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Just finished News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her parents were killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of a old west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many.

Just finished Winter Journey by Diane Armstrong. Have you ever read about forensic dentistry? I sure had not, so I found it fascinating reading. It’s a debut novel for the author, and what a story. Halina, an Australian, with Polish roots, specializes in this obscure profession as a forensic dentist, and is asked to go to Poland, to help identify bone (and tooth) fragments, to put to rest a sad event in the story of this small town, when many, many people (Jews) were murdered. Was it the Nazis? Or was it the local townspeople who disliked the Jews. What a tangled web of intrigue, including Halina’s own mysterious past. I really enjoyed the read. The author does a great job of developing the characters (which I always like). This is no light read if you consider the subject matter, although it IS a novel (but based on fact). Nor is it a spy thriller – it’s more just an historical novel with lots of interesting people throughout. There’s a romance thrown in too, and a whole lot of angst about the discoveries found in the mass grave. But, the subject expanded my knowledge about forensics.

Recently finished reading The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr. I just LOVED this book. I’ve never been much of a fan of Caravaggio’s paintings, although I’ve seen plenty of them (many are extremely large) in museums around the world. His paintings were dark, often with dark subjects. But as with many of the old masters, occasionally some obscure work surfaces, perhaps credited to another artist, even, that turns out to be one done by “the” master. In this case, Caravaggio. Although this book is written as a novel (with dialogue, etc.) it’s historical through and through. It begins with two young women art scholars, in Italy, who are asked to do a research project. One thing leads to another, and to another. All true.  If you enjoy books about art – I learned some things about the paint and the canvases of the time – you’ll be intrigued as I was.

Also just read Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James, McGrath Morris. Each year my AAUW book club reads something related to Black History Month. This is a biography of a woman you’ve probably never heard of, Ethel Payne, and about her life-long journey in journalism, struggling to keep her head above water financially, but staying true to her purposes of telling the truth about the black stories and black racism of the day. Sometimes biographies aren’t all that riveting, but I found this one to be so, and I savored each new chapter. We had a really good discussion of the book, and the ups and downs of Payne’s life, especially during her years as a Washington reporter. You’ll not be sorry to have spent the time reading this book. It’s well-written, as well. I was thrilled when the author, Morris, left a message here on my blog, thanking me (and my group) for reading his book.

Also read H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald. This one has been on the best seller list. It’s a memoir about a woman who takes on a personal challenge of taming a wild hawk. Prior to reading this book, I knew next to nothing about the entire subject of hawking, or taming any of the big, wild birds. The book is equally about the writer’s inner journey. She’s a consummate writer, and every page was a joy of words, for me. My only problem is my own – I found it hard, the more time that went by, and the more time the writer spent trying to tame this bird, to scream out “let the bird go.” Perhaps it’s because I spent time in Africa in 2015, seeing animals in the wild, that I felt more for the bird than I did with the writer’s discontent with herself and the taming process. Little did I know what a hard job it is to tame a hawk. I actually didn’t finish the book. It was a book club read, and highly recommended by several of our members. And I ended up not being able to attend the meeting as I had a cold. So perhaps there is some great ending to it that would have made me feel better. I haven’t gone to the end to find out. I just had to stop reading it. But I’m not NOT recommending it. If nothing else, read it for Macdonald’s sublime proficiency with words.

Also read George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Dan Yaeger. Here’s what it says on amazon: When George Washington beat a hasty retreat from New York City in August 1776, many thought the American Revolution might soon be over. Instead, Washington rallied—thanks in large part to a little-known, top-secret group called the Culper Spy Ring. He realized that he couldn’t defeat the British with military might, so he recruited a sophisticated and deeply secretive intelligence network to infiltrate New York. I won’t exactly call this book a riveting read, but it was interesting. Relating facts that few people knew about, this Culper Spy Ring. It’s a little chunk of American history researched in depth by the authors. An interesting read.

Also read The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George. If you’re an avid reader, you probably have the same kind of longing as I do for a quaint, independently owned bookstore right around the corner. So few exist anymore. This novel is about a very unusual book store, and book store owner. In Paris. On a boat/barge. It’s not a typical book store, and the writer takes you on a journey of discovery about (likely) her own lifetime of book reading. You’ll learn all about a variety of existing books and why they’re a good read. But it’s all cloaked in a story about this book store and the owner. And the customers. Very fun. I’m reviewing it for one of my book clubs next month.

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, Soups, on August 3rd, 2012.

chicken_enchilada_soup

You’ll find very few crockpot recipes here on my blog. Not because I don’t like them – but just because I’m home all the time and usually prefer to make soups on the cooktop. I suppose this one wouldn’t have to be made in a crockpot – but gosh, it’s SO easy this way! If you’re employed full time or have a really busy schedule, this soup/stew will rock your world not only with ease but with flavor! If you love Mexican food, well, this is a shoe-in, then.

As I was cropping and adding text to my photos for this blog post, my fingers were almost itchy to get to writing about it because this soup is so fantastic! Oh my yes. Before I start writing I always work with the photos first, then I prepare the MasterCook recipe that gets exported to a pdf and as a text file (that goes into the box below). Once that’s all done (usually takes me 10-15 minutes or less) then I start writing. My mouth is watering looking at the photo above.

Back when crockpots first came out (wow, that was 1971), the recipes generally under-whelmed me. They lacked sufficient layers of flavor, I suppose. Yes they were easy. Yes, they helped with meal-making when I was a full-time working mom, and yes, the cleanup was easy too. But my first crockpot was ceramic, and back then you either had to brown meat in another pan (taking more time, and giving you another dirty pot) or you had to use raw meat, which is generally what I did. Now I know better – so much of the flavor in meat comes from that caramelization when it’s browned in a pan. So when I bought the Cuisinart Multi-Cooker, 7-Quart, all that changed because it has a heavy insert (coated in a nonstick surface) that can go right on the stove (to brown the meat first) and then you lift up the whole thing and put it into the crockpot. I don’t use it all that often, but I love it when I do. And I now have several crockpot cookbooks that are truly new-age – at least current age, with more steps to preparing it, but things come out tasting a whole lot better.

So back to this recipe. My friend Linda T was telling me about a crockpot enchilada soup she makes, that she got from her daughter Kristin. On the printed page Linda mailed me it said the recipe came Krissy, over at Dainty Chef, a blog. I followed Dainty Chef’s recipe nearly all the way through, only veering off with my combo of garnishes (I love cilantro). It’s one heck of a great recipe. In a nutshell, you first make a thin milk sauce mixture (I used 2%)  that gets mixed with some canned enchilada sauce. Now, I have to tell you, here’s where I veered off – it just happens that when we had family visiting recently, they went to one of their old family favorite restaurants, called Los Jarritos (on N. Garey in Pomona, no website, but you can read about it on Yelp). Our son-in-law, Todd, just loves this place too. This particular trip he had his mother Ann in tow (who just happens to be a great Mexican cook) and she usually buys a quart of their enchilada sauce whenever she’s there and takes it home. She did buy it and came to stay with us her last night, and put it in my freezer. You can guess what happened? She forgot it. So, my plan was to leave it there and the next time one of the family visits they could take it home (500 miles away). But then I got to this recipe . . . and I don’t have any canned enchilada sauce . . . and the lightbulb went off in my head . . . oh, I can use Los Jarritos’ sauce that’s in the freezer!

So there’s this saucy stuff (the thin milky sauce mixed with the enchilada sauce). First, though, you put into the crockpot a can of drained and rinsed black beans, some corn, Rotel tomatoes, some onion and bell pepper. Here I need to tell you something else – Rotel tomatoes are spicy hot. If you find them too hot, I’d suggest you use regular canned (diced) tomatoes and the juice, and add in canned green chiles and a bit of jalapeno for heat. For most adult tastes I think one can of Rotel would be fine. The restaurant enchilada sauce I used happened to have a lot of heat in it, so we had some really smokin’ hot soup.

enchilada_soup_crockpotThen you put the raw chicken breasts on top, cover with the enchilada sauce mixture and crockpot it on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 3-4). About half an hour before it’s done, remove the chicken breasts and let them cool just a bit so you can handle it. Then shred it up into small bite-sized pieces and put it back into the crockpot and stir it all up to allow the chicken to re-heat. Meanwhile, prepare the garnishes. Scoop a heaping cup (or 2 for hearty eaters) of the soup mixture into a bowl and top with the garnishes of your choice.

What I liked: well, the flavor is paramount. It was fantastic. I loved all the layers of flavors – from the complex enchilada sauce to the textures in the beans, corn, tortilla chips and then the cool, refreshing cilantro and green onions. Altogether fantastic. It was easy enough – you do have to make the sauce, which does take 10 minutes or so. Open a few cans, but really that’s it until you’re ready to serve and need to fix the garnishes. Overall, very easy. I’ll make this for a big family dinner for sure. Maybe soon. A green salad on the side would be all that’s needed.

What I didn’t like: absolutely nothing at all! Will make this again. And again. It’s probably going onto my Carolyn’s Favs list.

printer-friendly PDF
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Recipe By : Adapted slightly from Dainty Chef blog
Serving Size: 6-7
NOTES: Rotel tomatoes are very hot – if you want to tone it down, used canned tomatoes and add canned green chiles or jalapeno peppers to suit your heat tolerance. If you have a source (a Mexican restaurant) that makes their own enchilada sauce, it might be worth finding it. A good, thick sauce makes a big difference.

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups 2% low-fat milk — DIVIDED USE
10 ounces enchilada sauce
15 ounces black beans — rinsed and drained
14 1/2 ounces Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos — see note at top
10 ounces frozen corn
1/2 cup yellow onion — chopped
1/2 cup bell pepper — diced, your choice of color
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 cup Monterey jack cheese — shredded
1 cup baked tortilla chips, crushed
1/2 cup green onions — diced
1/2 cup avocado — sliced (optional)
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped
Sour cream for garnish, if desired

1. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour; keep stirring until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and ½ cup milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil; cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. In a large bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture . Gradually whisk in remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.
2. In a crockpot, combine drained beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper. Place the chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in cooker. Cover; cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
3. When you are ready to serve, remove chicken and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken back into the soup, mix together. Top with cheese and serve. Use your choice of toppings: avocado, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro and crushed tortilla chips.
Per Serving: 524 Calories; 19g Fat (32.0% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 61g Carbohydrate; 12g Dietary Fiber; 66mg Cholesterol; 541mg Sodium.

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  1. hddonna

    said on August 3rd, 2012:

    Hi, Carolyn! You came to the rescue again! I’m going to be gone for a few days and then come home with a house guest in tow. We’ll arrive home about noon on a Sunday, and we’re going to a concert that night. I was trying to think of a quick and easy supper, and this is it! We’re having your grilled pound cake with balsamic peaches while she’s here, too. (And by the way, your corn salad was a big hit at a family get-together last month.) Your recipes have a great track record with me. Thanks much!

    Oh, I’m so glad you tried the soup! I can’t wait to have a reason to make it again – for a big group! Happy you tried the corn too – I love that stuff. Hope you’ll be pleased with the pound cake. Great for summer outdoor dinners! Thanks, Donna, for telling me about your successes – it makes all this blogging worthwhile when I hear from people that they’ve made something and love it! . . .carolyn

  2. hddonna

    said on August 3rd, 2012:

    Oh, we had the pound cake with balsamic peaches when you first posted it, and many times since. That may be my all-time favorite of your recipes. Haven’t done the soup yet, the company is coming the weekend after next, but it sounds perfect for the occasion. It’s hard to find enchilada sauce in my supermarket. They had one brand–Hatch–and no mild except in green. I’ll use regular tomatoes and hope it’s not too spicy for my husband, who is very sensitive to that sort of thing. For that reason, I make things mild and offer something to spice it up for those who prefer it hotter. I’m thinking the milk sauce should help to tone it down, too.

    I just heard from a friend today that Trader Joe’s has a very good (and thick) enchilada sauce. I haven’t looked for it yet, but I will. It was the “thick” that perked up my ears. . . carolyn t

  3. Kalyn

    said on August 3rd, 2012:

    Bookmarked; this sounds so good!

    It IS so good. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! . . .carolynt

  4. hddonna

    said on August 3rd, 2012:

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll try it next time I get to TJ’s.

  5. hddonna

    said on August 14th, 2012:

    I finally got the soup made, and it was a big hit with my husband and the friend we had to lunch yesterday. I substituted regular tomatoes for the Ro-Tel and added a can of green chiles. I used the Hatch medium enchilada sauce, and since the can was 15 ounces, I just used half so I could freeze the rest for another batch. It turned out perfect for our tastes. I loved that it was so quick to put together. We’ll be having this again!

    That’s great, Donna. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! . . .carolyn t

  6. Jennifer

    said on October 8th, 2012:

    This looks great, my only concern before making this how did the milk not curdle after so long at high heat? Thanks!
    Well, good question, and I don’t have the answer! But it doesn’t – maybe because of all the enchilada sauce? I really don’t know – if you add milk to a gravy and cook and cook it (to reduce it, for instance) it doesn’t separate, so that’s the only thing I can think of, that once milk is added to the enchilada sauce it becomes a more stable gravy. . . carolyn t

  7. Heather

    said on March 21st, 2015:

    Just thought I would comment that we LOVE this recipe. It has become a staple in our house. I have yet to find one that tops it. So THANK YOU!

    Wow, that’s great! Thank you! And thanks for leaving a comment. I’d even forgotten about that recipe – I’ll have to make it sometime soon, too. . . carolyn t

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