My sweet friend Marcie is "afraid of soup." Her words. I keep trying to imagine this chilly fall weather without the warmth of soups, but I just can't.
So Marcie, here's a good, standard chicken soup recipe. From scratch.
Start with a whole chicken. (Don't panic. You can so do this. Nothin' to it.) Open the packaging, remove the giblets (if it comes with them, they'll be in a plastic bag stuffed inside the chicken. If it doesn't come with them, don't worry about it.) Rinse the chicken with water inside and out, just to get the excess juice off.
Stick the chicken in the crock pot (I use a 5 qt crock pot, which leaves room for lots of broth.) Fill the crock pot with water. Put the lid on, turn the crock on high, and walk away. Thoroughly ignore your chicken for six hours.
An hour before dinner time, chop your veggies. Start with some kind of onion (or scallions. Or leeks.) Dice up the onion, and dice some kind of root vegetable. Carrots are good. Or parsnips. Or both. In a big soup pot on the stove, heat a drizzle of olive oil. When it's hot, add the root veggie and the onion. Stir and cook until it's soft. Expect about 10 minutes.
Now add some other yummy stuff: a cup of frozen corn, a chopped green bell pepper, some diced zucchini, handfuls of shredded greens, a couple of chopped tomatoes, some diced celery stalks. Whatever you have is great. You want about four cups of this stuff, but don't measure, and don't sweat it. Use up leftover bits of fresh veggies in the fridge or freezer. It'll be fine. Stir it all together and let it cook for another couple of minutes.
While that's cooking, go to your crock pot. Measure out six cups of the broth. Pour that into the pot with the veggies. Simmer it on medium high.
Using a slotted spoon, take out the chicken legs and thighs. Your chicken should be falling apart by now, so this shouldn't be hard. It's not an exact science. Put the legs and thighs on a plate and use two forks to sort out the meat from the bones. Put the meat in the pot with the veggies and broth. Toss the bones in the trash. Oh, and turn off your crock pot. You're done with it for now.
Let the soup simmer for the better part of an hour. Season it with salt and pepper, and whatever sounds good. I like thyme and basil and garlic powder. Taste and season, taste and season. You'll know when it's right.
When the veggies are just about soft, if you want to, add in some kind of grain. I love brown rice (already cooked, usually leftover from some other meal) or you can use a package of egg noodles if you want chicken noodle soup. Continue simmering until the noodles are soft, or until the rice is heated, about 15 minutes.
So it takes about an hour and a half, not including the time spent sticking the chicken in the crock pot. But you don't just have to stand there for an hour and a half. Check it every so often, stir a bit, and leave it again. It's really pretty simple, and you'll have plenty leftover to reheat.
This makes 6-8 hearty servings.
After dinner, go back to your crock pot. Use your slotted spoon to remove the rest of the chicken carcass. You can pull the breasts off to use in another meal, and whatever other bits of meat you find. Put the rest of the carcass in the trash. You've gotten good use from it.
If you have a strainer, put it over a glass jar. Ladle the broth that's still in the crock pot into the glass jar. You should get about another quart of broth. Let it cool for a couple of hours, then stick it in the fridge. The next morning, skim off the solid fat. Now you have a quart of chicken broth to either use, or freeze for another time.