For the first time ever on my blog, I’m posting a recipe for the Crock Pot! It’s kind of surprising, really, because I love all of my slow cookers (Yes, there’s more than one… There are four, to be exact!) and use them fairly regularly. I really used them a lot when I was working full-time and also going to school full-time, because I just never had any time to cook a real meal otherwise and didn’t want to live off of drive-thru food. I would do things like adding frozen chicken breasts and then covering them with chicken broth/stock and cream of chicken soup. Then, I would make some egg noodles or the microwavable rice to go along with it and steam some vegetables really quick. This is how I got by (and retained some semblance of my sanity) for months at a time…
I still use my slow cookers on a regular basis, but not nearly as much as I did at that time. My favorite of all of them is the Crock Pot Smart Pot that I got around Christmastime one year, for only $15! It’s the one I use for soups and stews because it’s so big and can hold pretty much whatever I put in it. (This exact recipe fit in it perfectly, with room to spare even…) And the best thing about slow cookers is that you can put everything for your meal in them, turn them on and leave them on, and don’t have to worry about your house burning down while you’re gone! You can even prepare all of the stuff for your meal the night before, put it in the crock part of the device and stick it in the refrigerator, then put the filled crock right into the heating base the next morning before running out the door. How great is that?!
I came across this recipe for Southwest White Chili a long time ago, via the little recipe cards you find in grocery stores. This particular one was from the McCormick brand, and the picture looked good, so figured it was worth a shot! In all fairness, I did start out following the recipe, kinda, but then realized it needed a little bit of extra work. I tasted the chili after it had been cooking for a few hours and found it to be bland, even though I had added an entire extra can of the green chilies they called for in their recipe. As if that alone wasn’t enough to deter me from ever spending the obscene amount of money on the tiny little can of “chilies” again in the future, the fact that there were unidentifiable objects in my soup as a result of using them sealed the deal. Little orange pieces, which I can only logically identify as carrots? Why are those in my chilies?! And woody pieces of …something that I’m hoping were stems? And big leafy pieces of …something else? What the heck is that from?! From now on, I’ll be substituting a Poblano pepper for every can of diced green chilies a recipe calls for, because then I’ll know what’s in my food! Nobody should ever have to guess what weird things might be in their food when the label doesn’t state anything about carrots and leafy greens… ;-)
Back to the bland, though!
It may be because I rinse and drain all of my beans before adding them (rinsing and draining canned beans reduces the sodium content by approximately 40%), since I’m trying to eat healthier and am ultra aware of sodium contents which can be detrimental to dieting, but I would really prefer to have flavor from other sources than a bunch of added salt. Yes, I could just buy the dry beans and soak them and all of that stuff, but I don’t always think that far ahead - a lot of times, I don’t know what I’m going to make for dinner until that morning or even early afternoon! Needless to say, canned beans are quite convenient. Sadly, not all of the canned beans come in a reduced sodium or no salt added version, though, so the rinsing and draining is as close as I’m going to get without actually soaking my own beans.
The original recipe for this was really more like a soup than a chili, in my opinion… Of course, kidney beans don’t really break down a whole lot, so it’s not like the breaking down of the beans could help thicken the soup. And there wasn’t really much of anything else in there to make it thicker, unless I made a flour thickener and added that, which I didn’t want to do because I’m trying to keep my carb intake within a certain range. So, back to the store I went! While there, I picked up some navy beans, which are smaller, softer, and break down more easily, and some Poblano peppers to help spice things up a bit. At home, I quickly diced up the peppers and added them to the Crock Pot, along with the navy beans, and let it simmer for a little while again. After a couple hours, the beans were starting to break down and thicken my chili, but now it was a little too thick! So, a little more stock went in and the Poblanos definitely added just the right amount of kick. After some slight modifications, I finally have a delicious chicken chili recipe! Perfect for the snowy days we had been having here in northern Wisconsin, where we’ve otherwise been having a very mild winter this year…
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ c. chopped onion
3 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into small cubes
4 c. unsalted chicken stock
1-2 Poblano peppers, diced
2 (15.5 oz.) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 (16 oz.) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 tsp. dried cilantro leaves, crushed
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
Fresh cilantro, for garnish
Shredded Pepperjack cheese, for garnish
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat; add the onion and cook 2 minutes. Add the chicken to the stockpot and cook, stirring often, until the chicken is mostly cooked through. Transfer the onions and chicken to a 5-quart Crock Pot; stir in the diced peppers, all of the beans, and the spices. Cover and let cook in the Crock Pot 4-6 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low. To serve, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and shredded Pepperjack cheese, if desired.