Chicken and rice soup, banana bars, and all that matters is family 

It seems lately that life has taken on a frantic pace that since becoming a mom I SWORE I would never allow for my family. It’s amazing how innocent new motherhood can be, but that’s a story for another day. Back then, looking at my sweet baby boy’s face, I said I would never allow myself to lose focus on what really matters. Togetherness, family, downtime, blocking the rest of the world out. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s important to teach my kids to let the world in and to be a big part of their community, but I want to make sure they always remember what really counts at the end of the day. For instance, I agreed this year to be the ptsa president for my son’s middle school. I am really enjoying it now that the ball is rolling (shhh don’t tell anyone) but I have to be very careful to not let it take over what I hold dear to me. My family, togetherness, you know the drill. My kids are more involved than they ever have been and that’s to be expected now that they are all getting older. So mostly the weekdays  belong to everyone else. Or it feels that way. It’s a crazy, frenetic pace that exhausts me by Thursday evening. It is hustle and bustle and go go go. And I don’t even have a job outside the home. So come Friday evening I am ready for DOWNTIME!!! The weekends belong to our family!!!  It looks like this…

  
My kids running around PLAYING without time limits. 

  Big Daddy watering his garden while I drink wine on the back porch. No mention of homework, no uniform washing (well I still do that because Monday comes too fast and I am slightly neurotic about laundry but the point is I don’t have to wash uniforms if I don’t want to. There’s joy in that).

I get to sit down and do all of this I want…

  
Now that’s a relaxing Friday. I went to bed at 8:55 last night. It was that relaxing. Last week was absolutely crazy but the bad thing is that almost every since school started has been that way. I worry this is going to become our norm. After holding on to peace and family time for so long, I am not going to succumb to it. I am willing to let the weekdays be a little wild. But the weekends for the most part, belong to us. Cut to I have been up since 5, the guys are hunting (it’s youth hunt weekend) and the girls are sleeping in (God bless the weekend!). So I am in the process of taking back our weekend. That means making one of my favorite soup recipes and one of Big Daddy’s favorite childhood treats…Mrs. Sandra’s banana bars. I absolutely believe good ole comfort food is a vital part of keeping our weekends sacred. Well, I’m Cajun, I actually believe good food is a vital part of everything. Nonetheless, soup and a sweet (and lots of coffee) go a long way in making our weekends something special. A respit from all of the hustle and bustle of the week, an safe harbor in a sea of madness. No really. 

So now for a little back story on these recipes I am sharing. This chicken and rice soup is a Pioneer Woman recipe. It is to die for. I think the first time I made it one of my kids was sick and I was overcome with a sense of motherly domesticity and found this recipe via Google. I always love PW’s recipes and this was a big hit! I am excited to share it with those of you who might not have found it yet. She does apologize in her post for using chicken bouillon cubes and yellow food coloring, so read her post if you want to get the full effect. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/simple-hearty-chicken-rice-soup-itll-keep-ya-honest/     As for me, I offer no apologies for such transgressions.  None. The soup is fantastic and if bouillon cubes and food coloring are the worst of my offenses, then God bless. But trust me, they are not. If the guilt from my bouillon and food coloring use gets too heavy, I will just go confess to Father Mark and say some Hail Marys. This soup is abso-flipping-lutely mouthwatering and full of flavor. It’s one of our favorites. It makes your kitchen smell like heaven. 

PW’s chicken and rice soup 

Stuff you need~

2 chicken breasts with bone in and skin on (the bone and fat are necessary to make the chicken stock…those two things make it extra fantastic!)

8 chicken boullion cubes 

1/4 cup diced onion

1/4 cup diced green bell pepper 

1/4 diced pimentos (from a jar) 

1/4 cup chopped celery  

1 cup cooked rice 

6 tablespoons butter, divided 

4 tablespoons flour 

Few drops of Yellow food coloring 

What to do with the stuff~

First of all, go one and get  your your rice cooking either on the stovetop or in the rice cooker. 

Wash your chicken breasts and cover them with about 2 quarts of water, give or take a little. Drop in those boullion cubes. 

  

Bring to a slow boil and then reduce heat and allow chicken to cook for about 20 minutes  or so. When cooked through, remove chicken from water and set aside. Keep the lovely  chicken stock that you made boiling those chicken breasts at a low slow simmer on the stove. 

Now dice up your veggies. Now we will make a little roux.  Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Whisk in the 4 tablespoons of flour and stir until thickened. Pour this into your barely simmering chicken stock. 

  
Now melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. (I just wash the skillet I just used and use it again) Add your diced veggies to the melted butter. 

  
Cook until tender and then add the chopped up chicken. Mmmmmm

  
Give it all a good stir and then add to the simmering stock that is quickly turning into a bonefied soup. 

 

sooouuup
 
Now, you are in the homestretch. Almost there. Get ready. You are going to add the cooked rice to the soup. 

  

Yes yes yes. Now you have oh so savory chicken and rice soup. Perfect if you have a sick person to nurse back to health (this plus essential oils can work wonders to heal a sick body). This soup is a wonderful dish to cook if your spirits are waning and you are taking respite from the world. Either way, you are golden. Now for the final touch…yep, the yellow food coloring. This is really not necessary but to preserve the authenticity of PW’s recipe, I follow her instructions. 

  
Let this all simmer a bit longer, maybe 20 minutes to let it all blend and mingle. And then you have this…

so much love…

Now for the banana bars!!!
 

his reminder to me…since we had some bananas that were super ripe
 
Now these banana bars are the bomb. Big Daddy lived in Broussard/Youngsville for a long while when his daddy ran the co-op there. Of course his mama, Mrs. Dianne, was a. social butterfly and lovely lady, so she  made some good friends where ever they lived. In Broussard, Mrs. Sandra, Mrs. Linda, and Mrs. Peggy were her top gals. They all had kids (a bunch of boys mostly) and they hung out like a posse. Of course they are all fabulous cooks and swapped recipes. Mrs. Sandra made these banana bars that made Big Daddy swoon. I heard about them from the time we started dating until she finally gave me the recipe a few years later. Back then, I had no idea what a jelly roll pan was so I used a 9 x 13 inch pan. BD said they were a little thicker than he remembered but they were good anyway. So if you do not have a jelly roll pan, don’t fret!!! It’s the weekend and we don’t worry on the weekend! If you want to buy one, here is a link …Chicago Metallic Non-Stick True Jelly Roll Pan, 15 by 10-Inch https://www.amazon.com/dp/B003YKGRVO/ref=cm_sw_r_awd_SEqgwbY3FK75S. If you have Amazon prime,  2 days and you will be all set! I picked up one at Walmart and it worked great. The dimensions you are looking for in a true jelly roll pan are 10x 15 x 1. 

I love that even though BD’s mom is no longer with us, I can still make one of his favorite childhood treats for him. That’s the power of good friend…they keep you alive in many ways. ❤️ That’s  also the power in recipes and passing them on. 

Banana bars 

Stuff you need~

For the bars~

1/2 cup butter, softened 

1 1/2 cup sugar 

1 cup sour cream 

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas) 

2 cups of flour 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract *

1 teaspoon baking soda 

3/4 teaspoon salt 

*I do use vanilla extract but a new favorite of mine is vanilla bean paste, which you use exactly like extract. It tastes so pure and full of that vanilla perfection. I order it from amazon. I heart Amazon if you cannot tell. Just my two cents on a product that I love. 

for the Icing~

1/2 cup butter (1 stick) 

3-4 cups powdered sugar 

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 

3 tablespoons (or more) for thinning the icing 

For the bars: 
Preheat oven to 350. Grease your jelly roll pan. 

 In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, sour cream and eggs. Blend in the bananas and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add this to the other mixture and stir until just combined. Pour into your prepared jelly roll pan. 

  
Now bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. And the kitchen smells like Christmas. No really…Christmas. 

While that is baking, get your icing ready. 

For the icing~

Melt butter in a large saucepan and let it brown just a bit. Just until it is a lovely light brown color. Not dark!! It takes a minute or 2. Stir in a cup of powdered sugar at a time. Add more as needed. I only  use about 3 cups. Now stir in Vanilla. Add your milk to make the icing the consistency you want. You want thicker than a glaze but thinner than a frosting. 

 

see that consistency (and powdered sugar lumps ?)
 
Now once your bars are out of the oven, pour the luscious icing over the “cake” and ice it.

  
Then you get…

  
And everyone shouts hooray!!!!! Banana bars…my man’s favorite and they are gaining popularity!

 

my baby snacking on banana bars in the deer stand during a youth hunt. thank God for banana bars and weekends!!!
 E

Mrs. Sandra giving BD a big mama bear hug at our wedding. so much love!
 
Now we all just wait for another weekend to roll around! God save the weekend!! Hope everyone has a great week. 

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