When I write this column, I just sit in my cozy home office with a cup of coffee and a candle burning pretending I’m talking to a friend. It’s what the famous Bonnie Bing taught me to do, and so far, I think it works. This week the words aren’t coming as easily, not because I’m ever at a loss for words – ask Randy – but because I’ve lost a very dear friend.
Remember back in February when I spoke of this friend I hosted a luncheon for? It’s her. She was one of the brightest lights I’ve ever known, and her death leaves a huge hole in so many people’s hearts, including mine. She taught me to love large, make things beautiful and sprinkle gold everywhere.
Throughout her journey, I tried my very best to cook and provide a bit of comfort to her and her family – taking over home-cooked meals regularly. I cannot sit in the corner and cry, although I do it occasionally, but instead have the need to do something to attempt to help or lessen the burden of pain.
I’m asked this question more often than you think: “What meal should I make for a friend who is in need?” Whether it’s treatment, grieving or the happy occasion of a new baby, what is the best meal to send? My answer is usually anything but pasta because it tends to be everyone’s first idea, and after you’ve been weighed down by meal-after-meal of pasta, you want something different. But I’m headed straight for the carb-loading coma-inducing meal that will warm your stomach, and hopefully your heart, too. My hope is that you make this meal just to enjoy a cool fall day, not because you’re experiencing any sort of grief. There is something so comforting about this dish served in a bowl with a spoon and some good company.
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This recipe isn’t your normal chicken and noodles with veggies in it. It’s the down-home cookin’ version my GiGi used to make every time we requested it. that doesn’t mean you couldn’t add some carrots, onion and celery. This is the Iowa version of chicken and noodles, served on top of creamy, butter laden mashed potatoes. Because noodles aren’t carb-heavy enough.
You probably didn’t know I’m an Iowan. Born, but not raised. We moved to Wichita when I was a very young girl, but Iowa has always been home as well. My dad’s family live there in a tiny town called Mount Ayr. Don’t blink if you’re driving through because you might miss it. Mount Ayr is famous for my grandpa’s bar, Lefty’s, for being the birthplace of the former NASA chief astronaut, Peggy Whitson and for being the birthplace of Hilary Swank. My Gigi knew Hilary’s grandma – that’s as close to Hollywood as my family gets. My uncle now owns the bar, and I’ve never met Peggy or Hilary, or Hilary’s grandma for that matter.
Back to fall loving. My mums and pumpkins are out, and we’re ready for all the fall goodness at Casa de Rathbun. We’re making soups and stews, and maybe I’ll just do a couple more weeks of soups and stew recipes to help usher us all into this lovely season.
Chicken and Noodles
1 4-pound whole chicken
4-6 tablespoons chicken base (I prefer Better than Bouillon Chicken Base)
1 pound homemade noodles
4 tablespoons butter
Put the chicken in a slow cooker and cover it mostly with water. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8-10 hours. On a large cutting board, remove the chicken carefully from the slow cooker, let it cool a bit, remove skin and debone the chicken, shredding the meat and placing on a plate.
Strain the broth leftover into a large stockpot. If you need to add more liquid, 1-2 cups water is all you should need. Over high heat, add chicken to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in 4 tablespoons of chicken base, dissolving, and taste the broth to make sure it’s to your liking. You can add more base, one tablespoon at a time. Be sure it’s dissolved because it’s concentrated and a little sticky. Stir in butter. Add noodles, and let boil for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to simmer and let it cook for 30-45 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve over mashed potatoes.
GiGi’s Homemade Noodles
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, beaten
Add flour and salt to a bowl. Then add in the already beaten eggs, and mix with a fork until it forms a ball. Roll dough out on a floured surface and then roll up the dough like a jelly roll to cut. Can use immediately, dry or freeze.