Chicago, IL

How to Make the Perfect Bowl of Chicken Soup

Sherry McGuinn

Even if you're feeling like a schlub!

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In the Chicago area where I live, winter has arrived with a vengeance. Cold, blustery, and snowy, with more to come.

It's no secret that when the temperature dips, our need for comfort food spikes. Take soup, for instance. The perfect comfort food. Warm. Cozy. Filling without making you feel like the Michelin Man.

I'm not a culinary genius by any means but I do know my cooking hacks. Like my recipe for "homemade" chicken noodle soup. I put that in quotes because it's not exactly one-hundred-percent homemade, but it sure tastes like it! And that's the desired result, right?

I have a whole folder filled with soup recipes that I've collected over the years and I have several I'd love to share with you, but I thought I'd begin with this one as, due to the continuing pandemic and resulting, stultifying quarantine, you guys might be in need of some "Jewish penicillin."

More of that in a minute but first, I want to share a few more soup hacks for you time-crunched readers who still want a tasty, nutritious meal that won't break the bank, especially during these rough times.

Canned tomato soup on its own is fairly unexciting, right? Good old Campbell's tomato soup has been around forever and is a staple in many household pantries. Served alongside a grilled-cheese sandwich, it's very much the all-American meal. That said, you can elevate that bowl of tangy orange goodness to a whole new level. For example, instead of adding water or regular milk to the concentrated goo in the can, use coconut milk. Add a spoonful or two of Thai red curry paste and finish off with a squeeze of lime! Yum! If you want to really go nuts, add a glob of peanut butter, as well. I do this all the time and it's so good.

I happen to love Thai flavors and incorporate them whenever possible. I always have red, yellow, and green curry paste in my kitchen along with fresh limes and chunky peanut butter. With those ingredients and a bit of brown sugar, you can whip up a quick satay sauce for chicken, beef, or tofu and veggies, if you avoid meat. I'd probably eat satay sauce off of a shoe, that's how much I love it.

Another option for canned tomato soup: Sliced Italian sausage and fresh, grated parmesan cheese. Or just the cheese alone. It really adds an umami burst of flavor that is so satisfying.

You can also add a can of rinsed and drained beans to canned soups for added fiber and flavor. Black beans, chickpeas, and butter beans are great options. They fill you up without bulking you out. Cooked quinoa is another great option. It keeps in the fridge for several days and you can use it in a variety of ways. I often add quinoa to my arugula salads for a satiating, healthy meal.

Now, onto the main event: My quick and easy chicken soup.

Full disclosures: I don't have an exact recipe and frankly, I think that's a good thing because you can tailor this soup to your and your family's taste. You can swap out noodles for rice, for example, or leave out the garlic if that's not to your taste.

I made it the other night and I'll tell you exactly what I used:

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Ingredients:

3 quarts low-sodium chicken broth

3 large carrots, sliced

3 ribs of celery, sliced

chopped garlic, about 8 cloves as I like a lot

Shredded rotisserie chicken, I used the meat from about 1 1/2 chickens

1 bag "No Yolk" noodles, "dumpling" style

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 lemon

Directions:

Okay. Here we go:

Cook noodles separately and set them aside.

Dump the broth into a large pot.

Add the carrots, garlic, and celery.

Squeeze in the juice from the lemon and throw the piece right into the pot.

Bring to a soft boil and then let simmer for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

Add the shredded chicken, salt, and pepper and let simmer (real low, guys), for another 15 to 30 minutes so that the flavors blend and you get all that goodness.

Now, here, you can either add the noodles into the soup as I did or spoon them into a bowl and ladle the soup over.

If you like, add another spritz or two of lemon. I love it! The citrusy tang really brightens up the dish. Actually, I like to add lemon juice to damn near everything. As I'm a salt freak, I find that it helps me cut down on sodium.

There you have it! A quick and easy bowl of comfort food that no one will ever guess didn't take you hours to make!

Enjoy!

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© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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