Homemaking

Chicken Soup…for the Stomach

It is no wonder that one of the most popular inspirational book series is called Chicken Soup. Few foods illicit such strong feelings of warmth and comfort. Most of us remember fondly the Campbell Soup commercials of the little boy coming in out of the cold to a piping hot bowl of this magic elixir. And of course, we all have heard of the mythical healing powers in those steaming bowls of chicken soup. So today let’s finish off the last of that Sunday roasted chicken: a few morsels of meat clinging to the thigh and back, the golden crisp skin and not to be forgotten the mineral rich bones.

Before we move into the kitchen, let’s rate this homemade version against the canned variety on our four Frugal Family core values:

Family first. As with other homemade options we have discussed if preparation time were the only measure of this value, then the canned variety would clearly win. But if we include intangibles like sharing the cooking experience and the pleasure of the homemade variety, then this one can be deemed a draw at the very least.

Saving money. Clearly the homemade variety wins in this category. A tin of store brand chicken noodle soup costs about forty-five pence (fifty cents USD) and holds approximately two portions. With my leftover chicken and noodles that were destined for the bin or compost heap and a couple of cups of fresh vegetables costing less than the can, we will make enough to feed four to five people.

Environmentally friendly. Again the homemade option clearly offers the advantage of producing no waste. In fact, it actually consumes food products that would otherwise end up in the bin or in my case partially in the composter. So while the aluminium tin may well be recyclable, the homemade version does better by reducing waste.

Healthier. Besides the obvious fact that the homemade version allows you to better control added salts and sugars, it also offers you the opportunity to alter the recipe to the likes, dislikes, and nutritional needs of your family. Soup is usually one of the main food products that I offer to my post-partum doula clients. It makes an excellent lunch that is both nutritious and delicious…plus since the first two weeks of food is offered as part of my package it is economical too. Of course, boiling the bones for a prolonged period of time as the homemade option does means that those highly valuable micro-nutrients such as iron and calcium leach into the broth. In addition, the most healing property of traditional chicken soup is actually the garlic, natures anti-biotic. Last week, we had nasty colds so I increased this ingredient to half of a head; something more difficult to do with a tin.

So now that we now why we should spend the extra time to make our homemade chicken noodle soup, let’s go into the kitchen and make it.

The ingredients
The ingredients

Begin my boiling all of the leftover chicken bits, including bones and skins; use enough water to cover it all. Add your garlic at this point as well so that it too can infuse with the chicken into a rich broth base. Once you have brought it all to a rolling boil, turn down the heat and allow it to simmer. Remember the longer you boil it the more of those micro-nutrients will get into the soup. This is especially important if you are ill, recovering from an accident, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Minimum simmering time is approximately half an hour, but two or three hours is perfectly acceptable; just make sure to add more water if necessary. Once you are satisfied, allow this broth to cool. Then pick out the bones and skin. If you are serving small children you may even want to use a colander to drain these out.

Now, using our creative cooking skills, look inside your fridge for vegetables to add. Today I found:

  • Celery
  • Carrot
  • Onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet peppers
  • Broccoli

When working with vegetables, a golden rule is the more colours you can add naturally the more nutritious it will be. This selection I used basically had every colour of the rainbow except blue; but I just did not think that blue berries would taste that good in chicken soup. But a handful for desert would fill out our rainbow of vitamin and minerals. Now bring our broth with those wonderful bits of chicken back to a rolling boil on high heat; add your fresh vegetables and simmer for another half an hour.  I happened to have a container of leftover spaghetti from dinner a couple of nights ago. But if you don’t you can add dry pasta and cook until that is done to your taste (my family likes it al-dente). Remember though that for variety or to change the nutritional values, you can also use rice or potatoes.

The finished product
The finished product

Now serve it all up piping hot with a smile. While it may have taken several hours from start to finish the amount of prep time is actually less than fifteen minutes; mainly to pick the meat off the bones and sieve the broth and to chop your fresh vegetables. While this makes an excellent light lunch, it can serve as dinner as well by adding a salad and some bread.

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