"The Soup," as my family calls it, has the potential to transform a dreary winter day into one of fragrant, flavorful splendor.

Truth be told, I don't know where this soup recipe came from originally. Several years ago, somebody gave me a photocopy of a magazine article with the basics of it, and it soon became a staple in my homeā€”but not before we'd added our own twists. Because there was no title on the article, somewhere along the way my family and I just started referring to it as The Soup, or THE Soup. There are too many yummy ingredients in it to be called "Chicken Soup" or "Chicken Rice Soup" or "Chicken Rice Veggie Soup." So, it's "The Soup."

And to be painstakingly clear: The Soup is so delicious that the first time we made it, after we'd packed up most of the leftovers in storage containers, my husband and I stood over the pot like savages, scraping up the remnants and shoveling spoonfuls of flavor and cumin-y goodness into our mouths. Not our best moment. But it's the truth.

Things to Know

  • To make this soup properly, you'll need time. I recommend doing it on a weekend or day off and giving yourself a couple of hours. Even after it's made, the longer it sits on the stove (low-setting) and percolates, the better it will taste.
  • I always double the recipe so we have plenty of leftovers. It's even better in the following days, when the flavors have all fused together.
  • Don't cut corners. I had a friend replace the garlic cloves with jarred minced garlic and the fresh cilantro with cilantro paste, and it just didn't taste right. Stick to the recipe if you want the goodness I'm describing.
  • If you don't know how you feel about spice, leave the cayenne and minced pickled jalapeno out until you serve it. Let each person add it to their own bowl as desired.

soup ingredients

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chicken broth (canned)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 lbs. skinless boneless chicken thighs (or breasts, depending on preference)
  • 16 cloves of garlic, peeled (yes, 16!)
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes
  • 3 yellow or red bell peppers, cut into small squares
  • 1.25 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional, depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 cup brown rice (I use 1 bag of frozen brown rice and cook it for 5 minutes in the microwave)
  • 6 T. minced cilantro
  • 3 T. lime juice
  • 1 T. minced pickled jalapeno (optional, depending on how spicy you want it)

Instructions

1. In a large saucepan, combine the broth and water. Bring to a boil, add the chicken and garlic, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred or cut into bite-size pieces.

2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic to a food processor or blender along with 1/3 cup of the broth and puree until smooth.

garlic in slotted spoon

3. Add the garlic puree to the pan along with the tomatoes, bell peppers, cumin, salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil.

soup in progress

4. Stir in the rice (already microwaved), reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until rice and bell peppers are tender, about 15 minutes. 

5. Return the chicken to the pan along with the cilantro, lime juice, and jalapeno, and cook just until heated through, about 1 minute. It's ready to serve, but like I said before, the longer you let it simmer on low, the more flavorful everything will become.

the soup

*All photos in this article were provided by Joy Moore.

So that's it! Enjoy! Warm and full of lots of fresh ingredients, The Soup is a healthy meal choice for someone under the weather, or even for a chilly day. 

Be sure to let me know how you like it in the comments!