Cooking the Books: Tex-Mex Chicken Soup

365 Slow Cooker Suppers

From time to time, Bas Bleu’s editorial staff “samples” recipes from cookbooks and other culinary guides found in our catalog. Our efforts are amateur at best: If you’re looking for advanced epicurean know-how or glossy food photography, you’re about to be disappointed. We’re humble home cooks, you see, like (most of) you—pressed for time, with non-matching cookware and the tendency to scatter flour everywhere. But we know delicious when we taste it, and if you try your hand at these recipes we think you’ll agree!

Winter is here, and with it comes the instinct to hibernate under blankets with a good book, a hot beverage (wine works too), and plenty of junk food. But as much as we’d like to carbo-load our way through the cold season with potato chips, pasta, and pizza, that wouldn’t be our healthiest decision of the shiny new year. So what’s a bluestocking to do when motivation is low but dinner still needs to be made?

Break out the slow cooker!

The beauty of this kitchen workhorse is that you can load it up in the morning, turn it on, and let it go until suppertime. That’s music to the ears of those of us who’d rather spend our free time reading than slicing and dicing. And thanks to Stephanie O’Dea’s 365 Slow Cooker Suppers, a recent addition to Bas Bleu’s cookbook collection, we have no shortage of recipe options. For dinner tonight, may we suggest this creamy and oh-so-easy chicken soup?

Tex-Mex Chicken Soup
Serves 4

2   frozen chicken breast halves
1   onion, diced
1   (10-ounce) can tomatoes and chilies, undrained
1   (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1   (15-ounce) can corn, undrained
1   (1-ounce) packet ranch salad dressing mix
1   tablespoon ground cumin
1   teaspoon chili powder
1   cup chicken broth
1   (8-ounce) package cream cheese

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Place the chicken into the insert, and add the onion, tomatoes and chilies, black beans, and corn. Stir in the salad dressing mix, cumin, chili powder, and broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the chicken with a fork, and stir in the cream cheese. Cover, and cook on high for 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is completely dissolved. 

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Bonus points to this recipe for calling for ingredients that are easy to keep on hand. Depending on the size of your slow cooker, you could probably double the recipe to feed a larger crew.

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I have a low tolerance for onions, so I substituted two shallots. Chopping them up and draining the black beans in a colander are the extent of the “ingredients prep” required for this dish.

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Yes, there is chicken up under there. (And I didn’t even have to thaw it first!) Aren’t the beans and veggies pretty? We’re talking serious protein here, folks.

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Though the recipe calls for eight hours’ cooking time, I checked mine at the seven-hour mark and found the chicken perfectly cooked through.

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A wooden spoon was all I needed to break up the chicken into bite-sized pieces. You could probably stop after this step if you wanted a leaner meal; this soup already looks pretty good. But I am a staunch supporter of the idea that cheese makes everything better, so I chopped up a block of (reduced-fat) cream cheese and stirred it in. After fifteen minutes on high, the cheese was completely melted.

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Admittedly, slow cooker recipes don’t always produce the prettiest results. And a native Texan might demand the addition of jalapenos or hot sauce. But as is, this soup is creamy, comforting, and—yes, it bears repeating—so simple to make! Pair it with a crisp green salad and cornbread or tortilla chips to round out a pretty dang balanced meal. It also reheats well, in the unlikely event you have leftovers.

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