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Close on eggs’ heels in the race of easy, delicious things to cook: chicken soup. No, not the Campbell’s kind. Dear reader, you’re a grown-up now, and your grown-up taste buds deserve better.

Remember that cooking, like all of life’s arts, requires lots of practice, and lots of trial and error. Start basic, expect to mess up, and don’t feel defeated when you do. Make a mess. Just make sure you clean it up, because otherwise you’ll get roaches.

Note: I didn’t mention this in my last post, but when it comes to both eggs and chicken, I think it’s worth it to spend an extra dollar or two for organic, grain fed, and/or free range products. The taste and texture is far superior to conventional products, and these chickens live a better life than those raised conventionally (have you seen NAPOLEON DYNAMITE?!).

To make a delicious, basic chicken soup:
Start with a cooked chicken breast. You can buy precooked chicken at the store, or you can boil raw chicken breasts, or even cook them on your Forman. Just make sure that there’s no pink left in the middle. See The US Food Safety and Inspection Service Guidelines if you have any questions about the best way to handle raw meat. Cut your chicken breast into small, bite-sized chunks.

Peel and slice whatever vegetables you want in your soup: carrots, parsnips, radishes, onions, and other tough veggies should go right into your pot, while more tender ingredients such as peas or noodles shouldn’t be added until the end.

Bring a quart or two of water to a boil. Add a bouillon cube or packet of concentrated chicken broth (again, look for all natural- cheaper packets may contain MSG or other unhealthy additives). Alternately, you can buy pre-made broth from the supermarket. You could even make your own by gathering all your veggie scraps and leftovers from the week and simmering them in a couple of quarts of water for an hour or so, then straining the scraps out. Though delicious, this is labor intensive, and generally isn’t my method of choice.

ANYWAY, boil your tougher carrots and onion for a minute or two and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add your chicken breast, and let simmer for a few more minutes. When your carrots are almost tender, add the rest of your ingredients. You may even want to add a touch of garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. I often add a dash of paprika, parsley, or whatever other spices I have on hand to give my soup a little more flavor. Cilantro and a dash of salsa, for example, give soup a Mexican flair. Crumble up tortilla chips on top when you serve this version.

If this sounds too complicated, just stick to basics. My friend’s favorite soup recipe is a model of simplicity:
“Good quality chicken, cut up, water, 5 whole carrots peeled, 3 whole parsnips peeled, salt, pepper. Simmer until the soup tastes good.”

So get thee to the grocery store and play mad scientist. There are a hundred different delicious ways, both simple and complicated, to make chicken soup, and you won’t get to taste them unless you try.

In no particular order, some veggie ingredients you might consider adding to your soup: radishes, white beans, black beans, celery, garlic, carrots, parsnips, eggplant, potatoes, peas, pea pods, mushrooms, pasta, rice, tofu, water chestnut, chives, onions, shallots, quinoa.

In conclusion, chicken soup is what you make it. Enjoy!

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