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Shortcut to a Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

I usually like to make my soups from scratch using roasted bones; however, sometimes I get a hankering for a good bowl of homemade soup and it’s only a couple hours until dinner time. That happened last night and I had already defrosted skinless, boneless chicken breasts.  So I took stock (pun intended) of what was in the pantry and fridge and made a hearty chicken vegetable soup that was delicious and satisfying on a rainy, cool night. Here’s the recipe if you too have such a hankering:

ShortCut Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, sliced or cubed
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 stalks of fennel stalks, chopped (optional – I had some and added as I like the flavor)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 Mexican squash, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1/4 – 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cloves of garlic, grated or chopped finely
1 tablespoon of olive, avocado or coconut oil
6 cups organic chicken broth
2 chicken breasts raw sliced (if your chicken breasts have the bone, remove the skin but keep the bone in and keep hole, as meat will fall off bone as it cooks or be easy to pull off once it’s cooked)
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 whole Scotch bonnet pepper or habanero pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons pesto (optional)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a medium to large pot or Dutch oven, heat the tablespoon of oil.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion, celery, carrots, bell peppers, and fennel and turn heat to medium high and occasionally stir until the vegetables are softened and onions are translucent. Add in garlic and stir for 2 minutes.  Then add in the chicken broth, raw chicken, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, rosemary, oregano, thyme and other vegetables (you can add more or alternatives to the ones listed above).  Also at this point you would add the whole Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper if using (the whole pepper will flavor the soup without adding too much heat, Scotch bonnet peppers give a wonderful flavor – as long as it doesn’t burst in the soup, if it does you will have a spicy soup, which is good too if you like spiciness, if not, leave out).  Turn the heat up until the soup starts to boil, then turn it down to medium low or low to simmer and cover the pot.  Check it in 30 minutes to see if the chicken has cooked.

If the chicken had a bone, once the chicken is cooked, remove the breasts and pull what chicken is still on the bone off and add the meat back to the pot, but discard the bones.  Taste the soup to see if you need to add any more salt or pepper or any of the other spices.  Before serving you can also remove the whole hot pepper.  I stirred in the pesto at this point (totally optional).  Ladel into bowls and enjoy!