I’ve been nursing a cold all week. Of course, no one really likes being under the weather, but rather than cursing my luck this time, I’ve surprisingly been somewhat thankful to my body. Feeling worn out forces us to be gentler on ourselves, take it easy, rest, and attend to things that have gone neglected. Personally, one of my worst habits is a resistance to slowing down sometimes. Over the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or any other busy time of year, it’s nothing but go-go-go! Gratefully, my body knows it’s Not Allowed To Get Sick during such times. It’s not until the frantic pace recedes that I often breathe a huge, internal sigh of relief and say to myself, Okay, now you can get sick. And when I do start feeling under the weather, one of the first things I do is make a big pot of chicken soup.
The curative properties of chicken soup are no old wives’ tale. Its healing effects have been documented for eons. Cultures all over the world each donate their own unique twists. And while there doesn’t seem to be a definitive consensus on what specific part of chicken soup makes it a bowl full of kick-ass, I believe it’s safe to conclude that a huge component is a mineral-rich broth made with chicken carcass. Especially abundant in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in easily digestible forms, a good bone broth also helps to replenish electrolytes. Pair the benefits of homemade broth with the healing properties of warm liquids, vitamins and minerals from slowly simmered veggies, and the comfort factor of a hot cup of golden goodness, and it’s no wonder the stuff is magic. They don’t call chicken soup Jewish penicillin for nothing!
Depending on my level of desperation, I’ll either simmer an entire chicken until tender, allow it to cool, shred the meat, and use the broth immediately—or, if I have more time, I’ll return the bones to the broth and continue simmering for at least a couple more hours. This way I can pull more of the nutrients from the carcass. Alternately, since I always have a stockpile of properly made bone broth in my freezer, I’ll sometimes roast a chicken and use the meat from that, along with defrosted broth. Though the longer the broth is simmered the better, you’ll still get immense benefits from a shorter simmering time. When I’m sick, and for the purpose of this post, I’m going to stick with the quickest way to reap the benefits.
Kick Ass Chicken-Vegetable Soup
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2-plus hours
Makes about 4 quarts
1 whole small chicken (about 4 lbs.)
Cold water, to cover
Splash of cider vinegar (to help draw out the minerals)
2 tablespoons fat or oil (I try to find some fat inside the chicken cavity before simmering and use that, if possible)
1 onion, diced
6 stalks celery, chopped
4–6 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled (if desired) and diced
1 clove garlic, minced (increase for extra ass-kick)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
½ teaspoon turmeric
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes (if you want a bit of a kick)
Sea salt and pepper
1 handful parsley, chopped
- Place chicken in a large pot and cover with water. Add cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside in a large bowl to cool slightly. Strain broth. At this point you can continue making the soup, or you may shred the chicken (once cool enough to handle), then return carcass to broth and continue simmering for a few hours.
- When ready to prepare soup, heat fat or oil in a large pot until shimmering. Add onion, celery, and carrot to pot. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add potato and sauté for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add herbs and spices, a good pinch of salt and pepper, and strained broth to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until all the veggies are tender, about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, shred chicken into large pieces. When soup is almost ready, return shredded chicken to the pot. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Add parsley and serve.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo by Briana Nervig