chicken soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)

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When my mom was very, very sick from surgeries and chemo, my Aunt Johanna would make her this tummy-warming, cure-all soup. Most days it was the only thing my mom wanted, and the only thing she could keep down. Now that she is a stage 4 cancer survivor (!!!), we still make this soup when anyone is ailing. A cold, the flu, even the slightest sniffle is enough excuse for me to whip up a huge batch of this comforting soup.

In part, that’s where my belief in food as comfort came from (no, I’m not talking about emotional eating…though I have been known to make these cookies at the end of a bad day!) Watching my mom perk up when she ate something she liked (and at that point, eating anything at all) was a beautiful moment to witness. Food was just as healing as medicine. And nowadays, if someone is sick, or has had a new baby, or has suffered a loss, I firmly believe that bringing them a hot meal can make all the difference. If not the food itself, it’s the thought. A Pyrex full of warm soup says I’m thinking about you more than a card or a gift ever could.

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When my little girls have stuffy noses and don’t have much appetite, they’ll still inhale steaming bowls of this soup. But best of all, it takes very little time to make. When you’re caring for someone else, you don’t have time to make everything (or anything!) from scratch. But this soup begins with a store-bought mix, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, and fresh veggies. All you need to do is throw everything in the pot and let it simmer. It’s not some secret brilliant recipe. But the results taste like it.

Another thing: it isn’t a brothy soup like something from a can. It’s thick and rich, chock-full of egg noodles, chunks of chicken, carrots and celery. If your patient needs nourishment, it’s all inside the bowl. You can tweak it as you like, adding different vegetables, more or less noodles, a bit of extra chicken stock. Make it the way your family likes it. And then sit back, turn on a movie, and settle in with your sick little patients and a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.

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Chicken Soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)                                   Printable Chicken Soup

This soup is a creation of my Aunt Johanna. She’s a wonderful cook, and is quick to whip up a batch whenever someone is sick. To double the batch, use 2 packages of soup mix and more stock as needed. Freezes beautifully in Ziploc bags!  

Serves 8-12

  • 1 package Mrs. Grass Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup mix (available at Kroger stores or online at Amazon)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 package (6 oz.) egg noodles (add the full package if you like thicker soup with lots of noodles…I do!)
  • 1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, shredded or chopped
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Bring soup mix, water (Mrs. Grass mix calls for 8 cups), and chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked, 10-12 minutes or according to the time instructed on your package of noodles.

2. Add chicken, celery, carrots, salts and pepper. Stir and let simmer (covered) an additional 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

pasta with creamy roasted vegetable sauce

Have you ever been doing a television interview and been all like, “I just try my best and work really hard. I’m just so lucky to have such great fans. This one’s for YOU, fans!” Then you blush and do your best princess wave, pick up your air guitar and start the opening licks to Uptown Girl. No?

Just me then. Alrighty.

This week has been the sort of humbling, mom-in-the-trenches, peanut butter in your hair kind of situation that would bring Donna Reed to her knees. It’s been so exhausting that its driven me to daydreams about being some sort of rockstar that covers Billy Joel hits. In them I have my own dressing room equipped with bottles of champagne and silk robes and roses. I have my own personal makeup artist and hairdresser. Matt Lauer comes to personally escort me to the Today Show stage in Rockefeller Plaza.

And then I come to, realize I’m standing in the bathroom applying a god-awful shade of mauve eyeshadow, trip over a keyboard shaped like a cat and bang my knee on the toilet.

One of few great (and non-imaginary) things that emerged from this trying week was an incredible pasta sauce. It’s not glamorous. It’s not difficult and it won’t win any blogging awards for creativity or inventiveness. But it is creamy, satisfying, and a healthy weeknight meal for the whole family.

Since my successful foray into vegetarian cuisine, I’ve been anxious to work with roasted peppers again. There’s something about their sweetness, the flavor that roasting brings out in them that I can’t get enough of. Raw? Won’t touch ‘em. But roasted until they’re sweet and tangy? Perfection.

Throw them together with two of my other favorite vegetables—zucchini and carrots—and you’ve got a winning combination that makes a killer pasta sauce. It’s thick enough to coat tube-shaped noodles (my favorites), and makes a big enough batch that you could get two dinners out of it, or freeze half for a hectic night.

So the next time you’re daydreaming about having your own personal assistant who will peel grapes while you relax on a chaise lounge, wake yourself and whip up this sauce. It won’t clean the blackberry jam off the ceiling for you, but it will solve that whole “what’s for dinner” dilemma with ease.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a rousing rendition of Just the Way You Are to sing. My public awaits.

-RDG

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Pasta with Creamy Roasted Vegetable Sauce

Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 55 min

Tube shaped pastas work well with this thick, chunky sauce. It would also be a wonderful in lasagna! Makes approximately 5 cups of sauce. Serves 8-10.

  • 3 sweet bell peppers (red, yellow or orange)
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 6oz can tomato paste
  • 29 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • 1 lb or more of your favorite pasta

Preheat oven to 450F. Dice the peppers, zucchini and carrots into 1/2″ pieces. Toss with olive oil, oregano, basil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with foil and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once during cooking. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes or until garlic becomes aromatic. Add the tomato paste and saute 2 minutes more, stirring often. Whisk in the tomato sauce, milk and roasted vegetables. Simmer over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (you may need to partially cover pan with a lid or splatter guard—sauce will be thick). Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss with your favorite pasta and serve topped with parmesan cheese if desired.

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