Chicken Noodle Soup for the Broken Hearted by L

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My Mama’s Chicken Noodle Soup, excellent with Allison’s Cornbread!

“I used to hate this when we were little,” my brother said, one night as I served our mother’s chicken noodle soup for dinner.

“Me too,” I replied with a laugh.

“But now, I really like it,” he added, as he raised a spoonful of soup to his mouth.

“Me too,” I answered as I continued to enjoy my bowl.

This conversation took place some years after we had been living in our newly adopted city of Prague, far away from our hometown, far away from our family. It made me wonder if all that distance and missing “home” had somehow made this soup tastier and more delicious than ever. Even after so many years, I still haven’t found it easy to live in one place and have my heart in another. For me, that about sums up the biggest challenge in the life of an ex-pat.

My daughters and I have just returned back to Prague after two months of living la vida loca in my hometown of New York City. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, cousins and childhood friends galore visited us and filled our lives with joy and happiness. Although we have a wonderful and loving group of friends (who are like family) in Prague, there was still something that felt very sad about coming back “home.”

All you need is...

All you need is…

In our family, the word “home,” holds so many different meanings. We have our “home base” in Prague, but then there’s our “home” in Spain and there is also our “home” in New York City. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining here. I truly appreciate that we get to experience all these different places and live a life abroad. I just wish there was a way that we could live it with our families close by. That would probably ease the pain of having to say good-bye at the end of each stay and my heart wouldn’t be shattered to pieces. Parting seems to be a lot more difficult now that I have entered this new stage of life. Since becoming a mother, I swell up with truckloads of emotions when it comes to leaving my family. It saddens me that my kids won’t see their grandparents on a daily basis or have the chance to drop in on their cousins anytime they want. In my life B.K. (Before Kids), this thought rarely crossed my mind. Now, I try to find many ways to cope with the great distances and deal with the long separations. Thank goodness for Skype, I guess.  I know I’ll get over it as soon as our Prague life returns to order, but I will still miss my family. So, maybe this is why the first thing I wanted to cook when we returned home was my mama’s chicken noodle soup.

It’s a very simple soup. The most important ingredient you need is a good broth. Now, don’t skimp out and throw in a cube of chicken bouillon. It really doesn’t take much effort to make a pot of homemade chicken stock. You will definitely notice a difference!

I can’t remember why I disliked this soup as a child. These days, I cherish every spoonful. I hope you will too!

A cure for the broken heart: Chicken Noodle Soup

A cure for the broken heart: Chicken Noodle Soup

Mama’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Broth:

1/2 chicken with bones

10-12 cups of water

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. thyme

1/2 tsp. sage

1 bay leaf

Salt to your liking

Cut the chicken into pieces.

Put all the ingredients together in a deep pot.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 30 minutes to 2 hours. (The longer the better 🙂

When it cools down, remove chicken and discard bay leaf.

Discard the skin and begin to shred the meat off the bones into thin pieces.

Return shredded pieces of chicken to the pot.

Set aside.

For the rest of the soup:

2 medium-sized carrots, julienne style

2 sticks of celery, sliced thinly

1 onion, chopped

1 cup of cabbage, sliced thinly

1/2 cup of elbow macaroni

In a shallow frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil.

When ready, add the onion and cook until translucent.

Then add the carrots and celery.

Stir and cook until tender, but still crisp.

Reheat the chicken stock.

When it starts boiling, add the onions, carrots and celery.

Lower flame to a simmer.

Let it cook for about 20 minutes.

Then add the cabbage and macaroni.

Cook for another ten minutes or until cabbage and pasta are done.

Optional: Pour 1/4 cup of milk or cream. (My mom always added this in at the end, it was a Filipino thing :))

Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Enjoy with Allison’s Gluten Free Cornbread and remember all those happy days with your family!

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Arroz Caldo Comfort by L

Last week, every family member’s immune system under our roof, was attacked by some terrible and nasty germs. Stomach virus, bronchitis and respiratory infection were the evil characters that crept into our systems and viciously brought us down. Fortunately, one member of our household was able to fight off all the naughty culprits and take extra special care of us. That was Lola (that’s Grandma in Filipino.)

Arroz Caldo (with Chicken on the left, with Tofu on the right) topped with fried pieces of garlic

One of the foods I crave when I’m sick is my mother’s Arroz Caldo. Yes, these are Spanish words that you are reading, but it’s also the name of a dish in the Philippines. A literal translation would be “rice broth.” For me, it’s the ultimate comfort food for all kinds of ailments and I begged my mom to cook it for us. It may look like an ordinary bowl of porridge, but it’s not. The heavy amounts of slivered ginger, finely minced garlic and homemade chicken broth will quickly nurse you back to your regular self. Ginger can soothe that sore throat, garlic helps boost your immune system and the chicken broth, well, we all know what a good bowl of chicken soup can do for the soul, right? (My dear vegetarian friends, don’t feel left out! There is also a veggie version of this, and a stock of fresh vegetable broth has all those healing properties and more!)

Lola choosing her bird

Lola D purchased a whole chicken from the Andel farmers market that takes place every Friday in the Prague 5 neighborhood. She also picked up some local garlic, but the sweet glutinous rice and ginger used in the recipe, were bought at specialty shops around town. My mom is a big believer in the magic of garlic, so she never holds back (remember that she didn’t fall ill, hmmm?) However, if you have no need to fend off vampires, feel free to decrease the amount.

Local Czech garlic

For my one year old daughters, Lola made a milder version (less gingery and peppery) to keep them nourished during their phase of discomfort. As the season continues to change with viruses and infections lurking through the air; searching to invade and disrupt our immune systems, I hope that you will be well protected. However, if you are in need of some extra armor or a remedy, a bowl of Arroz Caldo should do the trick!

“Gimme my porridge!”

Arroz Caldo  (feeds 6-8)

1 small chicken, cut into pieces

1/4 cup of thinly sliced ginger

1 head of garlic and then another 10 cloves, all minced

1 onion, chopped

3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 tablespoon of fish sauce (patis in Tagalog) OPTIONAL

1 cup of sweet glutinous rice

1 cup of jasmine rice

8-10 cups of water

1-2 strands of saffron

salt and pepper to taste

Cut the head of garlic in minced pieces.

Heat oil in a small frying pan.

Fry until golden brown.

Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil and add the 10 cloves of minced garlic and ginger.

Cook until slightly golden.

Add onion. When it is translucent, add the chicken.

Turn heat to low and continue to saute for about 15-20 minutes.

The chicken should “sweat” and begin to add some juices to the mixture.

Afterwards, add both types of rice, patis if you are using and then 8-10 cups of water.

If you want a thick porridge, stick with the lower number. If you want a more soupy porridge, use 10 cups of water.

Add saffron.

Let it boil and then lower the heat.

Cook until rice is thoroughly done, about 40 minutes.

Season to taste.

Serve with sprinkles of roasted garlic, extra fish sauce, or lemon or soy sauce or vinegar or a combination of any of these condiments.

(Note for Vegetarians: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken and cups of water. Take a block of tofu and chop into pieces. Fry in 2-3 tablespoons of oil. When porridge is ready to serve, top with fried tofu, ginger and any of the above mentioned condiments.)