Once, in the haste in which people tended to use Bubblews, I posted a Bubble at that site about souping up Progresso soup and never gave anyone any specific recipes. The general idea is to let the ingredients on the label inspire you to make a stew with fresh ingredients), and use the can for extra flavor.
Reading the label is important if you have any kind of food sensitivities, since things you can't eat are likely to be lurking in canned soup. As an undiagnosed celiac I used to like Campbell's soup. After figuring out why I was such a sickly youth I switched to Progresso, because some of their flavors are gluten-free.
Shown above (if it's not in a store near you, you may click on the picture to order it from Amazon) is one of the Progresso flavors I used to soup up. The inclusion of corn products puts it off my current "safe food" list, due to GMO corn, but here's the process and recipe.
- Read the label: "Chicken Broth, Carrots, Cooked Chicken Meat, Rice, Tomatoes, Wild Rice, Celery. Contains less than 2% of: Corn Protein (hydrolyzed), Water, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Chicken Fat, Carrot Puree, Potassium Chloride, Onion Powder, Sugar, Soy Protein Isolate, Yeast Extract, Sodium Phosphate, Garlic Powder, Dried Parsley, Calcium Chloride, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Beta Carotene." If you can safely eat all of those things, try this recipe. If not, look for a different flavor and apply the same method.
- Which of the things that went into the can do you like to use when cooking? My list was "Chicken, carrots, rice, wild rice, tomatoes, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, citrus (lemon), and other natural flavors...and corn [back then] if you want to stretch the dish." Hydrolyzed corn protein, modified food starch, soy protein isolate, and often "Natural Flavor" are names for different forms of monosodium glutamate; the can contains plenty of that, and also plenty of sugar. Potassium chloride is the technical name for "Lite Salt." Sodium phosphate and calcium chloride are preservatives you don't need. You'll be adding some fat with the chicken and plenty of beta carotene with the carrots. With yeast extract, a little goes a long way; it adds flavor to canned ingredients, but there's no need to add more when you add fresh ingredients.
- Start with the chicken. It will need to be precooked. (So will the rice, if you don't have it precooked in the refrigerator. Wild rice needs at least an hour.) You can use leftovers, or cook any part of the chicken any way you prefer. This being my recipe, I'll explain what I did: Take two chicken leg quarters (which my husband would have wrapped together in the freezer after buying them in bulk--we lived fairly near Perdue's farm). Remove skin and fat, and cut across the blood vessels. If the meat is still frozen, defrost it by adding enough hot water for it to float on and bringing to a boil, uncovered. When it boils, clap a lid on it, turn off the heat, and leave it until the pot is cool enough to handle. Drain. Repeat. If it wasn't frozen, you need to parboil it only once. Anyway, cut it in bite-size pieces, discarding bones and any remaining visible fat or blood. It will still have the texture of dark meat but will look (and taste) more like light meat.
- If you prefer to slice carrots in coins, you may want to steam them, or just serve them half-cooked; they're safe to eat that way and will soften considerably during freezing and reheating. If your husband prefers that they be grated, as mine did, grate them coarsely and add the ends to the pot. Either way, begin with 1/2 to 1 pound of carrots.
- If you have tomatoes in the garden, use them. If you have last summer's tomatoes, whole, in bags, in the freezer, use a pint. Otherwise, since they'll be cooked anyway, use a one-pound can (or more or less, depending on which brand is on sale) of tomatoes.
- While the chicken is cooling and the carrots and rice are cooking if necessary, clean 2-3 celery ribs, 1-2 onions, and 1-2 cloves garlic. (Browning onions and celery in fat is a custom that probably started with thrifty cooks' feeling a need to use up fat. If you want to cut a few calories, chop them fine and throw them into any stew; they'll cook up nicely in the broth.)
- After cleaning and cutting up the chicken, return it to the stewpot with 2-3 cups water and set on low to medium heat. Chop in the celery, onions, and garlic. Add carrots and any remaining water used to steam them, if you did. Add tomatoes. Add rice. Sprinkle with natural flavors of your choice--I recommend rosemary if you want to freeze leftovers, finely chopped parsley stems if you have some to use up, and/or oregano. Cover, and simmer until it reaches the boiling point.
- Uncover, turn off heat, and squeeze in lemon juice to taste. Add stemmed parsley to taste.
This recipe serves either a crowd, or two busy people who can freeze it in bowls and microwave a bowl any time they want a home-cooked meal without cooking. You may add rice and water, corn, and carrots to stretch it further without doing much harm to the basic flavor. (I think corn improves the flavor...if your stew pot is big enough, and you have a reliable source of non-GMO canned or frozen corn.) Pass salt at the table, but add (red) pepper while cooking if you like pepper.