I have been trying to eat more soup recently, and not just because it’s winter. There are so many reasons why soup is a great meal that we should strive to eat every day. Soup is easy to make and adaptable to whatever ingredients are available. It’s easy to get a daily serving of veggies in — just throw them in the soup pot. Also, soup is satisfying and filling, a boon if you are trying to eat less and lose weight (which many of us are after the excess of the holidays).
Chicken soup is a classic that everyone loves. I don’t follow a recipe to make this soup, but rather use the vegetables I already have on hand. With small pasta such as orzo or macaroni and boneless chicken breasts, this soup can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
It’s perfectly okay to use store-bought stock for this soup; I prefer the organic brands, such as Swanson’s or Pacific Natural, which are sold in aseptic containers. However, it is easy to make chicken stock, and it only takes about an hour. Homemade stock tastes much richer than any stock you can buy, so why not make your own?
To make a quick chicken stock, cut up a three- to four-pound chicken and put the pieces in a large pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 1 celery stalk (don’t bother to peel), and add them to the pot, along with 1 bay leaf and a few whole peppercorns. Pour in 14 cups water. On high heat, bring just to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook for at least one hour and no more than two hours. Cool slightly and strain out the solids. Reserve the chicken breasts to use in any recipe calling for cooked chicken meat. If you are not making soup right away, refrigerate the stock and use within three days, or freeze it for up to three months.
Now, to make the soup, peel and chop several kinds of vegetables into small pieces. Carrots, celery and onion are classic choices, but use whatever you have available. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high. Saute the vegetables to lightly brown them. Add 1 garlic clove, minced, and saute another minute or two. Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cut 1 boneless chicken breast into small pieces and add to the pot, or if you made your own stock, shred the cooked breast meat and add that. Also add ¼ cup uncooked orzo, macaroni or other small pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the chicken and pasta are cooked, about 15 minutes.