Monday, March 24, 2014

Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe & Learning to Improvise in the Kitchen!

Homemade Veggie Chicken & Rice Soup
When it comes to cooking for my family, I like making fast, flavourful and nutritious home-cooked meals.  These past 15 months, I've especially embraced home cooking - and a combination of healthy eating and increased fitness has been the reason that I have lost over 70 lbs during this timeframe!  It's one of my joys to cook with my children, and to teach them how to create simple, delicious meals that will stay with them for a lifetime.

As I cook with my kids, I use the time to have heart-to-heart conversations with them, and reminisce about the times I used to cook with my grandmother--or watch my great-grandmother in action in the kitchen.  It's a time to have meaningful conversations, and to impart important life skills upon my children.  

Just recently, my kids and I set out to recreate chef Amanda Riva's recipe for Winter Vegetable Soup.  As we started to gather the ingredients, I remembered that I had some nice chicken in the fridge ready to cook--and some Uncle Ben's Jasmine rice.  I used this as an opportunity to teach the kids about improvisation in the kitchen: to add what's on hand, what we enjoy eating, and what looks good in the market on that day.  So in that manner, we decided to morph the Winter Vegetable Soup recipe into a Veggie Chicken and Rice Soup instead!
Teach Kids How to Improvise in the Kitchen
I began by chopping and sautéeing the onions for the soup, but paused to asked the kids which veggies would they like in the recipe.  I opened up the crisper for them to decide, and they pulled out carrots and celery.  The kids helped peel the carrots, and I did the chopping of the veggies.  I added water to the soup and the chicken, then set it to boil.

As I glanced down at Amanda's recipe, I realized that it was the inspiration for our family's meal.  While I did not use the same variety of Uncle Ben's rice (she used the 7 Grains Medley, and I used Jasmine), her recipe helped me create a unique meal that my family would enjoy and eat with gusto!  

In my Veggie Chicken & Rice Soup recipe, instead of adding the Uncle Ben's rice to the soup pot, I decide to cook it in its own pot and add it to each individual bowl of soup separately.  Some of my kids enjoy lots of rice in their soup, whereas other kids enjoy little.  I am the former, and love a generous helping of rice in my soup bowl!
Soup's Served!
The soup turned out really well, and my husband remarked how much he enjoyed it.  In the past I had more often added egg noodles to my soups, but now I'm hooked on using rice!  I asked the kids what other veggies could we use in the same soup next time, and they had great ideas about morphing this recipe by adding red peppers, zucchinis, and baby corn.  It seems like my lessons in improvisation really paid off! 

Did you see the Parmesan Crusted Tilapia that the kids and I created from another one of Amanda's recipe? You can also see us in an Uncle Ben's Canada cooking video HERE!  Or read about the cook-and-learn session that we attended with Chef Amanda Riva HERE.

Winter Vegetable Soup Recipe
Preparation Time: 15 Minutes | Start to Finish Time: 45 Minutes | Servings: 8


1 tbsp oil 15 mL
1 onion, chopped 1
2 cloves garlic, minced 2
1 bay leaf 1
1 tsp dried thyme leaves 5 mL
½ tsp each salt and pepper 2 mL
¼ cup white wine 50 mL
2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash 500 mL
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced 2
2 carrots, peeled and sliced 2
8 cups sodium-reduced chicken broth 2 L
½ cup Uncle Ben's 7 Grains Medley 125 mL
¼ cup chopped parsley leaves 50 mL
2 tsp apple cider vinegar 10 mL


1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan set over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Add wine; simmer for 1 minute. 
2. Stir in the squash, parsnips, carrots and broth; bring to a boil.  Add the Uncle Ben's 7 Grains Medley. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are softened and grains are tender. 
3. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley and vinegar.
Uncle Ben's Jasmine Rice Is Very Versatile
Enter Uncle Ben's Canada "Ben's Beginners" Facebook contest! You could win 1 of 3 grand prizes of $20,000 ($15,000 cheque for a family vacation, and $5000 to your child's school for healthy initiatives)! Secondary prize is a trip to Toronto for 4 (2 adults, 2 children) to a "Celebrity Chef Experience" with Corbin Tomaszeski. Simply prepare 1 of 36 of the featured recipes using Uncle Ben's rice, snap a photo (including the Uncle Ben's product that was used), and provide a photo description. GOOD LUCK!

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Do you have a favourite soup recipe that uses rice? What ingredients do you think go best with a rice soup (ie: veggies, meat, poultry, etc)?


  1. What a great post and recipe. The recipe sounds a lot like what my mom would make for us when we were kids. My mom would let us pick our favourite veggie and she would put that into a chicken stock base. she would make both rice and egg noodles and we got to pick what we wanted in our bowl.

  2. This looks fabulous for the cold temperatures we're STILL having! I love that you're learning to improvise, as I feel it is a lost art. And... she's adorable! :)

    1. Yes, I can't believe how cold it still is! Thanks for the compliment!

  3. Love how excited she is to cook! And it's the perfect time to have this soup.

  4. that looks great for any time of the year! All the ingredients look nice and fresh!

  5. I simply don't make enough soups! And, when I do, I am partial to cream soups - this looks like it is so full of goodness, that I must make a batch.

  6. yum! This def sounds alot like the recipe we used to have as kids!

  7. The Ben's Beginner program is amazing! I love how quick, easy and HEALTHY the meals are!! My kids are enjoying cooking in the kitchen too!!

  8. Looks good to me! Looks like your daughter wants to be a future Chef! :)

  9. i love vegetable soup. i love to make it and enjoy it :)

  10. The kids look so proud to be able to help in the kitchen! My teens are pretty handy in the kitchen themselves - all your work really pays off when you get to enjoy the meals they cook for you when they're older. The soup looks delish - perfect for this cold weather.

  11. Oooh this looks delicious and healthy! Your daughter is beautiful!

  12. I really love your outlook on cooking Jenna and how it has changed your life for the better. I am not a great cook, but this recipe seems fairly easy. I think I will file this to try out soon!

    1. Thanks, Suzanne! I'm feeling much better after changing my eating habits and daily activity level. The recipe that I created inspired by Amanda Riva's recipe was super easy - and no cooking skills are required. The hardest part is flying the onions! ;)

  13. Okay first : I love your outlook on cooking
    Second : Love that you involved your kids
    Third : This looks delish

  14. I make so many soups this winter and I have used my crockpot a LOT also.

  15. I agree with Suz! Your outlook on health and fitness and your weight loss has been incredible!

  16. (Homemade Veggie Chicken & Rice Soup) Oh, man could I really use some of this soup right now. I have the worst cough & cold and have no energy what so ever today. If I cannot have any of this great looking soup I am going to compromise and have a big hot cup of mint tea with honey & brandy in it instead!

  17. This looks really yummy! My favorite soup that I make is cream of potato and I also make a really yummy white chicken chili! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  18. Also thanks for sharing about cooking with your kids! My kids love to help out in the kitchen and this made me realize that I need to let them help me out more often!!! Maybe they will eat more of the food I make, if they help me out more. They are extremely picky eaters.

  19. We love to improvise in the kitchen...we usually say a dish never tastes the exact same in our household :P There's a few soup recipes that we make that uses rice. Definitely use vegetables, chicken/turkey or seafood

  20. thanks,we love soups in our home !

  21. Your soup looks very tasty and perfect for the coming winter months, I love making my own soup, especially at the end of the week and call it cleaning out the fridge soup, homemade is always better!! I made your (your son's) lol..Parmesan Crusted Tilapia and it turned out wonderful!!! very very good and I will be making it again!!


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