Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Slow cookers are amazing little appliances, aren’t they? Dump a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker at 8 a.m., come home to a yummy, healthy, home-cooked meal at 5 p.m. Amazing. Except when it’s not.

Slow cooked meals typically smell insanely delicious, but the minimal prep, big pay-off over promises and under delivers. Regularly, I am disappointed by slow cooker meals that lack flavor.

I’ve come to realize that to make slow cookers really work, you have to put a little more time and energy into the prep. Kind of defeats the purpose of a slow cooker, but you still save yourself from slaving over a hot oven on a weeknight.

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
2 cups water
Approximately 2 cups of chicken broth
1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10-ounce package frozen corn

Step 1: Heat oil in pan over medium high. Add onions, garlic and green chili peppers to pan, saute until translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Step 2: Add whole peeled tomatoes, chicken broth, whole peeled tomatoes, and enchilada sauce to slow cooker. Add onion mixture to slow cooker. With an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until it reaches your desired consistency (I like my soup... soupy... so I blend the mixture until it’s completely smooth). If you do not have an immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender, or, if you like your soup chunky, just mash the tomatoes before you put them to the slow cooker and don’t bother blending at all.

Step 3: Add remaining ingredients, through frozen corn.

Step 4: Set on slow cooker on high for 6-8 hours.

For the tortilla part, I just add my favorite chips: El Ranchero or Mission brand, preferably. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Salad Obsession

If you would have told me in January 2012 that by January 2013 I’d be totally obsessed with a salad, I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy,” unless you’re a dude, in which case I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy.”

But it’s true. And the salad in question isn’t like one of those “salads” that’s piled with dried fruit, cheese, croutons, a creamy dressing, and all other kinds of goodies nor is it a salad of the pasta or mayonnaise variety. The main ingredients in this salad are raw kale and brussel sprouts. If I had seen this on a menu, I would have thought, “Nope,” and moved on with my life.

But it didn’t happen that way. This salad was served at one of the gazillion baby showers I went to last year, and I didn’t even try it. But running buddy Meg did, and she would not stop talking about it--to the point where, in my head, I was all, “What kale salad, I thought that was parsley?” and “Why on earth is she making such a big deal about this kale salad?” and “OK. I get it. You ate a salad. How good could it possibly be?”

Let’s be real, kale is basically the healthiest thing a person can eat, so I’ve always been pretty sure I hated it, despite only having a small amount of evidence to back that up. Then running buddy Meg made this salad for a brunch get together, and I learned that I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

This recipe is posted around the internets, so I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but you can rest assured that I am not taking credit for it.

Autumn Salad
5 or so oz. Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced (Trader Joe’s sells bags of shaved Brussels sprouts, I use about half of a 10 oz. bag)
3-4 cups Kale, chopped (If you want to make this easy on yourself, Trader Joe’s also buys bags of pre-chopped Kale, I use about half a bag)
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

1 TBSP whole grain mustard (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon)
Juice of one lemon
½ tsp coarse salt (or to taste, whatever)
1 TBSP + 1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 TBSP high oleic safflower oil, preferably cold-pressed

Toast the sunflower seeds. You can do this in the oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 mins. OR you can do this on the stovetop, which I think is easier. Just toss the seeds in a saute pan over low heat and flip them around every so often. You have to really watch them so they won’t burn. Set aside to cool. OR if you don’t want to deal with it, just keep the sunflower seeds raw. I haven’t made this without toasting the seeds, but I’m sure it’s fine.

Stir mustard, lemon juice, salt and maple syrup together in a small bowl, whisk in oil until emulsified.

Toss brussel sprouts and kale together. Stir in sunflower seeds and pour dressing. Toss to coat.

A Few Things...
First of all, if you’re curious, this is what “high oleic” means. Second, there’s several reasons I love this salad. Obviously, the fact that I’m willingly going to town on raw kale is a big one. But I also love that this dressing is homemade--yes there’s some sugar in there-- but you can pronounce all the ingredients. Finally, the thing I really love about this salad is that it keeps in the refrigerator with the dressing already on it for up to three days. I’m not kidding. Maybe my standards are low or something, but I’ve had no problem with soggy or browning greens in this salad. In fact, MM and I (yep, he loves it too) have been making it and storing it knowing that we’re going to eat it over the next two to three days. It’s another super-healthy, super-tasty timesaver.