The biggest decision I had to make in creating this amazingly restorative soup was which pasta noodle would best suit the desired outcome. I didn't want anything puny. I wanted robusto. I had some wide Italian non-egg noodles lying around and thought they'd fit the bill perfectly. To add a bit of incredibly over-the-top mouth feel to the dish, I'd decided it wouldn't hurt if some dumplings joined the fray. This was probably my best cure-all soups I've made in years. Here's why I needed said soup.
*Jump to the soup at the bottom of the post to avoid my ramblings.
I started to feel badly about not feeling bad. I mean, it'd been two years and nary a sniffle had come my way. Then suddenly this weekend, all hell broke loose. A steel wool pad had taken up residence in my throat. I was on fire. Headache. Weak. Was I dying? (Which is my default on all matters of health.) When I could finally muster the strength to stand and remain awake for longer than one hour at a time, (I slept for two days straight) I craved what every warm blooded person of my ilk and age and illness would crave: chicken noodle soup--sans the chicken, up the noodles. We survived on this for two and half days and I swear it was just what a vegan doctor might have prescribed. (I've yet to find one. . . a vegan doctor.) But I digress. The soup helped.
For the most part, the holiday was just that: a holiday. A nice, looong break from the world. Except for the part where we mingled with family and their little offspring (or as I affectionately refer to them: germ factories). That would be where I think the "sickness" took hold. I'm no biochemist, but I am married to one and he surmised the same. We just didn't prepare: we forgot to don face masks and gloves. Let this be a lesson to us.
And I visited my orthopedic surgeon for my follow-up x-ray during the holiday break, too, and was quite surprised to discover that my ankle had NOT healed yet! Well it had somewhat, but not in the way I imagined it. Here I was all sassy pants lifting my foot up onto the x-ray table for my six week check up, bragging about how I'd begun slow-jogging on the treadmill--with double insoles in my shoes and all and with little-to-no pain. Then saw a picture appear, got off the x-ray table and walked over to the screen room, sticking my head around the corner and asked, "Um, is that my 'before' picture, because that looks like the broken/before shot?. . . and I could have sworn. . . well, I'm just saying, I'm up and on it and stuff." To which she replied, "Nope, that's your ankle TODAY. The doctor will see you in a few minutes."
The first week of the break.
Week six of the break. The interior portion of my fibula is showing fusing/healing, but the outer portion has yet to join. Paint me surprised. I am completely mobile without use of boot or crutches, have been walking and using the treadmill for slow jogs and have literally no pain.
The doctor was optimistic about the progression. He did share with me that he'd prefer I'd "bike" or do the elliptical machine. (Which is like telling a runner to crawl.) I smiled at him, knowing I'd been a bit scolded and probably too optimistic about the healing. But he DID add, I'd much rather see someone in here in your condition than what I sometimes see--we just need to find a happy medium is all. Which I took to mean: Good on ya! But take it easy and still try to get on the bike. Yes, doctor, I'll try. I return in three weeks for another round of x-rays. But overall, I have no complaints. I am still so very grateful it wasn't worse.
As for the new year, I make no resolutions. Why set myself up for disappointment. It's not mandatory any longer after a certain point in one's life. I've arrived at an age of "Wow, sure am glad I'm up and breathing today." And move on from there. I did manage to arrange for a new round of guitar lessons. It's one little promise I made to myself (no, it still isn't a resolution)--to get plucking again. When I signed up for new lessons--stating I'd taken enough lessons thus far to bring me to Book Three (all proud and stuff) of the Hal Leonard Guitar Lesson Books--the woman asked, "Oh, then you've worked with the metronome, right?" Um. Wrong. Uh-oh. I can barely keep my fingers poised over the chords, much less tap my foot and strum at the same time. A metronome? The thing is, I love my guitar too much to not play it--no matter how I sound.
We gifted ourselves a new camera. And I'll leave you with some of the "first week with new toy" shots we took.
Did I hear something?
Whoa. (Love this new lens.)
Vegan Chicken Noodle and Double Dumpling Soup
(*Feel free to play around with your herbs and veggies here--if you don't have carrots, use parsnips, want to add green pepper, go ahead. It's a flexible soup, relies on the texture of the noodles and dumplings to give it some heft. Taste as you make and you won't be disappointed!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
4 ounces of button mushrooms
1 russet potato chopped into 1/2" chunks
1/4 cup instant barley
4 ounces wide noodle pasta
1 teaspoon salt
6 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
fresh ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
8 cups vegetable stock
fresh parsley for garnish
For the dumplings:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup spelt flour
1 teaspoon ground golden flax seed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb blend (basil, oregano, rosemary)
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oil in large dutch oven soup pot over medium high heat, add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic and salt. Saute for about five minutes--until onions are translucent. (You want to use a dutch oven, or some other wide, heavy-bottomed pot for this soup because the dumplings will need some room to get plumpy.) Add remainder of ingredients, and cover and bring to a boil. After soup comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium low and allow to simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. While the soup simmers, make the dumplings. In a medium bowl add the dry ingredients--sift together. Then add wet ingredients and mix together with a spoon--lightly, until all dry ingredients are moist--this will be a wet dough. After the 45 minutes of simmering has passed, you might notice the amount of veggie stock has gone down a bit. That's okay, just add water in half cup increments. The noodles will continue to absorb the liquid as this soup cooks and as it is stored. You may also add more veggie broth. Either way, the longer the soup cooks, the better. Reheating it only requires a bit more water/veggie stock each time. Add the dumplings to the pot after the noodles have cooked through, then use a teaspoon and drop globs of the dumpling batter on top of soup--arranging it so the dumplings are kind of close together until you've used up all the batter. Cover the soup and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn heat off soup and allow everything to mellow a bit with the lid off--about five to ten minutes, then serve with fresh chopped parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.