Our November recipe of the month is Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup. It is perfect for a busy day. All the ingredients go into the slow cooker in the morning, cook on low for 8-10 hours, and you have a delicious soup ready to eat in the evening.
There are some wonderful things I love about this recipe.
- It is easy to put together. There is no cutting up or chopping needed to get this recipe into the slow cooker. The chicken just needs to be shredded right before serving this soup.
- It uses dried beans. Dried beans are tasty, inexpensive, and nutritious. They take a little longer to cook, so they are perfect for the slow cooker. Fair warning, the dark color of the black beans changes the outer color of the chicken.
- It freezes well. This recipe is great to measure out into single serving containers and freeze for lunches. Or, you can eat half of the soup one night and freeze the other half of the soup for another night.
- It is great for a party. This soup tastes delicious with different toppings – avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese. You can serve the soup out of the slow cooker and let your guests add any toppings they would like.
My family has never had any New Year food traditions. I have been reading up on some New Year food traditions from around the world and everything I read sounded so good that I am thinking I need to start one of these traditions with my family.
If I am going to start a New Year food tradition with my family this year, it is going to have to be simple. So, I think black eyed peas are going to be the new tradition for us. January’s recipe – Slow Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup – is one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever made. All you need to do is cut up the vegetables, dump all the ingredients in the slow cooker, set it on low, and wait patiently.
Black eyed peas served with greens and cornbread is a New Year food tradition from Southeastern America. Many eat this meal in hopes of good luck and prosperity in the new year. This soup pairs well with cornbread and a side of greens can easily be added for those who want to stick closely with this tradition. Try out this black eyed pea recipe for your New Year meal. Enjoy!
Chicken noodle soup is a go to meal for me when anyone in my family is not feeling well. I make it often in the fall, winter, and spring and even occasionally in the summer. Our January recipe of the month is Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup – a great soup for cold and flu season.
Even though it sounds too good to be true, chicken noodle soup can actually help you get well faster when you are suffering from the head and chest congestion that comes with cold and flu season. The hot broth can clear congestion and ease a sore throat; it also provides the fluids that our bodies need more of when we are sick. The chicken provides protein, which our immune system needs to fight off the germs. And the vegetables and whole grain noodles provide vitamins and minerals that boost our immune systems.
So, keep this soup at the ready to help your family fight off colds and flu this winter. It freezes well, so put some in freezer containers just in case there is a time you are not feeling well enough to cook.
Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup
Serving Size: 1 1/3 cups
- 2 chicken leg quarters
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup chopped celery (about 1 rib)
- 1/2 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 onion)
- 2 cups sliced carrots (about 4 carrots)
- 2 cups whole grain wide egg noodles (2.5 ounces)
- Put chicken and water in a large stock pot. Bring water to a simmer (slow boil). Cook until chicken reaches 165°F (10-15 minutes).
- While chicken is cooking, clean and chop vegetables.
- Take chicken out of water with tongs or fork. Cool in refrigerator about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Add parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, salt, celery, onion, and carrots to the pot of hot water.
- Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove bones and skin from chicken and discard. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces and add to the pot of hot water. Bring to a boil.
- When water is boiling, add noodles. Cook according to package directions or about 5 minutes.
- Any chicken part may be used for this recipe. If using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, use only 3/4 pound.
- Soup freezes well. Make ahead and freeze for a cold or sick day.
- Other seasoning may be used instead of the parsley and Italian seasoning.
- If you like, remove chicken skin before cooking. This will decrease fat and calories slightly.
I am a soup lover from way back. I eat it most days in the winter and it is one of my favorite things to cook when the weather gets chilly. Homemade soup is often much healthier than soup from a can and it tastes so much better. Even though I love to make soup, it took me years to get up the guts to try making my own stock. It seemed like the people who I saw doing it were chefs on TV and that’s just not me.
I jumped the hurdle and did it myself and was pleased to find that it really is easy and the stock tastes much richer than what I was buying at the grocery store. Here is a link to a general guide on making your own stock. The guide involves making a few choices, here are the exact steps I took. My apologies for the extra-long blog, but I thought you all would want the details!
|1. Put bone-in chicken pieces in the bottom of a large pot. I used a mix of thighs and breasts because that’s what I had. I used about two pounds or so. You can use bones from roasted chicken instead of chicken pieces, but since I wanted the chicken meat, I went ahead and used pieces.
| 2. Add a few carrots, a few ribs of celery, a garlic bulb cut in half the long way and two large onions (I used three because mine were tiny). You can add other root vegetables like turnips or parsnips if you have them. This is a great use up for veggies that may be getting close to spoiling. Just clean the veggies, there is no need to cut them up, they’re going to get strained out anyway.
|3. Fill the pot with water so the vegetables are covered.
| 4. Top off with herbs and spices. I chose the following:
- 2t dried parsley
- 2t black pepper
- 5 bay leaves
- 15 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
| *Note: fresh herbs are not necessary, dried versions of these herbs would have been fine too. I just happened to have them growing in a pot on my back patio. If you choose dried, use two teaspoons thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary. You’ll see I didn’t include salt. This is because the recipes I use this stock for will call for salt and I can add it at that time. I can keep the sodium in my recipes down if I don’t salt it twice.
|5. Pop a lid on the pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and let it go for about two hours. In the meantime, enjoy the awesome aroma!
|6. Once the stock is finished cooking, fish out the chicken pieces using a pair of tongs and set them aside to cool. Once cool, remove the skin and bones and refrigerate the chicken for your next recipe.
|7. Once the stock has cooled a bit, place a large strainer over an even larger bowl and pour the stock through the strainer. The big pieces of vegetables will get caught in the strainer and they can be discarded. You’ll be left with beautiful golden stock. Having a helper for this step is a good idea. My apologies for no picture of this step, I got a bit distracted with trying not to burn myself!
|8. At this point, you’ll want to refrigerate or freeze your stock. Once it is cold, the fat from the chicken will harden and you can spoon it right off.
|9. You’re ready to use your homemade stock for soups, steaming vegetables, cooking rice or thinning sauces.
Let’s be honest, it took a while to make my own stock, but most of the time I was able to do things around the house. I didn’t need to tend the stock for the full two hours and my homemade stock is healthy, delicious and inexpensive. I made six quarts of stock for about $10. The stock at my grocery store costs about $2.50 per quart, so six quarts would cost about $15. It feels good to know I can do it myself. I hope you’ll give it a try!
I always look forward to fall, it is my favorite season. I enjoy watching the harvest come in and I like that the weather cools down. I also enjoy putting my soup recipes back into my menu rotation. Our recipe of the month for September is Vegetable Pasta Soup.
Here are the reasons I love to include soup in the menu rotation for the cooler months:
- It is loaded with vegetables. Many people do not eat enough vegetables, and eating a bowl of soup is an easy way to get the vegetables we need.
- It freezes well. I value recipes that freeze well because they make future meal prep so much easier. I freeze individual servings for lunches and I freeze larger batches for a quick evening or weekend meal.
- It is versatile. I do not need to make this recipe the same way twice, so no one gets bored with the same old thing. The vegetables and seasonings can be changed and adjusted based on what I have on hand and what is on sale at the grocery store. And, if I want to add protein to this soup, I simply need to add in a can of beans or some leftover chopped meat. A note of caution if you do change things up with this recipe, watch it closely because you may need to add water.
Try our Vegetable Pasta Soup – it may just make its way in to your menu plans for the cool fall and cold winter ahead.
Vegetable Pasta Soup
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 8
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 4 cups chopped or sliced vegetables (like onions, carrots, and zucchini)
- 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or dried basil
- 2 cups small whole wheat pasta (shell or macaroni)
- 6 cups fresh spinach leaves (about 1/2 pound), thoroughly washed (or kale, collard greens, or 10 ounces of frozen spinach)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add onions and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened. This should take about 3 minutes.
- Stir in zucchini and canned tomatoes. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in the broth, water, salt, and Italian seasoning or dried basil. Bring to a boil.
- Stir in the pasta and spinach. Return to a boil.
- Cook until the pasta is tender, using the time on the package for a guide.
Notes: Prewashed or ready to eat spinach does not have to be washed. Use plain diced tomatoes for less spiciness.
- Soup freezes well.
- Use washed and diced garden tomatoes and homemade broth if they are available. Keep cut tomatoes cold until you need them.
- Wash fresh vegetables under running water before preparing.
I never heard of either kale or lentils when I was growing up. Recently, I’ve started enjoying both. Kale is being promoted as one of our most powerful vegetables. It is low in calories, but rich in vitamins C and K, fiber, and calcium. Lentils are very high in protein and they contain fiber, folate, vitamins and minerals. They come in a range of colors including yellow, red, green, brown and black. Lentils are easy for me, because they cook much faster than other dry beans.
When choosing kale at the grocery store, look for green leaves that are moist and crisp. If the leaves are yellow or brown, the kale is not fresh. Kale develops a stronger flavor the longer it is stored, so plan to use it within a day or two of purchase. Kale can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag in the crisper section of your refrigerator. You can also store it in the fridge in a tall glass with some water (stems pointing down) like a flower bouquet to keep it fresh for a couple of days.
Our featured recipe this month includes both kale and lentils. It’s a quick and easy soup that is made using only one pan. You can have it on the table in less than 45 min. I serve it with bread, fruit and milk or cheese.
If you can’t find yellow or brown lentils other colors could be substituted. If kale is not available, or is too expensive you could use other greens in this soup such as collard greens or spinach.
Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Serves: 6
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 medium carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
- 2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and minced (3-4 cloves), or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup dry yellow or brown lentils
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon dried basil or Italian seasoning
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) no sodium added diced tomatoes or 2 chopped tomatoes
- 1 bunch kale (about 7 ounces)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes.
- Add water to veggies in pot. Heat to boiling.
- Rinse lentils in colander with water. Add lentils to pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not drain.
- Add chicken broth, dried basil or Italian seasoning, and tomatoes. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes.
- Rinse kale leaves, cut out the main stems and discard. Cut leaves into 1-inch pieces.
- Stir kale, salt, and pepper into lentil mixture. Return to boiling. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Skip soaking the lentils first for this recipe. It is not needed.
- Use kitchen scissors instead of a knife to cut the kale.
- Make kale chips from extra leaves. Drizzle a little oil on clean, dry leaves. Spread leaves on a cookie sheet. Bake 12-20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Leaves should be thin and crackly but not brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
I make lots of soup in the winter. It’s easy to do, lasts for several meals, and I can freeze small containers of it to take to work for lunch. Most of the soup I make is broth or vegetable-based without lots of cream or cheese so it is low in calories.
This quick soup is made from garbanzo beans, which are also called chickpeas. All my adult life I have avoided garbanzo beans because I thought they were too starchy but now I like them. Maybe adult tastes change just like kids. Like all legumes these beans are high in protein and fiber and low in fat.
There are two features of this recipe that make it a winner. First, it uses only one pan, and second, it calls for ingredients I keep in stock, except for the zucchini.
Since I don’t want to struggle with the winter weather and fortunate enough to have power, I think I will make some for lunch. Instead of the zucchini I think I will add some frozen peas.
Serves: 8 | Serving Size: 1¼ cups | Per Serving: $.51
- ½ onion (about ½ cup)
- 3 garlic cloves or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes
- 2½ cups water
- 1 can (15.5 ounce) low sodium garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup sliced carrots (about 12-15 baby carrots)
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole-wheat pasta (rotini, shells, etc.)
- 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 1-2 cups sliced)
- Wash, peel, and chop onion. Peel and mince garlic cloves.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and garlic, and cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes.
- Add broth, tomatoes, and water to saucepan. Stir in garbanzo beans, carrots, and seasonings.
- Cook on medium high heat about 5 minutes.
- Stir in pasta and zucchini. Reduce heat to medium low.
- Simmer about 10 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate.
A hot soup tastes just right in the cold winter months. It is filling and warms me to the core. Our Winter Black Bean Soup is simple to make with only few ingredients. When you use the Mexican style tomatoes and spices you will get a little heat. To add more heat add a chopped jalapeno pepper. To cool it down use diced tomatoes and less chili powder.
You can also vary the thickness of the soup by adding a little water if you think it is too thick. Or try cooling it a little longer without a lid to thicken it.
You can make this soup in 20 minutes if you use canned beans (be sure to rinse them to reduce the sodium). If you want to save money and really love the sodium prepare dry black beans ahead of time. Check our step by step instructions. If your family eats lots of beans you can prepare them and freeze for soups, casseroles, etc. Canned beans cost about twice as much dry beans.
I serve this soup with carrots and apple slices and milk. I like to sprinkle a tablespoon of shredded cheese on mine, but nonfat yogurt tastes good with it too.
Winter Black Bean Soup
- 3 cups cooked black beans
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- ½ cup onion, chopped (about ½ medium onion)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1 can (14.5-ounce) Mexican-style diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice (optional)
- Nonfat yogurt or lowfat sour cream and cilantro
- for garnish (optional)
- Prepare beans as directed on inside back cover.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook. Stir until onion begins to soften, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add chili powder. Add cumin, if you like. Cook and stir for 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes, beans, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes covered.
- Remove from heat and stir in lime or lemon juice, if you like.
- Garnish before serving.
Soup is a great comfort food for winter meals, and so good for you too. Our featured recipe for January is Mexican Chicken Soup. Making this soup takes less time than getting in the car and driving through your favorite takeout place. You don’t have to cook the chicken ahead of time. Just place raw boneless chicken in the pot with the other ingredients. After cooking for about 20 minutes, take the chicken out and shred it into bite-size pieces. Serve it with tortilla chips or bread, apple/orange slices and you have a meal with something from each food group plus plenty of fiber. For extra instruction, check out the preparation video under the recipe instructions.
This recipe would be super economical if you made your own chicken broth and cooked dry beans instead of buying them canned; click on the hot links above to see the directions. Another advantage of doing it yourself is that you can control the amount of sodium.
If this soup scores points with your family, check out the other soup recipes in the Cook section of the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page. All our recipes are healthy, low-cost and easy.
Mexican Chicken Soup
- 2 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (Mexican-style)
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups frozen corn or 1 15-ounce can corn, drained and rinsed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can sodium-reduced chicken broth or 2 cups Homemade Chicken Broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast
- Add tomatoes, beans, corn, broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin (if desired), and pepper in large saucepan.
- Remove and discard any visible fat from chicken. Cut chicken into large chunks and add to the saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
- Remove the chicken and place on a plate; use forks to shred the chicken. Return the shredded chicken to soup.
- Serve with choice of garnishes, such as baked tortilla chips.
-pointers from Peggy
This month’s featured recipe, 3-Can Chili, is one of my “Go-To” recipes. You know what I mean—the ones that you know by heart, make often, and everyone likes. Plus, you can have this one on the table in about 20 minutes. To lower the cost, I buy canned tomatoes, canned beans, and frozen corn when they are on sale. I use my price book so I know a good price and try never to buy full price.
The variations for 3-Bean Chili are endless. You can vary the types of canned beans you use, or cook dry beans, rehydrating them for an inexpensive meal. You can use fresh tomatoes which would lower the sodium; add fresh chili peppers or canned Mexican-style tomatoes to increase the heat; use canned or frozen corn; add cooked and drained ground turkey or beef; etc.
I like to make a batch and freeze individual portions to take for lunch at work. Sometimes after it is heated, I add a tablespoon or two of shredded cheese, or plain yogurt. The soup, apple, and milk make a great lunch!
-pointers from Peggy