Friday, February 10, 2012

Savory Chicken and Orzo Soup

A Cure for the Colder Weather:
Though this hasn't been the harshest of winters here in my new home of Nashville, TN, the crazy up and down weather this winter has left my head spinning. One day it's snowing, the next it's 70 degrees and beautiful. I can't entirely complain, but I have seen some pretty nasty side effects from these dramatic changes. Headaches, a runny nose, clogged sinuses, and joint pain have had me craving something truly comforting these last few days. I perused the aisles in the grocery store hoping to find a good soup that was low in sodium, had some good ingredients, and most of all looked tasty, but with my low appetite and a lack of quality products on the shelves I came home empty handed. Though slightly low on energy, I decided to take matters in to my own hands and whip up a semi-homemade version of classic chicken noodle soup. I added a few short-cuts and twists, but by the bottom of the bowl, I was one happy camper. The silky texture combined with the hearty chicken and veggies warmed me up from throat to tummy. It was the perfect way to recharge after a week of crazy weather. Did you know that doctors at the University of Nebraska Medical Center found in a study that chicken soup had anti-inflammatory properties? Did you also know that UCLA doctors also discovered this savory soup had properties similar to many common cold medicines? Though this recipe may not be the be all end all to your winter ailment, it will surely help you on your path to recovery! With this quickened recipe, you will be able snuggle up with a big bowl of yummy in no time!

Ingredients:
  • 1 large container of creamy chicken soup (about 32 oz) 
  • 1/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup of filtered water
  • 3 chopped medium sized carrots
  • 3 chopped stalks of celery
  • 1/2 chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1 cup of orzo pasta
  • 1 breast of rotisserie chicken, pulled
  • 1 tsp of pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of thyme
  • 1/2 tsp of oregano
  • 1/4 tsp of nutmeg
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Dash of salt to taste
  • Cooking spray or 1 tbs of oil

Hardware:
  • Large soup pot
  • Medium-small pasta pot
  • Small sauce pot
  • Cutting board & sharp slicing knife

Recipe: Makes about 4 large servings or 6 medium-small servings
  1. Chop carrots into small coins and boil in unsalted water for 2 minutes, then drain and shock.
  2. Heat large soup pot over medium and coat with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Small dice the onions and celery and then add to heated soup pot.
  4. While onions and celery sweat (about 2-3 min), add orzo to medium-small pot of unsalted boiling water, cook 9 min or 1-2 min less than directed.
  5. Add carrots to soup pot once the celery and onions appear translucent.
  6. Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and spices (thyme, oregano, pepper, bay leaves, and nutmeg) to soup pot, turn up heat to medium-high and let reduce for 3-5 minutes.
  7. While broth and spices reduce over the veggies, slice off a full chicken breast from rotisserie chicken and pull into small bites.
  8. Remove bay leaves and pour in full container of creamy chicken soup into large pot and stir. 
  9. Drain orzo and add the pasta and chicken to soup pot.
  10. Bring soup to a boil then reduce heat to low.
  11. Taste test soup and add 1/4 cup of water if too rich or add salt if needed (not recommended). 

Tenacious Tips:
  • I like to use a rotisserie chicken because it saves a ton of time, but you can always roast your own chicken, use other chicken left overs, or boil your own chicken breasts. This will help you to control the sodium in this recipe, but may take a little more time.
  • I use orzo because of its size and texture, but you can use whatever pasta you like. Whole Foods makes a great organic durum wheat orzo, and Delallo makes a great organic whole wheat orzo also.
  • For the creamy chicken soup, I like the Imagine Foods organic variety. It has an amazing taste, but it is a little high in sodium, so I add no extra salt to my soup. Pacific Natural Foods also makes a organic condensed cream of chicken soup that would work great for controlling the richness of the soup.
  • You can omit the nutmeg if you like, but I find it adds a undertone of warmth to the soup. You can sub in a little saffron instead, which could give it a particularly nice zing.
  • I also contemplated adding in some cooked drained spinach, but couldn't find any organic at the store when I made this recipe. Spinach would be a fantastic healthy add-on and you could easily use kale or chard as well. Other green veggies like peas or green beans would also be great nutrient rich additions.

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