Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicken and Stars

Chicken and stars

Just when I think I am getting the hang of things, something happens to throw me off, humble me, make me realize that ultimately, I am not actually in control. This time, let's call that thing February. This month has been a little rough around here, starting with a nursing strike. Breastfeeding is amazing for a host of well-publicized reasons (it is a perfect, free, easily-digested and fully customized food for the baby, helps you lost weight, delays the return of postpartum fertility, gives several happy- and calm-inducing hormones for you and baby, is totally portable and instantly ready, acts to soothe and comfort in almost any situation...), until something happens that makes it hard. We had a relatively easy start, and while I was always thankful for the ease of our nursing relationship, I definitely took it for granted. Never again! I have a new (albeit slight) insight into how my friend Sarah must have felt when she struggled to nurse her girl, and fresh compassion and understanding for her (totally right, brave) decision to bottle-feed.

But that was just the beginning. Just as things were getting back to normal, Daddy caught a horrible cold, which kept him home from work several days last week. Serves me right for thinking how lucky we were to get through this awful cold and flu season unscathed!! And now Anne has the cold, too. It breaks my heart to hear her congested cough and runny little nose, especially because there's no way to explain to her what's going on, and very little I can do to help.

There have been a few rays of sunshine, literal and figurative. Anne has learned how to laugh. My seeds came in the mail, and garden planning is in full swing. I've been leaning hard on homemade broths in the kitchen, and this superstar of a soup was last week's victory. Really, it's just a very basic, classic chicken soup (there's ginger and garlic in the broth, but not enough to be able to clearly identify either flavor). To boost the Asian flavor and healing power, I added sriracha and fresh-squeezed lime juice to my bowl. I'm doing everything I can to fight off the germs that are lurking in every corner of this house that hasn't seen fresh air for months, and this soup is just the kind of soldier I like to have on my side.

playtime with Daddy

Chicken and Stars

The stock is the star of the show here, so make sure it's high-quality. Homemade is best. Recipe below.

2 quarts chicken stock
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup stelline, alphabet pasta, orzo, or other tiny pasta

In a large pot, heat the chicken stock. Add the parsnips and carrots, and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water (I made the mistake of just adding dry pasta to a soup once... and there was no soup left, just pasta. Oops.) and drain. When the vegetables are about done, add the cooked pasta and frozen peas and continue simmering until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning (usually more salt; if using homemade, un-salted stock, about a tablespoon of salt is great). Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime and sriracha to taste (about a tablespoon is great for clearing up your sinuses, and also, OH YUM).

Homemade Ginger-Garlic Chicken Stock

Ginger and garlic are both great natural cold remedies.

Bones from 1 whole roaster chicken, picked mostly clean of meat
1 piece fresh ginger, about 6 inches, thinly sliced (peeling is optional)
4-6 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and peeled
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water (about 2 quarts). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-8 hours. You can also combine everything in a slow-cooker and simmer overnight. Strain solids out and discard. Use in soup or cool and freeze for later use.

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