Daily Archives: September 13, 2011

Spicy Chicken Stew

For most, watching football means eating wings, hamburgers, pizza, or nachos. For me, watching football means a chance to test out a super filling new recipe on a bunch of guys. It also means a chance to dust off the slow cooker, which has been hibernating in my storage closet all summer long. (The poor underused thing.) When choosing a recipe for a game last Saturday, I knew it had to compete, on some level, with those greasier options. At the same time, it had to be somewhat healthy because it was going to be my dinner, too. This Spicy Chicken Stew, which I found on myrecipes.com, was the perfect solution. It had tons of flavor thanks to salsa, cumin, and chile powder. And I could bump up the health factor by increasing the veggie content and adding black beans (not pictured since I, er, borrowed the image from the aforementioned website.)

Around 11am on Saturday, just as I was due to begin putting the ingredients in the slow cooker, I freaked out. What if it was a total flop? The guys would be forced to eat this pathetic stew when they could be biting into a delicious slice of deep dish pizza (it is Chicago, after all). I took another glance at the recipe online and scrolled down to the comments. What I found: People were raving about this recipe. They wrote things like, “Yum, definitely the best slow cooker recipe yet!” And, “This dish is probably in the top 5 meals I have ever made. The chicken was so juicy, and it had the perfect amout of spice for me! Excellent meal!” And, “Tastes absolutely wonderful. Spices give it a great flavor. This recipe is now a winter staple!”

I was sold. Game on. Fortunately, it turned out to be a winning night for both me and the team.

Ingredients:

3 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 (10 oz) package frozen sweet corn
3 stalks celery, cut into chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
3 gloves garlic, minced
1 jar of salsa (I used hot)
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast (1 lb.)
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 10.5 oz)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can black beans

Preparation

Place potatoes, corn, celery, carrots, onion and garlic in slow cooker. Stir in salsa, salt, cumin, chile powder and pepper. Distribute chicken evenly on top of vegetables and pour chicken broth over chicken. Cover slow cooker and cook stew on high for 4 hours. Transfer chicken to a plate and shred with two forks into bite-size chunks; return to slow cooker. Add black beans and continue cooking until they’re heated. Serve with corn bread muffins (which I did) or tortilla chips (which I also did).

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Hearty Bean & Barley Soup

I am hard-wired to eat for the seasons. So as soon as the weather dipped below 70 degrees last week, I had one thing on my mind: Soup–and lots of it. Plus, I had spent most of the previous week traveling. I was in Colorado for five days for a yoga workshop (the third Anusara Immersion) and then off to Idaho for a quick Labor Day vacation. In other words, it had been a while since I’d had a home cooked meal and there was nothing I wanted more. So, last Friday, I spent a chunk of time hunting for recipes online, shopping for ingredients, and then cooked up a storm all weekend long. Starting with this satisfy-your-soul meal that I made Friday evening, which we ate while watching Mad Men DVDs. Bring it, Fall.

I found the original recipe on one of my favorite healthy recipe websites, myrecipes.com, which aggregates recipes from a variety of magazines including Cooking Light, Health, and Real Simple–some of my faves. (Oddly, my byline has yet to appear in any of them. Achem, editors?) This one originally ran in Cooking Light. However, the directions say something about draining something through a sieve. Huh? I had no idea what a sieve was (my mom later informed me that it’s nothing more than a strainer) so I decided to ignore that part and go on my merry way making soup the way I knew how. Sieve or no sieve, this soup was a total success.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked barley
olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4-6 carrots, peele and chopped
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spicy food)
2 (4-inch) rosemary sprigs, tear off sprigs and chop rosemary (omit if you don’t like rosemary)
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bags spinach
parmesan cheese, grated

Preparation

Follow package instructions for cooking barley on the stove. While that’s cooking, in a separate large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots plus some salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, and red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp or more depending on how spicy you like it) and saute until veggies are softened, about 10 minutes. Add celery and garlic. Saute 5 more minutes. In a bowl, mash one of the can of beans using a fork. Add the mashed and whole beans, broth, and tomatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or as long as you like. Before serving, tear spinach and add to the pot. Add cooked barley. Season with more salt, pepper, and cook until all of the spinach is wilted. Serve warm & sprinkle with freshly grated cheese if you like.