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Susan Stoker | Valentine’s Day Recipe Roundup: DEFENDING ZARA + Giveaway!

February 10, 2020

The Valentine’s Day celebrations continue with SUSAN STOKER! Don’t forget to follow our recipe roundup all week long! 


I watched a show on television about a missing little girl. She was three when she disappeared. But it got me to thinking about what happened if that little girl was found years later? What had she gone through? What was her life like?

I wrote Defending Zara with that in mind. When Zara was in elementary school, she was on vacation with her parents in Peru. They were killed and she was dumped in a barrio. She grew up there, eventually learning Spanish and how to survive in the poorest sections of the city. Fast forward years and years, she’s now an adult and runs across Meat, a Mountain Mercenary in the country to try to save children from a human trafficker.

It’s a story of despair, hope, luck…and love.

One of the first meals Zara shares with Meat is a simple fare of Chicken soup. It had been so long since she’d had such a wonderful meal without having to beg or steal for it. I imagine her and Meat sitting down in their house back in Colorado Springs after she’s rescued and actually enjoying the soup together, rather than her feeling as if she had to snarf it down before someone took it away from her.

So I thought it was a perfect recipe to share with you! I love a nice hot soup on a chilly or foggy day.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

  • PREP 5mins
  • COOK 35mins
  • TOTAL 40mins

This quicker version of homemade chicken noodle soup skips cooking a whole chicken and calls on boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. The soup still tastes incredible, satisfying, and classic. The significantly reduced cook time makes this chicken soup from scratch possible on a weeknight. We highly recommend chicken thighs for this because of their flavor and soft texture when cooked, but if you prefer them, chicken breasts will work.

Makes 6 servings


2 tablespoons butter, chicken fat or olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped (optional)

Heaped tablespoon minced garlic (4 cloves)

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme or use 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs (4 or 5 thighs)

8 cups chicken stock or broth, low sodium or use homemade stock

5 ounces egg noodles (or pasta of choice)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Water or more stock, as needed


Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring every few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften; 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, and thyme. Cook, while stirring the garlic around the pan, for about 1 minute.

Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Taste the soup then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Depending on the stock used, you might need to add 1 or more teaspoons of salt.

Submerge the chicken thighs into the soup so that the broth covers them. Bring the soup back to a low simmer then partially cover the pot with a lid and cook, stirring a few times until the chicken thighs are cooked through; about 20 minutes.

If, during this time, the broth seems low, add a splash more stock or a bit of water. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Transfer the cooked chicken to a plate. Stir the noodles into the soup and cook until done, 6 to 10 minutes depending on the type of noodles used.

While the noodles cook, shred the chicken into strips or dice into cubes. Slide the chicken back into the pot and then taste the soup once more for seasoning. Adjust with more salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in the parsley and serve.

COMMENT TO WIN: What’s your favorite chocolate candy? Leave a comment below with your answer and you’ll be entered to win a copy of DEFENDING ZARA (US only) — Good Luck!

Be sure to check out the previous post:

Piper J. Drake

DEFENDING ZARA by Susan Stoker

Mountain Mercenaries #6

Defending Zara

For a Mountain Mercenary and a desperate woman, love becomes a dangerous refuge in New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker’s novel of heart-gripping suspense.

Mountain Mercenary Hunter “Meat” Snow has a mission: eliminate the human traffickers scouring the barrios of Lima for vulnerable prey. But it’s Meat who’s taken down. Separated from his team and beaten within an inch of his life, he’s left for dead. When he wakes, it’s to the intimate care of a beautiful stranger who knows all about survival.

Zara Layne was a child when a brutal murder left her orphaned and abandoned in Peru. Ever since, she’s fended for herself on the streets, outrunning its predators. Trusting men is not in Zara’s blood…until it warms to the exhilarating touch of the wounded hero who promises deliverance. As each other’s rescuers, they return to Colorado for a new normal.

But when Meat disappears, Zara discovers how ruthless the past can be. With the help of the loyal Mercenaries, she’s drawing on her own skills of endurance to find him. And for Zara, there’s no danger great enough to come between her and the man she loves.

Romance Suspense | Romance Military [Montlake Romance, On Sale: March 3, 2020, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781542017138 / ]

About Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker

Susan Stoker is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose series include Ace Security, Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes, SEAL of Protection, Unsung Heroes: Delta Force, and Mountain Mercenaries. Married to a retired army noncommissioned officer, Stoker has lived all over the country—from Missouri to California to Colorado to Texas—and currently lives under the big skies of Tennessee. A true believer in happily ever after, Stoker enjoys writing novels in which romance turns to love.

SEAL of Protection | Delta Force Heroes | Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes | ACE Security | Sleeper SEALs | Mountain Mercenaries


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