What do I do when my son wakes up sick? I put on a pot of his favorite soup as I’m brewing my coffee. It’s the first thing I do when I come downstairs, as if by robotic nature.
I roasted a chicken for dinner Thursday night, and whenever I roast a chicken (once a week!), I save the carcass- the bones, skin, and any drippings from the roasting pan, and pour it all either into a zip bag or container to store for future stock-making.
Sometimes I have a specific plan for it- maybe a stew, chicken and dumplings, or pot pie later in the week, and sometimes I don’t. In that case I just cool the stock and pour it into a large zip bag and freeze it flat on a cookie sheet so it stacks up like records in my freezer.
This recipe I created for him a couple years ago when he was sick with a cold, and after having him request it every time since, I knew I had a winner. To see the look on my child’s face after he has processed the fact that he’s sick, that he can’t play today, that he can’t go to school today, then suddenly light up when he realizes it’s also the day that he gets to eat Mama’s Chicken Noodle Soup…is something I cherish so very deeply.
You can believe that chicken soup heals or doesn’t heal, feeds the soul or doesn’t, but you can’t ignore the fact that making your sick baby smile from a steamy bowl of homemade goodness, when they have had nothing else to smile about, proves that magic lies somewhere beneath that steam.
So today, on this morning, when I woke up knowing my first baby was sick, I knew exactly what my skin and bones were meant to be.
*Abbey’s Chicken Noodle Soup
I begin with making chicken stock, but have had to use pantry stock before in a pinch- no problem! I usually end up making this soup with 3 cups to 1 quart of chicken stock so use the large cartons of store-bought stock that are equivalent to 1 quart.
Here’s how I make my stock (always from leftovers)-
Place the cooked chicken bones, etc. in a stock pot and cover with water. Throw in any aromatics you have around. Sometimes I’ll just add some bay leaves if I’m in a hurry but ideally it would be a bit of raw onion, carrot and celery. And if I know ahead of time that I’m making stock, and have previously chopped said veggies, I will save the ends and peels for this (like the cleaned peels from the carrots you will be using to make this soup). Do not salt yet. Bring the pot to a boil and cover with a lid. Allow to simmer, covered, for as long as you can bear it- several hours…all day if you’d like (adding more water if necessary as it boils). When you’ve reached the point in time where you have to proceed, turn off the pot and allow the stock to cool with the bits and pieces still in the pot. Taste to check seasoning – add salt if necessary. Once cooled, strain the stock over a fine mesh sieve.
You can store this stock, covered, in the fridge for making the soup later or proceed with the soup now. In the sieve, pick off any meat that was previously clinging to the bones and reserve to add to the stock. (And usually I have leftover cooked chicken that I will add to the soup later as well.) Skim off any fat from the top of the liquid and discard.
Use the same stock pot if you’re making the soup now…
In the pot with the stock, add 2 large carrots- peeled and diced (and/or parsnips, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, any hard root vegetable that you happen to have on hand). Cover again with lid.
Allow the carrots to begin to cook as you bring the stock up to a boil. Cook in the gently boiling stock until just fork tender- 3-5 minutes. (At this point you can add whatever other softer veggies you may want to add to your soup- diced, raw zucchini is good in the summer, as are chopped, raw green beans. But most of the time I keep the vegetables simple- carrots and (frozen) peas and corn, because that’s what I always have on hand.)
Once the carrots are fork tender, add 1/2 cup or 2 oz dried pasta of choice. I always prefer a whole grain pasta and try to make the shapes fun for my son- wheels are his favorite. Boil the pasta in the stock for 5 minutes, as it will continue to cook. The pasta will absorb a lot of liquid so feel free to add water if need be and adjust the seasoning.
When the pasta is done, add in 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes. This is what I believe sets my soup apart from the rest. It gives it a rich and complex flavor, an umami, so to speak. And it gives my soup some added fiber, protein and B12. Stir to ‘melt’ the yeast into the stock. (It will turn it a yellowy color and thicken it slightly.)
Next add in about 1/3-1/2 cup, or large handful of frozen peas and corn, and a large handful of small pieces of shredded or diced, cooked chicken.
Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon or a bit of zest. Parsley is also nice.
Serve warm to someone who needs a hug.
(Be sure to store any leftovers with the solids strained from the liquid so the pasta doesn’t become mushy. Simply combine and reheat when needed.)