Category Archives: Stew

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifecooks.comThis chili makes me so stinkin’ happy I can hardly stand it. It is soooooooo good. If I made it once a week every week for the rest of the winter I’d be one seriously happy camper. All of the credit goes to my sister, Leah, who’s tweaked this recipe over time to get it just right. The recipe, however, only lived in her brain…until now!

All day Tuesday while I’m sure she was doing more important lawyering things, I sent her a flood of emails to get the deets: ingredients, quantities, instructions. The good stuff.

Be sure to give yourself some time while cooking it. Maybe save it for a Sunday afternoon when there’s a holiday movie on TV. It takes a little while to brown the chicken and cook down the liquid so it slightly thickens, but it’s worth every single second–and then some. The longer your chili cooks the better it tastes.

In addition to your usual suspects like tender chunks of chicken, white beans, corn, and heaps of spices I love that she sneaks swiss chard in here, too. I mean…what? Yeah, not the first chili ingredient you’d imagine. But trust me, you’ll love it. Or at least you’ll barely notice it.

Serve your chili with some chopped avocado and cilantro and a delicious pile of buttery cornbread. Not only is it hearty and healthy, we loved eating leftovers for as long as they lasted.

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

White Chicken Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine or beer (enough to deglaze the pan – you may need more or less)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drain and rinse all but one*
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, chiffonade leaves
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper

Preparation

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a big stock pot. In two separate batches, brown chicken breast two at a time, about 5-8 minutes per side. Chicken doesn’t have to fully cook through. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño, sauté about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and fennel seeds if using. Coat vegetables in spices and toast in pan, about 1-2 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

Pour wine or beer into pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth, white beans, and all four whole chicken breasts to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 60 minutes.

Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Remove skin, pull chicken off the bone, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin and bones, place chopped chicken meat back into the pot. Add the swiss chard, corn, and crushed chili pepper. Cook about 10 minutes more until corn is heated through.

To serve, ladle chili into bowls. Top with any toppings of your choice such as avocado, cilantro, or cheese.

*In order to avoid BPA, I limit cooking with canned foods as much as possible. I almost always use organic beans from Whole Foods that come in a cardboard box/TetraPak. Since I know they’re not as widely available I use the word “cans” in the ingredients to avoid confusion.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. ABalancedLifeCooks.comTortilla soup is one of those foods I’m absolutely crazy about. My love for tortilla soup was ignited on our trip to Cabo earlier this year. I ate it every single day. Although the resort had some fabulous restaurants, I was perfectly happy with a giant bowl of tortilla soup for dinner each night topped with plenty of crunchy tortilla chips and avocado chunks. I also recently remembered that I ate tortilla soup the day we got engaged so of course this love affair was meant to be.

As much as I adore tortilla soup, I’m really picky about it, too. It can’t be too creamy. It can’t be too broth-y either. It has to have just the right balance of tomato-y broth with a slow-burn heat plus delicious ingredients like black beans and hominy. Speaking of which, have you tried hominy before? It’s soooo good. Hominy are dried and soaked corn kernels (you buy them already like that, usually in a can, and drain and rinse them like you would beans). It lends a perfect chewy texture and very subtle flavor. You can find it in the Spanish/Latin foods section at your supermarket. I’m happy to say this is the closest I’ve come to a tortilla soup that tastes like the endless bowls I had in Cabo. I hope you love it, too. And, as promised, this is another meat-free recipe to help keep things balanced around here.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Have a great week!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 32 oz low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 14 oz can hominy, drained and rinsed
  • 14 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado
  • Cilantro

Preparation

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Stack tortillas and slice into thin strips. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on a baking sheet. Add tortilla strips, toss with olive oil, and arrange in a single layer. Bake 8-10 minutes until crispy like tortilla chips. Season with salt while still hot.

At the same time, place whole poblano pepper on top rack of oven. Cook about 5 minutes until warmed through. Once cool enough to handle, remove seeds and ribs and chop.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, jalapeno, and poblano. Saute until onion softens, about 10 minutes. Add cumin and cook about 30 seconds. Pour in vegetable stock, tomatoes, hominy, and beans. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened.

To serve: Spread a layer of cooked tortilla strips on bottom of bowl. Add soup. Let sit 1-2 minutes until chips soften. Top with more tortilla strips, avocado chunks, and chopped cilantro.

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

Slo

Brrrrrrrr! It’s downright wintery around these parts and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Monday it SNOWED big fat fluffy flakes. I love the cold! I love the snow, skiing, sweaters, cozy blankets, comforting foods, fires, hot mugs of tea, baking cookies…I could go on. I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when this weather lingers well into March and April– sometimes even May, ugh–but for now, I’m one happy camper.

Whether you’re as psyched about the frigid temps as I am or wish you were tanning on a caribbean beach, I have a meal that will warm you right to the core: Slow cooker 11 bean soup. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. I’ve noticed there aren’t enough meatless meals around these parts. I’m going to change that for you!

I have a secret behind this meal that takes very little work: Use a dried bean soup mix. I’m sure you’ve seen them before–the packages usually contain dried beans and a spice packet. Except in the recipe below, we’ll toss all of the instructions aside and use mine instead. Deal? Deal. I used this mix by Frontier Soups that I found on our honeymoon. You can buy it online. Another good option is Hearty Eleven Bean Soup from World Market. Any kind will do (and it doesn’t need to have exactly 11 kinds of beans) as long as it already includes a spice packet. Then you just chop up some veggies, dump it all into the slow cooker, and stir in some tomatoes and spinach at the end. Wrap your chilled hands around a warm bowl of this soup, cozy up to someone you love, and I promise we’ll all make it through the winter just fine.

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 package dried bean soup mix with a bouquet garni (packet) of herbs such as Frontier Soups Hearty Meals Minnesota Heartland Eleven Bean Soup 
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 (32 oz) cartons of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

In a slow cooker, add dried bean soup mix, bouquet garni of herbs, carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste, and vegetable broth. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Add tomatoes and spinach. Cook about 10-15 minutes longer until spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

My little slow cooker has been quite busy this week–and rightly so. We’ve had some of the coldest days here in Chicago in years. Having lived in New York, Utah, Vermont, and now Chicago I like to think I’m pretty good about the cold. But the truth is all I want to do is snuggle up in about 10 blankets by the fire, drink tea, and read books all day. Since there’s life and work to keep up with, plus the fact that we don’t have a fireplace, I tried to create that same level of comfort with our meals this week. Not only does the slow cooker guarantee a warm-you-from-the-inside dinner, it makes the house smell incredible for hours, which is a kind of cozy, homey comfort for me.

Let’s talk about this chili because it turned out even better than I imagined–and I already had high hopes. There are just so many different flavors: onion, garlic, jalapenos, chiles in adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Get your spice rack ready!

If you ever thought vegetarian meals are lacking in flavor (does anyone think that?) this meal would surely prove you wrong. Although the first few steps require a little more work than the typical toss in the slow cooker approach, they are so, so worth it.

Just chop your onions, jalapenos, and garlic cloves. Sautee in some olive oil. Your home already smells amazing.

Image

Add your spices.  Cook about 10 more minutes.

Image

Add some veggie broth and scrape up brown bits (aka flavor)

Image

Pour everything into the slow cooker.

Image

Wait 7 hours…Party.

Image

Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro (not pictured) and sliced avocado. Serve over brown rice or quinoa if desired.

Have a great weekend! I start Sculpt training tomorrow. Freaking. Out.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp dried oregano

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

10 oz white mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (about 2 chiles minced)

2 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle chile in adobo

2 bay leaves

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

Salt & pepper

Garnish: chopped cilantro, avocado

Preparation

1. Heat about 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, jalapenos, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Saute until vegetables brown and soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup vegetable broth, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add to slow cooker.

2. To the slow cooker add: remaining vegetable broth, water, beans, mushrooms, minced chipotles, adobo sauce, and bay leaves. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

3. When done cooking, discard bay leaves. Transfer 1 cup of cooked beans to a bowl and mash with potato masher or back of fork until smooth. Return mashed beans to slow cooker. Add tomatoes into chili. Once heated through, about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution 

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Sausage, kale, mushrooms, kidney beans, cannelini beans, and tomatoes.

You may recall about a month ago, while watching the Bachelorette wedding, my cable completely went out. It turns out the cable box had a heart attack and we didn’t get a new one for about 2.5 weeks. I can’t even begin to describe the positive impact going without TV (we couldn’t even get the basic channels) had on me during that time–and since.

Robert happened to be traveling for work during those weeks (otherwise it probably would’ve been fixed sooner) so I was left to my own devices to entertain myself. What I discovered: Life without TV in the evening frees up an enormous amount of time. It’s awesome. In fact, some nights I got into bed by about 8:30pm because I wasn’t really sure what else to do. Bonus: I finished a few books way more quickly than I usually do.

Now, don’t get me wrong I love TV. A lot. Often, it’s not what’s on TV as much as how relaxed and zoned out I feel while watching it. Plus, I love getting completely engrossed in shows (Homeland and Downton Abbey are some of our recent faves). And I can pretty much guarantee we’ll have a few Dexter marathons this weekend (we just started watching the first season).

However, those 2.5 weeks were enough to break me of a habit: Eating dinner and watching TV every night until it’s time to go to bed. Lately, I’ve been cooking meals that take just a little bit more time to make (still, not more than 30 or 40 minutes on week nights). More importantly, I’ve really been able to enjoy the process more than ever because I’m not rushing through cooking so I can plop down on the couch ASAP to watch whatever’s on the DVR. If I make it there, great; if I don’t, well that’s great too.

Ingredients. Ready to party.

This was one of those meals that I truly loved cooking. I was able to take my time and when I realized I didn’t have any of the usual suspects with which to deglaze the pan after browning the chicken/turkey sausage (such as white wine or chicken broth) I realized beer would be a stand-up stand-in. Oh my, was I right. I also used some of the beer to steam the kale and I actually can’t imagine this recipe without the depth of flavor thanks to the brew (Boulevard, no less, for you Kansas City folks.)

The result, as Robert summed up in seven words: “This tastes like winter in a bowl!”

Score!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thank you for reading!

Winter in a bowl.

Winter in a bowl.

Healthy & Hearty Winter Ragout

Serves 4

Ingredients 

Olive oil

12 oz chicken/turkey sausage, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/4 cup shallot, minced (about 2 shallots)

2 gloves garlic, peeled and minced

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 bottle beer

2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added beans such as kidney and cannellini (FYI: I found them in BPA-free boxes at Whole Foods, which were each 13.4 oz.), drained and rinsed

14.5 oz can diced no-salt added tomatoes

1 bunch kale (about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped

Salt & pepper

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Preparation

Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and saute until browned on both sides, about 5-8 minutes. Remove sausage. Add minced shallot, garlic, and mushrooms to pan. Saute about 2 minutes. Pour about 1/4 cup beer into pan and use a wooden spoon to remove brown bits left from the sausage. Cook until mushrooms soften, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, and kale. Pour in 1/2 cup of beer. Cover and cook until kale wilts, about 5-10 minutes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the beans to create a thicker consistency. Add sausage back into the pan and continue cooking until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking Light

Red Lentil Curry

super simple to make: red lentils, scallions, carrots, potato & curry powder

Serve with brown jasmine rice and whole wheat naan (found at Whole Foods)

Oh my, was this ever good.

The meal came at a very much needed moment in my week. I’d had one of those days where I plugged away at my computer for eight or nine hours, yet hadn’t crossed a single thing off of my To Do list for work. (And I’m someone who puts items like “shower” and “eat lunch” on her list.) Still: Nada. Zilch. I’d shuttled off countless e-mails, yet no one responded. I left dozens of voicemails. No answers. I searched endlessly online for studies that I needed to no avail. It felt like I hit a dead end every time I attempted to inch forward in some way.

What’s that? You know exactly what I’m talking about? The funny thing is, Robert came home from work that same evening saying he felt like he’d accomplished absolutely nothing that day. It’s a universal experience, right? And there’s something about a lack of momentum that can be exhausting.

After yoga, I really just wanted to curl up on the couch until it was time to walk the dogs. Then I could crawl into bed at an hour that would only be acceptable for an infant or an 80 year old and try again tomorrow. But something deep inside propelled me into the kitchen to cook. Thankfully, I listened. Because when this meal was done not only had I made something absolutely delicious to eat, I felt a genuine sense of accomplishment. Progress. Success.

So with a full belly and a peaceful mind, I finally slipped into bed knowing deep down that the hard work I put in that day would somehow make a difference the next.

Satisfaction on so many levels.

Satisfaction on so many levels.

Red Lentil Curry 

Serves 4

Ingredients

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 green onions, sliced, separate white and green parts (keep all white parts, only keep green parts from 4 green onions)

1 1/2 Tbsp curry powder

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup dry red lentils (no need to soak)

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Salt and black pepper

For garnish: 1 lime, cut into wedges and naan bread

Preparation

[Note: It’s very helpful to cut all ingredients–garlic, green onions, carrots, and potato before you start cooking.]

Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add garlic and scallions. Saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder, stir until color darkens slightly, about 1 minute. Add carrots, potato, lentils, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and lentils are cooked.

Serve over brown jasmine rice. Garnish with scallion greens, lime wedges, and naan.

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew

There are some healthy foods that make me feel even healthier than others. I realize this is completely ridiculous. Like spinach? Broccoli? Eh, those are old-school healthy. Kale is better, but Swiss chard is like crazy-super healthy probably because it’s a mystery to me. I feel the same way about lentils. Once you put lentils into a meal it automatically shoots the health-factor through the roof. It’s practically impossible to make an unhealthy meal once you’ve added lentils into the mix. Only good things can happen.

Every time I cook lentils I think of Dr. Oz. I remember reading an article in Time magazine about how he cheated before undergoing a colonoscopy and ate the day before. During the test his colon was dotted with lentils, which obscured the result. I’m not sure why that stuck with me, but it’s probably because it’s just totally absurd. You blew your colonoscopy because you ate lentils? Seriously Dr. Oz? The story would’ve been way better if his colon was clogged up with a cheeseburger.

Truth be told, I have iffy feelings about veggie stews because they can end up kind of mushy (gross), but this meal fell into no such trap. The carrots, cauliflower, and lentils maintained a slight firmness to them even after hanging out in the slow cooker for 8 hours. Meanwhile, the flavors totally melded together–just as they should in a stew. It tasted earthy, a little bit spicy, and just a bit sweet. I loved, too, how every bite was packed with so many different ingredients. It’s a huge bonus, but I’ll admit the prep requires quite a bit of chopping. Problem solved: I chopped all of my veggies the night before and stored them in reusable containers in the fridge (see below). They were ready for action the next morning. 

The recipe makes a lot (you should probably be smarter than I was and freeze some), which is why I ate the stew for two dinners and three lunches last week. Let’s just say that by the end of the week I practically felt like the patron saint of health. As a result I was totally okay calling movie theater popcorn and a diet coke dinner Saturday night when we saw Skyfall (so good!) Balance : )

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew

Serves: At least 6

Ingredients

1 cup chopped onion (about 2 small or 1 large onion)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 large leek (or 2 small), white and light green parts chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you like it spicier)

Salt & pepper

1 head cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets

14 oz dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through

1 (28 oz) can no salt added diced tomatoes

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Preparation:

Combine onion through salt and pepper in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion and carrots soften. Add to slow cooker. To the slow cooker add cauliflower, lentils, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen originally from the Weelicious cookbook