Winter rhymes with soup...well it should anyway. Soup is the perfect winter food. It warms you up inside and out, it can be a good way to take advantage of hearty winter vegetables, and it is a melting pot (pun intended) of health benefits that may surprise you. Did you know soup can help control weight-gain and boost your immune system? Maintaining a healthy body weight is a very important way to prevent breast cancer, so if a food can help do that, then sign us up! Also, vegetables, herbs, and meat retain more nutrients when cooked into a soup than when cooked by other methods. The warm liquid can help control blood pressure, and keep your body feeling fuller, longer. But first, we’re not talking about that stuff in the can with 462,957,183 grams of sodium. Put that down, right now. This week, we’re making our own soup, and it could not be any easier or more delicious. Chicken, spinach, and cannellini beans make for a hearty, healthy soup, topped with a bit of fresh pesto to add full flavor without the sodium that cans rely on. There’s some garlic in this soup too, which we just learned is a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal and can help lower cholesterol levels. Each bowl of this soup is low in calories and high in protein and fiber. Check out this awesome article for more of soup’s health benefits, and read on to make this week’s tasty soup du jour!
Chicken and Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup carrot or diced red bell pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces), cut into quarters
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish (optional)
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot (or bell pepper) and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add spinach and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan and basil in a food processor (a mini processor works well). Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water and scraping down the sides as necessary.
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.
Curl up with a blanket, stay warm, and enjoy!