Real cooking, where you put in a bunch of effort one day and then have food for several.
1. If you don't already have spices, the list below could get expensive, but you can leave some of them out.
2. If you don't have a great strong spatula or spoon to use getting the chicken out of the pot, buy a chicken that has already been cut up or three or four pounds worth of pieces. That'll cost a little more, but that beats dropping the chicken.
A whole chicken (preferably one with giblets, preferably 3 to 4 pounds)
1 pound of carrots
2 pounds of potatoes (either little ones or a few big ones)
8 ounces of mushrooms
A yellow onion
12 ounce package of frozen green beans--the cut up in one-inch chunks kind.
Saltines because you always have to have saltines
Necessary: A soup pot with lid (or a slow cooker), a knife, a carrot peeler, a strong spatula or metal spoon, a big fork
Helpful/optional: A frying pan (optional), a cutting board, a colander
See, you can tell it's real cooking because we're already at the break and not yet at the instructions.
Peel the carrots and slice them into coins.
Wash the potatoes and cut them into 1 inch chunks. (Yes, cut off any bits that are green on the outside or black on the inside.)
Pull the bottoms off of the mushrooms and cut the tops either into slices or quarters.
Peel the onion and cut it into small pieces.
Unwrap the chicken, and check whether there are giblets in the front in or back end. If so, unwrap those.
Mix together a cup of hot water and two tablespoons of the better-than-bouillion. Add two bay leaves and a tablespoon each of parsley, thyme, salt, and garlic.
Put the chicken in the soup pot, along with any giblets that that came with it.
Add the mushrooms and the water-and flavorings, plus enough more water to cover the chicken with an inch of water.
Put the pot on the stove with the heat turned on high.
Fancy option with the frying pan: heat some oil, then add the mushrooms and onion and stir over medium heat until the onion looks a lot more see-through and the mushrooms look a bit brown. Add a tablespoon of the minced garlic and stir fast for another minute. Dump all of that on top of the chicken in the pot.
Not fancy option: Dump the onion and mushrooms into the pot with the spices.
When the water boils, turn the heat way down and put the lid on the pot, tilted slightly to let the steam out.
After an hour, check that the chicken is cooked enough that bits of the leg bones are showing through--or cook some more. Move the pot off of of the heat and move the chicken to a colander sitting on a bowl or a pie pan.
Put the potatoes and carrots into the pot and put the pot back on the heat and raise the heat to medium.
Use tongs and your fingers and a sharp knife to pull the chicken meat off the bones. Exception: just throw the wings back in the soup. Cut the larger bits of meat into chunks of an inch or so and throw all the meat back into the soup. Include the skin if you want to make maximum use of the chicken, and leave it out if you want to reduce fat.
After 15 minutes of the potatoes being in the pot, check one with a fork. When a potato feels like it would taste good, it will, and you're almost done.
Turn off the heat under the pot. Add the frozen beans and stir so they get down in the soup.
Wait ten minutes.
As you serve the soup, add pepper and saltine crackers.
I spent twenty years trying to add the pepper while I was cooking. Then Uncle Paul pointed out that the potatoes will always soak up all the pepper, leaving you with bland broth and spicy spuds. That's why the pepper should go in at the very last minute.
You can also do this in the slow cooker, putting the carrots on the bottom, the chicken on the carrots, the potatoes, onions, and mushrooms around the chicken. You combine the cup of water with the bouillion and other flavorings the same way, pour it on top, and then add enough more water that some of the potatoes and mushrooms float a little, but you can still see the top of the chicken like an island above the liquids. Cover and cook on low for four up to six hours, taking the chicken out when the meat starts falling off the bone. Add the green beans when you take the chicken out.