October was a real roller coaster. The month started on a high note when Bob and I took a dream trip to Italy with some of our best friends. But while we were out of the country, John Hill, Bob's 89-year-old father and friend to all, passed away and everything went downhill fast. Since then, meal planning has taken a backseat to catching up from vacation, getting a grip on our emotions and sorting out scores of details surrounding John's estate.
When we're this busy, crunchy peanut butter and crackers paired with a nice Cabernet makes a simple, soothing dinner. But you can't eat that every night!
So I pulled out my crockpot and the new Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook (Robert Rose, July 2012, $29.99). Thanks to them and a blast of cool weather, we discovered this E-A-S-Y, chicken-licious recipe for Tuesday Tortilla Soup. I'm talking 10 minutes to mix it up, 4 to 8 hours in the crockpot, and a few, last-minute steps to a delightful dinner.
This recipe spoke to us because, besides being quick to assemble, it combines cooked chicken, oodles of veggies (garlic, onion, 28 ounces tomatoes and corn), and favorite Tex-Mex spices like cumin and chipotle chili powder. We used about two of Bob's great grilled chicken breasts but if you're short on time, just stop by the deli counter. In either case, I'd shred the chicken because we prefer that texture to dicing.
New to chipotle chili powder? You can find it at Target and other supermarkets. It looks like the standard variety but is made from dried, smoked jalapeno peppers (no wonder I'm a fan!). It lends an authentic, Mexican touch to soups, stews and chillis. But you can substitute regular chili powder for a less smoky flavor.
You mix everything except the chili powder with oregano and four cups of chicken broth - we used low-fat to make it even healthier - then pour the medley into the crockpot to cook: four hours on low or eight hours on high. Afterwards, the onions should be soft and the soup bubbly.
Then you're ready for the finishing touches. Stir in some fresh cilantro, tortilla chips and chipotle chili powder mixed with fresh lime juice. The recipe calls for two tablespoons juice, which is about one and one-half small limes. Once that's done, you have about 20 minutes to set the table while the soup thickens. Choose some pretty, fall-inspired bowls to up the feel-good factor.
Top each of the four, generous portions with crunchy tortilla chips, cheddar or Tex-Mex blend cheese (2 percent works well here) and light sour cream. I briefly thought about omitting the sour cream to save calories but it's an oh-my-this-is-wonderful compliment to the smoky chipotle flavor. Since we almost always go red, we enjoyed this comforting, one-dish meal with a Hill Family Cabernet Sauvignon. But the spicy flavor also pairs well with a dry, white like Sauvignon Blanc and a little something sweet for dessert. I'm thinking Pumpkin Spice Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting which you can make ahead and freeze.
True to its name, Tuesday Tortilla Soup can be a life saving mad, midweek meal. But this satisfying soup's also impressive enough for busy Saturdays when you've got to be on the go but want to treat loved ones to a hearty, home-cooked meal.
In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine garlic, onion, tomatoes, chicken, corn, cumin, oregano, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper and broth. Cover and cook on Low for about 8 hours or on High for about 4 hours, until onions are tender and soup is bubbling.
Stir in half the tortilla chips and the cilantro.
In a small bowl, combine chipotle chili powder and lime juice until smooth. Stir into soup. Cook on High for 20 minutes, until tortilla chips are softened and soup is thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if desired.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with remaining tortilla chips, cheese and sour cream.
Recipe from the Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook*
Other Works: Professional chef, food writer and food stylist, Sally Vaughan-Johnston has authored two other The Best of Bridge recipe collections: Fan Fare! Best of Bridge Cookbook, Brand-New Volume, Brand-New Recipes and Bravo! Best of Bridge Cookbook. The Best of Bridge began in 1975 when eight women bridge partners were inspired to write their first cookbook. Since then, they've sold more than 3.2 million copies and become one of the top brands in Canadian publishing.
Publisher: Robert Rose; spiral edition
Penned: July 26, 2012
What's Inside: More than 200 simple recipes designed to provide gourmet results for everything from slow-cooker staples (soups, pot roasts, chilis and stews) to new crockpot creations (baked pasta, quick breads, puddings, fruit desserts, side dishes and even roasted garlic!) Great for everyday as well as entertaining, this new collection is packed with guest-worthy dishes (Chicken "Catch-a-tory" anyone?) that you can toss together in the morning and cook while you're away. That evening, all you have to do is complete the picture, open the wine, and enjoy with friends and family.
Time Out: 352 pages
Available: $29.99 at Amazon and other retailers
* Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Want another easy meal idea? Try: