March is a difficult time of year when it comes to planning meals. With days ranging from cool to warm, you never know whether to opt for a good, hardy meal or begin serving fresh spring salads with fruit. Well, we have a compromise for you that comes straight from our campuses: Chicken and Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto!
“You’re Clinical Nutrition experts,” you may say, “aren’t soups bad news?” The truth is, soups get a bad name because they are frequently very high in sodium, and many are high in fat and cholesterol due to the heavy cream base - but not all soups are bad. Prepackaged soups have added sodium for preservation, which is why homemade is the best way to find a friend in soup. When we make soups at home (or at our Trilogy campuses), we are able to better control the nutritional value by using fresh ingredients. When choosing a good soup recipe, take butternut squash soup for example, find a recipe that uses a broth as the base rather than milk or cream in order to lower the fat and cholesterol content. When using broth as a substitute for heavy cream, or as the soup’s base, choose low-sodium options of boxed broth or bouillons.
Broth based soups are GREAT for this time of year because you can add fresh vegetables and legumes (BEANS!) to get nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals in a delicious, hot bowl of soup. Just take a look at our recipe! The variety of vegetables and legumes of different colors offer all kinds of nutrients such as: protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and folate. It is even a good source of fiber! This type of soup is good for heart health, diabetes, healthy aging, and healthy immunity. It’s no wonder we’re suggesting this recipe for National Nutrition Month!
Enjoy a good bowl of soup for lunch or dinner, and you can pair it with a nice salad, too!
Chicken and Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into quarters
1 large clove garlic, minced
5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1½ teaspoons dried marjoram
6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
⅓ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¾ cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish (optional)
Step 1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 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.
Step 2. 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.
Step 3. 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.
Step 4. 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.
Serves 5 with serving size of about 1½ cups
Per serving: 226 calories; 9 g fat(2 g sat); 6 g fiber; 18 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein; 28 mg cholesterol; 2 g sugars; 2 mg iron; 211 mg sodium
Find more great recipes in our Dining Section!