Speedy Suppers: Chicken Soup with a Southwestern Twist

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Soup is filling, hearty and easy. Many of us are more likely to reach for a can opener and a condensed version when we're craving soup, but homemade soup is surprisingly fast to make. The best part is that one pot of soup can yield two meals for a family of four. After all, soup is one of those foods that always tastes better the next day.

I created this soup years ago after trying a great version at a Mexican restaurant in Bowling Green, Ohio. I ordered the "Zuppa Azteca" each time I stopped there during my drive north to visit friends in Michigan. Theirs is made with chicken roasted on the bone and homemade stock--incredibly delicious but not conducive to a quick weeknight supper.

Theirs had fewer tomatoes, no beans and white rice. I wanted to add more nutrition, so I added spinach, a green pepper and more tomatoes, and I use white meat chicken instead of dark. Beans and brown rice add fiber. This new soup is a good compromise of taste and time. (There's also a vegetarian version that I make these days. See below for more info on that!)

These first two recipes in what is becoming a series called "Speedy Suppers" have both been Mexican/Southwestern. I'll branch out for my next installment, I promise. I do know how to cook other cuisines!

Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 8 ounces)
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped (optional; leave in seeds for more heat)
1 green pepper, chopped
4 c fresh spinach or about 4 ounces frozen spinach (this is an estimate; you can add more or less)
1 T cumin
1 T olive oil
1 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes (preferably low-sodium)
1 avocado, chopped
1 quart chicken stock (preferably reduced-sodium)
1/4 c cilantro, torn
2 limes, juiced
1 14-ounce can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
2 c cooked brown rice

Makes 8 hearty cup-size servings. (Find the recipe here.) Each serving has 264 calories and 9.8 grams of fat, 6 grams of which are heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. It also has 8 grams of fiber--about a third of your daily requirement!

If you're not using cooked rice, start making rice before you begin the soup as brown rice can take up to 30 minutes to cook.

Heat oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high flame, and add garlic, onion and peppers. Cook until soft and starting to get some color, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium. Add chicken and cumin and cook another five minutes. Add chicken broth, beans and tomatoes. Raise heat to medium-high and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lime juice, stirring well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sodium from optional salt not included.)

To serve: place 1/2 c rice in bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle avocado and cilantro on top.

(For vegetarian version: Heat olive oil, add garlic, onion and peppers, cooking until fragrant. Add stock, tomatoes and beans, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Add lime juice. Remove from heat and add avocado and cilantro.)

Serve with whole-wheat tortilla strips that have been baked until crisp. (Add 33 calories per serving; about 1/4 of an 8" tortilla.)

Other suggestions:
  • Add your favorite salsa instead of canned tomatoes.
  • Use 3 large fresh tomatoes when they're in season.
  • Top your soup with low-fat sour cream or 1 oz low-fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese instead of avocado.
  • Use ground turkey or lean ground beef instead of chicken.
  • Use kidney beans instead of pinto or black beans.
  • Serve with cornbread and leave out the rice.

    As many of you know, I don't eat meat, but I do cook meat from time to time--either for my boyfriend or when I'm hosting guests for dinner. I need suggestions, because otherwise this series might turn into "101 Ways to Eat Black Beans and Rice"! (Just kidding, but I do have plenty of beans and rice recipes.)

    Would you try this recipe? What type of recipes would you like to see in "Speedy Suppers"? Jen has been blogging about family eating, and we'd both like to know what types of fast, easy, and healthful meals you eat on a regular basis! If you've got a good recipe on SparkRecipes, copy the link into your comment. I could share your recipe in the next installment of Speedy Suppers!