Sometimes it doesn't get better than a bowl of hearty chicken soup or stew. Whether you're fending off a cold or flu, or are simply looking for an easy dish that's both comforting and warm, we've got you covered with some great ideas:

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.

Chunky vegetable and chicken soup: You don't even need the stovetop for this one; simply fix the whole dish in the microwave. Best of all, it comes together in less than 45 minutes.

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In 2009, Food did a story on fresh tofu in Southern California. We included a recipe for fresh, homemade tofu -- very light in flavor, this delicate tofu is almost like a custard with its creamy texture.

The method is simple: Combine some cold soy milk with nigari water (a brine used to set the soy milk) and steam the milk until it sets up like a custard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/03/test-kitchen-tips-homemade-tofu.html#sthash.6Tjk9w9Z.dpu

In 2009, Food did a story on fresh tofu in Southern California. We included a recipe for fresh, homemade tofu -- very light in flavor, this delicate tofu is almost like a custard with its creamy texture.

The method is simple: Combine some cold soy milk with nigari water (a brine used to set the soy milk) and steam the milk until it sets up like a custard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/03/test-kitchen-tips-homemade-tofu.html#sthash.6Tjk9w9Z.dpuf

In 2009, Food did a story on fresh tofu in Southern California. We included a recipe for fresh, homemade tofu -- very light in flavor, this delicate tofu is almost like a custard with its creamy texture.

The method is simple: Combine some cold soy milk with nigari water (a brine used to set the soy milk) and steam the milk until it sets up like a custard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/03/test-kitchen-tips-homemade-tofu.html#sthash.6Tjk9w9Z.dpu

In 2009, Food did a story on fresh tofu in Southern California. We included a recipe for fresh, homemade tofu -- very light in flavor, this delicate tofu is almost like a custard with its creamy texture.

The method is simple: Combine some cold soy milk with nigari water (a brine used to set the soy milk) and steam the milk until it sets up like a custard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/03/test-kitchen-tips-homemade-tofu.html#sthash.6Tjk9w9Z.dpuf

In 2009, Food did a story on fresh tofu in Southern California. We included a recipe for fresh, homemade tofu -- very light in flavor, this delicate tofu is almost like a custard with its creamy texture.

The method is simple: Combine some cold soy milk with nigari water (a brine used to set the soy milk) and steam the milk until it sets up like a custard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes.

- See more at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2012/03/test-kitchen-tips-homemade-tofu.html#sthash.6Tjk9w9Z.dpu

CALIFORNIA COOKBOOK: Find hundreds of delicious recipes

Tuscan chicken stew: Chicken thighs are braised with white beans in a light tomato sauce, the stew finished with fresh spinach and lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The whole meal comes together in about an hour.

You can find all three 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.

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

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 lemongrass 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.

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.


Total time: About 1 hour

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens' "How to Boil Water."

1 onion

4 cloves garlic

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or Great Northern beans

8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 large sprig rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 small head escarole or 4 cups baby spinach leaves (about 8 ounces)

1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)

1. Chop the onion; smash and peel the garlic. Rinse and drain the beans in a colander or strainer.

2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season all over with salt and black pepper. Add the oil to the Dutch oven. When the oil is hot, add the chicken skinned (rounded) sides down, and brown, in batches if necessary, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter when done.

3. When all of the chicken has been browned, reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and herbs; cook, stirring until the onions are slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until brick red, about 1 minute. Add the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that cling to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until syrupy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the beans, tomatoes and chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Nestle the chicken pieces in the stew, adding to the pan any collected juices from the plate. Simmer the stew, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

5. Trim the escarole and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. (If you're using baby spinach, there's no need to do this.) Wash the escarole or spinach and drain. Add the greens to the stew, cooking only until wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve in shallow bowls.

Each serving: 642 calories; 55 grams protein; 24 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 32 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 179 mg cholesterol; 5 grams sugar; 650 mg sodium.

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