Slow-Cooker Chicken and Pasta Soup

I’m not in love with my kitchen.  There are many many changes I would make, if I could. But one thing I DO adore is having a window above my sink that looks out into my backyard.  Yesterday, as I was hand-washing dishes, I watched as my dog, Ruby, ran around playfully from one tree to another. She seemed so happy!  And I thought to myself, “This is great. My kitchen is getting clean, my dog is bouncing around gleefully, Christmas is right around the corner…” And then I saw it. Ruby had something in her mouth. It was red. Part of it was flapping around. All I could imagine was that she had just caught one of my beloved cardinals!

I was horrified.  Not knowing what to do, I stood frozen in the window and watched as she ran from one side of the yard to the other with this thing in her mouth. She made frequent stops to flop on the ground, spit the bird out and paw at it a few times before snatching it back up again just to run to the other side of the yard and repeat the behavior.

I thought about rushing to the back door to shout something like, “NO, RUBY! BAD RUBY! DROP IT, RUBY!” but decided not to.  I was sure that by now that bird was dead.  And, really, was it bad?  Wasn’t it just her natural instinct to try and catch and eat a bird?  She is part bird-dog, after all (or so we believe).  I can’t be upset with her for acting out her instinctual urges, right?  And, I refuse to be a hypocrite – I was, after all, making chicken soup for dinner.

But I still felt bad. It was my fault.  Several months ago I had encouraged Jeff to hang a few bird feeders around our yard. I’m the one who lured that poor, beautiful, bright red bird to his death. And in the past I had even watched with enjoyment as our dog would bolt from the back doorsteps out to the trees in hopes of catching one of the woodsy critters that likes to feed on the sunflower seeds we put out for them.  My thoughts turned to, “NO, JAIMIE! BAD JAIMIE!”

At this point Ruby had stopped running around with this thing in her mouth. I imagine that she had figured out that anyone who was going to see her trophy had probably already seen it by now, so it was time to start tearing it apart. She flopped one last time in the middle of our yard and held the beautiful red mound steady with her two front paws as she shredded it with her teeth.  It was hard to watch, so I stopped.

I sat down on my couch and wondered – Is bird the only thing on her mind now?  Had Ruby developed a taste for blood? Is she hooked?  Will she stop at nothing to taste it again?  Is my cat safe? ARE WE SAFE?

I started to make a check-list in my head:

  1. Move all of the bird feeders out of our yard. Perhaps our dog-less neighbors would like them?
  2. Put a cardboard box over the cardinal’s remains. I don’t want the other birds to see him lying there like that.
  3. Buy a giant bell to hang on Ruby’s collar in hopes that the ringing will serve as a warning to all future birds that Ruby is out and looking to pounce. I can’t have any more bird’s blood on my hands.

Ruby came to the back door at this time to let me know she wanted in.  Hesitantly, I walked over and looked out the window to see if she had anything in her mouth.  The last thing I wanted was for her to bring the remains of that poor mangled bird into my house.  I opened the door and she exploded through, as if the cardinal she’d just eaten had been made of pure sugar and caffeine.  After bouncing around the living room for a few minutes she finally settled down beside me on the couch. As she did this I looked into her sweet brown and blue eyes hoping not see the eyes of a cold blooded killer looking back at me.  She leaned in close, like she often does, looking to snuggle her nose on my shoulder.  I winced and backed away, fearing that perhaps a foot or collection of feathers may still be in her mouth, and escaped to the kitchen to await the return of my husband.

Luckily, it was only a matter of minutes before Jeff came home.  I instantly asked him if he’d seen what I had posted on Facebook yet.  He said no and went over the computer to read my posting out loud:

“I would like to kindly extend my apologies and deepest sympathy to the friends and family members of the cardinal that Ruby must have mistaken for a bright red feathered ball out in our back yard. He will, indeed, be missed.”

My sweet and wonderful husband came over to give me a hug and asked me if I’d like him to take care of it.  I said yes and took him to the window and pointed to him where the red remains of our dear cardinal lay – just a few feet away from the grill.  At first he didn’t see the bird.  I pointed again and said, “There – see?  The red spot?  Those are his feathers.”  Jeff walked out, bent over to take a look, and looked back at me with a grin on his face.  He then scooped up the mangled red mess and flung it my direction while laughing, “It was just a red tennis ball – that’s all”.


Perfect for a busy day!  Prepare your veggies, plop everything in your crock pot and then walk away.  I had my doubts when I first read this recipe.  My concern was that the resulting broth would taste more like flavored water at the end of 5 hours.  But let me assure you, it did not.  In fact, I’m super impressed with how delicious it was!  Our only complain was that the tiny star pastas we used were barely noticable.  The next time we make this soup – and yes, there WILL be a next time – we’re going to try a pasta that’s a little bit bigger in size.

This recipe came from:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (around 2 pounds)
  • 4 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small pasta (we used stars)
  • 1/4 cut chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • crackers, for serving


  1. In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, place the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, 6 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  2. Cook, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours (the low setting will make total cooking time 8 ½ hours).
  3. Twenty minutes before serving, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Remove and discard the onion and bay leaves. If the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. Add the pasta to the slow cooker, cover, and cook until tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, shred the chicken. When the pasta is cooked, stir the chicken into the soup along with the parsley. Serve with the crackers, if desired.

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