Canned soup is fast and easy, but it has some significant problems. Canned chicken soup lacks veggies. It is not much help in eating the rainbow. Then processing and long term storage strips what food there is in the can of most of its nutrients. For a final hit, the cans are lined with toxic chemicals, including BPA, that leach right into every spoonful. It’s a convenient concept, but canned food just doesn’t nourish growing bodies the way that I want, and can cause significant harm.
Homemade soup gives you more control over the ingredients, is appropriately nutritious, and just plain tastes better. I try to make a full pot every week, and reheat as needed for quick hot lunches. It freezes well, and makes a great dish for postpartum or sick friends.
Chicken broth or stock – It comes in shelf stable boxes. It is available frozen. It can be made fresh from boiling whole chickens, chicken pieces, or even rotisserie or roasted chicken that is already been cooked and picked mostly clean. I don’t have a favorite method, and do it differently every time.
Chicken – Use the bits reserved from making broth, or cook a breast or a couple of tenderloins in the broth while you’re prepping the veggies, then pull that meat out and shred it while the veggies are cooking. Dark meat in particular works well in soup, and is thrifty.
Onions – 1 to 3, depending on size and preference
Celery stalks – You can even include the leaves.
Carrots – Three to five large ones.
Garlic – Powdered will do. Fresh is better, about three cloves worth. I used to put it through my garlic press, before it mysteriously disappeared from the drawer. Now I smash the cloves with the side of a knife and chop through it until I get bored with the effort. I add a lot more garlic when the children are sick.
Thyme – Fresh is great. Dried is fine. Ground thyme will flavor the soup, but it will also turn it gray. The children don’t notice that, but I do, and I don’t like gray soup.
Noodles – Most types work. Egg noodles are a great choice. The noodles can be a part of the strategy to get more vegetables into each bite, too. Twisty and curly noodles tend to hold on to the veggie bits, particularly when the veggies are finely diced.
Salt and pepper.
Fill the stock pot with an inch thick layer each of the veggies, more or less, depending on what your children will tolerate. You can start small and work up to more vegetables later, if necessary. You can include more of their favorite vegetable, and add less of the ones they don’t like as much. The veggies need to be chopped, but how fine is entirely up to you. Big chunks make for a shorter prep time, but can also make it easier for children to leave the veggies in the bottom of their bowl. Fine dicing gets more in each mouthful.
Add at least four cups of broth, then fill the pot the rest of the way with water. Add the seasonings. If you put a lid on the pot while it’s heating, it’ll come to a boil faster. Boil until the veggies are starting to get soft. Add the noodles and the cooked meat, continuing to cook until it’s reached the tenderness you prefer. Salt and pepper to taste. I add red pepper to my bowl, but not the whole pot.
If you’ve got a great stock base in this soup, it may turn to gel when it gets cold. That’s a really great sign of a truly nutritious broth. When it’s reheated, it’ll go right back to a thin liquid.
We do sometimes make this soup with no meat in it, and just call it pasta soup.