How to Make Creamy Soup the Healthy Way: Creamy Chicken Florentine Soup

How strange has the weather been lately where you live?

After all the stories I’ve heard in the news, I’m wondering if there’s a part of the globe that’s experienced typical weather-as-usual these past few months…

In New England, where I’ve lived my whole life, we’ve had one of the most snow-free winters I can remember.  Typically, New Englanders say spring doesn’t arrive until May.  But temperatures reached the mid-50’s all of last week. That’s crazy for February here.

Then today we had a sudden snow storm.  Since this hasn’t happened all winter, it’s given me a major craving for comforting, heartwarming chicken soup…

I love this soup.  It’s full of flavor and very homey and satisfying.

There’s a soup and sandwich place near my work building that serves a delicious chicken florentine soup that features chicken, noodles, carrots, celery, and spinach.  It’s full of cream (and therefore full of fat and calories) so I generally avoid it, but I wanted to create a healthier version to cook at home.

I thought these ingredients would work perfectly with Avgolemono. This is a traditional Greek soup typically made with chicken and thickened with a lemon-and-egg mixture. It must be the Greek’s greatest gift to the world (kidding. sorry.) because it adds a delicious, flavorful creaminess to your soup without all the saturated fat you’d get in a butter- or cream-based soup.

Here are the main ingredients.  Tons of healthy vegetables!

Start by cooking some par-boiled brown rice in the microwave according to the directions on the box. This is a time-saver so you can just toss the cooked rice into the soup at the very end.

Next up: the leeks.

If you’ve never cooked with them before, I highly recommend them because they lend a very mild, sweet onion flavor to your dish.

They are also extremely healthy with tons of vitamin K (for bone health), folate (good for heart health) and lots of antioxidants.

Just be sure to clean them well because the part you eat comes straight from the soil.

Cut off the roots and the green ends, leaving just the white and pale green stalk.

Then cut thin slices.

And put them into a large bowl of water, pulling the layers apart as you toss them into the bowl.  Swirl them around and allow them to sit for a few minutes.  This process should get them nice and clean.

While those are soaking, heat some extra virgin olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat.

Cube some skinless, boneless chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and saute until they are nicely browned on the outside.

Scoop the chicken out of the pot and place in a bowl covered with foil.  Set aside.

Chop up some celery and carrots and add to the pot.

Now it’s time to grab those leeks out of the bowl of water and add them to the pot as well.

Add a bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for a few minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften. Add the herbes de provence.

Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil.  Add the chicken back into the pot.  Add the rice to the pot.  Last, add plenty of fresh spinach.

Reduce the heat to low so that the soup stops boiling.

Now for the trick to making the soup thick and creamy:  Squeeze the juice from one lemon into a large bowl.  Add two eggs to the bowl and whisk everything together.

Eggs have had a lot of bad press in the past because eggs yolks contain high amounts of cholesterol, but all of the studies I could find suggest that they are a healthy choice. The real proven cause of heart disease is saturated fat (found in butter, cream, fatty meats, and greasy, processed foods).  So having eggs in moderation (no more than one a day) is a healthy choice.  And eggs do have a lot of healthy nutrients: they are a good source of protein, Vitamin D, lutein (good for preventing vision loss) and choline (good for maintaining brain function and health).

Pour 1 cup of chicken broth into a bowl and heat in up for about 2 minutes in the microwave.  It should be hot but not yet boiling.

While constantly stirring the lemon-egg mixture with a whisk slowly add the hot chicken broth.

Now start continually whisking the soup and slowly add the lemon-egg-broth mixture to the soup.  Since you brought the heat to low, the soup should no longer be boiling.  This process tempers the eggs so that they don’t cook up too quickly and become scrambled eggs in your soup!

You’ll notice that the broth instantly thickens and becomes richer and creamier.

It looks and smells so good.

And what a combination of flavors from the savory chicken and rice, the richness and heartiness of the eggs, and the delicious hint of citrus from the lemon.  It tastes incredibly delicious!

Here is the complete recipe:

Creamy Chicken Florentine Soup

Total Time:  1 hour
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
3 leeks,white and pale green parts only, thoroughly washed and chopped
4 large carrots, chopped
5 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1  tablespoon herbes de provence
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cooked brown rice
5 ounces fresh spinach
1/2 cup juice squeezed from 1 large lemon
2 eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and saute the chicken until golden brown.  Scoop the chicken from the pot, place in a bowl, and cover with foil.  Add the leeks, carrots, and celery and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over medium-high heat, until the veggies begin to soften, about 7 minutes.  Add the bay leaf and the herbes de provence. Reserve 1 cup of chicken broth.  Add the rest of the broth, adjust the heat to high, and bring to a boil.  When the broth begins to boil, add the chicken back in, along with the cooked brown rice and the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the heat down to low.  In a large bowl, beat together the two eggs and the lemon juice. Heat the 1 reserved cup of chicken broth in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling, about 2 minutes.   Whisking continuously, slowly add the broth to the egg and lemon mixture.  Once all the broth is incorporated, slowly add the mixture to the soup pot, stirring continuously.  Laddle into bowls and serve.

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24 Comments

  1. March 1, 2012 / 3:54 am

    Are creamy soups supposed to be thick? Or just look white?

    • March 2, 2012 / 6:21 pm

      Traditionally they’re usually thickened with a roux, which is a mixture of flour and butter. And then cream is added. Not too healthy!

  2. March 1, 2012 / 4:38 am

    This definitely sounds like another one I’m going to have to try! And yes, we’ve had a very unusual winter here in Alberta too… temperatures much warmer than usual and almost no snow!

    • March 2, 2012 / 6:22 pm

      No snow for us in Boston all winter. Until yesterday – we had our first major storm of the year. The only other storm was an unusually early storm in October!

  3. March 1, 2012 / 10:22 am

    This is something I really would fancy – brilliant photos too.

  4. March 1, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    I can’t wait to try the lemon-egg method – maybe in this, maybe in other soups too!

  5. March 1, 2012 / 3:51 pm

    Yum! Another great way to add a little creaminess is by adding either pureed rice or some lite coconut milk. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. March 1, 2012 / 4:52 pm

    This soup sounds so comforting and delicious, especially on a cold evening. Yum!

  7. March 1, 2012 / 7:35 pm

    Sounds declicious, never come across this way of thickening soup but will give it a try. Thanks

  8. March 3, 2012 / 3:12 pm

    Happy to have found your blog. A delicious sounding recipe and beautiful photos. I know what you mean about the weather. We got 14 inches here in New Hampshire from that snowstorm.

  9. Jennifer H.
    March 7, 2012 / 1:57 am

    Your blog is amazing, Jen! I can’t wait to try some of these recipes.

  10. Philip
    March 11, 2012 / 5:09 am

    This is a great recipe, and pretty easy! I found your blog because you made a comment on my sister’s (Tutti Dolci), and decided to try this recipe tonight. I would definitely make it again!

    • March 13, 2012 / 2:02 pm

      That’s great, so glad you liked it! And I really enjoy your sister’s blog by the way 🙂

      • March 16, 2012 / 3:08 am

        My brother froze some of the soup & brought it home to share with us – so delicious!! The lemon and herbs brought all the flavors together nicely. We will be making this again soon!

      • March 16, 2012 / 3:23 am

        Thanks so much for letting me know – so glad to hear you enjoyed it 🙂

  11. March 12, 2012 / 11:16 pm

    I tried this with tofu instead of chicken and vegetable broth instead of chicken broth I was superb!

    • March 13, 2012 / 2:01 pm

      I love to hear how people take these recipes and make them their own. Glad it worked out for you!

  12. Elle
    November 22, 2014 / 12:15 am

    The cafeteria at my work sells a chicken Florentine that i fear is awful in fat content, but it’s so good! I haven’t experienced much with soups, besides a veg beef barley, and I’ve been wanting to attempt to make this soup. Thank you for the step by step and a healthier option so it’s not filled with guilt!! 🙂 Tomorrow is supposed to be raining all day – I can’t think of a better day to try a new soup! Wish me luck!! – Thank you for posting this 🙂 – Elle

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