out a sheet of noodle dough and slice with a sharp knife.
2 cups flour – ordinary all-purpose is fine
½ tsp salt
3 large eggs

Dump the salt into the flour and give the flour a few stirs to mix it in. Make a well in the center of the flour and break in the eggs. Gently mix in the eggs with a wooden spoon, gradually drawing in flour to make a very stiff dough. Knead the pasta for 8 to 10 minutes until it is smooth and satiny. Add ½ tsp water if the dough is too dry and won’t stick together, or sprinkle with a little flour if it’s too wet. Cover the dough tightly with plastic and let it rest for 45 minutes – do not try to skip this step or you’ll spend a lot of time cussing while trying to roll out the dough. If you’re using a pasta machine, follow the directions for your machine from this point on. If not, divide the dough into four equal portions and attack it with a rolling pin. Add flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. You want it as thin as possible, since it’s going to plump up when cooked. Use a sharp butcher knife to slice into ribbons about ¼ to ½ inch wide. Cover with plastic wrap until you’re ready to cook the noodles.

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The Ranch Wife’s Wardrobe – Jeans

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Jeans through the years.


Back when I was young, jeans (although more commonly known as Levis) were considered the sort of thing one wore for gardening or horseback riding. They didn’t come with sequins or embroidery. They weren’t pink or emerald or bright yellow. They weren’t skin-tight, because you needed to be able to move. They sat at your waist, not half-way down your hips. Now that fashions have changed, it’s not easy to find jeans that still meet those requirements and don’t cost an arm and leg. Hubby prefers Carharts for work pants, but they are too stiff and heavy for me. By the time I get them broken in, I have road rash from the material.
I wear jeans Every.Single.Day. I need them to stand up to irrigating, gardening, enthusiastic puppies who haven’t learned not to jump on me or cats who think my leg is a climbing or scratching post. They have to take mud, oil, grease, blood, manure, compost, pig slop and food spills in stride. If I climb through a barbed wire fence, I don’t want my jeans to snag and rip halfway down my leg because the material is too flimsy. Not to mention that those jeans tend to allow my tender flesh to rip as well. If a rattlesnake strikes at me when I walk through some high grass, I want pants that offer a bit of protection.

Worn white at the stress points and abraded from day-to-day activities.


Definitely past the point of a little wear.


Still hanging in there but not for long.


So herewith a shameless plug for LL Bean. Their old-fashioned Double L jeans meet all my requirements and wear like iron. Take a look at the jeans in the top picture above. The first pair are between one and two years old. While they’re started to fade a bit and have a few stains, they’re obviously still in great shape. The second pair is about four years old. The stress points are white, the cuffs are beginning to fray here and there, but they are still very serviceable. The last pair has about reached its useful life span at five years of age, although they would be a good choice for something like a messy paint job.
Let’s hear it for jeans that help a ranch wife do the job.

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New Chicken Coop

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We have a new chicken coop – actually, two. This project has been a while in the making. After three back surgeries, hubby is a bit limited as to what he can do at one stretch. So projects like new chicken coops get sandwiched in between other things like irrigating, feeding, road repair, mechanicing and the really important stuff like getting ready for hunting season. In my quest to raise my own chickens through clan mating, I needed a total of three coops. They had to be sited in places that were relatively level but with a slight slope away from the coop, so rain wouldn’t puddle up in front of the door and make a sloppy mess or run inside. Afternoon shade is also necessary in our hot summer climate. Finally, they had to be bear-proof, to prevent total destruction of coop and chickens. If I seem to focus on bears, it’s because they have the necessary strength to tear things up; foxes, skunks and coyotes are easy to deal with.
So here we are – two new coops to augment the old one. The chickens have been banded in three different colors, with the setting hens also wearing an additional red band. Can’t raise your own without some hens that will set, although I also have the incubator for backup. Eventually, I want another pair of coops and pens just like these so all the chickens are in the same spot. But right now it’s hunting season, so that project will have to wait a bit…

A little backhoe work to make things level; pavers to keep the wood out of the wet.


Making sure things are straight and level.


The basic framework; making one long coop with two doors and openings saves material, time and labor.


Starting to take shape.


Interior view before the wall goes up.


Notice how the door is flat with the wall; keeps a bear from getting its claws in and ripping the door off.


Bear-proof latches at top and bottom of each door.


Countersunk screws; heavy duty for a nice, tight, bear-proof coop.


Home-made horseshoe hinges – it’s nice to have a handy hubby.


Heavy duty corners to foil bears and add support.


Small wire around the bottom helps keep chicks in.


Hardware cloth under the eaves supplies ventilation but keeps out predators.


Next boxes with a hinged lid for easy access and cleaning.


Nice clean eggs and plenty of room.


The finished product in classic barn red.

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