Get well soon chicken soup

We’ve been ravaged by illness this week… some type of 24 hour bug that involves high fever and makes it hard to keep food down. When that happens, I make chicken soup.

Soup is the original one pan one process dish. It is really easy, although when you don’t feel good, it might seem like an insurmountable task. Trust me, the result is highly worth it. The science is with me on the benefits of chicken soup.

My recipe isn’t complex, but it does contain many powerhouse ingredients that can strengthen the immune system, including chicken, garlic, ginger, honey, cabbage, and spinach, plus a generous amount of fresh herbs.

First off, wipe off every door and toilet handle with a good cleanser. Wash your hands really well. Then get out your ingredients.

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast
1/2 onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
3 carrots
1/4 head of green cabbage, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups of any other fresh, canned, or frozen veggies you happen have (celery, broccoli, spinach, peas, corn, water chestnuts, etc)
5-8 cups of water
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs honey
A handful of fresh or frozen herbs of your choice (parsley, basil, mint or cilantro tend to work best).
1 cup of small pasta or wild rice.
Salt and pepper
Paprika

Chop the onion fine and grate the ginger and garlic. In a large dutch oven or similar pot, put chicken and onions with some salt, pepper, and paprika, together and let them cook over high heat. You are looking for a caramel color (deep but not quite burned) on the meat. Be patient. This is where a lot of flavor comes from since we are not using chicken broth.

Add the garlic and ginger, soy sauce, honey and water. Start with 5 cups of water and add as much as you desire for your soup. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes. Add any and all of pasta or rice and the veggies except delicate veggies (e.g., spinach, frozen peas) and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add any additional veggies and the herbs. Stir and season to taste.

All I want for dinner is salad and dessert.

Carrot, mint, and cilantro salad is paired with blueberry croissant bread pudding because sometimes no one cares about the mains.

The money shot, blueberry croissant bread pudding.
Fresh herbs, local organic produce, and local feta cheese. Yum!

When it’s hot outside, the best parts about the meal are the bookends. So today I’ll be sharing a not-boring summer salad and an easy dessert.

First up: A salad with carrot, radishes, cucumber, mint, and cilantro with feta, cashews, honey and sesame oil. This is a great slaw alternative and can be paired with grilled steaks or BBQ chicken.

Grate 3-4 carrots and 2-3 radishes into a bowl. Chop one medium cucumber into bite sized pieces. Chop up a handful of each of the herbs. Add those to the bowl and crumble in 1/2 cup of feta. Add a handful of the cashews (you can chop them or keep them whole, as you prefer). Drizzle in 1/2 tablespoon of honey, a splash or two of balsamic vinegar (or lemon), salt and pepper, and a teaspoon of sesame oil. Stir it up, and let it rest in the fridge for 20 minutes. Then taste it and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

Got other veggies like shredded cabbage or broccoli? Maybe some strawberries? Toss them in. Green onions are great in this as well. Sub in sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds, or walnuts instead of cashews. There are endless variations, based on what you have in your fridge. You could also add in some jalapeños for a little heat.

I love the fresh herbs in this salad—they add a beautiful brightness. Honey adds sweetness, and the feta does triple duty for salt, fat, and acid. The nuts contribute a texture variant, as well as a flavor carrier fat.

And now, blueberry croissant bread pudding. Cook immediately or prep the night before (and store in the fridge) and serve this as a French toast casserole for Sunday morning breakfast.

1 cup fresh blueberries (or any berry you have)
4-6 large stale croissants torn
5 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (can also use half and half or cream)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Other stuff you can use:
1 teaspoon orange zest
1-2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1-2 tablespoons Maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350F. Distribute croissants and blueberries in a buttered baking dish that will fit everything.

In a medium mixing bowl whisk eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Pour over croissants and let stand for 10 minutes (or in the refrigerator overnight). Press down lightly to ensure all the bread is soaked through.

Prepare a bain marie (water bath). I use a square Pyrex dish for the casserole and a larger rectangular Pyrex dish for the water bath. Be sure the smaller dish fits inside the larger one. Place it in and fill the outside dish with up to 1 inch of water. Cover the entire set up with foil and poke a few holes to vent.

Cook for 45 minutes with the foil on. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 20-25 minutes.

If you are intimidated by the idea of a water bath or don’t have anything that will work, don’t sweat it. Put your oven at 375F and cook the pudding for 25-30 minutes. The water bath yields a silkier pudding texture, but you’ll still get a great result.

Now cut yourself a nice big slice and pour a generous cup of coffee.

A saucy minx.

The best homemade stir fry sauce to keep in your fridge.

Looks like I need to make more…

Today I’m introducing you to my favorite sauce. It’s one I make myself and keep in my fridge at all times. I can also add to it easily and often do when I have the right ingredients on hand.

This is a basic sauce, but it makes my life easier to have it premixed and ready to go when I’m making stir fry.

The one issue I have is that I really don’t measure. I go by taste on this one. But I’ll try to give you approximations so that you can make this at home, and adjust to your liking.

Ingredients

The secret sauce! Not pictured: scallions (I didn’t have any), rice wine vinegar.
  1. Soy sauce (about 1 cup)
  2. Honey (about 1/4 cup)
  3. Finely grated ginger (1 tablespoon or to taste)
  4. 2-3 cloves of finely grated or crushed garlic (about 1 tablespoon)
  5. 1-2 stalks chopped scallions
  6. Thai fish sauce (a teaspoon or to taste)
  7. Rice or white wine vinegar (a teaspoon or to taste)
  8. Optional: Shichimi—a red chili pepper blend (1/8 teaspoon)

Variations

With a simple adjustment, this sauce base is a great replacement for teriyaki sauce (with far fewer preservatives). All you need to do is measure out 1/4 cup of the sauce, add 1 cup water, the juice from an orange or lemon, and 1/4 cup brown sugar into a pan over medium heat. Add a cornstarch slurry of 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 water and cook for about 5 minutes.

Another quick adjustment makes it a great dipping sauce for gyoza. Measure out a few tablespoons of the sauce, add an equal amount of rice wine vinegar and a few drops of sesame oil, as well as a few extra splashes of fish oil. The dipping sauce is light and tangy—perfect for the dumplings.

You can experiment with spices. I really like shichimi, but it would be great with chili oil—or even a packet of the chili flakes that come with pizza delivery if that’s what you have on hand.

A few tips

As I mentioned, I add to this sauce whenever its convenient. For example, when I buy a bunch of green onions at the market for a recipe, there are always leftover stalks. Sometimes I can use those during the week, but other times, I might not get to them. If they are looking a little limp (but are free of mold) I’ll trim any questionable parts, chop up the good parts and throw it in the jar. Because the main ingredients are soy sauce, honey, and vinegar, the onions are pickled. The ginger and garlic are likewise preserved.

Speaking of ginger, whenever I buy ginger root, I slice it up and keep it in my freezer. It stays pretty hearty and can be used in to make ginger tea, smoothies, lemonade, curd, or in this sauce whenever it is needed. The garlic can also be frozen (or stored in oil), but my husband grows garlic in our herb garden, so we have a pretty good supply on hand.

If you don’t have fish sauce, you can omit it… but its sooooooo good, I think you’ll want to add it. It adds a layer of umami flavor that makes the sauce irresistible. A small bottle will last for years.

Do you have a secret sauce? Let me know!