Friday, January 29, 2010

Tuscan-style chicken and white bean soup

Mmmm, is there anything better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold day? I love a good, hearty Italian soup, and when you use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and canned beans, it is an easy weeknight meal that is sure to please!


2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
salt and pepper
3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1 bay leaf
2 quarts unsalted or reduced-sodium chicken stock (I love Kitchen Basics brand!)
1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat pulled from bone and shredded/diced

1 can small-dice tomatoes
2 cups chopped kale (or spinach)
1 can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
grated Parmesan cheese (NOT the canned snowy stuff), for serving

In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium-heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and carrots are beginning to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, and Italian seasoning, stir, and cook one minute more. Stir in chicken stock, kale and can of tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place half of beans in a shallow bowl and mash with a potato masher until smooth, reserving other half of beans. Stir mashed beans into soup until well incorporated. Dump whole beans into soup, stir, and reduce heat to lowest setting and cook 1-2 minutes, or until beans are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over the top, and serve with a loaf of crusty french bread and a glass of wine. YUM!

Time-saving tip: This soup is ready in 30 minutes or less as written, but if you want to cut your prep time down even more, look in the frozen foods section for bags of pre-cut soup veggies. There are often different mixes that will have pre-chopped carrots, onion and celery. Buy the jars of pre-minced garlic (in your produce section) and just shred the spinach or kale by hand, and you have a meal with no chopping required!

Nutritional Info
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 179.7
Total Fat: 5.3 g
Cholesterol: 11.5 mg
Sodium: 497.8 mg
Total Carbs: 19.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.8 g
Protein: 14.9 g

Money-saving Tip #1: Chicken Fajitas

You know those pre-seasoned chicken breasts or thighs for fajitas that you can buy at the store? Convenient, right? Just open the pouch, throw 'em on the grill or in a pan, and you can have fajitas in about 20 minutes. I love these things--that is, until I broke down the price of them. OUCH! So, I figured out a much cheaper, and healthier, alternative.

Next time your grocery store runs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (whichever you prefer) on sale, buy a few packages. The grab a box of quart-sized zipper bags and K.C. Masterpiece's Mesquite marinade in a bottle. When you get home, portion out the chicken into bags, pour 2 Tbsp or up to 1/4 cup of marinade in each bag (just enough to coat the chicken), shake to distribute, and pop into the freezer. Next time you want to make fajitas, just move a bag over from freezer to fridge the night before, and your chicken will be thawed and marinated when it is dinner time the next day.

The pre-seasoned meat in a bag that I buy runs between $7 and $9 at my grocery store for a 2 pound bag. I can buy boneless, skinless thighs for $1.59 a pound, a sometimes as cheap as $1 per pound. Chicken breasts are frequently $1.99 per pound. So, at the highest cost, it is $3.98 for 2 pounds of chicken breast. The bottle of marinade, which will make 6 to 8 bags of meat, is about $3 a bottle, or 50 cents per bag. Add in the cost of the zipper bag, at between 8 and 12 cents per bag (depending on the brand), and you have a max cost of $4.60 per 2-pound bag of seasoned chicken breasts. Buy family or bulk packs of meat when they are on sale, and you can save even more.

Nutritionally, the KC Masterpiece marinades have 100mg less sodium per serving and less preservatives than most of the meat pouches I've compared it to. Since you can customize how much chicken you'll need for your family, there is no waste. And personally, I prefer the KC Masterpiece flavor over every other brand of pre-seasoned meat I've tried.

Prefer beef fajitas? Use the KC Masterpiece Chipotle and Lime flavor marinade and some skirt or flank steak instead--it works just as well!