Category Archives: Soups

Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili

Chili is definitely in my top ten favorite winter dishes. I suppose really all year, but especially in winter it’s nice to cook up a hot batch of thick, delicious chili to enjoy at the end of a chilly day. (See what I did there?)

There are also endless variations, from vegetarian chili, to Skyline chili like in southwest Ohio (go to Columbus or Cincinnati and have some if you don’t know what I’m talking about), chili over noodles, meatless chili, bean-less chili, sweet chili… you get the idea.

There are chili cook-offs all over the nation, there is even an International Chili Society. That’s how serious some people take this stuff. Their webpage explaining the history of chili is pretty fascinating.

Now, hardcore chili con carne people who believe beans have no place in chili and pasture raised longhorn beef is the only meat good enough to earn the name, will not like my laissez faire approach to chili. I’ve been known to throw in all manner of vegetables, use various preparations of tomatoes besides juice, and use all kinds of types of meat.

This version is a kind of white bean chicken chili, but it got a little Jen makeover, as most things coming through my kitchen do.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can navy beans
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • Dash chili powder
  • Optional: 1/2 cup milk

 

Step 1: Spray the Crockpot and add the chicken breasts. Turn it on low.

Step 2: In a blender or food processor, liquefy the can of kidney beans (or any other type really. This just adds a thicker, creamier texture) after you drain the can. Add water or some milk if you need to.

Step 3: Add the liquid beans plus all the other cans, milk, and any spices you want. (Garlic, onion, hot sauce, etc)

Step 4: Cook on high 4 hours or low 4-6. Take the chicken breasts out and shred them with two forks. Put back into the chili, stir and let sit another hour or eat immediately.

Top with whatever you like. I used plain Greek yogurt and shredded cheese, but salsa, cornbread, or avocado would also be delicious.

This chili is such a perfect combination of creamy and light. It has just a hint of spice from the diced tomatoes with chilies, but you could kick it up a notch easily by adding jalapenos or other peppers, or sprinkling on some hot sauce.

You could also use two cans white beans, kidney, black beans, whatever you have in the pantry. I’d really recommend not skipping the pureeing though, it totally adds that little ‘something’. I had leftovers for three days, and was not upset about it!

What’s your favorite kind of chili?

Soups for the Super Bowl

 

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, world! 
Today the Denver Broncos meet the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife stadium in New Jersey, far from either team’s hometown. And in case you missed it, yes, both teams are from state which have recently legalized marijuanna. However, the game is not being played in a state which has that legalized, so fans beware. Also, I’ve never heard it being accused of enhancing performance in sports, so anyone who thinks that is unfair clearly doesn’t know its effects.

Photo from the Up & Under Pub website
 

Regardless of who you are rooting for, you are likely either at home with a huge buffet of finger foods, or going to a pub/bar with copious amounts of burgers, chicken wings, beer, and french fries. And, may I say, I am jealous. Since I will be home, working on a midterm exam for my neuroscience course. Nonetheless, as a Denver transplant, I think I’m legally obligated to say, Go Broncos
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Once the game is over, and the dreaded Monday rolls back around, all the office gossip will be who caught what pass, how many touchdowns were scored, and which commercials were the funniest/best/worst. And it’s likely many will have a bar food/beer/ buffet hangover.

The Big News!

Not to worry, just in time for the Super Bowl I’ve rolled out my first ever e-cookbook, and this one’s on the house! Seven Souper Soups, packed with recipes like my spicy Mexican-inspired Chicken Tortilla, the classic winter Butternut Squash Soup, hearty yet healthy Sausage and Kale, thick & creamy Baked Potato and more! Including a bonus Peach dessert soup, and cover drawing by Mike over at WebDonuts comics.

So if you would like a copy of 7 Souper Soups for your very own, I’ve added it to my Google Docs and made it public for anyone to view and comment on: 

You can also email me at BudgetEpicurean (at) gmail.com and I will send you the PDF as an attachment. I hope you enjoy these favorite recipes of mine and share with family & friends. Enjoy today’s festivities, and keep coming back for more! There are several projects in the works, so keep an eye out.

Souppa like Zuppa Toscana

I still had some sausage left over from my sausage gravy & biscuits, plus half a bunch of kale that hadn’t been made into kale chips. (If you’ve never tried kale chips, I definitely recommend it! Kale is super good for you but can be bitter, and this is a super simple way to get your leafy greens). A quick internet search for “sausage and kale” quickly showed a trend towards this “Zuppa Toscana” that Olive Garden makes (don’t sue me please!) that lots of people claim to mimic.

Well as any loyal reader knows, I’m not a ‘by-the-book’ recipe follower, so I just took the general idea and ran with it. What happened was a simple, delicious soup that quite frankly surprised me with how tasty it was. With really only 4 ingredients and 30 minutes, a warm, filling and complex soup for dinner can be yours!

Ingredients:
1/2 pound sausage
1/2 bunch kale, shredded
2-3 large potatoes, diced
6 cups water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
3 tbsp cornstarch
Italian seasonings

Step 1: Brown the sausage in a frying pan. Drain most of the fat and set aside.

Step 2: Dice the potatoes into thin wedges. There’s no right or wrong way really. Most copy-cat recipes use redskins but I only have russet so those will do. Drop them into a pot with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

Step 3: While the potatoes boil, rip the kale into bite sized pieces, discarding the stems. When the potatoes are soft, drain and put back into the pot.

Step 4: Add water, bouillon, seasoning, kale and sausage. If you’re on a super budget the spices and bouillon aren’t required, just kicks up the flavor a notch. If you’re flush with cash, try adding half heavy cream and half chicken stock to make a creamier base soup. Of course, if you’re rolling in Benjamins you could also just go out to Olive Garden for dinner tonight…and we should be friends. Email me k?

Step 5: Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes. In a cup, combine some hot soup water and the cornstarch and mix. Once it’s all dissolved add it to the pot. This will help it to thicken. Also not completely required, but I like a little body. You could use flour for the same purpose.

The flavors combine beautifully into a rich soup that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would definitely make this again. If only I had some salad and bread sticks to go with it.

Butternut Squash Soup

I recently had a dinner party, and in the spirit of the season (fall) I decided to make butternut squash soup as one of my main dishes. Earlier I posted about butternut squash macaroni & cheese, if you have one and soup just isn’t your thing. No reason not to enjoy the bounties of fall, regardless of texture preferences.
So as per usual, I googled around and pulled from several recipes and what I had in the house to come up with this. It received universally positive reviews! I made a large amount since I was feeding 6, you can cut everything in half for a smaller number of people.
Ingredients:
2 squash, halved and seeded
2 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 small chunk peeled raw ginger (about 1 inch)
1 white onion
4 chicken bouillon cubes
5 cups water
1 package cream cheese
Cinnamon, nutmeg and coriander seasoning

Step 1: Place halved squash on a baking pan with a little water. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.

Step 2: While the squash are baking, boil the carrots, celery, onion and ginger in chicken water until tender.

Step 3: Scoop the squash out of the skin and blend in a blender. There’s a surprisingly large amount of flesh in there, I had to do it in three batches. Add hot water from the pot to thin it out. Blend in the cream cheese, the vegetables and chicken stock as well, put it all back into a large stock pot.

Step 4: Add a healthy dose of cinnamon, nutmeg and/or coriander, adjusting to your tastes. Bring to just a simmer, and enjoy.

This is a great taste of fall, good on its own or I’m sure you could pair it with any number of dishes. You could probably mix and match too, if you wanted to try pumpkin or acorn squash instead. You could add milk or half and half to make it creamier, or omit the cream cheese & chicken bouillon to make it vegan.

Slow cooker chicken soup: “Just like grandma used to make”

When I was younger, Sunday was always early dinner, and almost always chicken noodle soup. Grandma or mom would put a pot of soup on to simmer, we would go off to church or on a Sunday drive around town, and come home to a house that smelled delicious and a pot full of warm delight. I like continuing that on my own, though I use the modern miracle of the crock pot so I don’t have to worry about it burning on the stove (that’s a hilarious story for another time…).

Since I had recently roasted a chicken, naturally I made soup from what wasn’t eaten the first day. We had eaten the legs and drums, so I cut off and saved the whole breasts for sandwiches for lunch the next day. The rest of the bird plus a few extras was made into a huge crock pot full of chilly weather goodness. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of homemade chicken soup!

Ingredients:
1 chicken carcass
3 large carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
1 whole onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 pint fresh mushrooms
1 cup barley
1 tbsp butter
Water

Step 1: That gorgeous roasted chicken had a tray full of juices and spices that I added into the crock pot first. Waste not want not, and that’s some powerful flavor I don’t want to waste.

 Step 2: I diced up all the assorted veggies and added them and the chicken (skin, bones, extra meat and all) into the crock pot. I added water all the way to the top and put it on low all day (about 8 hours).

When I came home, the house just smelled amazing. The chicken had been brined in all that lovely salt and sugar and pepper and spices, so I didn’t even really need to add anything to the broth.

Step 4: I boiled 1 cup of barley in 1 1/2 cups of water with 1 tbsp butter for 45 minutes. 

Barley is a bit chewy, and I added some of the broth after 40 minutes to let the flavor soak in for the last 5 minutes. Maybe a 1/2 cup.

 

Just look at all those gorgeous veggies! And the sheen on the surface, that’s from the natural chicken fat that dissolved into the broth. Sure it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, but boy howdy does it taste great! And you can let it cool in the fridge then skim the extra fat off the top.

The barley was surprisingly perfect for this soup. Normally I use egg noodles but didn’t have any on hand. The flavors blend so well and are perfect for nippy fall nights. It is so easy to make, and you will have leftovers for days (unless you share). I guarantee* you won’t get sick, or if you already are you will immediately feel better.

*Guarantee based only on personal experience, not actually backed by anything or redeemable for anything. But other experiences and comments are welcome to be shared. =)

Slow cooker soup-in-a-bag

Dinner can literally not get any easier than:
Step 1 – take bag out of freezer
Step 2 – pour in crock pot
Step 3 – hit “start”
Ok, maybe “pick up phone and dial Pizza hut” is one step shorter, but you have to order, wait, tip the delivery guy, their customer service is outsourced to Pittsburgh… it’s way healthier my way. In my humble opinion.

Maybe this is partially inspired by these things you see on Pinterest all the time about a salad in a mason jar. Which is a great idea, and someday I’ll try it. But anyhow, with bits and pieces from other meals, I just accumulated veggies in a bag and one day after I’d made chicken and had leftover bones and grease, I used that to create a simple soup.

Ingredients:
Chicken bones, skin, fat from 4 drumsticks
1 tomato, diced
1 potato, diced
3 whole carrots, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chicken flavoring
Dash garlic salt and Italian seasonings

That bag can be tossed in the freezer to be pulled out whenever you want a quick meal hot and ready for you that night.

Step 1: Put bag of ‘stuff’ into crock pot. Add seasonings if you want, or extra chicken meat if you want.

 Step 2: Add water until crock pot is about half full. Set on low all day.

This is easily customizable to whatever veggies or meat you like. You can also add a grain like noodles, rice, or barley. If you’re full vegan, don’t use chicken leftovers as a base, you can make your own veggie stock.

Fancy ramen: steak & spinach soup

This is one of my favorite ways to fancy up ramen noodles. After freshman year of college, I thought I’d left the days of ramen behind forever. Not true. Some months in grad school I feel even poorer than I did back in my dorm days, and sometimes I just crave the chemically created fake chicken taste & smell. Sure, I may be weird but don’t lie and say you never have had a ramen craving!

Anyways, since I now like to pretend I’m all grown up and ‘adult’ and all that, I feel the need to spruce up old college standbys. I can’t just be eating out of a cup-o-noodles anymore, after all. Besides the social expectations, I also have grown into great knowledge and concern for my health. As I am still on the young side of life, I’d like to take care of myself now to prevent problems later down the timeline as long as possible. So I sneak extra protein and veggies into everything I can. With that, here is the healthiest version of ramen I could come up with. If you have other ideas or something even better, feel free to comment and share!

Ingredients:
1 package ramen noodles
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup meat of choice (I had some leftover steak from burritos)
1 egg
1 cup water

All you do is microwave the ramen & water for 3 minutes. Add the spinach, meat and crack the egg (yes, right into the bowl) and microwave another 3-5 minutes. Stir well and enjoy! The spinach will be slightly wilted and the egg cooks fully so no worries. If you’re vegetarian don’t add meat, put in some beans or tofu instead. Any other veggies or spices of your choice can also be added. This is an extremely easy, fast, cheap and portable lunch.

Lazy won-ton soup

Sometimes you just get a craving for something specific, you know? Not like a vague “I’m hungry”, no it’s an “I want a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich on pumpernickel bread” kinda craving. Right now. That’s how I felt about won ton soup the other day. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts for nearly a full year, I have not yet found a satisfactory Chinese restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found some great noodle places, sushi and Thai. But I miss the giant buffet-style vats of soup and all you can eat MSG-laden delights from Ohio. Anyhow, I had a bag of frozen pork dumplings I’d bought a few weeks back, plus some fresh produce from the world’s best Farmer’s Market (chain), Sprouts. Apologies if you don’t have this cheap fresh veggie heaven near you. That and some chicken bouillon I always have on hand for soups or a late night snack, and I had dinner for days and happily satisfied taste buds.
Ingredients:
1/2 bag frozen pork dumplings
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped or 1 package frozen
1 small head cabbage, roughly shredded
1 bunch green onions, diced small
3-4 bouillon cubes + 8 cups water or 8 cups chicken broth
Garlic salt to taste

 Step 1: Chop up all your veggies. Add the bouillon to the water and bring to a boil. Add the veggies & dumplings.

 Step 2: Boil for ~1 hour, or long enough to cook the dumplings and soften the greens. Not recommended to boil longer than about 2 hours, to risk the dumplings falling apart.

The flavors blend so nicely, and 1/2 bag made enough soup to last me about 4 days, at two bowls a day! I love soups so much, and this Lazy Won Ton Soup was just perfect.

Asian tofu/cabbage soup

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This is a spin-off of a soup a friend of mine made that was fabulous. I had most of the ingredients and another friend wanted to go to the Asian specialty store where I could get the rest of the ingredients. It’s so simple, but it is delicious!
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Ingredients:
1/2 Napa cabbage
1 package tofu
1 package mushrooms
2 large carrots, diced
4 cups water/stock
Optional: 3-4 pounds chicken/duck/beef

Step 1: Dice the cabbage, mushrooms, tofu and carrots.

Step 2: Cook the veggies in order of hardness, carrots first, then cabbage, then mushrooms. Add the stock and any seasonings you like. I used veggie stock and put some extra chicken stock and black pepper in for spice.

The broth is simple but complex. You should try it first, then add salt or other spices to taste. The tofu adds a punch of protein, making this a perfect well-rounded meal for a vegetarian or vegan.

Easy Freezer Mexican Soup

I was hungry for something hot and spicy, and tortilla soup was the first thing that came to mind. I had recently purchased a red beans & rice mix on sale for 78 cents, and realized I had all the rest of the the ingredients in my fridge or freezer, making for a ridiculously fast and easy meal. 
Ingredients:
2 chicken drumsticks
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 packet red beans & rice
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup tri-pepper and onion mix
1 cup salsa
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder
Step 1: Add about 4 cups water and all ingredients to a large pot and heat to boiling. Simmer on low for 40-60 minutes. 

 Step 2: Take the drumsticks out and tear the meat off the bone. Return the meat to the pot.

You can use thighs, breasts, or whatever meat you want, or omit the meat entirely. Browned ground beef would probably also be delicious. You can also top with shredded cheddar or sour cream. It is filling, slightly spicy, and has great flavor. Careful, because it does make quite a bit!