Sorry, Chef Ramsey, they can’t all be “the most magnificent.”

TMI Chicken Soup

The first day of Mr. P’s long awaited nine-day Thanksgiving break found all five Peñas sick as dogs. We, the house-bound four, had been chewing on this particular bug for twenty-four hours, initially tipped off by Billy the Kid’s impressive reverse-vacuum all over my bedspread, while Mr. P efficiently wrapped up all loose ends at work on Friday before succumbing to the inevitable, compounded by the standard general start-of-vacation collapse. By the time I dragged the king comforter out of the dryer two hours after its ordeal, I was in full denial of my own doom. I was not ill. By Saturday afternoon, I was still the most functional, but only because I refuse to negotiate with disease, my ability to ignore discomfort having increased tenfold after carrying twins with a perforated appendix.

Note to potential and current gestators: if you point to the side of your enormous pregnant belly and tell your doctor, “this hurts and I can’t eat,” don’t downplay the pain and nausea, or you’ll receive the standard “why don’t we take a look after the baby comes.” I’m betting that liability near-miss still keeps a certain OB/GYN up at night. I’d heard of women being sick while in labor, but getting off an operating table seconds after receiving an epidural and seconds before a c-section, throwing up, and remounting just as all feeling drained from my legs reassured me that I possess excellent time management and multi-tasking skills. Unfortunately, it also detracted from focusing on the miracle of life and whatnot. Had my concerns been addressed, however, I might not have come out the other end fifty pounds lighter and then I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy creeping out Mr. P with my ultra-slender “tween starlet calves” for a month before returning to my preferred state of sturdiness.

Back to the present, with a mere low-grade fever and repulsiveness confined mostly to my head, the task of making chicken soup with rice fell to me. When visiting Epicurious, I prefer to to limit my options to recipes that boast four entire forks, but three and a half are apparently the mediocre standard in this case, so I settled on one that conformed to Mr.P’s request for “not weird.”  I found the absence of onion unsettling, so I threw in half a chopped yellow, and combined a tablespoon each of fresh thyme and parsley, scoffing at the direction to limit myself to one or the other. Then I salted and peppered the dickens out of it.

I regard chicken soup as a food of necessity, and since one can’t taste much of it when one needs it the most, and wouldn’t make it if one didn’t need it, it doesn’t really matter that this one is exceptional to a fully functioning palate. The rice leaves relatively little broth, but just enough to avoid the dreaded bisque effect. The carrots and celery remain brisk and cheerful, having just cooked through upon serving, and lend an appealing primavera quality that’s often appetizing to an invalid. I suppose Epicurious’ three-and-a-half-forks rating is, indeed, appropriate; even at it’s best, chicken soup is still just chicken soup.

One of more than a hundred recipes I have for soup. I’m not kidding.

Spicy Chickpea Soup with Curried Vegetables
Inspired by this.

I'm strong to the finish 'cause I eats me spinach.

While I like to elicit a few oohs and awes at dinnertime, I am a busy lady, and can’t spend my entire day chiffonading in the kitchen. The best recipes, to me, impress with the barest minimum of effort. You end up with more time casually drinking wine and talking to your dinner guests. Or, you know, watching Animal Cops and petting the cat.

This soup takes 15 minutes, start to finish, but I get compliments every time it’s served. Here I’ve paired it with some simple curried vegetables, which are also great stuffed into a whole wheat wrap/pita for a super tasty lunch the next day. Go to hell, PB&J. (You know I didn’t mean that, PB&J. Please forgive me.)

Spicy Chickpea Soup

2 16 ounce cans chickpeas, drained
1 14 ounce can light coconut milk
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup vegetable broth

1. In a blender, combine the drained chickpeas with the coconut milk, salsa garam masala and ground ginger and puree the mixture until smooth.

2. Transfer the puree to a medium saucepan. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes until flavors combine.

Slurp.

Curried Vegetables

3 small red potatoes, cubed
2 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1 ½ tsp olive oil
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. curry powder (or a little less if you’re not a curry fiend like me)
3 cups of spinach

1. Boil the potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté until tender.

3. Add potatoes, vegetable broth, and curry powder Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

4. Add spinach, cook until just wilted.

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