Showing posts with label soup/stew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soup/stew. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon


Is it spring yeeeeeeeet???  I'm hopeful that the gorgeous weather is here to stay in my part of the country; but realistically, I know we are in for at least one more cold snap.  And what do you eat when there's a cold snap?  Soup!

This soup is everything you want in a bowl of comfort food.  There's chicken, rice, tender vegetables, bacon, and it all comes together in a rich, creamy broth.  Creamy soups are definitely one of my guilty pleasures, and one that I only indulge on occasion.  But this soup is so so worth the splurge.

I served this with my buttermilk drop biscuits and fall harvest pear salad, and it was a great meal on a cold and rainy night.  And then subsequently, I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch for the next 3 days.  It reheats well, is warm, comforting and delicious, and makes enough to feed an army (or a family of 6, and then some!).  Go ahead and put this on your menu the next time the weather is cold and dreary.  It feeds the body and warms the soul.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
barely adapted from Elly Says Opa!
serves 6

  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup raw wild rice
  • 2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • fresh parsley, for garnish
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until it is crispy and has rendered most of it's fat.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.  Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, and return the pot to the stovetop.

Decrease the heat to medium and add the carrots, onions, celery, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often.  Stir in the dried thyme, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the bay leaf.  

Add the chicken broth and wild rice and bring to a low boil.  Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer 35 to 40 minutes, or until the rice is almost cooked through, but still has a bit of a bite.  

Stir in the chicken and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the rice is done.

In a liquid measuring cup, add the flour to 1 cup of the half and half.  Whisk until the flour is mostly incorporated, then whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of half-and half.  Slowly whisk the mixture into the pot, then stirring continuously, cook until the soup is thickened and heated though, another 5 minutes or so.

Remove from heat and allow to sit another 10 minutes, as it will thicken a bit as it cools.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Divide among serving bowls, and sprinkle each serving with bacon and fresh parsley.  Serve.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino

I realize that this version of cioppino may be considered blasphemous, but if adding sausage to a seafood soup is wrong, I don't want to be right.  Traditionally, cioppino can be any combination of mussels, shrimp, clams, squid, crab... really any mixture of seafood.  Here, it is simply shrimp and sausage - consider this to be surf and turf soup, if you want.

It's hearty and filling, a relatively quick meal, and is oh so comforting and delicious.  As we settled in for dinner, I couldn't stop talking about how much I loved the broth.  Typically the broth is an afterthought to me - I'm all about the meat and veggies in a soup.  But this broth was simultaneously light and fragrant and comforting and hearty.  It's a white wine-tomato broth, infused with the flavor of onions, garlic, fennel, and lots of fresh herbs.  With sweet and tender shrimp, spicy sausage, and creamy white beans, this soup was definitely a thing of beauty.  Served with a glass of white wine and a big piece of warm crusty bread, it was a comforting yet elegant weeknight dinner.  

Shrimp and Sausage Cioppino
adapted from Weeknights with Giada
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (substitute part of all for mild sausage if you prefer less spice)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cored, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cups dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio 
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 lb peeled and deveined large shrimp, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
Preheat a Dutch oven or large saucepan to medium-high heat.  Crumble the sausage into the pan, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon.  Cook, stirring often, until it's browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage to a bowl and set aside, leaving as much of the rendered fat as you can in the pot.

Add enough olive oil to the pan to have 2 tablespoons of fat.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the fennel, shallots, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  

Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the wine, and use the wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.  Add the chicken broth and bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover,  and simmer 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan and add the shrimp, beans, basil, and parsley.  Simmer, uncovered, until the shrimp is pink and cooked through, 3-4 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and discard.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mushroom-Miso Soup with Shrimp and Udon Noodles


I didn't really make New Year's resolutions for 2014, but I did sit down and make a little list of a few goals I'd like to focus on throughout the year.

....Ok, so when I put it that way, I guess I did make resolutions.

One of my non-resolution resolutions is to cook more foods outside my typical cuisines of Southern, Mexican, and Italian food.  I actually really love Asian food, and every time I make something that's Chinese or Japanese-inspired, I kick myself for not venturing to the far east more often.

Speaking of the far east, did you know that I almost moved to Japan when I graduated college?  It's a long story, but one that definitely worked out for the best in the end.  ANYWAY, I visited there over Christmas break of my senior year, after taking Japanese lessons for almost a year.  I was so excited to immerse myself in the culture, see some famous sites, and of course, eat the food.

Almost every meal began with miso soup, and I came to look forward to that small bowl of fragrant broth.  This soup is a heartier and more filling take on that soup.  In addition to the miso broth, there are tender udon noodles - which just so happened to be my favorite noodle in Japan!  There are also earthy mushrooms, tender and sweet shrimp, and bites of leafy green spinach.  It's a wonderful combination, and the first few bites transported me back all those years to Japan.  Caroline absolutely loved this soup - she slurped up all the noodles, ate the shrimp, spinach, and mushrooms out with a fork, and then drank the remaining broth.

With meals as delicious as this one, it will definitely be easy to keep my non-resolution this year, and I can't wait to share more of my adventures with you along the way.

Mushroom-Miso Soup with Shrimp and Udon
barely adapted from The Six-Ingredient Solution
serves 4 generously

  • 12 oz udon noodles
  • 4 oz (4 cups) baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 10 oz shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 oz extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup white miso
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the noodles and cook until al dente, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with warm water to remove any excess starch.  Drain well, then portion the noodles into four individual serving bowls.  In each bowl, top the noodles with one cup of the baby spinach.  Set the bowls aside while you finish the soup.

Stem and thinly slice the mushrooms.  Bring the broth, 2 cups of water, and the mushrooms to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently until the flavors meld and the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the tails from the shrimp and cut each shrimp into 3 equal pieces, and season lightly with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the miso and 1/2 cup of water until it's a smooth mixture.

Remove the soup from heat and stir in the shrimp and miso mixture.  Cover and let sit until the shrimp are just pink, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Ladle the soup into the prepared bowls and serve.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Black Bean & Salsa Soup

I have a handful of recipes that my mother passed down to me, and this is one of my favorites.  I affectionately call it "Two by Four" Soup, because it is simply two cups each of four ingredients.  So, so easy, and so so good.

All you do is dump it all in a pot and let it simmer for fifteen minutes or so, then serve with whatever garnishes and toppings your heart desires:  I typically top it with some extra salsa, a little sour cream, and shredded cheese.  In the past I've also done guacamole, diced avocado, cilantro, jalapeños... really anything you'd serve with chili works here.  I like to serve it with cheese quesadillas, or I'll keep it simple and just eat some chips and salsa with it.  Or I'll try and be healthy and have it with a salad. The world is your oyster... errr black bean soup.

So about those four ingredients.  Black beans, salsa, broth, and a protein of your choice.  I just go with whatever I have on hand:  be it shredded chicken, pulled pork, ground turkey, chicken, or beef... I've even used chopped ham after Easter before!  And oftentimes I just omit the meat altogether and make it a vegetarian meal.  My preference for the salsa is to use my rustic roasted salsa, but I've used store-bought in a pinch before.  The roasted tomatillo salsa is pretty fabulous as well, and it gives you a totally new flavor profile.

As you can see, this is infinitely adaptable.  And with it being so easy, it's a great meal to have in your back pocket for busy nights.  The leftovers reheat beautifully, making it a perfect soup to have around for lunches.  As we hunker down for yet another cold snap, I'm craving soup more than ever.  This soup is not only totally delicious and easy, but it reminds me of my sweet mom - foods that make you think of family are always the best ones, aren't they?

Quick and Easy Black Bean & Salsa Soup
serves 4 to 6

I like my soups on the thicker side, but if you prefer a thinner consistency, just add a little more broth, or skip the immersion blender step.

  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 cans (or 3 1/2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 2 cups cooked meat of your choice (shredded chicken, pork, ground beef, etc) - optional
  • To serve:  salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, etc
In a medium saucepan, combine the salsa, beans, broth, and meat.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, give the soup a few pulses to create a bit more of a creamy, chunky texture.

Divide among soup bowls and serve immediately with desired toppings.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lentil & Cauliflower Soup with Broiled Gruyere

Raise your hand if you overindulged in December.  Raise your hand if you're recommitting to eating healthier.  Now raise your hand if you're still somehow craving cheesy, hot comfort foods instead of salads and grilled veggies.  Guilty, guilty, guilty.  Things got a little... out of hand... for me at the end of the year.  And while I'm normally not one to make big sweeping resolutions, the beginning of the year is as good a time as any to get back on track.  So here we are.

Yet, it's a cruel irony that just when we all want to start eating fresh veggies and salads, we're stuck in the depths of winter.  It's really freaking cold outside.  And it's raining.  Again.  I want comfort food -  a big bowl of something starchy and cheesy.

This soup is a great compromise.  It's full of nutritious and healthy ingredients, but you get juuuuuust a little indulgence from the melted Gruyere topping.  Kind of a healthy take on French onion soup going on here.  This soup is packed with veggies:  onions, celery, carrots, and cauliflower.  And the lentils give you that starchy carb-y feel, but they are full of protein, fiber, and iron.  The finishing touch of broiling the gruyere really makes this soup.  The creamy, salty cheese pairs really well with the earthy vegetables, and I couldn't get enough.  We enjoyed this for dinner, then I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day.  It was a big hit all-around, and a soup I'll definitely make again when I want something healthy but am craving something sinful.

Lentil & Cauliflower Soup with Gruyere
adapted from Martha Stewart Living, November 2013
serves 4

  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced, plus more for garnish
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup brown or French green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 1/2 - 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cored, trimmed, and cut into small florets (about 3-4 cups)
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
Heat oil in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery, and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and broth and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.  

Stir in the cauliflower, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer just until the cauliflower is crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes.  Taste the soup and season accordingly with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler.  Divide the soup among 4 oven-proof ramekins or soup bowls, and sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese over each one.  Watching the soup VERY closely, broil until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbly, 3 to 4 minutes. 

Garnish with additional thyme and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Italian-Style Chicken & Vegetable Quinoa Stew

Over the course of the past 3 years, I've kind of forgotten what it's like to eat for only one person.  I've gone from pregnant to nursing to pregnant with twins to nursing twins, and in that time have pretty much just eaten whatever I wanted, and pretty however much of it I wanted.  While I generally eat pretty healthy, snacking, late-night desserts, and portion sizes were definitely out of control; so needless to say, once I weaned the twins this fall, it kind of all caught up to me.

Thus, I've been counting calories via My Fitness Pal.  It's been eye-opening to say the least, and has definitely helped me to get a handle on it all.  It's been a good reminder of how much food I actually need versus how much I eat.  Tracking my calories definitely helps to reign in mindless snacking, cut down on the fancy calorie-bomb coffee drinks, and just generally keep me in check.

However, over Thanksgiving, I threw all my good habits out the window, and as we all tend to do over the holidays, I ate waaaaay too much.  Pie for breakfast?  Okay!  Gravy on everything?  Why not?!  By Sunday afternoon, I NEEDED something wholesome, satisfying, and healthy. Enter this quinoa stew.  I had plenty of leftover turkey meat,  I'd already made a big pot of stock, and I had a good assortment of herbs leftover from all of my Thanksgiving cooking; so I threw this together for dinner that night.

It was healthy, hearty, and just what I needed to get back on track.  I've taken to using quinoa instead of rice in many recipes, and I love that it provides extra protein and fiber, while still giving you that "starchy" comfort food feel that you get from rice.  With tomatoes, spinach, carrots, and onions, this isn't short on the veggies, but I think mushrooms would be lovely here as well.  It's a simple, one-pot recipe, but paired with some garlic bread, makes for a comforting and cozy winter meal.  We all loved this stew (especially Henry and Tucker!), so it will definitely be making repeat appearances in the next few months.

I know everyone is pinning and saving recipes for Christmas cookies, candy, cakes, and cocktails, but you still have to eat dinner.  So why not make it healthy?

Italian-Style Chicken and Vegetable Quinoa Stew

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme*
  • 1 tsp minced fresh oregano*
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • 2 cups chopped/shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
  • chopped fresh basil, for garnish
  • freshly shaved parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then sauté the onion and carrots until softened and beginning to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, tomato paste, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring constantly for an additional minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, broth, and quinoa, and bring to a gentle boil.  Cook until the quinoa is cooked through, about 15 minutes.  Add the chicken and spinach, and cook until the spinach wilts and the chicken is heated through, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the chopped parsley, then taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  If the stew seems too thick, stir in additional broth.

Ladle the stew into bowls, then top each serving with chopped basil and freshly shaved parmesan cheese (I use my veggie peeler to just shave off thin pieces from the wedge).  Serve.

*1 teaspoon of dried herbs can be substituted for the fresh herbs here.  I'd recommend using an Italian dried herb blend or even Herbes de Provence.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

(Crockpot) Texas-Style Chili

A few weeks ago, we had Henry and Tucker baptized.  It was a wonderful service, and we were lucky to be able to share the special occasion with our families and friends.  I have to admit that I was more than a little nervous about how Smith would behave during the baptism - he's a typical two-year old boy, and doesn't like to be still.  Especially when he's in a fun new place that needs to be explored.  There were six adults on the pulpit, and at some point he was chased down by five of us.  And then Henry spit up all over himself and me.  I like to think that these things simply made the day more memorable for us all.

After church, we had our families over for a casual lunch.  I like to keep these kinds of events relaxed and low-key, so I planned a simple and seasonal menu:

Chicken Chili Verde
Texas-Style Chili
Baked Ham & Cheese Sliders
Baked Potatoes
Fall Harvest Pear Salad
Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread
Various toppings and garnishes for the chili

I'm especially glad that I kept things pretty simple, because we had some unexpected home issues to deal with most of the day prior to the lunch, which kept me out of the kitchen almost all day.  I had to nix my plans for a mini dessert bar, however, and ended up ordering a cake from a local bakery.  It all worked out in the end, and the day was a big success.

In large part of course, thanks to this chili.  Joey and I searched and browsed through countless cookbooks and websites trying to choose a chili to serve.  In the end, we chose this one, because it's a little different than the standard ground beef chili, but still familiar.

This chili has big chunks of beef, a chile-infused sauce, kidney beans, and just enough spice to keep things interesting.  It was a big hit with our families, and it is now officially our "go-to" chili.  I know that Texas chili purists will point out that Texas-style chili doesn't have beans in it.... but well... I just like beans in my chili, so sorry not sorry. ;-)

Beef chuck is the meat of choice here, and while it is typically kind of tough, after 9 hours in the crock pot, it is melt-in-your-mouth-tender.  It's super easy to prep, and then the longer it cooks, the better it gets.  This was the perfect blend of spicy, smoky, and savory.  Everyone loved it; so much so that I was kind of sad that there were barely any leftovers.  It was 29 degrees this morning, and a big bowl of this would be have been perfect for dinner tonight.  I think that will happen sooner, rather than later.

Crockpot Texas-Style Chili
barely adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Slow Cooker Revolution
serves 8 to 10

  • 3 medium onion, minced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 (15-oz) cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup Minute tapioca
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs minced canned chipotle in adobo sauce
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (5-lb) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-2 inch chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
In a microwave-safe glass bowl, combine the onions, jalapeño, chili powder, tomato paste, vegetable oil, garlic, cumin, and oregano.  Cook about 5 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes.  Transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir the beans, tomatoes, broth, tapioca, soy sauce, chipotles, sugar, and bay leaves into the slow cooker.  Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper, and stir into the bean mixture.  Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low, or 5 to 7 hours on high.

Turn off the heat, uncover, and allow the mixture to settle 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove the fat from the surface using a large spoon, discard the bay leaves, and taste.  Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken Chili Verde

When I feel the first chill in the air each fall, my first thoughts turn to chili.  There is just nothing like a big bowl of chili, loaded with toppings, enjoyed with a big hunk of cornbread.  I make a lot of chili throughout the fall and winter months, ranging from classic beef and bean chili, to white bean chicken chili, vegetarian black bean chili, quinoa chicken chili, taco chili, even tequila-lime turkey chili.  It's hard to pick a favorite, since they're all so different, and they all satisfy different cravings and moods.

This chili satisfies the "all my kids are sick, we're having some decidedly not-fun house issues, and it's cold outside" mood.  And it is amazing.  The base of the chili is made up of three different kinds of chile peppers - jalapeños, poblanos, and anaheims.  It also uses hominy, rather than beans, to add bulk to the chili, and it's a great move.  I love hominy, so anytime I see it in a recipe, I want to make it immediately.

The chili is slightly spicy, with a slightly tangy undertone from the milder peppers.  It's finished with cilantro, scallions, and lime juice, and the bright freshness is a great complement to the spice.  I served this at Henry and Tucker's baptism luncheon over the weekend, and it was a hit with our families as well.

If you're like me, and love to constantly try new recipes for chili, give this one a try.  It's an instant classic.

Chicken Chili Verde
adapted from Elly Says Opa and ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook
serves 6 to 8 generously
  • 3 lbs bone-in, skin on chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, or a mixture of both)
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 2 medium jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3 medium anaheim or cubanelle peppers, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium onions, cut into large pieces
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs cumin
  • 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans hominy, drained and rinsed, divided
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced

Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook about 5 minutes. Fli[ the chicken and brown on the other side, 3-4 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pot.
Meanwhile, add 2 of the  jalapeño peppers to the bowl of a food processor, along with the anaheims, poblanos, and onions (do this in multiple batches if you don’t have a very large work bowl).  Process until you reach the consistency of chunky salsa, about 12-15 pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
Add the puree to the Dutch oven over medium heat, along with the garlic, cumin, coriander, and about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes or until vegetables soften, stirring occasionally.
Remove the pot from heat and combine 1 cup of the vegetable mixture, 1 cup of the hominy, and 1 cup of the chicken broth into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Return the mixture to the pot, and add the remaining 3 cups of broth. Nestle the browned chicken into the liquid, and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and simmer, covered, until chicken registers 160º, stirring occasionally. This should take about 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken with tongs and transfer to a plate. Stir the remaining hominy into the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken and dice or shred the meat.
Stir the chicken, lime juice, cilantro, and green onions into the chili and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

(Crockpot) Spanish Chicken & Saffron Stew


While I will never ever be a fan of winter or cold weather, I am a fan of soup, stew, and chili.  And I'm an even bigger fan of having dinner ready at 5pm on the dot and barely having lifted a finger.  Therefore, crockpot recipes are like my BFF.  And this crockpot recipe is REALLY my BFF, because it is one of the most low-maintenance and easy recipes I think I've ever made.

 It is in the crockpot in less than 10 minutes, and then all you have to do before serving is shred the chicken and stir in a few garnishes.  So so easy.  And it was a big hit with my family.  The stew is very simple and rustic, but it packs a big flavor punch. Chicken thighs are used instead of breasts, so they don't get dried out, and they have more flavor.  The stew is seasoned with onions, garlic, paprika, and saffron, so you're definitely not lacking for flavor here.  Chicken broth and tomatoes round out the stew, and it's garnished with chopped almonds and parsley.  The almonds give a nice textural contrast, and the parsley provides some freshness and brightness to the finish.  I really loved the addition of the almonds to the stew, and the saffron really shined through.  A huge hit all-around.  Just be forewarned, this makes a ton of stew, but I froze about half to pull out for a lazy dinner.

I'm a big fan of America's Test Kitchen's Slow Cooker Revolution, but one of the complaints I often hear is that the recipes are too involved to be legit crock pot recipes.  I don't think there is such a thing as an illegitimate crock pot recipe, but I do see the argument there - if you spend 30 minutes prepping a crock pot recipe, what's the point of even using a crock pot, right?  In ATK's defense, the recipes are always worth the extra few minutes, especially because they don't contain weird or processed ingredients.   But their new cookbook, Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2:  The Easy Prep Edition, is the solution to the long-prep time problem.  This cookbook's sole focus is crockpot recipes that are low-maintenance and well... easy to prep.   The only issue I have with the book, which actually doesn't really affect me too much since I'm home in the afternoons, is that a good number of the recipes only cook for 4-6 hours.  This doesn't really help those who work outside the home, unless your crockpot has a timer.  But overall, I'm pretty impressed with the book.  Definitely check it out if you love crock potting too!

Pssst:  Come back tomorrow - there could maybe possibly be something in it for you ;)

Spanish Chicken & Saffron Stew
barely adapted from ATK's Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2
serves 6 to 8

  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs paprika (I used half smoked and half sweet, and it was a great combo)
  • 1/4 tsp crumbled saffron
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with liquid)
  • 3 Tbs instant tapioca
  • 4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Combine the onions, garlic, oil, paprika, saffron, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave about 5 minutes, or until the onions are softened, stirring halfway through.  Transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in 3 cups of the broth, tomatoes, and tapioca.

Generously sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and nestle them into the slow cooker as well.  Cover and cook on low until the chicken is tender, about 4 to 5 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a large bowl, and turn off the slow cooker.  Using tongs, gently break up the chicken into bite-sized pieces.  The chicken was so tender that this is all I had to do to shred it.

Use a large spoon to skim any accumulated fat off the surface, and stir the shredded chicken, almonds, and parsley into the stew as well.  Add additional broth to adjust the consistency if it's too thick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lemony Chicken & Rice Soup


With the change in seasons, comes a change in my weekly meal plan.  During the summer, it's all about grilled dinners, salads, and BLT's.  Quick and easy is the name of the game, so we can maximize time for playing outside or walking to the ice cream shop after dinner.  Things seem to slow down a bit as the weather cools down, with more time spent inside, cuddled up reading books, watching movies, building train tracks, and simmering pots of soup and chili on the stove top.

Oftentimes soup and chili are relegated to the weekend.  Because while not difficult or complicated, they can be time-consuming:  chop all the veggies, cook the veggies, cook the meat, combine it all, and let it simmer away, marrying together all the flavors and ingredients.  Luckily, you're rewarded for your patience when you have lunches for the rest of the week!

But sometimes you want soup on a Monday night.  Like, hypothetically if all the kids have colds... and one of the babies has an ear infection... and the other baby has a stomach bug... and you just want comfort food.  But since you're counting calories, you want something lighter.  Hypothetically of course.  And you want it right now - not in two hours.  Then what?

Then you make this soup.  It's a comforting chicken and rice soup, but it's kicked up a little.  The combination of onions, carrots, and fennel give it an aromatic base, with just a hint of sweetness.  The hearty chicken and rice add bulk, and the lemon and thyme give it a nice freshness.  Where this soup really stands out, however, is with the addition of the egg yolks.  They give the soup a really smooth, creamy, custardy quality, but without any heavy cream or dairy.  This gives the soup richness without being too heavy.  It's a great transitional soup from summer to fall - all the comfort and warmth, but with a bright lemony flavor, and right around 300 calories per serving.

Lemony Chicken & Rice Soup
barely adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
serves 4 to 6

  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded, bulb halved, cored, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 (3-inch) strips lemon zest
  • 2-3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 cups cooked rice (brown or white)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh parsley
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Pat the chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Brown the chicken on both sides, about 5-6 minutes total; transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot, followed by the carrots, fennel, and onion.  Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic,thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in the broth and lemon zest, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

Immerse the browned chicken in the broth, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and when it's cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces.

Fish out the lemon zest from the pot.  Stir in the shredded chicken and rice, and return the soup to a simmer.  Allow to simmer about 1 minute, then turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice tighter in a medium bowl.  Stir 3 tablespoons of the hot broth into the yolk mixture, then whisk the yolk mixture into the soup.  Continue to cook the soup gently, whisking constantly, until it thickens slightly, about 1 minute.

Immediately remove from heat and stir in the parsley.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tomato Florentine Soup

Ever since Caroline was just a few months old, I've had a standing tradition with my mother-in-law to meet for lunch on Tuesdays.  We almost always go to the exact same place.  It's now Caroline's favorite restaurant, and she always asks to go to "The old restaurant with paintings on the wall."  It's not anything groundbreaking, but they do really excel at lunch:  their french fries are the best.  They have great chicken salad sandwiches and burgers.  And really awesome tomato-basil soup.  We order it quite often, and one day, a few years ago, Caroline reached over and dunked her grilled cheese sandwich in it like it was nothing.  See, even at two years old, Caroline knew what to do.  Ever since then, I pretty much always order the tomato soup and give half of it to her for dunking (and subsequent slurping).  

When I made this soup for lunch one weekend, I told Caroline we were having tomato soup.  Upon serving her a bowl, her first response was that it wasn't the "right" tomato soup.  Meaning, it's not the same one she's used to.  But let me tell you - there's nothing wrong with this soup.

It's a cruel irony that when you crave tomato soup - when it's cold, rainy, and dreary - it's nowhere near tomato season.  This soup combats that by using canned diced tomatoes.  I chose to use fire-roasted because I think they are just awesome.  In order to extract more flavor from them, they are sautéed with butter and onions, then the soup is built upon that base - garlic, a little sugar, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes.  It's then bulked up by the addition of small pasta and finished off with lots of spinach.  It's hearty, healthy, and totally comforting.  And as if I even need to tell you - but a grilled cheese is required with this (and any) tomato soup.

Tomato Florentine Soup
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

the soup will thicken upon cooling, so you may need to add a little extra broth when reheating.

  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 3 (14.5 oz) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs packed brown sugar
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 4 oz (1 cup) small macaroni, ditalini, or tubettini
  • 10 oz (10 cups) fresh baby spinach
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven set over medium-high heat.  Add the tomatoes and onion, and cook until the tomatoes are dry and begin to brown, 10-12 minutes.  

Add the tomato paste, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Slowly whisk in the broth and reserved tomato juice, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps as you go.

Stir in the pasta and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until pasta is tender, 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, 1to 2 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

(Crock Pot) Quinoa Chicken Chili

We've been extremely spoiled since the twins were born.  We've had tons of people graciously bring us dinner, and I've barely had to even think about what to eat for lunches for dinners for weeks.  While the food blogger and home cook in me misses cooking dinner every night, the new mom in me greatly appreciates it.  The boys' "schedule" is so unpredictable, that I never know when they'll be eating.  And with two other little ones to feed, having meals ready to go has been a huge blessing.

However, I did manage to fit this chili in a few weeks ago.  And it was the perfect meal for us.  I threw everything in the crockpot in the morning while the twins were napping, then it was ready to eat when Caroline and Smith declared that they were ready for dinner.

I have a few slow cooker recipes that are a bit high maintenance - requiring cooking ingredients first on the stovetop, chopping tons of veggies, etc.  But this one is so so easy.  It's also super healthy, and full of protein - something I definitely need a lot of these days.

I chose to keep it somewhat mild this time around, both for kids' palates, and the babies' tummies.  But feel free to amp up the spice-factor.  This was a big hit with our whole family, and it made for excellent leftovers throughout the week for lunch.  I know I have several recipes for chili on here, but I'm a firm believer that you can never have too many options - and now this one is definitely a contender for my favorite!

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili
adapted from Sweet Treats and More
serves 4-6

  •   1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  •   1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  •   1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
  •   2 (16 oz) can black beans
  •   2.5 - 3 cup chicken stock
  •   1 large bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  •   1/2 large onion, diced 
  •   1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  •   1 Tbs canola oil
  •   1 tsp garlic powder
  •   1 1/2 tsp cumin
  •   1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  •   2 tsp tsp chili powder 
  •   1 tsp salt
  •   2 large chicken breasts
  •   1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  •   hot sauce, to taste
  •   1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the quinoa, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, black beans, and chicken stock in the slow cooker.

Meanwhile, in a medium microwave safe bowl, combine the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño with the oil, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, and salt.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring 2-3 times, until the vegetables have softened.  Stir into the crockpot as well.

Nestle the chicken into the mixture and cook on low 5-8 hours, until the chicken and quinoa are cooked through.  Remove the chicken and shred with 2 forks, then return to the crockpot.  Stir in the corn and cilantro, and cover and cook an additional minutes.  Serve with shredded cheese, extra hot sauce, etc.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

First off, I'd like to thank everyone for the well-wishes for the birth of our twin boys.  Slowly but surely, we're adjusting to being a family of six.  And of course it goes without saying that I'm basically a human milk-factory.  And sleep-deprivation is no joke.

However, I'll take it over the final weeks of pregnancy any day.  First off, I get to cuddle two babies at a time!  I pretty much always have a baby to cuddle, and Joey and I don't have to fight over who gets to hold the baby.  Secondly, the discomfort was pretty much indescribable.  And compounded by horrendous heartburn.  I thank the good lord that I've only experienced heartburn during pregnancy, because well - it really really sucks.  The cruel irony was that I craved spicy foods and chili, but those obviously made it worse.  Even water gave me heartburn.

However, this soup was a welcome respite from the heartburn.  It was one of the only things I ate during those last few weeks that actually left me feeling happy and comfortable.  With that said, you might think it must be super bland and flavorless.  But it's not at all.  The soup is made creamy and hearty by the addition of a potato and a little cheese.  The cauliflower flavor is prominent, but not over powering, and the hit of Dijon mustard adds a wonderful complexity.  And the mustard-infused croutons were a lovely garnish - just try not to eat them all before the soup's finished cooking!

If I'm being honest, cauliflower isn't my favorite vegetable, but this soup was pretty perfect.  Quick, cheesy, hearty, comforting... pretty much perfection.  I had intended to freeze half for a quick and easy dinner or lunch after the babies were born, but instead I enjoyed it for lunches throughout the week.  And that's okay because it just means I'll have to make it again.

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Super Natural Every Day via Annie's Eats

For the croutons:
  • about 6 oz crusty bread, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt

For the soup:
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and diced into ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • ½-3/4 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  In a medium bowl, toss the bread cubes with the butter, olive oil,  and mustard.  Arrange the bread cubes in an even layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until browned and crunchy, tossing halfway through the baking time.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, and add the potato, garlic and vegetable broth.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, keep covered, and let cook for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Add the cauliflower and cook an additional 5-6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender.  Stir in the cheese and mustard.

Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree the soup to your desired consistency (I like a few chunks rather than it being totally smooth).  If the soup is too thick, stir in additional water or broth.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with the croutons and additional cheese as desired. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Red Beans and Rice Soup

Red Beans and Rice has long been one of my favorite meals - my mom used to make it quite often when I was growing up as an easy vegetarian meal - sans andouille sausage, of course.  I posted a really awesome version a few years ago, but it's a recipe that you have to plan ahead for - soak and cook the beans, etc.  I also have been majorly slacking in the meal-planning department as of late, so I usually spend a good chunk of the afternoon trying to decide what to make for dinner based on what we have on hand.

Enter this soup.  The weather's been cold, we've all had colds, and I was craving something hearty and comforting, but still somewhat light.  And one of the best things about this recipe is that it's all made in one pot - sauté the chicken sausage, cook the onions and peppers, then dump everything else in (rice too!) and let it simmer away.

The finished soup is hearty and filling, spicy, and oh-so comforting.  Joey and I both loved it, and while it was a tad too spicy for Caroline and Smith, I toned it down with a little Greek yogurt, and they were fine.  And you MUST serve it with cornbread.  It's not even optional.

Red Beans and Rice Soup
adapted from Elly Says Opa

  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 12 oz chicken andouille, sliced (use a little less if you're sensitive to spice)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 tsp Cajun seasoning, divided (again, adjust accordingly based on spice preference)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced

Heat the canola oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the sausage in the pot and cook until nicely browned, stirring often. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon. If there is an excess amount of fat, drain it from the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and half of the Cajun seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the diced tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, remaining Cajun seasoning, and kidney beans into the pot.  Return the sausage to the soup and bring to a boil.
Place the brown rice in a small mesh strainer and run cold water over it until it runs clear, about 30 seconds. Add the brown rice to the soup, and simmer over medium-low until the rice is cooked, about 35-40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle into bowls and top with sliced green onions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock (Crockpot)

When it comes to making it yourself, chicken stock is one of those things that you may be tempted to say "why bother?" It's pretty cheap to buy, and the store-bought version is fine to use in most capacities.  However, once you make your own, you'll definitely see the difference.  Homemade stock is rich and flavorful.  And what's even better - it's practically free to make.  Here's my M.O.  Whenever I roast a chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken, I pick all the meat and skin off, put the carcass in a big ziploc bag, and throw it in the freezer.  I also save any scraps of veggies and throw them in the freezer as well - bits of carrot, that half of an onion that I didn't need, celery that's on it's last leg... you get the picture.  I usually wait to make the stock until I have two chicken carcasses.  Just to get more bang for my buck.

This is literally SO easy - I just start the crockpot at night, then the next morning, it's done.  I transfer the dish to the refrigerator, then that evening I skim the fat off, divide it into 2-cup portions, and freeze.  I have enough chicken stock to last several weeks-months.  And by the time I deplete my stash, I usually have two more chicken carcasses in the freezer to use.

So not only are you saving money by not buying box after box of chicken broth, you end up with a far superior product, and you're being environmentally conscious - reusing the chicken carcass, saving yourself from throwing out past-its-prime produce, and saving on trash - no paper boxes or cans to throw away.  Win, win, win.

Crockpot Chicken Stock
Pink Parsley Original

  • 2 chicken carcasses, skin discarded
  • 3-4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 Tbs whole peppercorns
  • generous pinch kosher salt
  • small handful of fresh herbs - parsley, thyme, oregano, etc.
Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover with just enough water to submerge the chicken by 1-2 inches.  Cook on low 12-13 hours.  The longer it cooks, the deeper the flavor.

Transfer the bowl of the slow cooker to the refrigerator for several hours.  Skim the fat off the top, then strain the liquid through a colander that's lined with a cheesecloth.  Divide the stock into whatever sized portions you prefer and freeze in ziploc bags or quart containers.  I like to divide mine into 2-cup portions, for what it's worth.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup

Panera is one of my very favorite places to go for lunch.  So many options and choices, and everything is pretty delicious.  Bonus points if I go with Caroline and she wants their macaroni and cheese. :)  I almost always go with the "You Pick Two," and while one of my choices varies based on the day, season, and my mood, my second pick is always the broccoli and cheddar soup.  Yes, I know it is approximately 4,000 calories and a mega sodium-bomb.  I just love it so much, and I try and balance it out by going with a salad or one of the lighter sandwich options.

Yet, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I've never tried making it myself before now.  Sure, it's still not exactly light and healthy, but it is nice to know exactly what's in it, and I can control the decadence myself by altering the milk:cream ratio.  You could also keep the portions small and serve it with a light salad.

It is creamy, cheesy, and totally comforting.  This was a major hit with everyone in my family, and I enjoyed it for several days for my lunch.  Since we moved, the closest Panera isn't very convenient, which I suppose is a blessing and a curse.  However, now that I can make my own version of their soup, it's not such a bad thing.

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
adapted from Annie's Eats

I like my soup to be mostly smooth with a bit of texture, so I used my immersion blender to puree most of it, while keeping the rest chunky.

  • 6 Tbs butter, divided
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 4-5 cups small broccoli florets
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half or cream
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrots to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes.   Stir in the broccoli, chicken broth, onion salt, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

As the broccoli simmers, melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the flour and cook 1-2 minutes until golden brown, whisking constantly.  Whisk in the milk and cream and cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the cheese until melted, and season with salt and pepper.

Use an immersion blender to puree most of the broccoli mixture (if desired).  Stir the cheese and milk mixture into the broccoli, and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Four-Ingredient White Bean Chicken Chili (Crockpot)

Of all the dinners I make, this is probably the one that makes the most appearances on our table.  Throughout winter, I'd venture to guess that we eat this about once a month.  That's heavy rotation in our house, considering that I rarely repeat recipes.  So what makes this so special?  For one, it's ridiculously easy.  Four ingredients:  chicken breasts, white beans, salsa, and cheese.  No prep is required other than literally dumping it all in the crockpot.  And when you're ready to eat, just shred the chicken breasts, return it to the crockpot, give it a good stir, and enjoy!

I shared this recipe back in the very early days of my blog, but the picture was in desperate need of an upgrade, and I added more salsa since the chili was quite thick before.  I've also experimented a bit with using dried beans - if you soak them in water overnight, then proceed with the recipe as written, they'll be soft and tender after spending the day in the crockpot.  I usually just add a cup or so of water or chicken broth at the onset.  I've also used salsa verde before, and I LOVE it that way as well.  It's so creamy, comforting, and delicious that it's hard to screw it up.

If this seems too plain for you, feel free to mix and match the types of beans, add some corn, try different types of salsa, add some jalapeños, play around with the cheese... really the possibilities are endless.  I like serving the chili with tortilla chips, and if I have one available, chopping an avocado over the top.  I made this on the first chilly day we've had this fall, and it was the perfect way to welcome the cooler weather.  And I know for a fact that we'll be enjoying this all winter long.  This is a big hit with my whole family, and it's pretty much my go-to when taking a meal to a new mom, leaving dinner for the babysitter, weekend football watching, whatever.  It doesn't get any easier or tastier than this!

Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili

I prefer my chili to be on the thicker side, but if you like it thinner/more like soup, then I'd suggest adding a cup or so of chicken broth.

  • 4 (15-oz) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of fat
  • 8 ounces Pepper jack cheese, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups salsa (any heat level you prefer)
Combine the beans, cheese, and salsa in a crockpot. Nestle the chicken breasts into the mixture, and cook on low 6-8 hours. Remove chicken breasts, shred with a fork, and return to crockpot. Stir to combine, and serve with desired garnishes.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Shrimp Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup is one of my favorite soups of all time.  As a matter of fact, sometimes I'll order it when we go out for Mexican because I love it so much.  And though it's been a while since I've made it, this is my all-time favorite recipe.  However, when I saw a recipe for shrimp tortilla soup, it stopped me in my tracks.  How smart!  I think shrimp and tomatoes go well together already, and the smoky, spicy soup that's finished with a good dose of lime juice just works.  It somehow feels a little lighter than chicken tortilla soup, even topped with the crispy and crunchy tortilla strips.

The base is made up of onions, chipotle chiles, tomatoes, and hominy.  After simmering a bit, it's pureed and returned to the stovetop.  There, the lime, cilantro, and shrimp are added.  The shrimp cooks really quickly in the broth, and before you know it you're enjoying a big bowl of comfort.

We've all been battling what feels like a never-ending cold, and this spicy soup was both comforting and restorative.  I kept it simple and served it with cheese quesadillas - which coincidentally were great dipped into the broth.  This soup is homey, it's comforting, it's healthy... pretty much the perfect combination.  If you're into making soups ahead of time and freezing, I would just make the tomato-base, freeze, then add the shrimp to cook as you reheat the soup.

Shrimp Tortilla Soup
adapted from America's Test Kitchen, Simple Weeknight Favorites
serves 6-8

  • 4-5 (6-inch) corn tortillas, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch thick strips
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 2 Tbs minced canned chipotles in adobo sauce (remove the seeds if you're sensitive to heat)
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 (15-oz) can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
  • 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed, halved crosswise if large
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbs fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
Heat the oven to 435 degrees.  Toss the tortilla strips with 1 tablespoon of oil and salt.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook until deep-golden brown and crispy, 10-12 minutes, tossing halfway through.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, chile powder, and chipotles.  Stirring constantly, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the broth, hominy, and tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just cooked through and opaque, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

Ladle into bowls and top with tortilla soups.  Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Crock Pot)

Now that we've moved and Caroline has been in school for a few weeks, we've developed a little routine.  She doesn't have school on Monday, so we usually run some errands in the morning, have lunch while we're out, then after Smith takes a nap, we go do something fun - library, playground, go shopping, etc.   So with busy days, I don't really have the energy to make a big elaborate dinner that night.  Enter the crockpot.  I've been making crockpot meals the past few weeks, and it's been perfect.  We enjoy a super easy and low-maintenance meal to start off the week, I have lunches for myself all week long, and then there's usually enough leftover for another dinner later in the week.  Win, win, win.

Baked potato soup has long been a favorite of mine, so I was excited to try this version.  It's "loaded."  Meaning there's bacon, cheese, scallions, and sour cream.  Hard to go wrong with that, isn't it?  It does take a few minutes to prep for the slow cooker - peel and chop the potatoes, cook the bacon and onions... but I did the prep work while the kids were occupied eating snacks, and it was no big deal.

The soup cooks for a few hours, then some of the potatoes are removed, mashed with a little bit of cream, and returned to the crockpot to thicken up the rest of the soup.  Joey, Caroline, and I all really loved this soup, and even Smith was a fan.  As soups typically do, this one gets better as the days go by.  By the end of the week I dare say it tasted even better than the first night!

Busy days and cooler weather call for crockpots and soup, and this one is most definitely a winner!

Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup
adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution

  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 lbs Russet potatoes (about 6  medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 oz), plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
  • salt and pepper
  • sliced scallions, minced
Cook the bacon in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and refrigerate until serving.  Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and thyme, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until fragrant, an additional minute or so.  Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly.  Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.  Cook until the mixture is starting to thicken, then transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining 3 cups of  broth, potatoes, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, 4 to 6 hours on low (I think it could even go a bit longer than this and be fine).  

Transfer 3 cups of cooked potatoes to a medium bowl with the cream and mash until smooth using a potato masher.  Return the potatoes to the slow cooker, along with the shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.  Stir to combine and let the soup sit until heated all the way through, about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, microwave the bacon on the plate until hot and crispy, about 30 seconds.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, shredded cheese, and scallions.