I love snow. As a child, peeking through a frosted window to see a soft, white, blanket of snow was one of my favorite memories. To this day, the beautiful, wretched-cold landscape I call Chicago, makes me feel alive. Growing up in Chicago meant playing in the snow or being stuck indoors so, naturally, we played in the freezing cold weather. Now when I say we, I feel I should mention that I was the youngest of the we. And as the youngest, I was bossed around constantly. Even my best friend Tina, from across the street, who was the eldest daughter in her family, bossed me around. Unfortunately, out of habit, I took it. As much as it bothered me that I got bossed around by so many people, I thought I handled it well. Instead of allowing it to get to me, I kept my cool. I shrugged it off. Eventually, that’s what separated me from them. I kept so cool that coolness became my thing, though carefree and rebellious were my words of choice. While my carefree and rebellious nature kept me sane, it also led to some unwanted painful situations.
I was 10 the first time I played Igloos and Eskimos (the outdoor, winter version of ‘playing house’). My best friend Tina and I would bounce back playing it from my yard to her yard. Her bossiness was terrible in both yards. And because of how she was, I felt the need to prove to her that she couldn’t boss me around. Of course, the only way to prove this was to out-do her and do something that she would not dare do. So, I decided to wear tennis shoes, on a 15 degree Chicago winter day. Only brave people wore tennis shoes in the dead cold of winter.
The idea was to take attention away from her bossiness, and put it towards my feet. Sure enough, it worked. We played for a good 3-4 hours. Instead of her everyday dictatorship, she asked, many times over, looking at my feet, “Ummmmm, are you ok” with her hands on her hips and a scowl on her face. I replied with, “Yeah, I’m cool!” Snowball to her face…
But was I ok? Like, truly ok? Ha! No! I mean I kept my cool, but I nearly froze to death! I could barely move my feet! As nighttime approached, the pain was unbearable and I knew I was in bad shape. Plus, I was starving! I said my goodbyes with as much dignity, or rather humility, as I could muster and stumbled on home. My poor frostbitten feet barely made it across the street, but as I opened my front door, I was rescued.
Delicious aromas of my favorite Filipino chicken soup filled the house. Ingredients like ginger, garlic, onion, and vinegar almost made me forget about my frostbite – almost.
I painfully walked up the stairs to the bathroom, peeled my cold, wet tennis shoes off my frozen feet, drew myself a bath, and slowly placed my feet, one by one, under hot running water. OUCH! It felt like pins and needles. I was in the bathroom for a good hour before I came down to dinner. When I finally sat down to eat, all I could think about was how great the warmth of the soup was going to feel going down my throat.
Sure enough, the first bite of the light and peppery (I believe the bite had a small chunk of garlic on there too, which I didn’t mind because by then, I was a foodie.) Arroz Caldo so delicious, so comforting, and warms me all the way from my head to my toes.
The broth-based soup had a mix of chicken, crunchy celery, crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside carrots, and perfect, grainy rice. And as I sat at the table, happily eating my soup, I thought to myself, “Wow, tennis shoes in winter? Dang, I’m so cool.”
Now for the most part, traditional Arroz Caldo isn’t terribly unhealthy, so it only takes a few changes to make this soup 100% clean. It's also kid friendly, so it makes a perfect family meal! Here are the changes and a few extra ingredients so you can enjoy the flavor as much as the extra health benefits while you eat it….
Arroz Caldo (Filipino Chicken and Rice Soup)
1 ½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs chopped into chunks
7 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup coconut oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, small diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, diced
4 roma tomatoes, diced
2 key limes or 1 lime, juice and zested
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
1 tablespoon low-sodium fish sauce
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth ( or4 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of water)
1 cup brown rice, uncooked
4 hard boiled eggs sliced in half lengthwise
1 green onion, diced
Himalayan salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Prepare all vegetables as listed above. Get spices and condiments measured out and ready to be used
Place a large pot over medium-high heat. Once the pot gets hot, add a quarter cup of coconut oil and allow it to melt. Once the oil starts to sizzle add half of the amount of minced garlic and stir until it becomes golden brown. Lay out a paper towel and place it on a plate. Turn off the heat and place garlic pieces on the paper towel. Set aside.
Using the same pot, turn the heat back on to medium-low and add the remaining coconut oil. Once the oil melts, add onion, the rest of the garlic, celery, carrots, and chicken. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is browned and caramelized. Add ginger and fish sauce. Simmer for another minute and stir.
Add rice and stir until the rice is incorporated with the rest of the ingredients. Add the broth or broth/water and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for another 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes is up add the tomatoes and the lime. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
Garnish with green onions, a little bit of the fried garlic we made and set aside, and 2 halves of hard boiled eggs per serving.
substitute cauliflower rice for brown rice
hearty vegetable like eggplant or winter squash (butternut)