Posts Categorized: Recipes

Mississippi Mirth: Chicken Noodle Soup


A Chicken in Every Pot
…Or the magical powers of chicken noodle soup
By Jim McCaffrey • Originally published in the Winter 2012-13 Inspire(d)

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

Honestly? Who cares. Both are delightful ingredients for a winter/cold/flu season staple: chicken (egg) noodle soup!

Chicken noodle is not just any soup. It’s a soup that is cherished by many cultures throughout the world. Many different versions abound. Today ours is made from scratch with handmade egg noodles. Oh yeah baby, not your mama’s Campbell’s Soup, that’s for sure.

So lets get started. Broth is the key ingredient. You can use canned or boxed chicken broth. NOT!! (Well, maybe in a pinch, I guess. NOT!!!) Using a homemade broth in soups is just so far superior to the store-bought versions. There are a couple of ways I make my own broth (and you can too!). At the restaurant, we bake a lot of chicken. And, consequently, we have a lot of pan juices that we save. Think of it as liquid gold. We let the juices cool, and skim off any fat that might rise. The juices are then poured into plastic containers with tight lids. These we date using freezer tape and store in our freezer for future use. We pull out as needed, oldest first. Since we are constantly using the juices for soups and gravies, we don’t have to worry about shelf life, but if you’re not breaking out the big pots as often as us, a year is the max to store and I personally would toss after six months. When ready to use, thaw your stock-base out in the refrigerator the previous day. This base is naturally concentrated, so all you have to do is add water and seasonings (salt, pepper, herbs to taste) to fill out your soup. This works well if you have leftover chicken that you’d like to toss into a soup.

Another great way to make broth is to take a whole plucked and thawed chicken, remove the liver and any excess fat, and put it, along with about three to four inches of water, in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook for about an hour. Usually, when the chicken floats, you are good to go. To make sure, use tongs and grab a leg. If it becomes detached, chicken is ready to go. If not, simmer a few minutes longer. Remove the chicken and let broth cool. Skim off the fat and it’s time to make soup, with your chicken AND stock ready to go.

Congratulations! You have just passed Chicken Broth 101!


Let’s move on to handmade egg noodles. Every good egg noodle has a story behind it. Mine goes like this: I was living in Iowa City in the early 1970s. Every few weeks I would come back to Decorah for the weekend. I have some great friends, Steve Olson (Ole) and Juanita Riveria (Goochie). They were living up by Burr Oak, it was winter, and I arrived at the door. “Come on in.” I walked into the kitchen and here was Goochie covered with flour, rolling out dough that almost completely covered the four by six-foot wooden kitchen table. “What’s going on, Goochie?” I queried. “Well, Barb Winter gave me a couple of chickens and I’m going to make chicken noodle soup. But first I have to make noodles and you can help.” I reply, “Ok, I’m in, but I’ve never done this before.” Fortunately, for Goochies sake, I am a quick learner and soon we were slicing the dough into long noodles and draping them onto any available space to dry. Backs of chairs, hung over counters, off of the table, etc. Man, noodle art at its finest. It would have made Andy Warhol proud. Thanks for the lesson, Goochie! If you have never had fresh-made egg noodles you are in for one of life’s great treats. I guarantee it is bliss.


After all that noodling, it’s time to really sweat. Veggies that is. Like your mother always said, eat your vegetables! I like to sauté the veggies that I put in my soups. When they start to get soft, they also start to lose their water. I find this accentuates the vegetable flavors. The unami of soup flavor. Add it all to the pot. Yummy, to say the least. Of course we still have to have seasoning. The key word here is fresh. Just remember fresh is best when it comes to herbs. In almost all of my soups I like to use fresh thyme. It is extremely versatile. Then I crank it up with additional herbs. My mom was a big fan of sage. Although she primarily used dried herbs, she always said sage should be a big part of poultry dishes. And I always listened to my mom. You should too. Your mom, I mean, not mine. So into the chicken soup the fresh sage goes.

Now that your chicken soup is seasoned, put it to use for another season: the giving season. It’s all about sharing with your loved ones and friends, and a great way to start off this year is to divvy up a steaming hot bowl of chicken soup for everyone. Pass around some crusty bread and pour a crispy white wine. Enjoy the camaraderie and spread the love. This also works for the cold/flu season as you share the healing powers of chicken soup. It’s truly a magical winter concoction.


Jim McCaffrey is a chef, author, and co-owner with his family of McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita restaurant and Twin Springs Bakery just outside Decorah. He is author of a humorous cookbook titled “Midwest Cornfusion.” He has been in the food industry in one way or another for 40 years.


Chicken Noodle Soup

1 3 1/2 -4 lb. whole chicken
1/3 cup olive oil
6 stalks celery, chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Homemade egg noodles (recipe to follow)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
1 Tbl fresh sage, minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Remove liver and excess fat from chicken. Place in a large pot and cover with water by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about an hour. Meanwhile, pour olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté celery and carrots over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add onions and garlic and sauté 3 minutes more. When chicken is thoroughly cooked (see column directions) pull from broth and let cool. Let broth cool somewhat and skim broth off. When chicken is sufficiently cooled remove skin. Remove meat from bones and dice. Bring broth back to a simmer. Add sautéed vegetables and noodles. Add lemon juice and spices, adjusting as needed. Soup is good to go when noodles are nice and chewy.

Homemade Noodles

1 1/2 cups flour
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt

Make a mound of flour on your work surface. Make a well in the center. Whisk eggs and salt. Place in well. Slowly, by hand, mix flour and egg mixture until eggs are incorporated. If the mixture is to dry, add water a little at a time until you have a pliable ball of dough. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide in half. Roll out each half as thin as possible. Take a sharp paring knife and cut into strips, however wide you want your noodles to be. Hang off of counters and chair backs to dry, about an hour.


Homemade Hot Cocoa


Just DIY: Hot Cocoa (hot chocolate, whatever you wanna call it!)

This section was originally going to be called “Things That Aren’t Actually That Hard to Make Yourself.” But it didn’t quite have the same nice ring as DIY. So often, we find ourselves looking at some of the products we use or eat or drink and think – I don’t know how to pronounce that ingredient! There has to be something better!

So we ran some science experiments on homemade hot cocoa, play dough, and bubble bath. Our lab (kitchen) smelled real nice (although Roxie says the play dough doesn’t, so maybe next time we’ll add some essential oils)!

We took lots of pictures and have tons of details – spoiler alert: the play dough turned out perfectly, the hot cocoa (featured here) is quite good, but the bubble bath is a work-in-progress…(coming soon)!


Hot cocoa is always something that sounds lovely to me, but once I pour a cup of it and take a little drink, the sugar goes straight to my head and makes me feel pretty much the opposite of lovely. So I set out to make a cup that made me feel cozy, not crazy.

I really wanted a hot cocoa that you could just make with added hot water…I didn’t want to mess with a pan of milk on the stove, because, you know – toddlers: Impatient and unpredictable!

So check this recipe out and let me know what you think! I’ll keep working on it too, and will update as it evolves. But this one here is pretty darn good, if I do say so myself (and apparently I do…). Enjoy!


Homemade Hot Cocoa (print recipe here)

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup powdered milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped (I used chocolate chips, but nicer chocolate would surely make nicer hot cocoa)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt


Combine all ingredients in a food processer and blend! It’s noisy, but I promise the chocolate chips or chunks will eventually break down into little tiny, delightful balls of chocolate. (Note: it’s also kind of dusty! Let it settle a bit before opening after blending.) The mixture will keep up to two months in an airtight container.


To use: heat water to boiling in a kettle. Put two tablespoons of mixture in 8-10 ounce cup, and add hot water. Stir thoroughly, and add marshmallows if you wish! Enjoy!

(Note: I bet this would, of course, be AMAZING cooked on the stove with milk, so if you want to give it a try and don’t have an impatient toddler waiting for a cup, do it!)


(Print recipe here)

Recipe inspired by this hot chocolate mix at Smitten Kitchen.

Aryn’s Amazing Chocolate Cake Recipe


Or the “Happy 8th Birthday, Inspire(d)” Cake

Oh hey, we’ve been doing this whole Inspire(d) Magazine thing for 8 YEARS this October (2017 update: 10 YEARS! Woot!)! Thanks for reading, you lovely unicorns, you! We like to celebrate happy things with chocolate cake. (You too? Good idea.) This is Aryn’s go-to, amazing chocolate cake recipe … it’s good. Like really good.

Thanks again for all your support. You guys are the best.


Chocolate Cake!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt + a pinch more

2 eggs
1 cup coffee (I usually use what I have left from the morning…if there’s usually none left, make extra the day you’re making this cake so there is!)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, one 9×13 pan, or get ready to make at least 24 cupcakes (I actually made this batch into 12 cupcakes and on cake in a pie pan. Worked great!).

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (the first section of the list above). Make a well in the center.


Add eggs, coffee, milk, oil, and vanilla (the wet ingredients). Save the chocolate chips for later. Beat the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients for 2 minutes on medium speed. Don’t worry – the batter is supposed to be thin (see it here)!


Pour into prepared pans, and sprinkle chocolate chips into each pan or cupcake paper.

4 2

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes for the round pans, a little longer for the 9×13, and about 15 minutes for the cupcakes. Do not over-bake! Dry cake is no bueno. Check doneness with a toothpick – it should come out with just a little cake on it still.


Allow cake to cool for 15 minutes before running a knife along the edge of the pans and cooling completely on a cooling rack.


Chocolate Buttercream/Ganche Frosting!

Okay – this is a buttercream/ganache-ish hybrid. I love it, and hope you will too!

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups powered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
Pinch of salt
Milk, as needed

In a double boiler pot (I actually just use a stainless steel bowl over a pot with water on the stove), melt chocolate and 1/4 cup butter. Remove from heat.

Add in softened butter, powdered sugar, cocoa, and pinch of salt. Beat with mixer on high. If it seems too wet, add more powdered sugar (1-2 tablespoons at a time). Beat and check texture. If it seems too thick, add a little milk (we use whole milk because that’s what we have, but I think any would be okay. Of course, the higher fat content, the richer the frosting). Repeat until you reach your desired texture – so if you want it to be pourable like ganache, add more milk. If you want it to be spreadable like frosting in a jar, add more powdered sugar. And if you feel like it’s gotten too sweet, add a little more cocoa to bring it back.

Assemble your cakes and frost! Add sprinkles if desired (you totally should). I put sprinkles on a plate and “dipped” my cupcakes in to get the sprinkles to stick.


Enjoy! Please let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for reading Inspire(d) for 8 years!