First of all, I wanted say a big thank you to all of you who reached out after my last post. All of your messages were so welcome and warmly received. I send love back to all of you, especially to those of you who shared your own stories of loss with me. I’ve been slowly but surely finding my way back into myself, one slow, quiet day at at time. I recently came across a beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda that I’ve been thinking of often:
“The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”
So I’ve just been living in the middle, with things neither great, nor terrible, and I have to tell you, it feels pretty good. As hoped for, October was really peaceful. I’ve been focusing on getting our home back in order as we spent most of August and September turning it inside out in order to move the girls into a shared bedroom. We have been spending a lot of days unapologetically home in our sweat pants, going for small outings to visit friends, pick up loads of books from the library, and short jaunts to the grocery store to get ingredients for dinners.
Our meals have stayed pretty basic: risotto, soups, roasted vegetables, ramen, fresh pasta, roasted chickens but I’ve been really enjoying my time in the kitchen again, which is no small thing. I almost always have at least one of my kids under my feet, standing next to me on a step stool, or literally clutching onto the tails of my apron begging for tastes of Parmesan cheese, thin rounds of carrots, or dipping their fingers in mayonnaise and dressings. Often it’s both of the girls together bickering over who gets to dump the ingredients into the food processor, and who got to push the pulse button more times.
Lulu has been my big kitchen “helper” lately. She loves mixing things together and it’s a great way of letting her get familiar with the ingredients that will end up on her plate. She’s not a big dinner eater, often deciding that she “doesn’t prefer” her dinner and asking to be excused barely having taken a bite. However nonchalant she feels about eating, she loves cooking with me, and I happily embrace that.
One meal that is happily devoured by everyone at our dinner table, Lulu included, is simple, satisfying Chicken Noodle Soup. There’s no clever twist on my recipe and you could probably search the Internet and find a dozen similar recipes. It is basic, rich, fortifying, and wonderfully simple. The key to this recipe is using homemade stock, nothing quite compares to it. If you have the day to while away you could make the stock the same day, if not you could use previously made stock, saving the chicken soup bones and ends to make a whole new stock for the next round of soup.
I usually start with either the leftovers from the previous night’s roasted chicken, or roasted chicken breasts. For the roasted chicken breasts I simply place 2-4 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts on a roasting sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, season them with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and place them in a 375º oven for about 35-45 minutes, until their internal temperature registers 160-165º F. I remove them from the oven and allow them to cool before removing the skin, peeling the meat from the bones and shredding it with a fork (reserving the skin and bones for stock). You really only need two roasted breasts for this recipe, but I always roast four and use the others for enchiladas, salads, mac and cheese, etc.
Other than using homemade stock their’s no real secret to this recipe, it’s important to add the ingredients in careful order so that nothing becomes overcooked, season as you go, and I’m a big believer in cooking the pasta on it’s own before adding it to the individual bowls of soup. I don’t like the starch that pasta adds to the soup when the noodles are cooking in the soup itself, and I can’t handle the mushy, swollen bites of pasta in my leftover soup. It’s worth bringing a separate, heavily salted pot of water to a boil and cooking the pasta al dente. I love to serve this soup with my garlic bread.
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
leftovers from 1 whole roasted chicken or two whole roasted chicken breast, shredded
6 cups chicken stock
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon each: dried oregano, dried parsley, dried thyme
1 pinch each: nutmeg, paprika
1lb bow tie or penne pasta
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
In a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat, add the onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent and just begins to brown around the edges, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, carrots, celery, herbs, nutmeg, and paprika. Sauté for another couple of minutes before adding the broth and chicken. Bring the soup up to a nice, gentle simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaf.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook about 1/2 cup of pasta per person until al dente. Drain the pasta and add a bit to each bowl before topping off the bowl with the hot soup. Mix gently together and enjoy.
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP