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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Soup

If you don't live in Southern California, you may want to just skip down to the next paragraph. It feels so wrong to say it, but I am getting so weary of warm sunny days! I am not in the mood for Halloween (which may explain the lack of work on the costumes that need to be done in time for a party in 10 days). I put out some decorations, but only because the kids asked me to. I wasn't feeling it. My friends and acquaintances are full of stories of apple and pumpkin and baking and roasting, and I am just not feeling it. I need to at least put on a sweater before I feel like having pumpkin pie. I know this is a silly complaint. I know I would be lamenting the rain or the wind or the snow if I lived anywhere else. But I don't. I live in Los Angeles and I am tired of sunshine. I want fall to feel like fall so I can feel like doing fall things.

One day last week it actually did rain. For one day it felt a little more like we were getting to a new season... time for roasting squash and baking apple pie. However, the vegetables are still coming off of summer. Which makes sense, because right after that rainy day we shot back up to sunny days in the 80s and 90s. I'm no farmer, but I imagine we have to have a few cool days in a row before the fall and winter veggies can ripen.

For one day, though, it was cool. For one day, I felt a desire to make a crock-pot dinner. It seemed like a good day for some comfort food, and we had a busy schedule, so coming home to a ready meal worked out great.  Instead of a stew with carrots and potatoes, though, it was going to have to straddle seasons... a slow-cooked, warm, comforting meal made all out of summer veggies like tomatoes and corn.

I have to stop and wonder, though... why does "Crock Pot" cooking need to be "Canned Food" cooking? Just because I want something to be cooked slowly and to be conveniently ready for me when I get home, doesn't mean I want to just open a few cans of food and stir them together.

All of the recipes I found for taco soup asked for canned corn, canned tomatoes, canned beans, and a packet of taco seasoning. Instead, I went for the fresh(er) equivalents of those ingredients. It worked out great, and I am sure we saved at least a heart attack's worth of sodium by not getting all that stuff out of a can! (I did, however, include the bottle of beer that was in most recipes. I'm glad I did! It gave the soup a sort of yeasty, malty flavor.) I'm almost embarrassed to still call it Taco Soup. Somehow I feel this revamped, fresh-ingredient meal deserves a loftier name than "soup that is named after quasi-Mexican, Americanized food."

At any rate, here is Taco Soup that doesn't require a can opener whatsoever. Unless you buy canned beans. I am lucky that my husband likes to cook beans and freeze them, so that is what I use. If it were up to me, I would open a can of beans. So I am certainly not going to judge you canned-bean eaters.

Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped finely
1-2 cups (or 1 can) beans of your choice (I used pinto beans, but black or kidney would be good too)
4 cobs of corn, kernels removed from the cob
6 tomatoes, diced (and try to retain as much juice as you can)
1 bottle or can of pale beer
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons dried cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 chicken breasts
shredded cheddar cheese

In your Crock Pot, combine the onion, beans, corn, tomatoes (and as much of the juice as you can keep), and beer. Add the garlic, chili powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place the chicken breasts on top of it all, and push them down until they are just covered in liquid. Cook on low for five hours. Take the chicken breasts out, shred them with a couple of forks, and stir the shredded chicken back in. Let it cook for a couple more hours.

Top each serving with a bit of cheddar cheese. Serve it with a big green salad and some quesadilla wedges.