House Rules and Alphabet Chicken Soup

When last summer was meandering to a close, I sat down with posterboard and markers to draft morning schedules — really, they are just reminders of all the things that need to be done in the morning from waking up to remembering clean socks — and after-school rules for my two kids. Among those rules was one about the microwave.

“If it talks to you, run. That’s not normal. Microwaves don’t talk.”

That rule popped into my head while scrolling through Twitter on a recent afternoon. Some government official in Washington D.C. was explaining a comment about microwave spies or something. I really doubt my $30 microwave is sophisticated enough to spy on me. It barely pops popcorn.

While I’m reasonably certain my microwave isn’t watching me, I do have questions about why Facebook ads sometimes include things I’ve been talking about in real life. And although I forget that the little camera on my computer is there, I can’t help but wonder if someone could covertly turn it on to see me biting my knuckles when I am deep in thought about while editing.

Getting back to those rules, most are a lot more practical. Brush your teeth. Put your dishes in the sink. Eat well.

That last one — eating well — is especially important to me. Food fuels your body and mind through the day, and being able to assemble a meal that’s hearty and healthy is crucial.

My kids eat fruits with breakfast and pack fruits and veggies with their lunches. And I try to pack something nutritious as their main item for lunch too — like this soup, Alphabet Chicken Soup.

It’s a fun take on chicken noodle soup, made with tiny alphabet-shaped pasta (available in the grocery store. Hannaford carries it).

This starts with the traditional combination of chopped onion, celery and carrots. Sauteed in a mix of butter and oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, these are the base of the soup. Small diced chicken breast is then added to the mix and cooked with the vegetables until it’s opaque on the outside. Don’t worry if it isn’t fully cooked yet — it will finish cooking in the broth, which you add with dried thyme.

When the soup is just about ready, you add the pasta and cook it to al dente. Then it’s ready to enjoy.

Healthy soup, made with love? I can’t think of a better way to eat well.

And speaking of things we eat from bowls, I hope to see you this weekend at the Bangor Professional Firefighters Local 772 Chili Chowder Cook Off to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association. I’m so looking forward to help judge this great event for a good cause. Whether you’re entering yourself (as a pro or amateur) or just coming to sample (there’s a $10 cover charge), it will be a fun time from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hollywood Casino on Main Street.

Alphabet Chicken Soup
Serves: serves 4
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, small diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and small diced
  • 1 yellow onion, small diced
  • ½ lb chicken breast, small diced
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • ⅓ cup alphabet pasta
  1. In a large stockpot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter is melted. Add the celery, carrots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened -- about 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Stir well, cooking until the chicken is opaque on all sides. (Note: it will finish cooking in the broth, so it need only be opaque on the outside.)
  3. Stir in the dried thyme and chicken broth. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the pasta. Cook for 7 minutes or until al dente. Remove from heat. Taste, and adjust seasonings as desired. Enjoy.



Sarah Walker Caron

About Sarah Walker Caron

Sarah Walker Caron is editor of Bangor Metro magazine and senior features editor for the Bangor Daily News. She is the author of "The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook," (Sept. 2018, Rockridge Press) and the co-author of "Grains as Mains: Modern Recipes Using Ancient Grains" (March 2015, DK). Her recipes have appeared in the BDN, Betty Crocker publications, and more. She also writes about food at