Welcome to my world!

I've developed a passion for cooking since childhood, but in the past six years, that passion has grown into a geeky obsession. I love cooking, baking, and most importantly, sharing the love of food with family and friends. I invite you along on my journey of food discovery and passion.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chicken Soup for the Weeknight Dinner

I confess - I really don't like "traditional" chicken soup.  Truthfully, it wasn't something I grew up eating much of and it just didn't appeal to my childhood palate.  And you know how something you dislike as a child generally follows you to adulthood!  Yet I like brussels sprouts!  Go figure....  Anyhoo, I'd clipped a recipe from Southern Living well over a year ago that actually appealed.  It was chicken and rice soup.  Not only that, it was chicken soup with long grain and wild rice, always a favorite food.  Putting aside my chicken soup trepidation, I finally gathered the courage to make it when my sweetie developed a nasty head cold.  "Southern-style penicillin," if you will.

One thing that kept me from making the soup was how labor-intensive this recipe is.  When you're cooking on a Sunday, slow simmered soups make sense.  Heck, even slow cookers help with this.  BUT, I knew that there were a few shortcuts I could take if I wanted this to be a weeknight friendly recipe.  I do advocate homemade, freshly prepared food, but I also am willing to make a few sacrifices for convenience.

First, to save time, I pre-cooked and shredded the chicken.  You can easily buy a rotisserie chicken and use that, or just throw a couple of chicken breasts in the oven over the weekend, let cool, and shred.  Second, I am a big fan of the "Ready Rice" and "Fast Cook" rice.  Ready Rice microwaves in 90 seconds and is great for serving a side dish quick.  Fast cook rice will boil up in about 5 minutes, rather than the usual 20.  Another trick is to prep and cook the veggies ahead.  I chose to sauté the veggies this evening, and it only added about 10 minutes to my cooking time.  I also cut the butter down, swapped out some with olive oil, and used fat free half and half rather than the full fat stuff (you could even leave that out).

The result of my tweaks? A soup my husband wanted seconds of and my new go-to option if I need some chicken soupy goodness.  Best part?  You can scale it up or down for the size of your family or gathering.  Mine makes enough for about 4 people as a main course.  Complete the meal with crusty bread and a salad lightly dressed with vinaigrette for a great well-rounded meal.  Happy eating!

Hearty, yet light with great depth of flavor

Chicken, Mushroom, and Wild Rice Soup

1 package fast-cook long grain and wild rice mix, prepared to package directions OR 1 package Ready Rice, microwaved to package directions
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup of fresh mushrooms sliced (can sub 1 can of sliced mushrooms, drained)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 3 green onions or 1 small yellow onion)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk halved, then cut into quarters, and diced)
2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all purpose flour (I sub Wondra flour for its smooth texture)
3 cups chicken broth
1 - 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (about 1 cup)
2 Tbsp dry white wine or sherry (optional)
1/4 cup half and half (fat free is fine)

Prepare rice to package directions and set aside.  While rice is cooking, add 1 Tbsp olive oil to kettle and heat over medium-high until warm.  Add mushrooms, onion, and celery and sauté until translucent and soft, stirring often, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from kettle.  Using same kettle, reduce heat to medium and add 2 Tbsp butter.  Once melted, whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute or until thick and bubbly.  Gradually whisk in chicken broth, then chicken, and cook, stirring often, 5 - 8 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add in wine (if using) and half-and-half.  Add in rice and heat through, about 5 minutes.

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