Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Being Prepared. Part Two. (Chicken Orzo Soup)

I shouldn't say this out loud, but -- knock on wood, knock on formica, toss salt over your shoulder, toss the used Kleenex in the trash -- everyone Chez Wiles is currently in good health.

Of course it's temporary.  But given our recent cases of H1N1 (or as my no-nonsense sister says, "It's the SWINE flu.  Just call it that."), the stomach bug (another pleasant euphemism, but this is one I prefer) and a Halloween weekend trip to the ER, I'm glad to report that both kids are at school, and both made it through a full day yesterday as well.

True, we have been through our share of Advil.  And Kleenex.  And hand sanitizer.  And bags of throat lozenges.  (We highly recommend Halls Defense Vitamin C.)  And anytime I walk near my 14-year-old son, he still reflexively lifts his bangs so I can check his forehead.

Plus, we've washed our hands.  And washed our hands.  And washed our hands.  To the point that it irritates me to have one television doctor after the other advise me to "sing The Happy Birthday song" to make sure I'm washing long enough.  Why The Birthday Song?  I'm a grown-up, for Pete's sake.  Why not something from my high school days?  Something by Earth Wind & Fire, perhaps.  Or maybe the chorus to Aerosmith's Dream On?  "Sing with me, sing for the year, sing for the laughter, sing for the tea-ahhh ..."

But I digress.  (OK.  Indulge me for one more second, "Dream on, dream on, dream on, aahhhhhhhh ...")

All the hand-washing is part of that prevention and preparation thing.  And heaven knows, I like to be prepared.

But I can't prepare for everything.  And as much of a planner as I am, also know that, sometimes, I've got to let go.

Since I'm with the kids so much, I can find them pretty predictable.  I can anticipate the instant shedding of moodiness when the right friend calls.  I can discern the difference between, "I don't know" and "I don't know (but if you keep talking maybe I'll come up with another answer)."  I can brace myself for the drama of seventh grade.  I can plan for the adjustment of moving up to high school.  I'm prepared for the unavoidable pouts and taunts of siblings.

But just as I get things down pat, I'm gobsmacked.

At dinner recently (and really, the best tidbits come out over a meal, don't you think?), Darling Daughter (DD) was expressing the occasional uncertainty you'd expect from a middle schooler.  Snarky Son (SS), as is routine for a high schooler, interrupted her.  I said nothing, but braced myself.  DD plainly had the floor.  She had the metaphorical microphone.  SS plainly snatched that microphone.  It was rude.  He deserved a smackdown.

I clinched my jaw for the inevitable eruption of bickering.  Before DD could spit our her comeback, though, SS got out what he needed to say, "You're not unattractive, you know."

Huh?  What was that?  A compliment between siblings?  And let's be truthful here -- that was about the highest praise an older brother can offer a younger sister.

So sure, I'll keep preparing and planning -- starting with this soup that's a cinch if you keep your own flavorful chicken stock on hand in the freezer.  (Recipe here.)  But every now and again, knock on wood, knock on formica, I'm happy to embrace the unexpected.  It's not all bad, you know.

Chicken Orzo Soup
4 cups homemade chicken stock with chicken pieces
(optionally, use two cans of chicken broth with 1 cup, cut-up cooked chicken)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig of fresh thyme
Two handfuls uncooked orzo (about 2/3 cup)
16-20 baby carrots, sliced thinly
1 cup broccoli flowerettes (cut in small, spoon-size bits)
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
kosher salt

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring stock to a boil.  Stir in thyme and orzo and cook until pasta is almost done (still firm in the middle), about 7-8 minutes.  Stir in carrots, cook another 2 minutes.  Stir in broccoli (and peas, if using) and cook additional minute.  Stir in lemon juice and salt to taste.  Serve hot.
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