Soups for a weeknight family dinner

By LISA CULOTTA JOHNSEY

Lemony Chicken Soup makes a quick and comforting weeknight meal. Photo by Lisa Culotta Johnsey.

A quick Google search reveals that the number of families sharing a meal together three or more nights a week continues to erode to what I consider an alarming and shameful percentage.  This New Year, I encourage you and your family to consider eating together more often. It is beneficial to the well being of the entire family. You will develop healthier eating habits, bond and create memories.

Growing up, my mother prepared meals, and we ate together every night at 5:30 as Daddy requested. This was considered a time to be together, sharing stories and unwinding from the rigors of our day. I remember Daddy would share a funny story about his workday. The television was always turned off, and we never answered the phone if it rang. My mother has always been a fabulous cook, but it didn’t matter what was for dinner; the important thing was that we were together.

Now that I am married and have children of my own, my husband and I have carried on this tradition in our family. We take turns saying the blessing, just as we did when I was young. After dinner, everyone helps me do the dishes and take out the trash. My husband started helping with the dishes when we were first married because everyone helped his grandmother after dinner.  It is a nice way to say thank you to the person who prepared the meal.

I have included some recipes for your family to try that are easy and perfect for cold January evenings. I hope all of you consider more family time this year; it’s important.

Lemony Chicken Soup
7 cups chicken stock or broth
½ cup lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
1 bay leaf
3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
8 oz. spaghetti, broken into thirds
3 cooked chicken breasts or one rotisserie chicken, diced*
1 cup Romano cheese
Parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, bring the chicken stock, lemon juice and bay leaf to a boil on medium-high heat. Add the carrots and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the chopped chicken; continue to cook about 10 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until tender. Stir in ½ cup of the cheese and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with the remaining cheese.

*Note: I roast three bone-in chicken breasts. I debone and chop or shred and add to the soup.

Lentil and Sausage Soup
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Italian sausage links, casing removed
½ package turkey sausage sliced
½ package smoked sausage sliced
1 pound lentils, rinsed and drained
8 oz. tomato sauce
6-7 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sauté onion, celery and garlic until tender. Meanwhile, brown Italian sausage separately. When sausage is brown, add sliced sausage, lentils, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Let simmer until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. Serve with your favorite salad and crusty bread.

Chicken Chili
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, diced
2 pounds ground chicken
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Parsley for garnish

Sauté onion in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and cook for about one minute or until you can smell it. Add the chicken and the next five ingredients. Cook, stirring often until the chicken is cooked through. Add flour and stir until blended. Next, add the chard and chicken stock. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and cook for about 1 hour or until it has thickened. Add red pepper flakes and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl with cheese and parsley. Serve with crusty cheese bread.

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One response to “Soups for a weeknight family dinner

  1. mmmm there really is nothing better than a nice hot bowl of soup on a cold wintery day 🙂

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