Chicken and White Bean Soup

This winter has been crazy. With the exception of a light dusting of snow on the night of January 1st and an ice storm a few weeks ago, it’s been ridiculously mild. As I write this entry, it’s a sunny and gorgeous Sunday afternoon and the high for today is 45 degrees F. (Last week, we had two days where it hit 60 degrees F, and most days were in the mid-50s!)

Without a frigid winter, my motivation to make and eat soups and stews has been nearly non-existent! Soups are supposed to warm you on a cold night, heat you from the inside out, and make you remember that each winter day that passes is one day closer to spring and summer.

With two local, free-range, hormone-free, Amish chicken breasts in the freezer, some organic chicken broth in the pantry, and my stash of canned beans on the shelves, I had originally thought of making a green chili for dinner Saturday night. Without any onions or peppers in my inventory, I realized as it all simmered in my Crock Pot that it wasn’t much of a chili at all — it was a nice-looking soup. With the many spices I added, it had plenty of spicy heat that doubled-up on the temperature heat.

Perfect for a winter night… but be prepared to sweat if it’s more than 25 degrees F outside!

Chicken White Bean Soup
Makes four to six meal-sized servings.

  • One 4-cup carton of organic chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts (organic, free-range, etc.)
  • 1 can organic white beans (such as great northern, white kidney, etc.)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (less if you want it less spicy)
  • 1 tbsp dried cilantro
  • 1 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • fresh-milled black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic

In a small pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add minced garlic. Cook until golden brown. De-glaze the pan with the 1 cup of water, scraping up any garlic that has stuck to the pan.

Place the chicken breasts in the crock pot and sprinkle the garlic powder on the entire surface of each breast, rubbing it in a little bit. Add the garlic-water mixture and all remaining ingredients. (If the chicken isn’t submerged, add some water until they are. If you add more than a cup of water, add 1/4 tsp salt to the pot.) Cook with the Crock Pot set to “high” for 2-3 hours or until chicken is cooked all the way through.

Remove chicken breasts and shred with two forks. Return shredded chicken to the crock pot, stir, lower heat to “warm” setting, and let cook for another 20-30 minutes.

Serve while hot.

NOTES:
– If you use fresh chicken breasts instead of frozen, the cooking time will be lesser. Just keep an eye on it.
– Cooking time can vary depending on the size of the chicken breasts you use. Mine were very thick, so it took about 2hrs to 2hrs 15mins for mine to cook all the way through. If yours are bigger, it will take more time; smaller, it’ll take less time. Again, keep an eye on it.
– If you want to add veggies, go ahead! I just didn’t have any on me. Carrots, onion, celery… whatever! Add the veggies with the other ingredients.
– This is great on its own with some bread and/or a salad on the side.
– You can add rice to the pot, too, if you’d like. Just put whatever rice you’d like about 45 minutes after you start cooking, when the liquid in the Crock Pot is hot.

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New Food #2: Leeks

New Food #1 was tea… and I think it’s going to stick! I just drank tea with my breakfast! Goodbye, coffee, perhaps…??

On to day two!

At the local market, I bought a lot of veggies: some that I enjoy (carrots, spinach), some that I don’t (onions), and some that I’ve never had before (leeks).

I bought leeks because I’ve read some good leek recipes lately that I’d like to try. I’m not a huge onion fan (I only enjoy them when they’re cooked down to the point of not being crunchy anymore) and leeks have always reminded me of onions. The mind is sometimes irrational!

Firstly, I had no idea what a leek looked like, other than it kind of looks like green onion or a big bunch of chives. I asked a local produce vendor if they had leeks so that they could actually point them out to me… I wonder if they caught on that I was clueless! I learned online to look for a few things with your leeks:

  • roots still in tact
  • strong stalks
  • strong green tops that don’t droop

Also, leeks are dirty veggies, but unlike other dirty veggies like potatoes, yams, onions, etc. you can’t just scrub the outside. Leeks get dirt in between each of the leaves, so cleaning them is a bit more involved… but not hard!

First, I cut the roots off, removed the outer one or two leaves and rinsed them under cold water in a colander.

Next, I cut the leeks lengthwise starting about an inch and a half from the root (white part) all the way to the tips. Now it’s much easier to get in between each of the leaves to get it all clean!

Recipe time!

I had read of a cleansing (yet plain) leek soup in the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, but all it is is leeks boiled in water without any seasoning. You drink the broth throughout the day for two days, eating the leeks with lemon juice as snacks. Uh, no thank you!

They had another soup recipe in the book that inspired me to create this really satisfying soup that has flavor, texture, nutrients, and is very versatile. The sweetness of the broth with the tangy-tasting caramelized leeks throughout make this an interesting soup!

Vegetable Soup with Caramelized Leeks
Yield 4-5 servings.

  • 4 large carrots, cleaned, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large sweet (yellow) onion, peeled and chopped in 4 chunks
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped (white and light green parts only!)
  • water
  • salt, pepper, dried herbs to taste
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter or margerine

Clean and chop all of the vegetables and put them in a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Remove about 1/3 cup of the cooked leeks and let them drain on a paper towel. Set aside.

Using an immersion blender, blend the rest of the vegetables and the water until completely smooth. (You can use a blender if you want, but make sure the vegetables have cooled a lot so you don’t burn out your blender’s motor, or burn yourself!) Season with salt, pepper, and herbs to taste.

Put the reserved leeks in a pan on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Add butter and wine. Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Serve with a small spoonful of the caramelized leeks in each bowl atop the soup. It looks pretty! You can also just mix in all of the caramelized leeks throughout the soup if you’d like.

I feel that this soup could be made into a meal itself if you add some whole wheat pasta (fusilli, gemelli, ditalini, or other small extruded shape) and/or adding sliced sausage! It’s very versatile!

Sweet Potato Trio: Part II

So, the other day I had a minor fail. It was an edible creation, but that baby food consistency of what I hoped would be soup made it a little unappealing.

Time for a renaissance.

The reason why I love cooking more than baking is that when you cook, even if you mess up you can fix it (most of the time). A baking disaster is almost impossible to fix, but as you will see below, with a little bit of creativity, you can turn a minor cooking faux pas into a delicious creation (or two)!

Curried Sweet Potato & Zucchini Stew
Makes approximately 4 servings.

  • 3 cups of leftover curried sweet potato stew *
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth or stock
  • 1 zucchini, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro

In a large saucepan, brown the garlic in sesame oil on medium-high heat until fragrant and barely golden brown. Add cubed zucchini and cook until zucchini begins to soften and get browned on some sides.

Add sweet potato, vegetable broth, and cilantro stirring until completely combined. Continue to stir until soup begins to boil, then lower heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve hot.

* NOTE: You can use store-bought pureed sweet potatoes or plain sweet potatoes that you’ve processed yourself. If so, add 1.5 tbsp of yellow curry powder, 2 tsp of smoked paprika, a good tablespoon of garlic powder, and a tablespoon of cumin. Follow the rest of the directions as written.