Food Daily Dish

Easy dinner: Terrific chicken soups to warm up your evenings fast

Sometimes you can't do better than a simple bowl of chicken soup. These basic recipes — chunky vegetable chicken soup, tom kha gai and Moroccan chicken soup — come together easily (one even cooks up in the microwave), and you can't beat the flavors.

Chunky vegetable chicken soup: Short on time but looking for a rich soup with slow-simmered flavor? Chop some vegetables, open a few cans and toss with chopped chicken in a casserole dish. Then pop it in the microwave — yes, the microwave. From start to finish the soup comes together in only 40 minutes.

Chicken coconut soup (Tom Kha Gai): This immensely popular soup can be found on practically every Thai restaurant menu, the flavorful mix of coconut milk, fresh lime juice, fish sauce and lemongrass complementing the straw mushrooms, Thai peppers and chunks of chicken. This recipe from Jet Tila (a former L.A. Times Test Kitchen intern!) comes together in only 15 minutes. Yes, you read that right.

RECIPES: 99 MORE easy dinner ideas in about an hour or less

consider flank steaks with fresh chimichurri sauce. The sauce -- a little garlic, red wine vinegar, oil, fresh herbs and a touch of lemon juice -- comes together in almost no time, and those steaks will grill up in minutes. - See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/06/dinner-tonight-grilled-flank-steaks-chimichurri-sauce.html#sthash.hTvQknwx.dpuf

Moroccan chicken soup: This isn't your ordinary chicken soup; each bite is flavored with bits of carrot and celery, garbanzo beans and cracked wheat. It's rich, yet delicately spiced with notes of cinnamon and curry. Best of all? The whole thing comes together in about 45 minutes.

You can find all of the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

QUICK & EASY: 99 terrific recipes in about an hour or less

CHUNKY VEGETABLE CHICKEN SOUP

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 whole cloves

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, with liquid

1/4 cup red or white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 to 2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

* Toss together chicken chunks, oil, garlic and cloves in 2 1/2-quart casserole dish or microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to separate bowl and discard cloves. Keep chicken warm.

* Add carrots, celery, onion and broth to casserole and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Cook on high power until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, wine, salt, pepper and thyme. Cover and cook until mixture bubbles, 10 minutes. Stir to mix all ingredients. Add reserved chicken and microwave at high power until all ingredients are hot and flavors combined. Add spinach and cover until spinach wilts, 3 minutes.

4 servings. Each serving: 344 calories; 1,505 mg sodium; 51 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 31 grams protein; 6.65 grams fiber.

COCONUT CHICKEN SOUP (TOM KHA GAI)

Note: Almost every Thai restaurant in Southern California serves one version or another of this soup from our intern Jet Tila. And no wonder: The combination of coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce and lemon grass from the stock is sweet and fragrant. What's even more amazing, once you've made the stock (which can be frozen and used for many other soups), the whole thing comes together in 15 minutes — that's less time than it takes to call in an order!

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 cups Thai Chicken Stock

2 (3-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 (15-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained

1 to 3 roasted Thai peppers

5 tablespoons fish sauce

3 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not light)

1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage

Kaffir (Thai) lime leaves, for garnish

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

* Bring Thai Chicken Stock to simmer over medium-high heat in large pot. Add chicken, mushrooms and peppers and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in fish sauce, lime juice and coconut milk. Add chopped cabbage and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Divide among serving bowls and garnish each with 1 to 2 lime leaves and cilantro.

4 to 6 servings. Each of 6 servings: 216 calories; 1,270 mg sodium; 12 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 10 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 2.18 grams fiber.

Thai Chicken Stock

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

This Thai chicken stock is the base for the soup recipe.

1 chicken carcass

8 to 10 cups water

3/4 to 1 cup thinly sliced galangal

6 stalks lemon grass, lower thick portion only, pounded

10 kaffir (Thai) lime leaves

* Place chicken carcass in stockpot. Add water, galangal and lemon grass. Roll lime leaves and crush lightly with hand, then add to pan. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain.

6 cups. Each cup: 20 calories; 580 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0 fiber.

CAYENNE'S MOROCCAN CHICKEN SOUP

Total time: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from a recipe by executive chef Noura Elnasser of Cayenne. Cracked wheat can be found at select cooking and health food stores, as well as online.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 cups)

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans

1/3 cup diced tomato

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup cracked wheat No. 1 (fine grind)

4 to 5 cups chicken broth, more if desired

1. Add the oil to a large pot heated over medium-high heat until hot. Stir in the onion and sauté until softened and starting to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic.

2. Stir in the carrots, celery, chicken, garbanzo beans, tomato, bay leaves, basil, curry powder and cinnamon. Season with one-half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes to warm the vegetables.

3. Stir in the cracked wheat and 4 cups broth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.

4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, loosely covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired; we added an additional three-fourths teaspoon salt (seasoning will vary depending on the chicken broth used and personal taste). The soup may be a bit thick; add more broth to thin if desired. This makes about 1½ quarts soup.

Each serving: 148 calories; 11 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 18 mg cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 1,186 mg sodium.

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