Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guardian Angel Chicken Soup and Biscochitos for the New Year from Cleo Coyle

The science is in. Mom's chicken soup is not just for the soul. Properties in white meat chicken, carrots, celery, garlic, and onion appear to help relieve cold and flu symptoms better than over the counter medications (source: New York Times, health/science).

To quote Dr. Patty Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health: "[Researchers] looked at people who had these viral illnesses and, believe it or not, gave some of them chicken soup and didn’t give some of them chicken soup and watched which group did better. The chicken soup-eating group did better and got well faster and felt better..."

"The bottom line is," says Dr. Quinlisk, "our grandmothers were probably right and chicken soup really does work for the cold and flu.” 

As one of those hit by this year's flu epidemic, I didn't need to read the scientific research to know homemade chicken soup has healing powers. By the time I'd slurped down a single bowl of the stuff, I was feeling relief from my stuffy nose and sore throat. When my husband caught the illness (thanks to me), I felt terribly guilty and was only too happy to make him more of my soup. I swear, while working in the kitchen, I heard him cry out from the bedroom: "This is great! It's helping! It's helping!"

So why do I call this Guardian Angel Chicken Soup? For three reasons and the first two have to do with a man named Curtis Sliwa

You may have heard of Sliwa, a New Yorker who founded the Guardian Angels organization. When Sliwa was nearly shot to death in the summer of 1992, the owner of the 2nd Avenue Deli (a legendary Jewish deli here in NYC) sent him chicken soup every day. Sliwa credits this "Jewish penicillin" for helping him recover, and he even repaid the favor by agreeing to represent the Lower East Side in a worldwide pickle eating competition (but that's another story).

The second reason has to do with Sliwa's elderly Aunt Mary, who famously simmered up chicken soup for ailing members of his Guardian Angels' organization. She would take servings of her healing soup right down to them in the subways of New York, where they patrolled. 

The final (and more personal) reason I call today's recipe Guardian Angel Chicken Soup is because of my own Aunt Mary (pictured left) who cooked up something very close to this soup for me when I was feeling poorly. My aunt was incredibly supportive through much of my life. I loved her very much and now that she's gone, I think of her as my guardian angel.

Whether you make this soup for yourself or someone you care about, I sincerely hope it brings you good feelings and good health!
~ Cleo

Cleo Coyle's
Guardian Angel
Chicken Soup
Cleo Coyle, now a CDC
statistic, is author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Curtis Sliwa's Aunt Mary used a fairly common method for making her chicken soup. She threw the chicken and veggies into the pot and turned up the heat for about 4 hours. I prefer my method, which is done in one hour, and is just as healthy. Just be sure to use white meat chicken. Properties in the white meat are especially helpful for cold and flu sufferers; they also have anti-cancer properties--and that's why I specify using 1/2 of a whole split chicken breast. May you eat with joy and in good health...

Makes about 2 quarts (about 6 servings)


2 quarts (8 cups) cold water

4 cloves garlic, smashed

2 bay leaves

1/2 of a whole, split chicken breast,  
      bone in, skin on >>

1 medium to large yellow onion, chopped*

6 ribs of celery, chopped*

4 carrots, chopped*

2 envelopes of Goya's Sazon without Annatto (see my note**)

Finishing salt (such as French Grey or another coarse Sea Salt)

*If you prefer more precise measurements: the chopped onion should measure about 1 cup; the chopped celery 2 cups; and the chopped carrot 2 cups.

**Note: This soup will be bland without adding a mix of spices. The Goya Sazon is my favorite. If you can't find it, try a bouillon cube plus a spice blend that includes onion and garlic powders and ground black or white pepper. Certainly, add any other herbs or spices that you enjoy (e.g. cumin, paprika, thyme, rosemary).

DIRECTIONS: Pour the cold water into the pot. Throw in the smashed garlic and bay leaves. Bring the water to a brisk boil. Place the chicken into the pot, skin side down. (The meaty part of the breast should be submerged in the water.) Boil uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until the meat is tender enough to come off the bone and be shredded with two forks. The water in your pot will boil down during this process. Add in 1 to 2 cups of fresh water to replace the water lost.

When the chicken is cooked enough, remove it from the pot. Add the chopped vegetables, and seasoning (Goya Sazon or a bouillon cube and your own spice mix), and boil for another 10 minutes. While veggies are cooking, remove the skin from the breast and the meat from the bone and shred the breast meat. 

When the carrots are fork-tender (10 minutes of cooking should do it), remove the bay leaves from the pot, and add the shredded chicken. If your split chicken breast was particularly large, hold back a bit of the chicken meat from the soup because you don't want to overload it. Add only enough to keep the ingredients balanced.(*Note: If you'd like to make this a chicken noodle soup, this is the point where you'd add your noodles and cook until they're soft.) Cook the soup for another 6 to 8 minutes and...

Eat in good health!

~ Cleo Coyle 

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on twitter here.

Visit my online coffeehouse here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


As for those Biscochitos,
I'm sharing the recipe in my
New Year's newsletter... 

My apologies to those of you who have been waiting
patiently for the newsletter. The flu really set me back.
But the newsletter is now finished and sent.
I hope you enjoy it!

To sign up for my Coffeehouse Mystery newsletter,
simply send an e-mail 
to the address below
that says "Sign me up."


When you sign up, an auto-reply
will send you a link to the newsletter
and the recipe above. Enjoy! 

~ Cleo

*  *  *


  1. Glad you're feeling better Cleo! there are some nasty bugs going around this year. I got sick just as Storm Sandy struck--felt lousy for almost a month. I could have used this wonderful soup!

    1. Lucy/Roberta - I'm very happy to hear that you've recovered from this bug. You're right; it is nasty, and it's been so long since we've been this sick that all of over-the-counter medications had expired. We were lucky we had the ingredients on hand for the soup!

      Here's to eating our way to good health,
      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. And ps, thanks for the guardian angel stories...

    1. YW. We should all have angels in our lives (and I'm betting many of us already do).

  3. Hey Cleo... Missouri is safe from the flu... And I only live @15 miles from the Kansas/Missouri border, so I am almost safe.... phew.

    My "year of living dangerously" (year I lived in New York)was 1995, and the Guardian Angels were everywhere. Whenever I bravely traveled to the house that Ruth built, I was glad to see them around. Of course IMO, you are pretty safe in NYC as long as you are in bed at Midnight... Anyone doing stupid things at 2 AM is not ... But I digress.

    This is my year of seeing what I can make with a Rotisserie Chicken. This soup should be very easy to adapt. And very pretty colors!

    Stay healthy.... Dave

    1. Dave, I hope you continue to be safe from this nasty bug. Thanks for stopping by today. I always love your comments and your memories of living in New York.

      This town is a lot safer now. Between COMSTAT and cell phones (and cell phone cameras!) the Guardian Angels have less to do--which is probably why they've gone global.

      I look forward to your Rotisserie Chicken recipes!

      ~ Cleo

  4. You have quite the artist's touch when photographing your food offerings. Beautiful work!
    I'm getting over bronchitis and asked my husband to bring home some chicken soup today!
    Great minds...

    1. Thanks for your kind words. The truth is, food as a subject is a bit of a cheat because it doesn't move. Unfortunately eight out of ten photos I take of my cats are out of focus!

      Sorry you're under the weather, but I hope the chicken soup gets you feeling better fast.

      ~ Cleo

  5. Cleo, I'm cracking up laughing. I have photos, not nearly as beautiful, of chicken broth that I made and was planning to post. Almost the same, except that I tossed in the remains of the Thanksgiving turkey. I usually freeze the bones of a whole roasted chicken or turkey and toss them in when I'm making broth or soup.

    Glad you're feeling better. I hear the flu is wicked this year.

    ~ Krista

    1. LOL. I guess great culinary minds think alike. And you should definitely post your recipe. Freezing the bones is a smart tip, and with this monster flu season upon us, we need all the chicken soup recipes we can get!

      ~ Cleo

  6. Cleo, Your chicken soup is much prettier than mine!!! Wow. Love it, though, and I always feel better when I drink chicken soup.


    Daryl / Avery

  7. aw, thx, Avery/Daryl. My chicken soup may be pretty, but when I'm well again, I'd much rather have your brandy-laced lobster bisque!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. Yummm! I'm going to have to get some chicken today and make this up.

    If I signed up for your newsletter a couple of months ago, do I need to sign up again to get the Biscochitos issue? Or do you keep the mailing list from one newsletter to the next?


    1. I hope you enjoy the soup, Lynne, and no worries on the newsletter. If you signed up a few months ago, then you're already on my mailing list, and you will receive any periodic newsletters until you unsubscribe.

      Thanks for dropping by (and thanks especially for reading my books).

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  9. I wanted to let you know that I made a pot of chicken soup the day you posted this recipe. It's much like my usual., with a couple of changes. No Goya here so I used cayenne with other seasoning. So good - and I feel that we took a preventative measure against the flu.
    I hadn't thought of Curtis Slows in many years. Thanks for the reminder.