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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homemade Chicken Soup

Are you in the mood for something warm for dinner, but don’t have time (or maybe like me you just don’t have the desire) to labor in the kitchen making a completely from scratch meal? Well this post is for you! Tonight for dinner I’m making some homemade chicken rice soup. Yumm! As the weather has grown colder, my hunger for home-made chicken soup has gotten out of control, and as it’s my day off, I don’t plan to spend all day in the kitchen preparing it. Now you may be thinking, “But you just said this isn’t from scratch, then how is it homemade?” Well, in the wise words of my husband’s grandmother, Donna, “I said it was homemade, not made from scratch!”

This recipe is a spinoff of Donna’s Famous Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, so let me tell you a quick story of how I was introduced to the brilliant idea that “homemade does not have to mean made from scratch.” My freshman year of college I found myself, along with most of my classmates, sick as a dog. As this was my first year living away from home, and not having my mom there to nurse me back to health was hard, so you can bet I was elated to discover that Josh’s grandmother was an excellent stand-in! One call to her from Josh mentioning that I was sick and I had the biggest pot of soup I’ve ever seen in my life. Let me just say that it was the best chicken soup I’d ever had (sorry mom!) and the entire pot was gone in two days! So the next time I was at her house I begged for her recipe. She walked right back to her pantry and pulled out a pack of Bear Creek Soup Mix along with her directions “Add some chicken and whatever vegetables you have on hand.” And that’s the story of how I learned to make chicken soup.

Well after countless times of making homemade chicken soup with Bear Creek Mix, I found Hanover Chicken Rice Soup Mix on sale at the grocery store, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a sucker for a deal, so I figured I would give it a try. I’ll say that its definitely good, but when I put it to the husband test, he agreed that Bear Creek is better. What can we say? Grandmas always know best! Although the Hanover mix isn’t as good as Bear Creek (in our opinion) it’s still quick, easy, and tastes like it took all day to make, and the rice adds a nice switch from traditional noodles too.

Regardless of which mix I choose to use, the process is the same. First I start with frozen chicken breasts.  I usually wait until the boneless skinless breasts are buy one get one free at the grocery store and stock up for later. I defrost them in the fridge for about two days and then boil them in plain water until they’re fully cooked. Normally I use about two or three medium-large sized breasts because I like to serve this is a main course, but depending on what you want to serve this dish as you can add more of fewer chicken breasts. If you’re REALLY in a hurry you can find precooked chicken breast slices made by Perdue in the prepackaged deli section of your grocery store. I use them for salad toppers and such sometimes, but they’d work just as well for soup if you’re in a bind.

Once the chicken breasts are cooked, drain the water from the pot and slice them into bite sized chunks. You can slice them before they’re cooked but I hate touching raw meat so I’ll do whatever I can to avoid it which is why I wait until after.  I then follow the directions on the package of whatever brand of mix you plan to use, and place the chicken in immediately. Then to add some substance and to make the soup a little more ‘hearty’ I buy a bag of frozen mixed veggies and toss them in (usually just whatever is on sale at that time – noticing the trend here?). If you have a little more time you can use fresh veggies and add in any of your family’s favorites, but since you’re going to cook everything in together the frozen works just as well.

(As you can see, I added a little too much ‘stuff,’ so my soup became a little less soup-y than I had planned on. Oh well!)

The mix will usually give a time frame for cooking which I initially follow. If I’m cooking it right before I serve it, I’ll leave it on ‘Low’ for another 10 minutes or so just to let it thicken up a bit. If I’m cooking it ahead of time to serve later that night I’ll take it off the burner, let it cool, and place the pot directly in the fridge until I’m ready to serve it. If this is your plan, make sure that you stir everything off the bottom so that it mixes up and heats evenly.

If I’m serving the soup as the main course I’ll usually toast up a baguette or something of the sort from the bakery at our grocery store to serve along side. If you’ve got kids (or a husband like mine) you can top the bowl of soup with some croutons, Goldfish, oyster crackers, or even some shredded cheddar cheese. The best part about this meal is that it will be just as good for leftovers as it is on the first night. Just put however much you place to serve into a pot on the stove to warm it up (or the microwave if you’re in a hurry again!) and you’re good to go. Sometimes when we’re running low I’ll serve it as a side dish to another meal like grilled cheese or meat loaf.

I hope that your family enjoys this meal as much as my husband and I do! Comment below with your family’s favorite easy, cold-weather meals.

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Happy Reading :)
~ Kortney

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