It’s no secret that I’ve been sixty-five since I was twelve. My friends all jokingly call me mom (and some even call me grandma), as I not only enjoy the senior citizen-friendly past-time of watching 20/20 on a Friday night, but I’m pretty sure I skipped the whole “clubbing” phase of my early adulthood in favor of cozying up in my living room for a more intimate affair with a few friends, a bottle of wine, and smarty pants board game. I’m also the one they turn to when they want a bit of nurturing and comfort, which is how my chicken soup tradition started.
During my senior year at college, on a frigid Chicago winter day, I found myself surrounded by puffy-eyed, crimson nosed, cold and flu-infested friends, whose mothers were all at least 1000 miles away. Somehow, I managed to avoid the plague, and was the only healthy one of the bunch. I remember thinking that if I were sick, and my mom was nearby, she’d rush over with a warm pot of soothing chicken soup, but since our mothers were all in other states, the onus was on me. I called my mom and all of my extended “moms,” in an effort to make the best pot of soup, combining elements from all of their recipes. My goal was to make a huge batch, in order to freeze individual portions, and deliver them to my mom-less friends as needed. As I finished my first round of deliveries, word got out that I may have found the cure for the common cold, and I started receiving requests. I’m pretty sure a couple of those deliveries went to people with fake coughs, but it warmed my heart nonetheless that I was able to provide a little bit of comfort to my fellow students who were far from home.
To this day, I still keep individual portions of soup in my freezer, because you never know when a friend might need a little Jewish penicillin to kick that cold to the curb…Or maybe they’re just looking for a little bit of home-cooked comfort in a bowl.
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 3 chicken breasts (can be boneless or with bone)
- 1 Tbs seasoning blend (I prefer salt-free Greek seasoning)
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 parsnips, peeled and left whole
- 2 dried bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 package of egg noodles
- 1 Tbs Italian parsley, chopped
- *A pinch of bijol seasoning (found in the Latin food aisle of your grocery store) (optional)
- In a large stockpot, saute the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium to high heat, until the onions are translucent.
- Add the chicken breasts, and stir in the seasoning blend, salt and pepper.
- Cook the chicken until both sides brown, then add the chicken broth, water, parsnips and bay leaves. Cover the pot, and let cook.
- After 30 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and set aside to cool. Lower the heat on the pot to low.
- Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred the meat, and return it to the pot.
- Return the soup to a bowl, remove the parsnips and bay leaves, and add the noodles. Cook the noodles according to their package instructions.
- Add more salt and pepper to taste, as well as the chopped parsley and the optional pinch of bijol seasoning.
- Either serve immediately, or let cool and freeze individual portions for future use.