This Crock Pot Mexican Chicken and Corn Chowder is a delicious and easy fix-and-forget meal for busy weeknights!
My kids have been playing piano for a number of years now. We were blessed to have a teacher who came to our house weekly for six years, and I guess I never knew how good we had it in this convenient setup. I didn’t have to cart everyone off to someone else’s house one day after school, and got to prep dinner to the sounds of gradually improving classical tunes (also to the sounds of my kids not fighting with each other for an hour and a half because they were occupied with piano).
Now, however, our beloved piano teacher has taken a job as a computer programmer. (Sadly, teaching piano lessons isn’t the most lucrative career. I get it.) For several months, we’ve been trying to nail down lessons with a new teacher, to no avail. Finally, though, we’re locked in with someone I think is going to work out well–phew!
The only problem? She’s only available from 5:00 to 6:30 PM, RIGHT when I’d normally make dinner. So what do you do when your kids’ new piano teacher can only do lessons when you’d rather be home slicing and dicing so you can eat on time?
You Crock Pot it up, that’s what.
This Crock Pot Mexican Chicken & Corn Chowder saved the day this week when I knew I’d be indisposed in the early evening. With a little work in the afternoon, our family was able to come home to something warm and filling–and oh-so-tasty–for dinner.
The original recipe from Chelsea’s Messy Apron (the one that made me say, “YES, I MUST EAT THAT AT ALL COSTS”) had the enticing phrase “Mexican street corn” in its title–and yeah, I could see where you could kinda get a street corn vibe from this soup. But to me, it wasn’t so strong that this actually seemed like eating a bowl of street corn.
Even so, this was a darn delicious Mexican-flavored chowder my whole family loved! It’s got chicken for protein, black beans for fiber, and two types of corn for sweetness and crunch. You may think the single cup of chicken broth that goes into it won’t be enough, but don’t add more! You’ll be surprised at the end that there’s plenty of liquid.
The other great thing about this soup is that it has just enough spice from a bit of chili powder, cumin, and paprika. No one (not even my 8-year-old) said it was too spicy, which tells me it has just enough kick. I served it with my Perfect Cornbread Muffins and we were able to sit down to dinner by 7:00.
Now…which Crock Pot meal am I gonna make this week (and the next, and the next, and…)? Drop me your favorite slow cooker recipes in the comments!
Crock Pot Mexican Chicken & Corn Chowder
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c. chicken broth
- 2 14.75-oz. cans cream-style corn
- 1.5 c. frozen fire-roasted corn
- 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 4-oz. can diced green chilies
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1 1/4 tsp. cumin
- 1 c. grated Mexican blend cheese
- 1 c. half and half
- additional cheese, avocado, tortilla strips, etc. for serving
- Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a large slow cooker. Add garlic, chicken broth, cream-style corn, frozen corn, black beans, chilies, chili powder, paprika, and cumin and stir to combine.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
- Remove chicken and shred, then return to the slow cooker. Add shredded cheese and half and half, stir, and re-cover. Heat an additional 15 minutes or until hot. Serve immediately.
I’ll level with you. Although this recipe calls itself “Thai” Peanut Chicken Pasta, I’m really no expert on determining what defines Thai food. I’ve never been to Thailand, and my experience with Thai cuisine has been limited to a few very tame menu choices at a local chain of Thai restaurants. For all I know, people in Thailand don’t even eat chicken. Or pasta. Or peanuts. (In fact, according to the Internet, peanuts are more of an Indonesian ingredient.)
You’ve probably heard how, when Asian people come to the U.S., our “Asian” food is unrecognizable to them. I can attest that the two times I’ve eaten truly authentic Chinese food, it was NOT your run-of-the-mill sweet and sour pork. We’re talking beef tendon, tilapia peppercorn soup, and basically a real-life version of this scene from A Christmas Story. Truth be told, probably the only reason I finished was to not be rude to my gracious hosts.
So, again, an Asian food expert I am not.
What I do know, though, is that this recipe is a winner of a chicken dinner. With whole grains for fiber, chicken for protein, carrots and cabbage for veggies, and a sweet peanut sauce, it’s the whole package. It came to the rescue this past Monday night when our family was running around like crazy with various busy-busy December activities. A one-dish meal that gets on the table in 30 minutes? Exactly what I need this time of year–don’t you?
So whether it’s truly Thai or just truly tasty (and easy and quick), I’m a fan. I think you will be, too.
Thai Peanut Chicken Pasta
- 14 oz. thin spaghetti
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 c. honey
- 1/4 c. smooth peanut butter
- 1/4 c. low sodium soy sauce
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp. sriracha sauce
- 2 Tbsp. sesame oil, divided
- 1 1/2 c. carrots, cut into 1/8-inch by 2-inch matchsticks
- 2 c. cabbage, thinly sliced
- 8 green onions, sliced
- 2 c. cooked diced chicken (I used rotisserie chicken)
- 1/2 c. peanut pieces (optional garnish)
- 1/4 c. sesame seeds (optional garnish)
- 1/4 c. green onions, sliced (optional garnish)
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- While pasta cooks, make the peanut sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger.
- Drain pasta and toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil to keep from sticking. Set aside.
- Wipe out pasta pan and heat the other 1 Tbsp. sesame oil on medium heat. Add carrots and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and green onions and saute another minute or two until the cabbage begins to soften.
- Add the pasta back to the pan, along with the chicken and peanut sauce. Stir well to combine and continue cooking on low until heated through.
- Garnish with additional green onion slices, peanut pieces, and/or sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
Remember those Arby’s commercials that ran awhile back promoting roast beef sandwiches on the premise that they were “Good Mood Food”? These ads always drove me nuts, because even before I was a nutritionist, I could tell you that eating processed red meat on a processed white bun slathered with overly sugary barbecue sauce was not going to be put me (or anyone else) in a good mood. In fact, the opposite is true.
Basically every time I eat fast food–no matter how tasty it sounded when I was really hungry–I always end up feeling super gross afterward. It’s one big reason why, in our family, fast food restaurants have become a last-resort destination reserved primarily for road trips. In the words of my husband, “I’m so hungry I could eat at Arby’s.” (Then again, I totally get that for some families, eating out at more expensive restaurants isn’t financially feasible. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have.)
Thankfully, the American people apparently also saw right through this ad campaign, naming it one of the worst of 2011. (Luv’s diapers’ “Poop! There is is!” topped this list–though I find this one kind of disgustingly charming, don’t you?) We all know that, except under certain circumstances like after a REALLY rotten day at work or a beloved cat dying, junk food leaves us full of regret, not good vibes. So thanks but no thanks on the feeble attempt at deception, Arby’s.
Healthy food, on the other hand, does actually have the power to lift our spirits. Research around the Mediterranean diet shows that this eating plan centered around fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, olive oil, and seafood is linked with lower risk of depression. And I for one can say that I feel far better about myself when I’ve made healthy food choices.
That’s where this Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken comes in. My kids and I had this for dinner the other night as an easy, light meal while my husband was out of town. Often, without my husband to feed, I go easy on myself by heating up something frozen or getting pizza. But once this salad was made, I realized it had hardly taken any time and, with its bed of greens, lean chicken, crunchy almonds, pops of juicy pomegranate, and olive oil-based dressing, I actually felt really good about eating it. Plus, I had some awesome healthy leftovers for lunch the next day. I’d say that’s the REAL Good Mood Food.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this shaved Brussels sprout salad could also make a nice healthy side dish (without the chicken, perhaps) for the main event. I’d love to hear how eating it makes YOU feel!
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Chicken
For the salad:
- 1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
- 1 green apple, diced
- 1/2 c. pomegranate arils
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 1/3 c. sliced almonds
- 1 1/2 c. shredded chicken
- 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
For the dressing:
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon
Make the salad:
- In a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, shred Brussels sprouts. (I like to leave some larger bits for textural variety.) Pour into a large serving bowl.
- Add diced apple, pomegranate arils, cranberries, almonds, chicken, and goat cheese to Brussels sprouts and toss to combine.
Make the dressing:
- In a small measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Pour over salad and toss to combine.
Sometimes I think it’s a scandal that sun dried tomatoes don’t cost more. I’ve never made them myself (though, living in the Phoenix area, we’re certainly not short on sun…or dryness…or tomatoes), but I do have a dim sense of how much time and effort go into the end product of these shrivelly red strips. The process goes something like this: 1. Pick tomatoes 2. Wash tomatoes 3. Cut tomatoes 4. Season tomatoes 5. Dry tomatoes in the sun for days on end 6. Package tomatoes. Seems like an awful lot of work–and an awful lot of tomatoes, seeing as how they lose around 90% of their original weight and shrink down to less than half their original size upon drying.
Yet there they are, a whole bag of them for only $3.00 at Trader Joe’s. Isn’t our food system strange?
Despite the seemingly inverse relationship between cost and effort in sun dried tomatoes, I for one am quite thankful for their relative inexpensiveness, because I adoooooore them. Chewy, brightly colored, and tangy-sweet, I happen to think they bring their A-game to any dish they grace.
And wouldn’t you know it, they make a pretty spectacular main ingredient in pesto.
This Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken took its place on our family’s weeknight dinner plan last week, and it’s definitely an entree I’ll be making again. Whole grain spaghetti, olive oil, tomatoes, and almonds place it squarely in the Mediterranean Diet category–a category I’ve been known to harp on relentlessly for its many health benefits. (By the way, didja see the new U.S. News and World Report ranking of diets for 2017? The Mediterranean Diet comes in at the top of nearly every category they analyzed.)
Health benefits aside, this chicken pasta boasts excellent taste and can be whipped up in about 30 minutes. Add it to your meal plan this week!
Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken
For the pesto:
- 1 1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes (dry, not packed in oil)
- 1/2 c. slivered almonds
- 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the chicken and pasta:
- 8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 5 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to 1/2-inch thickness
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Make the pesto:
- Add tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Process until nearly smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set pesto aside.
Make the pasta and chicken:
- Make the spaghetti according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
- Serve immediately: assemble entree with any combination of spaghetti, pesto, and chicken you like!
How about a little tuber education? As I was thinking about this recipe for BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, I started doing some research to answer an age-old question: what’s a sweet potato, and what’s a yam? Imagine my surprise when I read in this authoritative article that “sweet potatoes are not a type of yam, and yams are not a type of sweet potato. They are both tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant, but they are not related and actually don’t even have a lot in common.”
Apparently, what I think of as regular old sweet potatoes–the oblong, orange-fleshed vegetables in these photos and commonly found on your Thanksgiving table–are merely “soft” sweet potatoes, as opposed to “firm” sweet potatoes, which have a golden skin and white flesh. Yams, on the other hand, have a black, bark-like skin and purple or red flesh.
And can we just take a moment to say that “flesh” is not the greatest word to describe anything edible.
Regardless of terminology, however, these BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are one of my new favorite fall dinners. They’ve got a lot going on: potatoes baked to tender perfection meet sweet barbecue chicken and stretchy melted Monterey Jack (plus some spinach thrown in for extra nutrition). With veggies, starch, and protein all in one package, I’m content to call them a one-dish dinner–or round out the meal with a loaf of rustic bread. They’re also a clever way to use up leftover barbecue chicken, or to make a double-duty dinner out of a large batch of crock pot barbecue chicken earlier in the week.
BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- 2 large chicken breasts
- 3/4 c. barbecue sauce, divided
- 5 sweet potatoes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 5 c. fresh spinach
- 4 oz. Monterey Jack or sharp white cheddar
- Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Top with 1/4 c. barbecue sauce and cook on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken, drain of excess liquid, and shred. Return to slow cooker, stir in remaining 1/2 c. barbecue sauce, and cook an additional 15-30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and prick with a fork. Bake about 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
- While potatoes are cooking, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add spinach and saute until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Remove potatoes from oven and slice in half lengthwise. Line a baking sheet with foil and place potatoes on it. Mash potatoes lightly and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Top with wilted spinach and shredded chicken. Shred Monterey Jack directly onto potatoes.
- Return to oven and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.