Distance learning

Winter is upon us.  I know this because: (1) my coworker saw a snowflake, (2) I am now driving to and from work in the dark, (3) the car keeps telling me that the roads might be icy.  These are sure signs that winter is here, but how can this be??  We were just complaining about the heat!  We were just bitter about sweating through our new fall cardigans!  Now, it’s time to put away all cotton skirts and tank tops and replace them with wool sweaters and corduroys.  Oh well, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and I suppose that winter has more to offer than just gray misery and the occasional holiday.  Like soup, for example.  Soup is a healing balm to my seasonal depressive disorder.  For some reason, it tastes so much better to me when it’s cold out than in the heat of the summer months.   So I made the first chicken noodle soup of the season last night and it was the best we’ve had in months. 


When I first got married, I would call my mom, name off every item in my fridge, freezer and pantry and then ask, “So what can I make with that?”  She would then walk me through the process of cooking dinner.  And that’s how I learned to cook.  Would it have been easier had I paid attention to what she was doing while I still lived at home? Probably, but these cell phone cooking classes gave me a concrete way to stay connected to my home and family, even though they were hundreds of miles away.  Over the years, Mom has taught me to make spaghetti sauce, lasagna, burgers, baked apples, meatloaf, alfredo sauce, chili, every chicken dish under the sun and dozens more quick throw-together meals, but the one that reminds me of my mom the most is chicken soup.  My mom usually made it with tortellini and I think she’d throw in some spinach and stir in a scrambled egg. 


So, just in case your mom never taught you to make chicken noodle soup, here’s our basic recipe.


dsc009432 boxes of chicken stock (I use Swanson Organic)

1lb of chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, of course)

4 or 5 stalks of celery (cut into smiles)

4 or 5 carrots, cut into rounds

1 onion (roughly chopped)

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (minced)

Some pasta (egg noodles, tortellini, alphabets, whatever) I usually use ½ of a box, or a whole bag of the Barilla tortellini.

1 bay leaf

More salt and pepper than you’d think

Seasonings and Spices to fix up your stock (parsley, onion powder, celery salt, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, whatever else you think it needs—experiment!)

Little bit of olive oil or butter, for sautéing your veggies


Cut up all your vegetables, small enough so they’ll fit into a spoon with other stuff.  Cover the bottom of your soup pot with olive oil on medium heat and sauté your onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.  Add in your carrots and celery and sauté for a little while, until they’ve softened a bit (add some salt, it will speed up the process), then dump in all your stock, add your bay leaf and any other seasonings your stock needs to make it taste homemade.  Bring this to a boil and let it go for about 15 minutes.


Turn it down until it is no longer boiling and add your chicken breasts.  I have tried dicing them up before adding them to save time, but it really is better if you add them whole, then break them up later—they don’t dry out and they look more chicken-y, if you know what I mean.  The chicken hardly takes any time at all to cook through—less than 10 minutes usually, but once they’re cooked, take them out with a slotted spoon and put them to the side.  Bring the soup back up to a boil and add your pasta.  Let that boil for as long as the package says.


While that is boiling, break up your chicken with your hands (if you have bionic, heat resistant hands like my mom) or with a fork.  Once the pasta is done, reduce the temp so the water is no longer boiling and add the chicken.  Season it up and serve it with some crusty bread for dipping!


This will make enough to feed an army, but it freezes so perfectly that you’ll swear it’s better the second (or third, or fourth) time around. 


Oh, and if you have any problems at all, just call my mom, she has all the answers!


3 Responses to “Distance learning”

  1. 1 ravenpiercey November 11, 2008 at 11:16 pm


    I made this for supper tonight. Great minds think alike!

  2. 2 David November 12, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    Delicious! Thanks Mom in law for teaching this one to Jillian.

  1. 1 Easter Weekend: In Backwards Chronological Order « Hasenfeffer Incorporated Trackback on April 13, 2009 at 3:15 pm

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