The Assembly Line Dinner

By Casey Seidenberg

Grandmothers around the world have extolled the benefits of homemade stock. Stock made from real bones was an ancient cold remedy, and it is even known in a South American proverb to resurrect the dead. If it is so healthful, why not use it to make an easy dinner tonight?

Step 1: The stock

Pour two cups of chicken stock per person into a pot and heat to a boil. If using gelled, homemade bone broth, use two-thirds chicken stock to one-third water. This will be your base. Add an eighth of a teaspoon of grated ginger per serving for extra flavor.

Step 2: The prep

Get your other ingredients ready. Warm leftover meat such as chicken, pork or beef in the oven. Cook noodles or rice according to package directions. Chop up vegetables of choice. (Ingredient ideas below.)

Step 3: The assembly line

Lay out bowls of individual soup ingredients, creating an assembly line leading up to the pot of stock. Let every family member select items for his own soup bowl.

Step 4: The soup

Add the vegetables that need to be cooked to the boiling stock (see list at right for appropriate cooking times). Don’t worry: Nothing takes more than five minutes! Pour the hot stock and each family member’s cooked vegetables of choice on top of their bowl of preferred noodles and meats. Encourage everyone to flavor their soup at the table with soy sauce, miso, scallions or sesame oil.

If you don’t have time to make homemade stock, buy stock made from real bones at a specialty food store or farmers market, or online at a place such as Washington’s Green Grocer.

Homemade stock is not the same as canned or boxed broth, which tends to be higher in sodium and lower in important minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Stock made from real bones has been known to support bone growth, and it also contains material from cartilage and tendons, such as glucosamine, which many people now purchase as a supplement to help with arthritis. The gelatin that is produced from these bones has been shown to aid in digestion, and the fatty acids help to break down the fat-soluble vitamins, making them more easily absorbed.

This dinner works because it repurposes last night’s meal: Using leftovers is so satisfying! It allows children to take charge of their dinner, and kids are more likely to eat healthful foods when they are offered some choice. This meal is quick and has many health benefits, so really the only thing missing is the assembly line of children doing dishes.


For Protein (leftovers perfect for this!):

  • Sliced, cooked chicken
  • Sliced cooked beef
  • Slicked cooked pork
  • Cubed tofu
  • Crack an egg into the hot broth for egg drop soup

For Vitamins, Minerals & Color:

  • Chopped bok choy (cook for 5 minutes)
  • Chopped Chinese cabbage (cook for 4 minutes)
  • Chopped carrots (cook for 3-4 minutes)
  • Chopped zucchini (cook for 3-4 minutes)
  • Sliced snow peas (cook for 1-2 minutes)
  • Fresh shitake mushrooms (cook for 30 seconds)
  • Spinach leaves
  • Chopped Swiss chard
  • Bean sprouts

For Carbohydrates and Fiber:

  • Cooked Udon Noodles
  • Cooked Soba Noodles
  • Cooked Rice Noodles
  • Cooked Brown Rice

For Flavor:

  • Chopped Scallions
  • Miso
  • Sesame Oil
  • Tamari or Soy Sauce

First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, October 30, 2013.