Today is chilly and rainy. I have the fire going in the fireplace and am wearing my thick red sweater, jeans, and heavy wool socks. It’s one of those days when it’s nice to know that something good and hearty is cooking for lunch or supper. Something to look forward to that will taste good and also fill the house with a savory scent.
I have a custom of cooking in the morning so that we can have a solid lunch, and we often eat the leftovers for an early dinner. I grew up with lunch as our main meal of the day. Our housekeeper, Lorene, cooked every morning and I often came home from school to eat with my parents and siblings at lunchtime. I have happy memories associated with these meals and have also discovered that my adult life is more orderly if I also cook early in the day. If I wait until I’m hungry, then I’ll just grab and stuff with no real thought to health or nutrition. In other words, I need to cook right after breakfast so my family (and I) have meals that reflect forethought instead of pure self-indulgence. (My mother was known to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when other more solid food seemed too difficult to prepare. This is a trait that has been passed down to me in spades.)
Yesterday, I made turkey chili, which was perfect since the weather was even colder and rainier than today. But another day of chili after several big bowls sounded a bit like overkill so I decided to freeze the rest and head towards something a bit gentler on the stomach. Hence the recipe below. Nothing feels more homey to me than chicken and rice soup. This one is a bit healthier than most because I use brown rice and skinless chicken breasts. I also prefer low-sodium chicken broth because, otherwise, the soup can taste far too salty. I also add more celery and carrots than other recipes call for because I like a good thick soup and I think it adds more flavor.
I am a devoted Instant Pot user thanks to my niece, Nicki Leatherwood Schoolar, who introduced me to this time-saving appliance. The advantage of an Instant Pot is three-fold regarding this recipe. First, I am able to use frozen chicken breasts, which saves me the time of thawing. Second, because an Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, the food cooks faster and is as flavor-filled as long-simmering the pot on a stovetop. Third, again because the cooking is pressurized, the chicken comes out juicier. And for those who might be afraid of pressure cooking, be assured that modern technology has made these current models very safe. Rather than putting that little jiggy thing on the top of the lid and listening to it hiss (and hoping it doesn’t blow up), you just set a timer and the pot does the rest.
My chicken and rice soup is currently cooking away in my Instant Pot and will be ready for lunch, whenever we decide to have it. I eat this soup with a big handful of arugula on top and Parmesan cheese.
Have a happy day, my friends. I hope you have something tasty to eat at your house as well.
Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Soup
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion chopped
- 3 large carrots cut into half-circles
- 2 large stalks of celery diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
- ¾ cup brown rice, uncooked
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ¼ cup minced flat-leaf parsley
- salt & pepper to taste
- Set the Instant Pot to Saute mode. Heat the olive oil, then add the onion, carrot, and celery. Saute the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, and basil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine.
- Add the chicken breasts, brown rice, salt and pepper to the Instant Pot.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot, close the steam vent and set to HIGH pressure using the manual setting. Set the time to 13 minutes. It will take the Instant Pot about 15 minutes to reach pressure.
- Once the time is expired, use natural release for 10 minutes, then quick release.
- Transfer the chicken breasts to a cutting board, shred with two forks, then transfer back to the Instant Pot. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add arugula and Parmesan cheese if it suits you. (Reduce the salt if you use Parmesan cheese).