Chicken noodle soup is fine, but let's think beyond the noodle for a second with these easy chicken soup (and stew) 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.
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.
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. Best of all? The whole meal comes together in about an hour.
You can find all of the recipes below.
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
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.
Total time: About 1 hour
Note: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens' "How to Boil Water."
4 cloves garlic
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or Great Northern beans
8 bone-in skinless chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
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.