RECIPE: Chicken Orzo Soup for the student’s soul

One of the things that not many of us learn about while growing up is self-care: what it is, what it looks like, and why it is so important. Along with all the changes and growth that come from entering adulthood, such as pursuing higher education, finding our way in life, following the crowd or carving out our own paths, self-care always seems to get shoved to the back burner at best, and become nonexistent at worst.

Truth is, self-care is a lot harder than it sounds the longer you go without it. It can also be simple if we develop good habits early on in life. Things like good hygiene, a good night of sleep, and a nutritious and fulfilling meal have no substitutes! Our bodies are resilient. However, as we age things take a toll on our bodies. The rest you don’t give your body today, your body will take out of you tomorrow, and trust me, it will be at the most inconvenient time possible (that big project that’s due by midnight, not gonna happen if you’re down for the count!)

You have the good ol’, true and tried college student staples: fast food, mac & cheese, sandwiches, cold cereal, ramen noodles, and, if you’re particularly handy in the kitchen, scrambled eggs. While these can seem like the only cheap, easy and quick options, they are not. Not only can they can get boring after a while, but most importantly, if that is all we are eating, we are literally leaving life sustaining nutrients we need daily out of the dinner table.  

That’s why the rainy-day food pantry was started here at Lane community college, to help students who may otherwise be deprived of nutritious food, have easy and free access to one of life’s biggest necessities. There is a wide range of wholesome foods that we can add to pack meals with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, without it feeling like “pulling teeth.” For example, just add some spinach, mushrooms, kale, onions, or tomato to your scrambled eggs. Toss in a can of mixed veggies and canned chicken or tuna to that mac and cheese or ramen.

Let’s say after reading this article you decide to venture out and give it a shot. You find your way to their headquarters in the basement of the center building. Now what? Here’s a simple soup recipe perfect for this chilly weather. It will help you expand your repertoire, warm you right up, get out of your comfort zone and get you to try something new.

Orzo is a delightful small pasta. Add some broth of any kind; veggie, chicken or beef, the Rainy Day Food Pantry has a lot of creamy turkey broth, so that is what I used for this recipe, as well as canned green beans, frozen carrots, and corn. What is so great about this recipe is that it’s versatile. You can omit the chicken and use a vegetable broth to make it vegan/vegetarian. Add, remove, or substitute ingredients to your preference. Skip the steps that use those ingredients or substitute for your own. The best part is that it makes enough that you’ll have plenty of leftovers!

(Chicken) Orzo soup: 30 minutes, serves 6


1 cup of frozen orzo

2 qt of creamy turkey broth

1 cup frozen sliced carrots (thawed overnight in fridge)

1/2 can green beans (rinsed to diminish salt content)

1 tbsp of butter

Salt & pepper to taste


1 medium onion, small dice ¼ in

2 stalks of celery sliced to about ½ in (they will look like crescent moons)

3 garlic cloves minced (culinary word for finely cut)

4 oz of chicken or turkey (the equivalent of 1 chicken breast, shredded or small diced)

1 cup corn kernels (I’m using the kernels from frozen corn on the cob, thawed overnight)

1 cup baby spinach leaves

Juice and zest of 1 ½ lemons (zest is the shredded rind of a lemon using a tool called a zester)

1 handful of italian parsley leaves, haché ( is the culinary word for hashed or shredded)


  1. Open the can of green beans, rinse them well and strain.
  2. Melt a tbsp of butter over medium heat in a large pot.
  3. Add the onion and sweat/sauté until it is translucent, add garlic and sauté for about a minute. (Heating the onions also releases their aroma and reduces the chemical bitterness they exhibit when raw.)
  4. Add carrots and celery, mix well for about a minute or so.
  5. Add the rest of your vegetables and sweat for about 15 minutes until fragrant, but try not to caramelize (brown) them. (The purpose of sweating is to draw moisture out, concentrating the flavor and enhancing conversion from starch to sugar.)
  6. Add your 2 qts of broth and gently stir everything together.
  7. Add the juice and zest of the lemons (if you really love lemons, you can go ahead and just use both whole lemons)
  8. Allow the soup to come up to a simmer, in the meantime, you can separate the parsley leaves from the stems.
  9. Once the soup has reached a simmer, add the orzo and chicken.
  10. Start checking the orzo at 10 minutes, for those who like firmer pasta, or al dente as they say in the culinary world, 15 minutes is average. (One thing you want to keep in mind is that all cooked foods have something called “carry over cooking,” which means the food continues to cook even after it has been removed from the heat source or the heat is turned off.
  11. Add the spinach and parsley, mix everything well.
  12. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Serve, enjoy and bon appétit!