October is here!
It’s my favorite time of the year. The temperature starts to drop, which means those pesky mosquitos will soon be a thing of the past. It also means Halloween is right around the corner.
Did you hear me, Walmart? Halloween, not freaking Christmas so get with the program and remove all the Santa stuff you already have on display. I want to walk in and be greeted by the Mummy and Frankenstein, not Rudolph and his band of elf buddies; jeez.
For some folks it means the return of pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING.
OK, people, when you start making pumpkin spiced protein powder and Greek yogurt, you’ve taken the novelty a bit too far. There are just certain things that should never be kissed with pumpkin spice.
I love making a typical fall classic pumpkin and butternut squash (another cultivar of pumpkin) soup during this time of year. That of course is perfect for the pumpkin spice mix.
Soups and hardy stews are what October means to me (besides dressing up in scary costumes and scaring kids trick-or-treating at my door. Go away. This candy is all MINE).
My all-time favorite soup, however, is chicken soup. My fall and winter variation of the recipe is adding pumpkin or squash (or both) and a few extra spices to keep in line with the pumpkin spice tradition.
Here is my basic chicken soup recipe with a little twist.
This whole thing takes close to two hours, but it is a real simple recipe. And most of the time you can handle a chore or two while each step is in the cooking phase.
You don’t need a pressure cooker to develop a deep rich broth. I boil the chicken in 8-10 cups of water. While the chicken is boiling, I also add in the peeled and cut butternut squash or pumpkin (or both). Those typically take a little more time to become tender so adding them while the chicken is boiling helps them cook a bit longer and imparts flavor into the broth. I let the chicken boil for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the water and set aside to cool. The pumpkins stay in the pot. I add in chopped celery, some diced red and sweet potatoes, diced carrots and thinly sliced onions. The onions are sliced thin so that by the time the soup is finished they have melted into the broth. At that point I add the spices that I use from my mom’s recipe. I toss in two chicken bouillon cubes, two bay leaves, curry powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, a dash of cayenne and some Goya all-seasoning.
To give it that pumpkin-spice kiss, I add a little bit of nutmeg, some finely minced ginger and dashes of allspice and cinnamon.
I let that simmer, covered until the potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes or so. By that time the chicken is cool enough for me to hand shred the meat. My dogs are usually lined up at my feet at this point, anxiously waiting for the few scraps I throw their way.
Hand shredding the chicken gives the finished product a rustic appearance. But if you prefer cutting and dicing the meat with a knife that works too.
The chicken is put back into the soup. I place the heat on low and let it sit for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The result is a great tasting chicken soup with that subtle pumpkin spice flavor.
The great thing about a soup recipe is that you can take the basics and then alter it to suit your taste. During the last hour or so of cooking, you should be tasting the broth every so often. This way you can add more of a specific spice based on your taste buds. Remember you can always add but you can’t take it away. Adding too much ginger or salt (or any other spice) can over power the flavor profile.
Give it a try. I guarantee that it’s better than a pumpkin-spice latte and as they say, chicken soup is good for the soul.