How to Make Chicken Broth with a Deli Chicken

Chicken Broth

Happy Boxing Day! Just kidding, who the heck celebrates Boxing Day? (Well, except for most of the rest of the non-American English-speaking world.) For us Americans, the day after Christmas is better known as Christmas Cleanup Day. I spent the morning gathering up used bows and itty bitty scraps of wrapping paper ground into the carpet, cleared the dining room table of Christmas dinner remnants, and finally caught up on an item that had sat on my to-do list all week. As written in my day planner, that item was “Strip Chicken.” Yes, I still keep a day planner like a Melanie Griffith in the 1988 classic Working Girl, and yes, “Strip Chicken.” What am I doing stripping chickens, you may ask? Sounds a little illicit, like…

Chicken Strip Cartoon

Okay, not that kind of Chicken Strip….wah wah wah. Rather, the kind where you strip all the meat off a rotisserie chicken in order to use its carcass to make chicken broth. In my fridge for almost a week there has sat what I recently heard referred to as an “astronaut chicken”–you know, the kind encased in a plastic capsule that looks like it’s ready to be blasted off to the moon. A little bit like…

Astronaut Chicken

Okay, done with my terrible cartoons. I was pretty enamored of the idea of deli chickens as astronauts, so I was tempted to call this post “How to Make Chicken Broth with an Astronaut Chicken,” but somehow I don’t think that would be great for my search engine optimization.

Annnnnyway, let’s talk about the real reason for this post: to give a quick and easy tutorial of how to use an astronaut/rotisserie/deli chicken to make delicious homemade chicken broth. I try to do this every time I buy a deli chicken, and I’m never sorry I went to the effort. You can’t really beat a deli chicken for convenience, as well as providing enough cooked chicken to use in at least a couple of meals during the week. And once the meat has been used up in chicken divan, chicken tetrazzini, or chicken pot pie, you have a friendly carcass awaiting your use for broth to use in white chicken chili, lentil sausage soup, or broccoli cheese soup (shameless self-promotion, sorry). So grab your nearest astronaut poultry and let’s get started.

Homemade Chicken Broth with a Deli Chicken
A Love Letter to Food Original


1 deli chicken, stripped of all usable meat
1 carrot
1/2 onion
1 stalk celery
1 clove garlic, peeled
about 15 whole black peppercorns
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sage leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
8 c. water


1. Place stripped chicken carcass in a large stockpot (if you have a pot with a strainer, use it–it makes things easier).

Chicken Broth
Chicken meat out-of-body experience complete

2. Assemble all other ingredients: 1/2 an onion, 1 carrot (no need to peel, just wash), 1 stalk celery, 1 peeled garlic clove, about 1 tsp./15 whole black peppercorns, and an assortment of fresh herbs. If you don’t have a variety of fresh herbs, feel free to use a single kind. (I don’t recommend using dried herbs for this recipe, though, since they are harder to strain out later.)

Whoops, I lied–16 peppercorns!

While we’re on the subject, did you know that most fresh herbs freeze extremely well? I for one almost never use up an entire container of herbs before they go bad, so I pop them in Ziploc bags and store them in the freezer. FYI.


3. Place prepared vegetables and herbs on top of chicken in the pot. Pour in 8 c. water.

Press any herbs or vegetables down into the water if the water does not already cover them.

Chicken Broth

4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, for 60-90 minutes.

Chicken Broth

5. When liquid is golden brown and reduced by about half, carefully strain out all solids. Cool broth completely and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Makes 1 quart.


Lentil Sausage Soup

Lentil Sausage Soup

You know when you go to a sit-down restaurant–usually an Italian place–and the waiter asks if you’d like any fresh-ground pepper or Parmesan cheese on your soup or salad?  There must be something inherently funny about this scenario. I mean, isn’t there something vaguely discomfiting about having someone lean over your meal to drop stuff on it? Ever see the Saturday Night Live sketch with Adam Sandler and Dana Carvey as two overly enthusiastic pepper grinder guys? Like many SNL sketches, it goes way too long and gets fairly raunchy, but it does capture the awkwardness of the situation (and it includes Chris Farley with a totally ridiculous beard, so it might be worth a watch):

Also, while we’re pointing out what’s a little unusual about this practice, why is it always an Italian place? Couldn’t the waiter at a Mexican place grind extra cheddar on my enchiladas? And why don’t they “fresh-grind” other things? What if I want some fresh-ground beef to top my salad, hmmm? Or some fresh-ground chocolate shavings on my dessert? (Actually, they could fresh-grind that straight into my mouth…cause that wouldn’t be awkward.) For whatever reason, it has been decreed by the Italian restaurant powers-that-be that only pepper and Parmesan may be fresh-ground tableside. Not that I’m complaining. I’m no fan of extra pepper, but can never turn down a little extra cheese for free. The ideal soup, for me, comes away from its encounter with the cheese-grinder looking a glacier of cheese rolled straight across its top. The soup in the picture below, with its dusting of white, is maybe halfway there. Except perhaps in the case of this aromatic lentil sausage soup, because it really doesn’t need much to enhance its flavor.

Sausage Lentil Soup

As I mentioned in my last post, a copycat recipe for Carrabba’s herbed dipping oil, my husband and I enjoy Carrabba’s as one of our favorite chain Italian places. When we dined there recently, we both ordered the same thing (this never happens–we’re one of those couples that generally refuses, on principle, to order the same thing): their lentil sausage soup. Because it’s just. that. good. Having discovered lentils only in the last year or so, I’ve gone a little lentil crazy to make up for lost time. Around here, there have been spiced red lentils, lentil dahl, and a funky red lentil sweet potato stew with mango chutney-goat cheese toasts that my kids made lots of empty promises to get out of eating. My husband and I lap it all up, though, and this soup is no exception. As we shamelessly licked our bowls finished our meal at Carrabba’s, Anthony asked me, “Could you make this at home?” A week or so later, I tracked down this recipe and after making it deemed it, if not a perfect match for the restaurant version, delicious enough to forget what might be different. With aromatic vegetables, creamy, wholesome lentils, a pitch-perfect blend of herbs, and piquant sausage for a bit of bite, it’s everything one could hope for in a fall/winter soup. Plus, it goes great with crusty bread and that herbed dipping oil referred to above.

And yes, the waiter at Carrabba’s offered to fresh-grind Parmesan cheese on top. Yes, I accepted. No, I did not jump up and kiss him like Janeane Garofalo in the SNL sketch–licking my bowl in the restaurant was embarrassing enough.

Lentil Sausage Soup

Lentil Sausage Soup
(Adapted from


1 lb. mild Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
6 c. chicken broth
3/4 tsp. salt
2 c. dry brown lentils
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (more if you like more heat)
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. In a large stock pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, leaving as much sausage grease in the pot as possible.
  2. Add minced garlic, onion, celery, carrots, and zucchini to the pot and sauté for a couple minutes. Return sausage to the pot and add all other ingredients.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for about 1 hour or until lentils are soft.
  4. Use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup in the pot until desired consistency is reached, or remove about 2 cups of the soup and carefully blend in a countertop blender until pureed; return to the pot and stir. Add more broth or water if soup becomes too thick.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8.

Turkey Bean Chili {Stovetop or Crock Pot}

Turkey Chili

This fall semester is–woohoo!!–my last semester of classes for my nutrition program. I’m currently enrolled in one semi-blowoff online class (I have to take it to cross off a checklist), and Anatomy and Physiology in person. Taking A & P has been truly awesome so far. As a person of faith, every lecture and lab is a chance to marvel at God’s incredible attention to detail in creating our bodies, and how every little piece of them is orchestrated for our benefit. (Latest meditation: isn’t it amazing that we have butts? I mean, to sit on? Like, what would we do if we had a pointy, metallic triangle there instead of a nice, fleshy cushion? THERE WOULD BE PROBLEMS.) So I have been altogether enjoying this class. When I leave lecture on Thursday, I think, I can’t believe I have to wait until Tuesday to do this again. The only problem is…….those Tuesdays. I happen to have a break of about an hour and a half between my lecture and the corresponding lab, meaning I generally rush home and try to get stuff done AND shove some lunch down my throat before heading back to campus again. Which is what happened this week.

Having ridden my bike to school, I was naturally sweaty and disgusting by the time I got home. So in the hour I had at home, I knew I had to 1.) Shower, 2.) Study for my upcoming lab exam, and 3.) Get dinner pre-made for my family. (It was a craaaaazy afternoon and evening, so there was no time later.) Mmmm, yeah, that’s a lot to get done in an hour. Thankfully, I had this chili recipe to rely on! In 15 minutes, this went from a hodgepodge of ingredients to rocking it in the Crock Pot. I’ve made this recipe several times before, so I knew–or at least hoped–that that’s about all the time it would take. Annnnd success! I stripped off my sweaty biking clothes and made this in my underwear (don’t tell my family) before hopping in the shower. There was even time to do a little anatomy and physiology studying. And that evening, when we were pressed for time, I didn’t have to worry about how to get dinner on the table. Turkey bean chili for the win!

Turkey Chili

While we’re on the subject, let’s also just establish the point that everybody knows how they like their chili, and it’s probably a little different for every person. Well, every American, probably. I’m not sure if, say, Pakistanis or the French are real particular about their chili. I know I am very persnickety about what I look for in the perfect chili. Here’s how I like mine: more like a stew, with enough liquid to savor, plenty of spices, and more beans than meat. That’s what you’ll find in this bad boy. But whether you crank it together on the stovetop or let it simmer for hours in a slow cooker, I think everyone can find something to enjoy about this recipe–if only the fact that it’s so quick and easy to prepare. As cooler weather (hopefully) and tailgating season (inevitably) are upon us, I hope you’ll agree this chili is the one to beat!

Turkey Chili

Turkey Bean Chili
(Adapted from Real Simple)


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. ground turkey
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 heaping tsp. cumin
2 heaping tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
pinch paprika
pinch ground red pepper
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can kidney beans
1 15-oz. can black beans
shredded cheddar and/or sour cream for serving

Stovetop Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4-6 minutes.
  2. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and all spices (cumin through black pepper) and cook an additional 1 minute.
  3. Add tomatoes and their juices, broth, and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, 12-15 minutes. Garnish with shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired, and serve.

Crock Pot Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 4-6 minutes.
  2. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and all spices (cumin through black pepper) and cook an additional 1 minute.
  3. While turkey cooks, pour tomatoes and their juices, broth, and beans into Crock Pot. Add turkey-onion mixture to Crock Pot and stir to combine.
  4. Cook on Low about 6 hours or High about 3 hours. Garnish with shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired, and serve.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

For the last few weeks, my husband has more or less forbidden me from making soup. Not that we have that kind of relationship, where he goes around forbidding me from doing things (“NO MO’ SOUP, WOMAN!!”) but not too long ago we had quite the culinary misadventure with soup. On a hot July day, I had gotten it into my head that roasted cauliflower soup sounded great for dinner. I love that particular soup–creamy, spicy, nutty, and a great source of vegetables. Unfortunately, with the temperature outside being approximately that of a thousand burning suns, a steaming hot bowl of soup really did not hit the spot that night. Any time your napkin functions as a sweat towel instead of a crumb catcher, you know you have a problem–we both sat using our napkins to wipe our glistening foreheads throughout the meal. Hence the whole “forbidding” thing. Actually, it was more of a polite-but-firm request. Regardless, the point was clear (and mostly mutual): no more piping hot foods until the weather settles down to something below sweat lodge conditions.

Well, being the soup lover I am, I held out as long as I could, but dang it, the weather in Phoenix just takes soooooo loooooong to cool off–if, indeed, you can call our 70 degree winters “cooled off.” I can’t tell you how much time I spend fantasizing about living somewhere where in the next month or so leaves will begin changing, sweaters will begin replacing tank tops, and soup will become a reasonable dinner option. And that’s basically what making this soup was for me: fantasy. Pretending that the day’s forecast didn’t contain triple digits. La-la-la I can’t feel you, oppressive heat! I can’t see you, relentless sun! I will eat my delicious steaming bowl of broccoli cheese soup and not need a cold shower afterwards!

And you know what? It kind of worked. I enjoyed this soup, as I always do, and managed to not feel feverishly hot while doing so. Maybe the weather really is changing, ever so slightly? Or maybe my husband turned down the A/C in anticipation of dinner?

A final note: this recipe comes (adapted) from the book The Cleaner Plate Club, which I highly recommend. It’s part cookbook, part manifesto about improving children’s diets in America today. If you want to get educated on how to cook healthily for your child(ren), check this one out!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
(Adapted from The Cleaner Plate Club)


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped carrot
3/4 c. chopped onion
4 c. chicken broth (homemade if possible; vegetable broth may be substituted)
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. dried thyme
4.5 c. broccoli florets
1 Parmesan cheese rind
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole milk (2% could work in a pinch)
8 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
salt and pepper


1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook about 10 minutes.

2. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the broccoli and cheese rind and simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a separate small saucepan, prepare the roux: melt the butter over medium-low heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes. Add the milk. Bring to a simmer, then add the Parmesan and whisk to melt evenly.

4. Remove the bay leaf and cheese rind from the soup. Carefully puree about half the vegetables with an immersion blender (or blend half the soup in a regular blender, covering the lid with a kitchen towel to prevent a hot mess), bringing it to a texture you like.

5. Stir in the cheese sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main dish.


Gazpacho! What in the world is gazpacho? The origins of the word itself are unknown, though theories abound. Some people believe it comes from an Arabic word for “soaked bread”; others claim it has roots in the Hebrew word for “to break into pieces.” If you watch the video of Ina Garten preparing this recipe, though, you’ll hear her call it a “salad soup.” Elsewhere I’ve seen it described less appetizingly as “liquid salad,” which sounds like something a catatonic hospital patient would receive through a tube. I like to think of it as a salsa soup, which is what I called it when my kids asked what we were having for dinner and I didn’t want to say “liquid salad.” I really couldn’t see them running to the table after me calling…

“Come and get your liquid salad, kids!!”

If you’re someone who enjoys salsa, you’re highly likely to be a fan of gazpacho. One of my salsa-loving friends refers to tortilla chips as “salsa transportation devices” because, when it’s good salsa, don’t you really just want the salsa? The chip itself is definitely not the main attraction. Well, what if you didn’t have to bother with the chip for propriety’s sake? What if you could just eat the whole bowl of delicious salsa? Guess what, my friends?


And THAT is the meaning of gazpacho.

(You may, of course, have to get over the fact that it’s a cold soup, which seems like a contradiction in terms. But once you do, you’ll be thankful. As a colossal fan of soup, I can tell you it’s a delightfully sneaky way to still get to eat soup in the summer. We enjoyed it with pesto grilled cheese sandwiches and I thought it was the perfect combination. So go get grinding and chopping–summertime is liquid salad gazpacho time!)

(Barely adapted from Ina Garten)


1 cucumber, halved and seeded but not peeled
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 c. tomato juice
1/4 c. white wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

1. Chop the cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, and red onion into 1-inch cubes. Place each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped (about the texture of a very chunky salsa).

2. After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add garlic, tomato juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, mixing well.

3. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serves 4-6.