I don’t know if you’ve heard me mention on the air that this is my favorite time of year. It’s not sweltering hot anymore. It’s not freezing cold yet. This is the perfect weather to sleep with the windows open, snuggled under a warm blanket. The leaves are changing to beautiful colors, Halloween decorations are out, hayrides, apple cider . . . It’s wonderful!
Cooler weather means I like to cook food that is not only hearty, but warms you up on a cold day and comforts the body and soul. In my opinion, there is one dish that stands above all others: Chicken noodle soup.
When I was a kid, my grandma was always cooking. She always had homemade stew on the stove, or vegetable soup, or something sweet in the oven (yes, I begged to lick the beaters). She had a spice rack to rival even the fanciest of restaurant. It always amazed me that she knew just what to do with all of those mysterious spices and seasonings and never had to measure them.
When I would help her with dinner (which, looking back now, was just me sitting in the kitchen talking to her while she did all the cooking) it was always my job to fish out the bay leaf, and I always felt so important because of that. In my young brain, dinner would have been absolutely ruined had I not rescued the meal from being over-bay-leafed.
Whenever I was sick or on school vacations, I would always get to go to my grandma’s house. I loved those days because I knew that something magical and soul-comforting was going to emerge from her kitchen. She can still make homemade soup like nobody’s business. I think it must be a grandma thing, because I have tried and mine never tastes as good. Do grandmas have some special secret ingredient that they just don’t tell us about? I think so. That’s how they keep us coming back to their house for a visit. Even chicken noodle soup from a can tasted better when I was at my grandma’s house. Maybe that’s why I still find it so comforting to this day.
I found this recipe for chicken noodle soup in a cookbook called Rachael Ray Yum-O: The Family Cookbook. Rachael is a big fan of simple, tasty, healthy meals, and this particular cookbook champions children getting in to the kitchen, as well. I am a big believer that children are never to young to learn how to cook. There is always something they can do to help prepare a meal. My son loves to help mix ingredients in the bowl (sometimes with messy results, but he has fun). My stepdaughter likes to help pick the produce, and chop the veggies. Some of my best memories, as a kid, were helping my grandma in the kitchen, and I hope to create those kinds of memories for my kids as well.
5-6 ribs celery from the heart with leafy tops, chopped
3-4 medium size carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 pound extra-wide egg noodles
1 pound chicken tenders or chicken cutlets, chopped
1/4 cup dill, chopped
2 cups popcorn or white cheddar popcorn, for garnish (optional)
1 cup oyster crackers, for garnish (optional)
Place a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the EVOO. Add celery, carrots, onion and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables to make tender, 8-10 minutes.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in egg noodles and chicken bits and simmer for 5-6 minutes. Stir in dill and turn off the heat.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with some popcorn or oyster crackers.
With proper supervision, and the right sized knife for littler hands, my stepdaughter likes to cut the carrots and celery. I cut the onion myself. She can also cook the veggies in the pot . . . actually, there’s very little that a child can not do to help with the prep of this soup, with proper supervision, of course.
This is one of those perfect recipes for “season-to-taste.” Although, one time I did add a little too much black pepper . . . oops!
When I make this I actually buy 3 quarts of chicken stock, because if you make it ahead, and then put it in the fridge to be reheated later, the noodles will soak up a lot of the chicken stock. So I like to have some extra on hand just in case more needs to be added when I reheat.
If I can find it, I like to use ground chicken instead of tenders. I will cook it separately, like ground beef, and then add it to the pot when I put in the noodles.
If using chicken breast or chicken tenders, they cut easier if they are almost frozen. You don’t want them rock hard, but firm. Just lay them flat on a metal cookie sheet and leave them in the freezer for a very short while. Cutting them will be so much easier, and the pieces will be thawed before you have to put them in the pot.
My family loves to have this soup accompanied with grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Yum!
It’s so easy, and so warm and comforting to the body and soul, especially on a cold day. I love the big chunks of chicken and the big egg noodles in this recipe. It’s almost as good as grandma’s . . . almost. I hope your family enjoys this chicken noodle soup as much as my family does, and I hope your kids enjoy helping you in the kitchen.
It is said that food tastes best when prepared with love, but I think the best meal I ever had was one that my stepdaughter helped me make (or I should say, I helped her). The look of pride on her face from her first successful recipe (Lady bug pizzas, which I will share next time) was beyond words. I was so proud of her!