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me_in_paris_198That’s me, on a trip,  sitting in a Paris restaurant.
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Just finished reading Unsaid: A Novel by Neil Abramson. I think I read about it on amazon because I don’t remember anyone telling me about it. Perhaps amazon recommended it to me because I’ve read several books about African animals lately. The narrator of the book is the soul and voice of a woman who has just died of cancer. So she’s a ghost, of sorts, or an angel. But she’s hanging around her old life (her husband, her friends, her co-workers – she was a veterinarian) because she’s so very worried about her menagerie of animals she owned and worked with. The crux of the story is about a chimpanzee that is part of a U.S. government study – measuring the intelligence and sign language ability of this one chimp. The funded study is suddenly ended, and the intelligent and sentient animal (that word, sentient – I had to look it up – is used several times in the book – it means with “feelings”) is going to be returned to the general population of chimps used for maybe not-so-nice drug studies and likely would die from an inflicted disease. The widower is an attorney, and he’s thrown into battle with the U.S. government about saving the chimp. There’s a huge message here about the use of animals in drug studies and it’s hard to come away from this book without feeling “feelings” for the sweet chimp, whose intelligence was measured as the age of a 4-year old human. You’ll be drawn into the many other animals, the husband’s grief, and the team of people trying to save the chimp. Quite a story.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – many reader friends recommended it, and oh, is it good! If you’re at the end of your tether with reading WW II resistance stories, you’ll want to skip this one, but you’ll be rewarded if you do read it. It’s the story of 2 sisters who live in a remote area of France and both get caught up in the war. There are some very terror-filled moments in this book – I won’t kid you – the deprivation, torture, hunger, betrayal; all the things that make a book real, wartime real. The relationship between the sisters isn’t always good. One becomes a resistance fighter; the other is a mom whose husband fights for France, but is imprisoned for years. She eventually participates by shepherding Jewish children to safety. It’s a riveting book, and the 2 women are portrayed with great realism.

Also read The Secret Chord: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks. It’s a novelized biography of King David, the man who was a sinner from his youth. If you’ve studied the Holy Bible, then you’ll know that he reformed, eventually, and he is credited with writing most of the Psalms. If you’ve spent much time reading Psalms, then you’ll know there is so much angst contained within the poetic verses. David was a consummate writer and poet – no question about that – and he was a musician as well. But he had his appetites, which betrayed him over and over and over. He laments his bad character in the form of the Psalms. I can remember singing in our church choir one of the Psalms about Absalom, his beloved son, that he had killed. King David’s time was primitive, life for life, where trust wasn’t taken lightly. It’s a really fascinating portrayal of the man, his vices, and his eventual redemption.

If you’re already a fan of Molly Wizenberg, then you’ll know about her book Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. Molly started off writing a blog some years ago, called Orangette. She wrote a book (part memoir and cookbook) a few years ago, and her prose is a delight to read. She’s a commander of words. This book is the story of meeting and marrying her husband Brandon, and their journey to realizing HIS dream of opening a pizza restaurant (Delancey) in Seattle. It’s a very interesting read since they built the restaurant in a questionable neighborhood; they had insufficient money. Let’s just say that along the road to getting the restaurant open, there are many hurdles, including her own belief in the project. I loved the book. And yes, there are a few recipes included too.

After I read The Elephant Whisperer (which was a fabulous book), I read online that Lawrence Anthony considered his best book The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures. So I had to read that, of course. It’s the very sad story about his effort to extract 6 rare white rhino from deep in the jungle of Africa, in an area controlled by guerrillas. He’s unsuccessful, and now the only known white rhinos left are in zoos. They’ll likely be extinct in the next generation. I wasn’t as enamored with the book as I was with the elephant book – maybe because the mechanics of trying to find and negotiate to get the rhinos wasn’t as riveting as the elephant stories. Jungle politics, nighttime helicopter flights, slogging in the mud all play important parts. If you want to know more about rhinos, the rare northern whites, then you’ll want to read this book. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have one in your local zoo. Great literature this is not, but it tells an important story about poaching and why we must fight to eliminate it with education.

Also read, for one of my book clubs, Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McLain. It’s the biography of Beryl Markham, but only of her early life. Beryl’s own book, West with the Night has long been a favorite of mine, but she only wrote about her later life once she learned to pilot a plane and flew all over Africa. The McLain book is about her youth on her father’s horse farm, her coming of age and about falling in love (she was a philanderer from way back), her young adulthood, her marriages, her successes in life and her failures. It’s a VERY good book that I enjoyed reading from beginning to end. Markham is known more compellingly for her piloting career, but she led a fascinating life before she ever began to fly. Worth reading.

Read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Oh my goodness. When one of my book groups met to discuss this book, we all talked about the crying we did at the end. Oh yes, me too. This is a novel with a point to make (somewhat like Jodi Piccoult’s books). In this case it’s the right to die issue and it’s cloaked in a fast-paced page turner. A young woman who is a bit at loose ends, accepts a new job as a caregiver, something she’s never done before, to a young man who had recently become a quadriplegic. There are numerous sub-stories (about her family, her relationship with her sister, her boyfriend and her relationship with him, the patient himself, who is grumpy, and his relationships with his mother and father and ex-girlfriend). And, it’s about his wish to end his life. During the last 100 pages I could hardly put it down. I don’t want to jinx the story. It’s a romance of sorts. It’s gritty in a way, but charming. Loved the book. Now I’m going to order the sequel, the book the author never really intended to write, but so many people wrote her asking for one. I’m right there too. This book is being made into a movie.

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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