Posted in cooking, personal thoughts

My Favorite Season of the Year – Soup Season!

When I woke up a few days ago, I had the old tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat.  Realizing  I was probably coming down with a cold, I grabbed a sandwich baggie full of vitamin C drops as I headed out to work.  I managed to get through the day, downing a number of said drops to help whenever a ‘cough’ started (usually just the natural reaction to trying to dislodge that tickle), drinking a number of bottles of water, and having several cups of tea.  By the time I got home from work that night, there was no doubt about it.  I had one hell of a cold coming on.  Now, I don’t usually get sick in winter, so when I do it’s usually a doozy, and this was no excuse.

So, I’m at home, feeling lousier and lousier by the minute, trying to figure out what I can do about dinner that’s both easy and will help my condition.  Thankfully, I almost always have stuff on hand to make soup.

Let me digress for just a moment here.  I’m half Italian, and I have fond memories from my youth when we’d go back and visit my little Italian Grandma and she’d have soup waiting on the stove because it’s easier to adapt to finicky driving schedules than lasagna or something else.  Sadly, because we lived half a country away from them, I never really got to learn how to cook from her, but there is something to be said for it ‘being in the blood.’

The few things I did learn from her (namely pizza dough but also one or two pastas), were always a bit tricky for me when I first moved out on my own after college.  With Grandma, when it came to spices and herbs, it was always ‘enough of this’ or ‘a pinch of that’ or ‘just enough of this.’

I remember standing in my kitchen in my apartment in Montana one day trying to figure that out.  I nearly called her to ask what she meant, but instead spoke up to the ceiling above.  “What the heck is ‘just enough?'” !!!

When I moved back to the Midwest and eventually married my Ex, we watched a LOT of the Food Channel.  I did most of the cooking, though he did occasionally step in/up to do some, and we often found some good, simple enough recipes that we decided to try.  (I have one fairly clear memory of learning how to make a Bechemel sauce that Alton Brown did for some mac and cheese … NEVER AGAIN! LOL)  I learned how to do things like make soup stock from scratch — beef bones or a whole chicken, etc. — and then use it in recipes.  The only problem with that is it takes FOREVER!

At that time, I used to watch one show called ‘Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee’ or something to that effect.  It made perfect sense to me, especially being a working Mom.  So, before you know it, I’d found a few ways to speed the process up.

Now, back to my current situation.

Come winter time, I tend to make a LOT of soups.  Almost each night we’d be having some.  2-3 different soups would get us through a week and they were easy enough (especially with a slow cooker).  When the Ex left, that number dropped to two per week … but a particulary and suddenly picky Kiddo messed things up when he stated he didn’t like the Beef Veggie Barley soup I made.  *sigh*  I love that soup!  However, he DID tell me he liked the chicken soup.

My chicken soup has evolved a LOT over the past five years or so.  I pulled a Sandra Lee and relied on store bought, reduced sodium chicken broth.  Good start, right?  I still would add carrots, celery and an onion (I like mine yellow/sweet variety).  I usually let that go for 30-45 minutes, long enough to get a good start on softening up the veggies.  I eventually got beyond my Grandma dilemma and just added ‘enough’ Italian herbs and salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves as it cooked.  One big thing time has changed: I used to cook it with several boneless chicken breasts, shredding them up later when I’d add frozen corn and peas to the soup.  Last year, however, I switched it up.  I started using Tortellini instead.  This was a HUGE hit with Kiddo.

Honestly, making this soup is so easy now, in part thanks to my grocery store, it almost seems like cheating.  In case anyone’s interested, here’s the recipe:


Chicken Tortellini Soup LadyA Style

Ingredients:

1 bag of Tortellini (there are different brands of course, and my grocery chain recently changed what they had, but I can usually find something that works.  I go for the dried ones in case I can’t cook it right away, but you could also use fresh made)

1 package of pre-cut celery/carrot sticks (I found this at the grocery store in the produce section by accident one day and BOY has it been a godsend! I don’t use them enough to make buying a whole package of celery and a whole bag of baby carrots worth it, so I get the sticks and chop them up!  Just enough for a batch of soup)

1 yellow/sweet onion (I can sometimes find this precut at the store, too, but chopping up an onion isn’t so bad)

1 bag of frozen corn and frozen peas (if you have other frozen veggies you like, feel free to use them!).  I only use about half the bag of each unless I’m making a HUGE pot in the crock pot.

Just enough Italian herbs (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 tsp is my guess, but season it to your tastes)

Some salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bay leaves

Four 32 oz containers of chicken broth (those Tetra-Pak box ones)

 

Directions

  1. Chop up the carrots, celery and onion.  Stick them into your soup pot/Dutch oven.  (sometimes I saute them in a bit of olive oil to get them started, but you don’t have to).
  2. Add 3-4 of the containers of chicken broth.  (depends how big your soup pot is!)
  3. Add in herbs, salt and pepper, bay leaves.
  4. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer over medium heat for about 30-45 minutes.
  5. Add in peas and corn and Tortellini.  At this point, I usually cook it another 15 minutes or so (read the cooking time on your Tortellini package and use that as a guide).
  6. ENJOY!

Optional additions

I like to sprinkle Parmesan cheese over my soup – a thing my fully Italian father taught me.  Kiddo doesn’t care for it, but he likes oyster crackers.  Additional flavoring, should you wish it, can be added with some garlic during the cooking process, or switching up the herbs.


And there you have it!  Chicken Tortellini Soup just like this Mama likes to make.  It’s great any time, but especially comforting when you’ve got a cold!