So, today I'm going to share my recipe with you AND some time saving secrets for how I feed us again and again, just by cooking this one pot of soup! You'll see three stages of easy meals. Sure, you can stop with just the soup and call it cooked, but you won't want to. Typically, I make a pot of soup with just two breasts. However, adding two more breasts creates all sorts of options for other meals! Using a whole chicken is even better!
This is completely dairy free and can easily be gluten free if you use rice (easy) or even gluten free pasta. I do recommend leaving the GF pasta on the side and adding to each bowl as eaten, though. It gets soggy and doesn't store well in the broth.
2-4 chicken breasts (or 6! Go wild!) or a whole chicken
3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2-4 celery stalks with leaves, ends trimmed, chopped
1/2 onion , diced
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 box pasta of your choice or 2-3 cups cooked rice.
Get out your pot, and place your chicken in it. If you're using a whole chicken, don't forget to scoop out the parts inside that I don't even like to talk about. I wear a glove, because, well. Ew. Just cover the chicken with water and turn the burner on medium high heat. Bring to a boil, and using a large spoon you'll want to start skimming off the foam that floats on top of the water; that's the chicken fat. Breasts won't have nearly as much foam to skim as a whole chicken will. Just when you think you've got it all, wait a few more minutes and skim again. The more you skim, the leaner your soup will be.
Chop up all your veggies, and if you're like me, set aside all the ends, onion skins and trimmings of those veggies. I stick mine in a bag in the freezer and when it's full, I wrap all those little pieces in cheese cloth and make the most delicious veggie stock you've ever tasted. I love it when I can use every little bit of our food!
Add in the rest of your ingredients, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook at least 1 hour, 1.5 hours for a whole chicken. While it's cooking prepare your pasta or rice as per package instructions and set aside. For pasta and GF pasta, I cook 3 minutes less than suggested cooking time. When your soup is done, lift the chicken out carefully and put on a plate. It will be fall off the bone tender, so be careful not to burn yourself!
Tip for picky eaters: while the chicken is out of the pot, scoop out a cup or two of your veggies and set them aside. Use a handheld stick blender to blend what's left in the pot so even your pickiest of eaters won't know they're eating microscopic pieces of celery, onions and carrots.
Now, if you're just making soup, chop up your two chicken breasts, dump them back in the pot with any reserved veggies and add your rice or pasta (GF pasta on the side until serving.) Taste the broth and adjust the salt. I always add a bit more to taste, 1t at a time. Soup's on.
If you added extra breasts, set those aside to turn into something wonderfully delicious. If you used a whole chicken like I did, carefully tear it up leaving the fat on the plate while moving the yummy, tender meat to a new clean plate. I also have out my crock pot at this point, and I'm putting all the bones into the crock pot to turn into nutritious bone broth, recipe below.
I put all the dark meat from my whole chicken back in the soup, and I reserve the breasts and tenderloins. This was a particularly large chicken, so one breast and tenderloin turned into a simple chicken salad to eat with my Mason Jar Salads. I mixed the chopped chicken with 2T Vegenaise, 1T hemp seed, 1T dried cranberries and 1/2t Herbamare seasoning and a little parsley on top. Yum.
The second breast and tenderloin got chopped up and tossed in a half batch of this delicious Tandoori sauce I made a few weeks ago and split in half. We ate half the sauce right then, and I put the other half in the freezer for an occasion just like this. I thawed the sauce in the fridge overnight, then topped with green onions and some fresh chopped cilantro. This is something that I know my kids just won't eat, but I love, so making and freezing half is a great way to still enjoy flavors you love without having to make a second meal for anyone else.
So, basically my one pot of soup turned into a week's worth of meals for us. Let me break it down: all three kids ate soup lunch and dinner four days this week, plus we got at least 4-6 grown up servings out of it. There was broth left over so I added more pasta and the kids ate it at least two more meals each. If they didn't love it so much, or if I had cooked other things, I could have stocked the freezer. 36 meals just in soup. There was enough chicken salad for 4 servings, and enough tandoori chicken for 4 servings. That's 44 meals. The more chicken you add, the more meals you can make. Shred breasts to turn into tacos or enchiladas, freeze shredded chicken for a future meal. The possibilities are endless. But wait, there's more!
Remember I mentioned I was putting all my chicken bones in the crock pot to make broth? Yep. You can keep going! I cover my bones with at least 8 cups water, added the other half of that onion with the skin, and some carrot and celery pieces. Pour in 2T apple cider vinegar, and cook on high at least 24 hours, up to 36. The longer you cook, the bones will actually break down so soft you can cut them with the side of a fork. I chop them up and let my dogs eat them, since there's no splinter hazard. Strain the broth through a fine strainer, and I use my gravy separator for a nice easy pouring spout to fill muffin tins and ice cube trays with broth, then transfer to freezer bags. I know my muffin tins hold 1/2c liquid, so I don't measure anymore but I did the first time. Do NOT overfill, or you'll be taking baby steps to the freezer, desperately trying not to spill your precious broth. I use in any recipe that calls for broth or to flavor rice, and it's so much better for you than any store bought broth!
But wait, there's even more! When my freezer bag gets filled with bits and pieces of veggie trimmings, mushroom stems, etc. I wrap it in cheesecloth with some garlic cloves and any fresh herbs I have on hand and tie it in a knot, place in my dutch oven with 1/2t turmeric and 2t salt, and simmer for at least an hour. I freeze the same way, and just clearly mark the bags so I don't grab the wrong one in the chaos that is my home. Enjoy.