“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Hearty and Versatile Chicken Soup Recipe

Yes, I’m posting another soup recipe because I'm such a big fan of them. And because I don’t have an oven at home, I gravitate towards soup/stew/curry type recipes. The upside of no oven is that I’m not tempted to bake. Instead, to satisfy a sweet tooth, I will visit my favorite vegetarian restaurant in the city, Claire’s Cornercopia, for a single serving of whatever I’m in the mood for. Their baked goods are heaven and they use high quality ingredients, including many that are organic and no trans fats. I’ve also begun to experiment at home with raw and non-baked recipes that are significantly more nutritious. So what I once felt was a problem has actually turned out to be a blessing and both of my strategies have ramped up my diet considerably while at the same time kept me from feeling deprived. On the contrary, I’m more grateful for the times when I do indulge knowing that I’m doing something good for my body and soul.

The thing about soup, though, is that it is perfect for the winter months because it’s warming and a very easy and convenient way to get a complete, nutritious meal in one pot. The following chicken soup recipe is one that I have been making for many years. I’ve made dozens of variations based on the vegetables, bean/legumes, grains or seasonings I’ve added, but the main idea is to incorporate as many colors as possible to get a greater variety of nutrients. For example, try adding acorn or butternut squash instead of sweet potato, broccoli or peas in place of the zucchini, or barley, lentils, or pasta in place of beans. The timing of how the vegetables are added will also ensure that they are not overcooked enabling them to retain more of their nutritional value.

In the past made my own broth for this recipe by simply browning chicken with the onions and celery in the pot, adding water and seasonings, and allowing it to simmer until the chicken is cooked and tender, then removed it from the bones and put it back in the pot. But a quicker and just as tasty version is listed below using already prepared chicken or vegetable broth and precooked chicken (or turkey), which makes it a great soup for leftovers. I like to simply sprinkle on some grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese or, to add even more flavor and nutrition, I’ll garnish it with pesto. I’ve included a recipe for a basil pesto below.

Chicken Soup

2 tsp coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
2 stalks celery, chopped small – I like to use the tender stalks of the heart with the leaves
2 small carrots, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into ½ to 1 inch cubes
3 - 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 small zucchini and yellow squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch wedges
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 cup white beans
1 cup tomatoes, chopped in juice or 2 medium, fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 cup greens such as spinach or Swiss chard, chopped
Herbs and seasonings: cracked pepper, fresh or dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sea salt to taste
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

Heat coconut oil over medium heat in large pot. Add onions and celery and sauté until onions start to become translucent. Add carrots and sweet potatoes, stir and sauté briefly. Slowly add broth, cracked pepper and herbs (start with a teaspoon of each, then adjust). Increase heat to bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer 5 – 10 minutes to allow carrots and sweet potatoes to partially through. Add zucchini and yellow squash and continue to simmer an additional 5 – 10 minutes. Add chopped chicken, tomatoes and white beans. For a thicker soup, mash some of the beans first before adding to the pot and stir well. This can also be achieved using mashed sweet potato or carrots. Add sea salt to taste and stir in garlic. For less heat, garlic can be sautéed in the beginning with onions and celery. Add greens and simmer briefly. To serve, ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with freshly grated cheese, chopped fresh herbs or a dollop of pesto (recipe below). For a hearty and satisfying meal, serve this soup with some crusty, whole grain sourdough bread. Enjoy!

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
½ tsp sea salt

Place all ingredients except for olive oil into a food processor. Slowly add olive oil while processing until it reaches a desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste.

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