One of the recipes I can cook almost with my eyes closed is chicken soup. Which just goes to show that practice does, indeed, make perfect. Not only is this the perfect meal on a cold snowy day, it also brings back fond memories of my mom who first taught me how to cook this. And that’s in fact when the photos below were taken, in 2012 when I cooked this soup for her because she had a bad cold and I am quite serious when I say: This soup cures the common cold!
Tonight eating chicken soup was the perfect antidote after a crazy week that saw me get buried in bookkeeping as well as sorting through a bunch of Excel spreadsheets with email addresses for the Washington Pilot’s Association. I had volunteered to take over their newsletter and decided to step it up a bit and use Mailchimp instead of the usual email where everyone is just bcc’d. I didn’t really have time to do all that this weekend but now that it’s all set up it will be easy to manage going forward.
Emotions also ran high this week after I came off my successful 10-day cleanse. I had lost 5.5 lbs and was feeling great and even had been sleeping better. Alas, it didn’t take long for the cooking monster to get all stroppy and defiant, she was feeling too stressed and did not feel like cooking. So it was back to good old take-outs for two nights in a row, topped with some sweet treats. Ugh. The hardest part are the feelings of guilt and failure which immediately put me into binge mode. This diet mentality is so hard to shake off when you’ve lived with it for decades. And while I do want to lose at least enough weight to help me sleep and move better I do not want to return to the old diet-binge cycle.
Even though my self-awareness is fairly astute I am still learning things now that my focus is on finding ways to enjoy cooking more. While some people cook for stress relief I am the opposite way, I do NOT want to cook when I feel overwhelmed and tired. But this week I noticed something else. It’s NOT the stress that’s the problem, it’s how I react to it by tuning out and removing myself from the present moment. That’s when I stop caring and eating mindlessly. Which was actually a very helpful realization and affirmation that all I need to focus on are two things:
Awareness and Presence.
So tonight, as we are all cozied up inside while the wind and snow are blowing around the house, I focused on the simple act of chopping the veggies and preparing everything for this delicious soup, enjoying the texture and colors as I went along. My husband set the table and an hour and a half later we enjoyed our steaming bowls of homemade goodness. Here is the recipe which is of course very adaptable as you can use your preferred vegetables and herbs.
Ulla’s Homemade Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken or 4 chicken quarters
1 big onion, peeled and cut into half
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp cloves
2 bay leaves
4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 celery stalks, sliced
1 container baby spinach
6-7 vegetable bouillon cubes
1-2 tbsp of fresh or frozen chopped parsley and tarragon
Pepper or cayenne pepper to taste
Elbow or any other smallish pasta
Brown or white rice
- Start by cooking the chicken. Wash and place it into a big pot and fill with water until chicken is just covered. Add onion, peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer for about 60-70 minutes, depending on size of chicken.
- While chicken cooks prepare the vegetables.
- When chicken is done take it out and put on a board or large plate. Push down the skin, this helps cool it a bit for when you are ready to take off the meat.
- Place a strainer over a second large pot and pour in the soup water, straining out the onion and spices. Put the new pot back on burner and bring to a simmer, add the stock cubes and stir. My pot has an engraved volume scale so I can see how much water it contains once the chicken has been removed. I use that as my gauge for the number of stock cubes, approx. 1 cube per half liter/16 fl oz.
- Next add the vegetables in this order in 5-minute increments: carrots, celery and finally the spinach.
- While the vegetable are cooking remove the meat from the chicken and place into a container. If it’s still too hot I use a fork and knife, otherwise my hands.
- When you add the spinach you can also put in the tarragon & parsley.
- If you are adding pasta I usually cook that separate because there is alway soup left over and the pasta goes too mushy if left in the soup.
I use vegetable stock cubes that I get from Germany, like my mother I use them to flavor a whole array of dishes. I haven’t found anything quite as good over here so I would say just use your best judgment, I’m sure Knorr or similar is fine. Don’t go for salt-free or super low-salt versions as I basically use these to add the perfect saltiness to the soup, no additional salting is required! If you’re not sure how many to add start on the low side and just add more at the end.
I often cook the chicken the day before and put the meat into a tupperware container once cooked. Then I place that and the soup into the fridge overnight. This way the fat in the soup solidifies and can be removed easily the next day before reheating the soup and continuing with the vegetables. Makes for a lower fat yet still delicious soup!
And that’s it! If you decide to cook this let me know how it goes and send me some pics.
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