Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sick Days and Chicken Soup

Last October, I started working at a local Mother's Day Out program.  I teach music to children ages 1-4.  Its a lot of fun, and the kids are sweet.  They also are frequently sick with colds.  Which means I have been frequently sick with colds since shortly after I started working there.  That's where I am right now, on cold number three from my kids.

Twinings Lady Grey with clover honey
When I'm sick with a cold, there's two things I want.  1: Hot tea with honey and lemon or honey and milk. (Never with milk and lemon- nothing as gross as curdled tea!)

And 2: Chicken soup.  I know, I know, it's totally cliche.  But there's a reason it's a cliche- chicken soup does make you feel better! It's true! Growing up, that meant Campbell's chicken noodle soup. Not because my mom didn't make a good chicken soup- she absolutely did! I think it was probably because it's easier to make a can of soup for the one person in our family who was sick than to make a WHOLE POT of soup.

Now, I'll admit that I like Campbell's chicken noodle soup. It's salty enough- a lot of commercial and homemade soup have a hard time getting that balance right. There's also some decent sized chunks of chicken in there.  But honestly, I'd rather have a good homemade soup.

The problem with this is that I don't have a good "I'm-sick-and-I-want-chicken-soup" recipe.  Mom's chicken soup is actually Brunswick Stew, and though it's very yummy, it's not what I want when I'm sick.  I've searched all kinds of websites for the ultimate chicken noodle soup recipe, but none of the ones I've tried have worked out the way I want. They're not salty enough, or there's too much tomato, or not enough acidity, or the wrong kinds of vegetables; bland or yuck.  So I decided to just go with my instincts and make up my own. Here's what I did and how you can do it, too:

Peel and cut up a couple potatoes-1 sweet and 1 regular. Also finely chop up an onion (I used a 3/4 onion that I had left in my fridge) and press 3 or 4 cloves of garlic.
one russet, one sweet
Garlic smashed with the flat of the knife

All chopped up

Heat up some olive oil in your soup pot. 

Put 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts in the hot oil, sprinkle with Baby Bam,(an Emeril blend you can find here), and squeeze a lemon over all.

Cook the chicken until it's almost done- not pink inside, but not fully cooked either.  Remove it to a plate and let it rest a few minutes
This looks tasty! But don't eat yet because its still a little raw inside!
Dump your cut up veggies into the pot. Add a little salt, maybe half a teaspoon.
Pot liquor left after the chicken cooks

Veggies taste great cooked in pot liquor!

Stir your veggies around, don't let them burn. While the veggies are cooking, cut up the chicken.  Add it back to the pot when the onions are translucent and starting to caramelize.
Cut it all up
and put it in the pot!

 Pour a quart of chicken broth in the pot and add 4 cups of pork bouillon- 8 tsp of bouillon and 4 cups of water.  You might want to add another half teaspoon of salt, too.

Also add to the pot half a bag of frozen green beans, half a can of diced tomatoes, and a handful of baby spinach.  To be honest, I meant to add the spinach to the potatoes and onions as I was sauteing them, but I forgot.  You could always try it that way, I think it would be good.
green beans
Bring the pot to a boil.  Boil for a few minutes and then turn down to medium low.  Add two or three handfuls of pearl pasta or orzo or some other minute pasta, and let it cook for another ten minutes or so.

I'm no photographer, but I think this is a nice series of pictures!
 Check your seasonings, correct, and serve up! 

 Not only is this a pretty soup (see all the orange and green?!), but I feel pretty good about it, too.  There's a lot of veggies in it, which always makes things a little more worthwhile in my opinion!

I just ate my soup by itself, but I think that it would be great with some crusty bread, maybe with a little Parmesan or Romano cheese grated on top.

 What's cooking in your kitchen?!

Savory Chicken Noodle Soup
Olive Oil                                                                          3-4 cloves of garlic, smashed 
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts                             1 quart chicken broth
2 tbsp Baby Bam                                                             8 tsp pork bouillon                    
1 tsp salt                                                                          4 cups water
juice of one lemon                                                         1/2 can chopped tomatoes
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped               1/2 bag frozen green beans
1 medium regular potato, peeled and chopped             handful of baby spinach
1 medium onion finely chopped                                    3 handfuls of pearl pasta

Peel and cut up potatoes, onions, and smash garlic.  Heat olive oil in a pot, saute chicken with Baby Bam, half tsp salt, and lemon juice. When chicken is almost done, remove from pan and rest. Put potatoes, onion, and garlic in the pan and saute. Cut up chicken. When onions are translucent and starting to caramelize, add cut up chicken back to pan along with broth, bouillon, water, tomatoes, green beans, and spinach. Add remaining salt. Bring to a boil.  Let boil for 3-5 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Add pasta.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.

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