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sick day

Healing Chicken and (Zucchini) Noodle Soup


Healing Chicken and (Zucchini) Noodle Soup

SICK DAY DIARY — 9:30 a.m. 
Abby and I finally drag ourselves out of bed. We share scraps from the bread bag. Maybe we will make chicken soup.

Last week the weather finally turned wetter and (slightly) warmer. I had two cocktails and stayed up until midnight on a Friday. And then I promptly caught a nasty spring cold. That's how I found myself laid up at home on a Wednesday, sniffling my brains out. Just me, my dog and a rapidly diminishing supply of tissues. 

I absolutely loathe being sick because it makes me feel like a massive waste of space. Unless I feel in jeopardy of contracting pneumonia, I will almost always walk (slowly) to the nearest grocery store and buy ingredients for chicken soup. 


SICK DAY DIARY — 12:30 p.m.
Abby and I venture out into the harsh light of afternoon. We see none of our usual kitty friends, but we do spot a new one. Luckily I brought enough tissues to last on the journey to Abby's favorite poop spot.

My recipe changes a little every time, as it should. There really isn't a wrong way to do this! But the basics remain the same: Lots of vegetables. Chicken thighs that cook in the broth. Plenty of kick to clear the sinuses and garlic to boost the immune system.

I guess now is as good a time as any to say that I don't trust anyone who would write a recipe for chicken soup and NOT include at least four cloves of garlic.

Abby graciously offers to do all of the laundry.

Making this soup is a healing ritual in itself. Taking your time to chop the vegetables, watching the broth begin to simmer and making your kitchen smell far better than your sickbed are all good for you. They make you feel purposeful, hopeful that every sneeze puts you one closer to not sneezing again. They may even make you forget that you are wearing very gross clothes and have not applied deodorant for two days.


SICK DAY DIARY — 4:30 p.m.
Laundry folded and dinner prepared before 5, Abby and I are content with our efforts. Maybe we will be sick again tomorrow.

chicken and zucchini noodle soup

based on bon appetit. inspired by the universal human desire for comfort.

NOTE: This is a double batch of soup that will ensure plenty of leftovers. As a recently sick person who loves eating food, there is nothing more exciting to me than the idea of not having to cook again for several days. However, you may disagree — or you may have a smaller soup pot, or you may dislike having leftover soup, or you may be kind of terrible — so rest assured this can easily be halved.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Orzo is a wonderful, wonderful substitute for the zucchini noodles. It makes for a more filling soup and complements the lemon, dill and leek flavors so well. I opted out because I wanted a healing elixir, not a total starch-fest. Next time we'll have a starch-fest.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 jalepenos or other chili peppers, minced (Remove the seeds if you're scared of spicy things.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium-sized leeks, thinly sliced
  • 4 carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced crosswise
  • 2 yellow squash, chopped into chunks
  • 2 zucchinis, made into skinny noodles (I own a spiralizer, which is a magical and affordable product that will change your relationship with vegetables entirely by allowing you to turn them into ribbons and noodles in seconds. You should buy one IMMEDIATELY. If you do not own one, don't worry about it. Just chop the zucchinis the same way you did the yellow squash. Or omit them. Or sub 3/4 cup of orzo! Really, there is no law saying you can't use whatever goddamn vegetables you want, cut into whatever shapes you want. This is your healing ritual and it's not meant to be rocket science. But ZUCCHINI NOODLES, though!)
  • 14 cups chicken broth (Vegetable broth would work in a pinch.)
  • 4-6 chicken thighs (Boneless and skinless are my go-to, but I had skin-on/bone-in on hand, which worked just as well.)
  • 1 large lemon
  • Two healthy handfuls of fresh dill
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Prepare your vegetables, garlic and peppers. Set the squash chunks and zucchini noodles, if using, aside.
  2. Melt the butter in your favorite large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, garlic, jalepenos, carrots and celery. Saute until softened, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. While the veggies cook, clean your chicken thighs and set them aside.
  4. Once the veggies have made your kitchen smell incredible, add the broth and the chicken thighs. Crank up the heat and bring the pot to a boil. Then, lower the heat so the pot simmers steadily. Cover and do not disturb for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Retrieve the chicken thighs from the pot and place them on a plate or cutting board to cool. Once you can handle them without scalding yourself, shred them into chunks (I like to use two forks!).
  6. After removing the chicken thighs, add the yellow squash and keep the soup at a simmer. If you're using orzo, and only if, add it now and bring the pot back to a boil. Either way, leave the soup uncovered and let it cook for 8-10 more minutes. 
  7. Turn off the heat. Add the shredded chicken, dill and zucchini noodles to the pot. Juice the entire lemon into the mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  8. Serve with crusty buttered bread (and ginger tea with honey). This soup will be even more magical and delicious the next day.