I used to think soup was a weekend-only dinner because, somewhere along the way, I learned that soup, in order to be any good, had to be cooked a long time. Then one night a few years back I threw together a few meatballs, boxed chicken stock, canned tomatoes, spices and some orzo I had in the pantry. And – voila! – I had soup on a week night my fam loved and my view of soup changed forever.

I don’t know where I got this crazy idea that soup was a time-intensive job but the ditching of that belief has opened up many new week night dinners for me. True, I’m not likely to make chicken noodle soup in August but here in Florida we have at least 5 months where soups are accepted.

Fast Weeknight Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe Method
Salt and pepper a chicken breast and bake on a foil-lined pan in your oven or toaster oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove and let rest and cool.

Chop 1 onion, 2 cloves of garlic (or 2 tbs pre-minced garlic), 2 stalks of celery and two carrots (peeled) roughly (mirepoix)
Sautee/sweat mirepoix in 2 tbs. each of butter and olive oil

Add 32 oz boxed or canned chicken stock to mirepoix. Bring to a boil. Add uncooked wide noodles or orzo to stock. Cook until tender.

Chop cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to stock. Heat thoroughly, correct seasonings and serve.

Back to soup being time-intensive. I think I used to apply more of an all-or-nothing approach to cooking that I have let go. Many years ago I eschewed soup because I would not use canned or boxed stock and the only times I made soup were when I created my own stock from a bird, pig or cow that I myself cooked. After the meat was cooked I rendered its contents down with onion, celery and carrot. The house smelled great but it took all day. And that was just for stock. Making stock is one of those things every cook should do at least once if only to understand the depth of all its components married together. But when the dinner hour is looming no one has time for that. It’s to the can or box I go for stock.

Mirepoix is a fancy word for onions, celery and carrots. It's the beginning of many soups and stews.

Mirepoix is a fancy word for onions, celery and carrots. It's the beginning of many soups and stews.

Purists will laugh and blow this off but I’m finished with being a purist and I’m finished with being perfect. Making dinner at home after work is finding the middle of “all” and “nothing.”  To me, “all” equals homemade stock and “nothing” equals opening a can of Campbell’s. Cooking, just like life, is living somewhere in the middle.

That “somewhere is the middle” is the chicken noodle soup I made last night which started with mirepoix (fancy word for onions, celery and carrots sweated in butter) baked chicken breast made in my toaster oven, boxed stock and noodles. I encourage you to cook at home but don’t kill yourself. Instead kill the word “perfect” from your vocabulary altogether. Kill it. Totally. Find sane cooking somewhere in the middle and enjoy real food that you prepared in your kitchen.