Gramma’s Quick and Dirty Chicken Soup

chicken soup with orzoPhoto by Jessica and Lon Binder from Flickr 

When my mom is stuck at home on a cold winter day, she whips up a batch of her homemade chicken soup. She usually has a whole chicken in the freezer and pasta and broth in the pantry. If you know a storm is on its way, pick up the veggies so you have them on hand to knock this one out. The smell of soup cooking will fill your house with warmth.

Ingredients:

Whole chicken
8 Cups canned or boxed chicken broth
1 box of pasta – e.g. egg noodles, orzo, ditalini
Celery
Carrots
Onions
Parsley (optional)
Shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions:

Cook the chicken.
Put thickly chopped celery, carrots, and onions in broth and cook till just tender. Maybe add some parsley.
Cut up cooked chicken and put in soup broth.
Cook pasta separately.
Spoon out pasta and ladle soup with vegetables over pasta.
Sprinkle with cheese.

Smashburger Has Arrived in Thousand Oaks

As if there weren’t already 245 burger restaurants on our side of town – a figure that I just made up, but you know what I mean – Smashburger, a new-to-us burger joint opened last week on Moorpark at Wilbur in Thousand Oaks.  I attended their opening night party for three reasons:

1.  It was not east of Calabasas, as most “VIP” events to which I get invited usually are

2.  Free food

3.  My friend Melanie agreed to come with me

Thusly enthused, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the VIP attention – Smashburger founder and “Chief Concept Officer” Tom Ryan personally ordered a huge spread of food for us to taste, not rattling the cashier at all, at least not visibly – and the gimmick that the chain uses to make its burgers taste like I think burgers should taste.

In spite of all the extras layered on to the various combinations (like the newly minted “L.A.” – Crispy wonton, fried egg, cilantro, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and Japanese steakhouse ginger dressing on a black bean and white sesame bun), one can taste the actual burger.  And it’s yummy.

The “smash” in Smashburger is the gimmick:  each patty starts out as a meatball that gets smashed by the cook to lock in the flavor.  The process is very precise asTom Ryan demonstrated for us in the very crowded kitchen.  I’m sure the cooks were delighted to have us there.

Melanie and I sampled the L.A., the Fresh Mex grilled chicken sandwich, the Fresh Mex salad, veggie fries, regular fries, and sweet potato fries.  Oh, and two flavors of tea from the Smash tea stand.  Also, while we waited in line, servers came around with tiny little samples of milkshakes topped with a spritz of whipped cream.  I recommend the Nutter Butter.  Quite strongly, in fact.

Aside from the surprisingly standout taste of the burger, I found the chicken to be quite delicious as well.  The restaurant doesn’t so much smash the chicken as they do pound it – the result is a thin filet of chicken that is tender and juicy, not dry like you’ll find in other burger/sandwich establishments.

What I also found surprising is that I’ve never heard of Smashburger before.  The Thousand Oaks location is store number #143!  Ford spoke of flying back to his home in Denver after the opening party, on a plane that he had made sure was stocked with wine.  I’m thinking that smashing thing?  A lucrative “gimmick” indeed.

Prices at Smashburger seem comparable to other fast-casual restaurant chains, and the kids’ meal (very important info here) is less than $5, drink included.  You order at the cash register, get your number, get your drink, and your tray is brought to you by a server when your order is ready.  Maybe next time you’re heading up Moorpark, just go a little farther than Jack in the Box and pull in to Smashburger to give it a try.