A Colorful Soup to Battle the Cold Weather Blues

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I could eat soup every day of the week.  I could eat soup for every meal, every day of the week. Forrest recently discovered this little secret, and let’s just say he does not share my soup obsession.  But I can’t help it– there is just something so comforting about warm broth and colorful veggies all piled together in one steaming bowl.  I really believe it is one of the best therapies for both physical and emotional ailments– sore throats, bad days, you name it and soup can help ease the pain.  Maybe that’s just me.  Soup is my comfort food.  It reminds me of when I was younger, and my grandfather (and more recently, my dad) would make giant pots of hearty, flavorful soup.  The kitchen and the company alike were warm and welcoming.  We all waited in anticipation until the chef of the day deemed the soup ready and served up generous bowls.  Homemade soup seemed so magical, so impossibly good.  Now that I have my own kitchen, I know that making soup is not as difficult as it looked back then.  But it is still pretty magical.

The best thing about homemade soup?  It’s totally individualized.  Use whatever you like, or whatever you happen to have in your kitchen.  Swap out carrots for potatoes, kale for spinach, chicken for tofu or fish.  Change up the spices– it’s completely up to you!  This recipe can be easily adjusted to suit your own tastes.  You can make it heartier by adding more vegetables or noodles, or add more liquid if you’re a broth person (this is a continuous conflict for the soup person in me– vegetables are so good (and nutritious!) but the broth is so comforting too… I still can’t decide between the two).  Homemade soup is the perfect remedy for these cold winter nights we’ve been having in Binghamton and in New Haven.  So what are you waiting for?  Whip up a pot and warm your spirits!

Chicken, Kale, and White Bean Soup
1 chicken breast, frozen or thawed
A handful of grape tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp cayenne
32 oz. chicken stock
2 medium onions, chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 celery stalks, chopped
1 can cannellini beans
1 bunch of kale, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place the chicken breast in a pan (I used a round cake pan, but a cookie sheet or something similar would work just as well).  Drizzle the chicken very generously with olive oil.  Sprinkle the minced garlic and the spices over the chicken, add the tomatoes, and toss everything together to evenly coat with the olive oil and spices.  Cook for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and browned on the outside (I used a frozen chicken breast, so if yours is thawed, you might what to cut down on the cooking time).  You could stop here, and you’d still have a pretty decent meal:

photo-4(The extra chicken breast is for another soup and a salad I plan on making this week– a good way to cut down on cooking time once the work week gets busy!)

While the chicken is cooking, chop the onions, carrots, and celery.  Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a large pot and heat it over medium heat.  Add the chopped vegetables, and cook them, stirring occasionally, until the onions are fragrant and almost translucent.  Add the chicken stock, and then use the can or box from the stock to add the same amount of water to the pot (I usually use a 1:1 ratio of stock and water, and then season it– but, you could use all stock or broth if you’d prefer).  Bring to a simmer.

Now it’s time to season your broth.  I tend to like my broth to be very flavorful (I always add a TON of pepper).  But you should adjust your soup to your taste.  Add salt, pepper, and any other spices you like, a little at a time, until you reach your desired flavor (add only a small amount at a time– it’s easy to add more, but a lot harder to correct over-seasoning!).  I added paprika, cumin, coriander, and cayenne to my broth.

Once the soup is hot and you have seasoned the broth, add the can of cannellini beans.  DO NOT drain the beans before adding– pour everything in the can straight into your pot. The liquid will thicken the soup just slightly and will add some more flavor.

Once the chicken is done cooking and has cooled enough that you can touch it, shred it using a knife and a fork (honestly, my technique is basically just to hack at it with the knife and fork until the pieces are small and kind of stringy).  Add the chicken to the pot.  Then, scrape the tomatoes, garlic, spices, and any drippings from the pan into the soup (even more flavor!  This step changes everything, I promise).

Allow the soup to cook until the vegetables reach your desired consistency (I like mine pretty soft, but you could keep them firmer if you prefer).  Add the chopped kale and let the whole thing simmer for about 2 minutes, until the kale is just wilted.  Spinach or escarole would work well here too– but seriously, try kale if you haven’t already.  This was the first time I ate it, and I have totally jumped on the kale bandwagon.  It’s hearty and you can almost taste all of the nutrients.  Check out this post on the 10 health benefits of eating kale if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about.

Serve the soup hot, and let your worries melt away (at least while you’re eating it).

 

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