Chicken Soup: Just What the Doctor Ordered

23 Nov Chicken Soup: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Tortellini Soup

It didn’t take long for the germs to percolate and circulate, hatching the first of what will most-likely become multiple outbreaks of the common cold at our house this winter.

My mom was quick to suggest the home remedy many rely on, asking if I had yet made a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup, believed by many to have healing powers when it comes to the common cold.

What is it about chicken noodle soup that does a body good? I began to ask myself, and then my dear friend, Dr. Erin Church, who practices family medicine in Spokane.

“Maybe it is something as simple as tradition that makes chicken soup a good thing to eat when we are sick,” Church said. The thought of chicken soup brings back memories of her mom taking care of her when she would stay home from school when sick as a child. “The warm broth felt good on my throat and the noodles and chicken were very comforting,” she said.

Church recommends getting extra rest when you have a cold. Taking naps or going to bed earlier than usual can help your body fight off the infection. Tylenol or Ibuprofen can ease the discomfort of muscle aches and low grade fever. For sore throats, Church recommends sugar-free throat lozenges. A cool mist humidifier in your room at night can be soothing if you have a mild cough, Church said.

Regular exercise has also been proven to stimulate the immune system and help to ward off infections, Church said, and frequent hand-washing is important especially during the winter months when we are exposed to more viruses and bacteria.

“The best way to prevent colds is to take good care of yourself,” Church said, reminding us that “our bodies function best when we get plenty of rest, stay well-hydrated by drinking lots of water, and eat a well-rounded diet full of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and low fat dairy.”

Local Benefis dietitian Katie Wichman said that she has never read any solid evidence regarding chicken soup helping cure a cold, saying it may be one of those myths passed down from generation to generation.

“However, when one is sick, appetite is typically poor. Chicken soup is bland, easy on the stomach, and provides fluid and sodium, which is needed if one is sick to their stomach. It also provides a combination of carbohydrate and protein, which are fuels for energy,” Wichman said.

Hot chicken noodle soup may be a comfort item for achy bodies and sore throats, Wichman added.

Wichman’s cold prevention advice echoes Dr. Church’s.

 Make sure to get plenty of fluids, drinking at least 64 oz. per day (8oz. x 8 per day).

 Get adequate rest (7.5-8.5 hours per day).

 Eat a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which are enriched with antioxidants to help with keeping our defense system (immunity) strong.

 Incorporate exercise to keep your body healthy, mentally and physically. It is a means to dealing with stress as well, which could potentially lead to a cold if stress limits sleep and adversely affects what you may eat.

I send you my best wishes for good health and a few variations on just what the doctor ordered. This week’s Special of the day: Chicken Soup for the Common Cold with recipes for Homemade Chicken Stock, Wonton Soup with Chicken and Vegetables and Tortellini Soup. Take good care, and happy cooking!

Homemade Chicken Stock

(makes 6 cups chicken stock)
First, roast a chicken:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Make an herb butter by blending:
½ cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon fresh lemon rind
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, leaves only
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper 
4-pound whole fryer chicken
Rinse and pat dry chicken
Spread herb butter over chicken, place in a roasting pan and roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
Baste with melted herb butter in pan and return to oven for an additional 20 minutes, checking to make sure chicken is not overbrowning. Cover with foil when skin is golden brown.
Baste again, cover and roast for 20 more minutes, until juices run clear.
(You are roasting for a total of 60 minutes, basting at 20 minute intervals.)
Carve the chicken.
Reserve carved chicken meat and refrigerate for use in chicken noodle soups this week.
Make the stock:
4 carrots, peeled and cut
2 stalks celery
½ onion
Place the chicken carcass in a large soup pot or Dutch oven.
Cover with water.
Add ¼ cup white vinegar.
Add carrots, celery and onions.
Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 hours.
Remove from heat.
Cool to room temperature.
Strain into soup pot.
Bring to a gentle simmer and add vegetables and noodles as desired.
Or use as the base for Wonton Soup with Chicken and Vegetables and Tortellini Soup (below).

Wonton Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

Wonton soup with chicken and vegetables
(serves 6 )
4 green onions
½ pound ground chicken (available at 2Js)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon fresh gingerroot, grated
½ can 8 ounce water chestnuts, chopped
½ package won ton wrappers (produce department)
Make the wontons:
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together ground chicken, soy sauce, gingerroot and water chestnuts until well mixed.
Lay out won ton wrapper on work surface.
Top each wrapper with a teaspoon or two of the chicken filling.
Grasp top right corner of the wonton wrapper and pull it diagonally across and over filling to meet bottom left corner.
Dip fingertips in small bowl of water and use water to seal wonton edges.
Press to adhere so filling is securely sealed inside wonton.
Repeat for remaining wontons.
*Can be made ahead, frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet and then transferred to a large Ziploc baggie for later use, if desired.
When ready to serve, assemble the soup:
6 cups chicken stock
8 ounce bag snow peas, trimmed and cut in half
1 red bell pepper, cut into small thin strips
1 head bok choy, leaf ends only, cut into strips
Heat chicken stock in soup pot until gently simmering.
Add won tons and simmer gently for 8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.
Add vegetables and simmer for an additional 3 minutes.



Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup
Recipe by Mary Willmarth, who said this is one of her family’s favorite go-to comfort soups.
Thanks for sharing, Mary. 
(serves 6)
6 cups chicken stock
3 cups cooked chicken, cut in bite-sized pieces (optional)
2 cups cheese tortellini
1 ½ cups fresh spinach leaves, divided
1 ½ cups fresh parmesan shreds, divided
Lemon rind, for garnish (optional) 
In a soup pot, heat stock to a gentle simmer.
Add tortellini and cook about 6 minutes, until al dente.
Place ¼ cup fresh spinach leaves in the bottom of each soup bowl.
Ladle soup on top of spinach.
Sprinkle with parmesan and fresh lemon rind, if desired.

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at Sydne’s “Special of the day” columns and recipes are archived at:



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