An old Irish legend is that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. That may be a myth, or is it? If you imagine the vegetables you eat as a rainbow, then the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is optimal health. And if you have your health, you are rich indeed. When you combine a rainbow of vegetables in one dish, that makes the goal of eating the rainbow much more attainable and that is exactly what Rainbow Vegetable Chicken Soup does.
Simply put, eating the rainbow involves eating fruits and vegetables of different colors every day. 1 Each color provides various health benefits and no one color is superior to another, which is why a balance of all colors is most important. 2 For example, high intake of white fruits and vegetables may protect against stroke. In one study, a 25g per day increase in white fruit and vegetables was associated with a 9% lower risk of stroke.3 Eating green and white fruits and vegetables was inversely related to abdominal fat gain and cardiovascular risk factors in men. While in women, a higher intake of red and purple produce was associated with lower weight and abdominal fat gain, improved fasting serum glucose, and lower total cholesterol.4 For each 25 gram increase in deep orange fruits and vegetables, there was a 26% lower association with heart disease. Eating carrots was associated with a 32% lower risk of coronary heart disease!5
Rainbow Vegetable Chicken Soup
1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds, organic if possible
Salt and Pepper
2 onions, halved with skin on
2” piece of ginger, unpeeled
½ t. crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic
2 quarts water
1 small bunch cilantro
5 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 t. fennel seeds
2 t. coriander seeds
8 t. fish sauce
6 t. coconut sugar
¾ t. salt
1 cup carrots, diced
½ celery, diced
1 cup Yukon gold potatoes diced
1 cup sweet potatoes, diced
1 cup green beans, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces
½ cup bell peppers, any color but yellow makes a nice rainbow
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
3 cups bean sprouts
4 cups spinach
1 small bunch basil
Garnish – optional
Green onion, green portion sliced
- Prepping the chicken – Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove neck, gizzard and liver from the chicken cavity if present. Rinse chicken inside and out until the water runs clear. Pat dry with paper towels and then salt and pepper the chicken both inside and out. Place chicken breast side up in your favorite roaster, mine is stoneware but cast iron does a nice job also. Bake in the oven for 90-120 minutes or until the temperature in the middle of the breast meat reaches 165 degrees. Do not overcook, as this is what causes dry chewy chicken. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to cool on cutting board until cool enough to work with. Once you can safely work with the baked chicken, remove the skin and obvious fatty areas and reserve for soup base. Pull the chicken off the bones and pull apart into shreds leaving smaller pieces clinging to the carcass. Place the pulled meat into a sealed container and refrigerate until the soup is in the final steps.
- Making the broth – Place 1 T. oil in the bottom of a deep-dish soup kettle. Bring to high heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger into oil and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes until they are charred a deep brown color. Turn and leave for another 2 minutes until the other side is charred. In the last minute add the crushed red peppers (adjust amount according to your preference and cook until aromatic). Place water, chicken carcass, skin, fatty pieces and neck, liver and gizzard into the pot with the water along with the next 8 ingredients (stop at the salt) cover (with the lid slightly ajar to allow for evaporation and condensation of the broth to intensify the flavors) and bring the water to a slow simmer over medium heat. Then reduce heat to low but maintain a very gentle simmer for 1.5 hours. If you see dirty foam rising to the surface, skim off and discard once or twice during the simmer process. After simmering 1.5 hours, take the carcass out of the broth and strain the broth through a fine strainer. Return the clear broth to the soup pot. Discard all bits strained from broth and carcass.
- Making the soup – Take the pulled chicken out of the refrigerator and allow the chicken to come to room temperature. Bring broth to a simmer and begin adding vegetables. Add potatoes, carrots, celery and other firmer vegetables and cook until slightly softened. Then add green beans, peppers and all vegetables that require less cooking time. And finally add the quick cooking vegetables such as spinach, cilantro, kale, etc. to the pot. This is also the time to add frozen vegetables. Cook until all is tender and heated through.
- Serve: Ladle the chicken broth and vegetables into a deep bowl. Sprinkle the chicken in the center of the bowl (It will warm up to soup temperature quickly if you have the chicken shredded finely. Top with desired garnishes such a drizzle of siracha sauce, slices of green onion tops or left-over bean sprouts. Place a slice of lime or two on the plate below the bowl for added flavor. Serve warm.
- Time Saving Steps:
- Replace whole raw chicken with rotisserie chicken and skip baking steps.
- Use a pressure cooker to cook the chicken. Prep the chicken the same but follow manufacturer’s instructions for cooking times.
- Eliminate making the broth altogether and substituted 4 cups store-bought chicken broth, bone broth or pho. This will decrease the flavor profile of your vegetable soup, however. Watch the sodium content of the broth if you are purchasing pre-made. Soups and broths often have a plethora of added salt. Especially if the label says low-fat. To add to the flavor from the loss of fat, you may find more salt than you bargained for.
- Vegetables can be fresh or frozen. The recipe directions are for fresh vegetables but if you substitute frozen for any of the fresh, add them last and cook until heated through.
- Skip the entire section on prepping and roasting the chicken.
- Substitute either a homemade vegetable broth or store-bought vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
- If you want to add some more protein you can add a can of drained and rinsed white beans to the pot at the same time you add the quick cooking vegetables.
- If you want a lighter version, you can leave out the chicken skin and fatty pieces, but you will end up with a slightly blander soup, but still healthy and tasty.
Note: Any vegetables can be added or omitted to the soup according to what you have available. I would caution using broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. If you want to use these vegetables, do so sparingly as they tend to take over as the major flavor component if you do.
Note: Adjust when you add different vegetables to the soup according to cooking time required. For instance, squash is hard like potatoes so they should be added at the same time as the potatoes. If you have kale on hand but no spinach, you can add the kale at the same time it calls for you to add the spinach. It is good to rub the kale between your hands a bit before adding to the pot to aid in its tenderness.
Note: I do not always have all the spices in the recipe on hand. I will research on the internet good substitutes or I will leave it out. You may find this decreases the complexity of your broth a small bit but its still going to be delicious. The problem arises if you leave out too many spices you will end up with a bland soup, so only leave spices out if necessary.
Note: If you bring the soup to a boil quickly you will create a cloudy broth. Our goal is a clear broth if you want to imitate the visual aspects of pho.
Note: Some recipes have you cook the whole chicken in the broth and skip the roasting step altogether. This creates a lovely broth but you lose some of the tenderness of the roasted chicken.
Note: If I am feeling more like an Indian inspired soup, I will add red or yellow curry and turmeric to taste.
Note: Feeling like you would like some noodles, add 12-16 ounces of dried rice noodles to the broth after the last vegetables are warm and allow to cook until noodles are soft, 4-6 minutes.
If you are interested in promoting health through nutrition and herbal supplements, a career in naturopathic medicine may be the right choice for you.
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