Nothing thaws you out like a big pot of soup

Isn’t it funny how Far West Texas weather can go from record-breaking heat to record-breaking cold in what seems like moments? After all of the oppressive heat we’ve endured out here since May, this week’s freezing temperatures were a welcome respite, at least in my humble opinion.

A hard freeze in early October had me wearing my woolly socks and thermal underwear, trying to decide which soup to make first and what to bake for dessert. Having the oven heat up the kitchen isn’t a bad thing when it’s barely above freezing outside.

Do you ever say, “Hey! It’s sweltering outside today, I’m going to make a big pot of steaming hot soup!” I don’t. Unless it’s something really light, I normally stay away from hot soups on hot days. It’s just not really my thing, unless I’m feeling bad and need the comfort food.

To me, soup seems like the natural food choice when it’s cold outside. The heat from the stove adds some warmth and moisture to the air in your kitchen. If you hold your bowl, it warms your hands. If you breathe in the steam, it warms your nose and your face. Eating soup warms you from the inside out. On cold days like this, I need all the warmth I can get. And, if you make a big enough batch, you can have leftovers that only require reheating. I like to make soup in my six-quart Dutch oven so that we’ve got soup for days.

Glancing through social media, I saw that many of my friends were doing the same thing I was … trying to figure out what soup to cook on the first really cold day of the season. Chicken soup – varying from chicken with dumplings to chicken noodle to chicken gumbo and then some – seemed to be pretty popular with my social media friends.

The last thing I wanted was to find a soup or stew recipe that sounded too good to pass up, and have to get out of my warm, cozy pajamas, brave the cold air (with windchill, it “felt like” 25 degrees!) to go to the store.  I usually stock up on frozen chicken breasts and tenderloins when they’re on sale at our local grocery store Porter’s, so I have them in the freezer on days when I need to stay out of the grocery store and use what I’ve got at home, and this time, I lucked out.

Down to my last package of chicken tenderloins, I decided this cold weather called for a big ol’ pot of Healthy Chicken and Kale Soup. I know that there are a lot of kale-haters out there, but if you give this soup a try, you’ll probably change your mind. My husband isn’t the kale-lover that I am, but he never turns down a bowl of this soup. I had all of the ingredients and wouldn’t even need to venture out into the frosty air to get this wholesome goodness bubbling on the stove.

I had chicken bone broth in the freezer from a previous batch of broth, onions, carrots, celery, fresh garlic and ginger, and a whole bunch of kale I needed to use. All the herbs and spices in the pantry, and we were good to go.

I made a batch of short-grain brown rice in the Instant Pot (because the Instant Pot cooks rice and grains better than I ever do) and it was the perfect way to add more heartiness to the bowl of steaming good-for-you soup.

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For dessert, I made a cast iron skillet peach cobbler, using peaches I’d frozen from the tree at Stone Village Market in Fort Davis during the summer. Topped it with homemade whipped cream. My husband had second servings of both, and both were really easy to prepare as well as delicious. Warm kitchen, warm bellies. Stay warm, my friends. And, eat more soup.

Funny thing, I knew I had shared these recipes that I made for dinner in earlier columns and had to go back to my files of Alpine Avalanche clippings to find them 🙂

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Here are some random pictures of the Skillet Peach Cobbler. Just because.

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I made the homemade whipped cream with our 1950s Dormey hand-mixer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … they just don’t make things like they used to. This ol’ mixer whipped it good.

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The Cobbler.
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This is a big bowl. I call them our “plate bowls,” so don’t think this was a small portion.

Healthy Chicken & Kale Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 1.5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast (or boneless thigh meat), cut into small bite sized pieces (or leftover turkey if you prefer)
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1-inch knob ginger, peeled & smashed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (Use Tamari or Bragg’s Aminos for gluten free)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped
  • salt to taste, depending on how salty your stock is

In a stock pot (I use my 6-qt. Lodge Dutch oven to make sure I’ve got enough room), heat it on medium heat, then add olive oil. Add onion and cook until translucent.

Add chicken and cook for about 3 minutes or until brown on the outside. Add carrots, ginger, ground cumin, chili powder and soy sauce. Stir and cook for about 2 more minutes.

Add chicken stock. Turn heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to low.

Simmer soup on low for about 15 minutes. Skim fat from top of soup occasionally, if needed.

Add chopped kale and cook for 2-3 minutes or until kale becomes tender.

Serve hot.

You can also add cooked noodles or rice to make an even heartier bowl of soup.

Printed with permission of The Alpine Avalanche

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