15-Minute White Chicken Chili

For as often as I make chicken dishes, it’s kind of weird how seldom they show up here on the blog. Maybe because chicken, as a rule, is just not the most visually appealing of meats and therefore not terribly photogenic, whether raw,



Who doesn’t want to eat a pile of legs?

or in “original” form:

“I have NO idea why I crossed the road.”

See what I mean? Chicken needs to go on one of those reality makeover shows like Ten Years Younger before it’s camera-ready. (Ironically, I just looked up that show. It aired ten years ago. Whoa. That’s meta.) Anyway, chicken. It may not be going to win Miss Teen Meat USA, but dang if it’s not cheap, versatile, and easy to cook. At our house we’re all over chicken like white on meat. Even in spite of our part-time vegetarian status, we probably average at least one chicken dinner per week. And a chicken dinner earns bonus points from me when it also contains wholesome ingredients and can go from fridge/pantry to table in under 30 minutes, like this super-simple white chicken chili. Did I mention it also only uses one pot? YEAH.

So on a weeknight when life is crazy and you know you won’t even make it home until 6:45, with a little planning, a delicious dinner can make it to the table by 7:00…which beats this kind of chicken any day:

Mmm…mechanically separated chicken goo.

And even though it might not be the prettiest dish you ever serve, it’s a bit like the quote from the mother to her daughter in Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town–it’s “pretty enough for all normal purposes.” Like dinner in a pinch.

15-Minute White Chicken Chili
(Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)


2 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
2 c. crushed tortilla chips
2 15-oz. cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 4.5-oz. can diced green chilies
20 oz. chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro (for garnish)


In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients except cilantro. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serves 4.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

As of today, there are twenty-two days until Easter, which means we’re just past the midpoint of the season of Lent. As I’ve mentioned before, our family is Catholic, so we observe the three traditions of the Church for this progression toward Easter: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. For me, prayer and almsgiving are the easy ones….it’s fasting that really gets my goat. I’ve been known to give up some pretty lame stuff for Lent (like this year’s texting and driving, which, duh, I shouldn’t be doing anyway) as well as fail miserably (like the year I “gave up” wine, ha). What can I say? Deprivation is intrinsically difficult. Thankfully we have a forgiving God!

The one aspect of Lenten fasting that comes naturally for our family is the practice of going meatless on Fridays. We’re already about halfway vegetarian. I like to think of us as one of those mixed breed dogs with silly names, like “Labradoodle” or “Bullnese.” We would be “Vegemeaters,” as in “meat-eater-vegetarian mix.” Westminster Dog Show, here we come! (But not to eat the dogs–we’re not that kind of meat eaters.)

Although doing without meat is something our family has grown accustomed to, it never fails that on Fridays during Lent, the one day my mind and spirit are saying no to meat, my body starts screaming, “BAAAAACOOOONNNN!!! FOOOOTLONG HOT DOG!! IN-N-OUT BURRRRRRGERRR!!!” I of course have to quell these protests by reminding myself that I choose to go without meat on Fridays for a very good reason. (Remembering Christ’s suffering in the flesh on Good Friday.) But it also helps a whole lot to plan a vegetarian meal I’ll really look forward to.

Like this Roasted Cauliflower Soup.

While it may not look like the most appealing vegetarian entree–in fact, it basically looks like oatmeal–the taste is phenomenal. The toasty caramel veneer of roasted cauliflower, a hint of nutmeg, a kick of black pepper–make it with homemade chicken broth and you’ll really knock it out of the park. If I were going to open a Wildflower Bread-esque soup-and-salad restaurant, this soup would be in the regular rotation. Thinking about it throughout the day is enough to smack the hot dog screams into submission…until next week.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)


2 lb. head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. black pepper
1Tbsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. milk
4 c. chicken broth


1. Preheat oven to 425. In a small bowl, mix nutmeg, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Spread cauliflower florets on a large sheet pan. Drizzle with oil and season with spice mixture; toss to coat.

2. Roast cauliflower in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring once. When it comes out of the oven, mash lightly with a potato masher.

3. Melt the butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook and stir until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat. Slowly pour in the chicken broth and milk and stir with a whisk until the flour is dissolved. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened, then reduce heat to low. Stir in the semi-mashed cauliflower.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Creamy Crock Pot Tomato Soup

Remember that ad campaign Campbell’s Soup ran a few years ago, “Make it Campbell’s Instead”? I’m sure all sorts of market research and lots of money went into creating it, and maybe there was more to it than just that phrase, but it always seemed like kind of a lame slogan to me. Like, really? Like their marketing team was tired one night and just said, “We got nothin’. Just tell ’em to choose Campbell’s instead of something else.” And then it always made me think, Well, maybe it’s because it doesn’t have that much to recommend it, so there was nothing else to say…?

That being said, I love tomato soup and used to eat lots of the iconic Campbell’s variety. Every time I watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I thrill at the thought of trying Violet Beauregarde’s Everlasting Gobstopper with the tomato soup that runs down her throat (then again, I’m not crazy about the idea of turning into a giant blueberry…so scratch that). Up until a few years ago, I would buy Campbell’s tomato soup and eat it with a passion, despite the fact that it left my microwave looking like a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As I became more aware of the downsides to processed food, however, I eventually realized that, like most canned soups, the classic Campbell’s tomato is not a particularly great choice. The sodium in just a 1/2 cup is 20% of the daily value, plus it contains high fructose corn syrup and some funky additives. I’ve since converted to the Trader Joe’s variety (organic, no HCFS, only one not-so-awful additive) but am always on the lookout for a homemade version to provide that perfect hot, creamy cup of comfort.

Of the recipes I’ve tried, this one is the clear winner:

Not only is this crock pot gem creamy and delicious, it also clandestinely contains 3 full cups of vegetables, not including the tomatoes, which is great for kids or other picky eaters! (Though I’m not really into the whole hide-vegetables-in-your-kids’-food movement. I think beets belong in salads, not in brownies. …Actually, no. Beets belong in the trash. They’re disgusting.) Regardless, you really can’t taste the other vegetables in this soup. The flavor that comes through loud and clear is tomato. We had it with homemade bread (pictured) and I’m sure you couldn’t go wrong with garlic croutons or grilled cheese. All in all, a huge improvement over anything you’ll find in a can.

Creamy Crock Pot Tomato Soup
(Adapted from Skinnytaste)


1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. finely chopped celery
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. finely chopped carrot
28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. dried ground thyme
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
Parmesan or Romano cheese rind (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 c. 2% milk
garlic salt and black pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and carrots and sauté 5-6 minutes or until onions begin to turn golden. Add to slow cooker.

2. Pour the juice from the tomatoes into the slow cooker, then roughly crush the tomatoes with your hands and add. Add thyme, basil, chicken broth, cheese rind, and bay leaf.

3. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours, until vegetables are soft.

4. Remove cheese rind and, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

5. Melt the butter over low heat in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes. Pour about 1 cup of the hot soup into the saucepan, then add the milk and stir until smooth.

6. Pour entire mixture into the slow cooker, along with grated cheese.

7. Continue cooking until warmed through. Season with garlic salt and black pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

Uggghh, I know this picture is not the greatest. Dang you, non-natural light!

As an adult–and even as an aspiring dietitian–I have retained a childish stubbornness about trying certain unfamiliar vegetables. Eggplant, for example, seems like a big-bottomed purple flesh monster. And lima beans could be delicious, for all I know, but I remember hating them as a child, so you bet I’m not touching them with a 39 1/2 foot pole now! Don’t even get me started on collard greens.

Butternut squash is another one that alerts my veggie stranger danger. It never made the meal rotation in my household growing up, so I never ventured to try it in any other context. But in recent years, I’ve tried to swallow my inner protestations and make the effort to tackle some new vegetables, one at a time. As with trying anything else new, some things I end up liking, some things I don’t. (Bok choy, kale, endive, and parsnips, get a thumbs-up. Beets and artichokes, thumbs-down.)

Having done quite a bit of reading in the last year on the wisdom of eating seasonally, I decided butternut squash made the short list for must-try vegetables this fall. Now, having eaten it, I don’t know what I was so apprehensive about! If you’ve never had it, it’s not unlike pumpkin–creamy and a bit nutty. Plus, it contains an off-the-charts level of Vitamin A and is a good source of Vitamin C.

We’ve had this soup twice now. (My husband raved about it the first time, so I made it again a couple of weeks later.) It comes together quite simply, with a velvety texture and noticeable hint of nutmeg. We like it as a main dish with cheesy bread or a salad, but it could also serve as a lovely first course for a dinner party. If nothing else, it’s worth making just for the incredible aroma that will fill your home as it simmers!

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup
(Slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 Tbsp. butter
3 c. peeled, diced butternut squash
2 c. thinly sliced carrots
3/4 c. diced onion
28 oz. chicken or vegetable broth (homemade makes this especially delicious)
1/4 tsp. ground white or black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 c. half-and-half
Sour cream (optional)


In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Cook squash, carrots, and onions in butter for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 25-35 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender.

Using an immersion blender (or in batches in a food processor/blender with a tight-fitting lid), puree the soup until smooth. Return to stock pot. Add pepper and nutmeg; bring just to boiling. Add half-and-half; heat through. Garnish with sour cream, if desired.

Summer Vegetable Soup with Shrimp and Lemon

Last year, I read probably the most inspiring food book I’ve ever encountered: Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Ever since the 5th grade, when I wrote a report on Barbara Kingsolver, I have been intrigued by this author I considered more or less local (she was a long-time resident of Tucson; I live roughly 90 minutes north in Mesa). Most people know her for her best-selling novels, but Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a memoir of Kingsolver’s family’s journey across the country, leaving Tucson (waaahhh!) for rural Virginia, where they attempted to make a go of running a self-sustaining farm. If you have any interest in the idea of eating seasonally/locally, or wonder why some people find it worthwhile, please read this book. It, more than anything else, motivated me to make the effort to support local agriculture and eat what the seasons provide.

That being said, unfortunately, in the Phoenix area, eating seasonally can be a bit of a joke. In her memoir, Kingsolver calls February “Hungry Month” since it’s the time when (in her part of the country) plants lie dormant and nothing grows. In Phoenix–or at least in our backyard garden–Hungry Months include May through September. Then again, Kingsolver also mentions that eating locally in the desert Southwest is defined (by the powers that define these things) as within a 250-mile radius. So I guess we’re off the hook for not having to harvest dead grass for our salads during these summer months.

My point here is that, even though it’s difficult, I try–and want to keep trying harder. I get to the farmer’s market when I can, and I certainly don’t buy $6 asparagus in August or $5 strawberries in January. When I saw this soup recipe, it got me excited to bust over to my nearest Sprouts and bag up armloads of vegetables that happen to be on sale right now because they actually belong to this season. (Maybe not in central Mesa, but somewhere not too far away.) The result was fabulous. This soup, while very simple, had an unusual flavor that took me by surprise. The savory-tart combination of broth with lemon juice was the perfect background for the freshness of summer vegetables corn, tomatoes, and zucchini. Not to mention that with the veggies chopped ahead of time, it was done in 30 minutes! If you’re a year-round soup lover like me, this will make you realize that “summer soup” doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms.

Summer Vegetable Soup with Shrimp and Lemon
(Adapted from Fine Cooking Fresh)


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 qt. chicken broth
1 c. diced tomato
2 small zucchini, cut into medium dice
1 1/2 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 lb. red potatoes, cut into medium dice
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4-1/2 lb. pre-cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, or cilantro, or a mix
Juice of one lemon

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute or two, being careful not to let it brown. Add the broth, the remaining vegetables, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp until heated, 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add fresh herbs and lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if desired.

We happened to think this was great with a side of sweet cornbread!