It’s Winter. Eat Soup.
A week or so ago, I gloated to a few people about how this winter wasn’t seeming bad at all. ”It’s been so sunny!” I bragged. ”Usually I hate it by mid-January, but this hasn’t been so bad.” I’d been working out regularly, cooking and eating fairly healthily, and even enjoying the outdoor play time with my girls.
I spoke too soon, though, because for the past nine days straight, it’s been dark and dreary here in Michigan. Most of the snow on my street has melted, letting the matted-down, brown grass show through. My energy has sagged. I’m struggling to stay away from the simple carbohydrates my body suddenly craves (“Give me Nilla Wafers!!!”) and trying to keep my family healthy. The solution? Soup.
The first one is one of my favorite things to make on a cold weeknight. It’s my mom’s standard Chicken Rice Soup recipe, more or less, that I’ve jazzed up a little bit. Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, chopped
- 1/2 onion, minced
- olive oil
- 3/4 c. long-grain white rice
- 6 c. chicken stock or more
- leftover cooked chicken (from a rotisserie or roasted chicken breasts), shredded or cubed
- fresh rosemary
Pour a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a heavy stockpot, heat it up, then saute the carrots, celery, and onion for a few minutes, until soft. Add the rosemary. Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer, then throw in the rice and cook according to the package directions, adding more broth if the rice absorbs too much of the liquid. When the rice is done, add the chicken and stir until heated through, then remove from the heat and garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
It sounds simple, and it is, but something about sauteeing the veggies first, then adding the broth, rice and chicken makes it more complex that you’d think. It’s freezable, it’s re-heatable for lunch the next day (add a little more stock to think it out), and my kids love it.
The second soup I made to combat the winter fatigue is called “Super-Tuscan White Bean Soup.” I found it on the Food Network website by searching “white beans” because I wanted to see if I could make a (nearly) meatless yet hearty soup that would satisfy my husband’s carnivorous tastes.
You’ll see from the recipe that this soup, too, starts with that same trick of sauteeing carrot, celery, and onion in olive oil for the soup’s flavor base, only this time, to liven things up, we’re adding garlic and prosciutto, too! But only a slice or two; in fact, I had bacon, so it’s what I used. Sparingly. I wanted this to be healthy, after all. Next, you add the beans and chicken broth, which I let my helper do (she’s the one wearing a Tinkerbell nightgown at 3:30 p.m. on a Monday):
Here’s what it looked like when I had cooked all the beans in the lovely broth and was ready to “puree the solids”:
After pureeing the solids, you add most of the cooking liquid back in, and you find yourself with a satisfyingly thick, cream-free soup that’s a subtle shade of orangish-pink and that your children, with some persuading, will actually eat. And your husband – your husband who does not love soup and does love meat! – will eat seconds, and thirds. I guess I’ll gloat about that, while I’m waiting around here in Michigan for the sun to come back out and play.