Tips and Tools Tuesday – Chicken Soup Be Prepared

I hadn't had the flu in 36 years, so I guess it was my turn.
I haven't posted in awhile because I've been sick.

This post doesn't have better photos yet, but will as soon as I feel better.
I hope the delicious Chicken Soup recipe that follows will make up for the lack of photos.

It started February 22. I started coughing and sneezing. Although this was an unusual start, I thought I was coming down with a cold. My husband had the same symptoms the day before, so, I went home and made some chicken soup. I thought it would be comforting to us both.

Well, the next day, I had a fever. Not high, just 100. I was thankful that I had thought to make the soup the day before.

We both had a respiratory flu. Our stomachs were fine and we could eat anything, but, the chicken soup just tasted good.
Well, I missed a week of work and coughed so hard that I bruised a rib.

By March the 5th, I felt well enough to go back to work. I was still coughing, trying to rid my lungs of the congestion, but, faithfully taking cough medicine every 4 hours kept that to a minimum. I worked Monday and Wednesday and by Thursday and Friday I hardly coughed at all. Yay!

Well, I worked Saturday. Cold weather had moved in and unfortunately I was in and out of it all day. The cold air made my coughing worse. By Sunday I was running a fever again. This time 102. Plus, my stomach just didn't feel right.

I went to the Dr. Monday. This time I have a stomach flu. 🙁 And Infected ears and sinuses, and pleurisy. 🙁 🙁

The homemade chicken soup was long gone. My husband came home from work and heated a can of store-bought chicken soup for me. I usually keep a can or two in the pantry in case of emergency. The flavor tasted good, but, the white meat in the soup was tough and difficult to chew when I can't breath through my nose and mouth breathing makes me cough. It took FOREVER to eat my one ladleful of soup.

See, when chicken is heated to high temperatures, as they MUST do in the canning process to kill any bacteria, it makes the meat tough. I'm not a fan of white meat in the first place. It's usually dry and chewy and needs a lot of gravy. Unfortunately, all store-bought chicken soup contains only white meat. (If you know of a brand that has dark meat in it, too, please leave a comment with it's name.)

After the Dr.'s diagnosis Monday, I knew I needed more chicken soup. Did I feel like cooking? That would be a great big NO! But, I wanted chicken soup. Toast and hot tea only satisfies for so long. And my recipe is very easy and only takes about 20 minutes to get it cooking in the pot.  I could do 20 minutes.

That's when I decided, when I feel better, to make an emergency batch of chicken soup and freeze it in quart-size plastic containers. Then, I'll never have to chew, and chew, and chew my way through a bowl of soup again!

Here's my recipe.

1 Tablespoon of butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, I like LouAna brand because it doesn't add any coconut flavor, just the healthy benefits.
2 whole carrots, peeled and diced.
1 large stalk celery, diced.
1/2 of a large onion ( about 4" in diameter), or 1 small onion (about 2 - 2 1/2" in diameter), diced.
1 whole chicken (If you like all white or dark meat, go for it. Just get bone-in and skin on. There's much more flavor
to it.) My way of cooking it leaves the white meat tender and easily chopped and shredded if you like.
1 small bag of noodles. Your choice. I use small flat egg noodles. I'll post my homemade egg noodle recipe another day.
3 quarts of water.
Salt (I use Kosher) and Pepper to taste.

In a 4 quart pot, over medium heat, melt the butter and coconut oil.
Add the diced carrots and cook about 5 minutes while you dice the celery.
Add the celery and cook that about 5 minutes while you dice the onion.
Turn the heat down to medium low.
Add the onion and cook until it's translucent. You want the onion to cook slightly, but, not get any browning on it.
Add salt and pepper. I start out with a full pinch of pepper and a large helping of salt. About 2 teaspoons. It may seem like a lot, but both chicken and noodles soak up a lot of salt. You'll most likely add more later, but, this will give you a good starting point.
Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and add the water.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat.
When it just starts to simmer, lower the heat to low to maintain a low simmer. YOU DO NOT WANT TO BOIL YOUR CHICKEN. That's what makes it tough.
Simmer until the chicken is tender and basically falls apart, or tries to, when you remover it from the pot.
Remove the chicken and allow to cool slightly till you can handle it without scalding yourself. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, bones, and cartilage and discard them. They've given off their yummy goodness. Carefully feel for any stray tiny bones or cartilage and remove them.
Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.
While the chicken is cooling, turn up the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil.
Taste the broth. If it's really bland, add another teaspoon of salt and maybe another pinch of pepper.
Taste it again. If it's better, but still not quite there, wait until you add the chicken back. Sometimes the salt absorbed by the chicken will be just enough.
Add the amount of noodles you wish, and boil it for the minimum minutes on the package directions. The noodles will continue to swell and absorb more liquid, so cooking them to the minimum time leaves the noodles with a better texture.
When the noodles are done, turn the heat back to low.
Add the chopped chicken and cook a few minutes until the chicken is just heated through.
Taste it again, and don't be surprised if you have to add more salt.
It's ready to serve. (I have left it on low for 30 minutes or longer until we were ready to eat. On low, the chicken did not toughen up and the noodles did not get mushy.

Note: When I made Monday's batch, I started out with frozen chicken. I only had Leg quarters on hand and they were frozen solid. So, when it was time to add the chicken to the pot, I just put it in frozen and turned the heat to medium low. When the water heated up, I turned it to low. Yes, this way it would take awhile to come up to a simmer, but, it allowed it to gently thaw before cooking. And, that way I could just rest for awhile. I wasn't worried that the pot would boil over or that the outside of the chicken would be cooked to death while the inside remained raw. It thawed and cooked evenly.

As always, I hope this tip has been helpful.

Diane

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