Tomato basil chicken stew

Chicken stew

I try not to be too hard on Old Me.

You know, pre-baby me — the person who found rising at 6:30 a.m. painful, and considered anything less than seven hours of sleep to be a death sentence. The woman who could barely drag herself out of bed to smooch her husband goodbye at 7, and would chain-drink coffee in the mornings, “lighting” the next mug from the previous cup.

Now that we have a feisty newborn in our house, my previous experiences of “being tired” are sort of . . . funny. In that “Man, I was just so innocent” sort of way. Sleep deprivation will do funny things to you, and we’ve only been at this a month.

But this was my first week back at work, and I wanted to make life as easy for us as possible. Just sorting out our new schedules — two full-time work schedules, plus our day care planning — was a task, so I tried to make sure we’d be reasonably well-fed during the transition.

So I’m back to the slow cooker, my dear friend. I remember when getting a meal in the Crock Pot had me feeling like Superwoman, and I walked around all day anticipating the dinner I got ready before work. Yesterday I did all that, plus ten thousand other little tasks — and with a cranky, adorable baby on my hip.

At almost 10 weeks old, Ollie is already getting used to the aroma of garlic. Gotta teach that kid early.

This Tomato Basil Chicken Stew might not scream “summertime,” but it’s hearty in all the right ways — and generated leftovers for lunches, our saving grace. It’s not heavy or dense . . . in fact, for a stew, it’s remarkably light. The Parmesan cheese adds a nice saltiness and punch.

And honestly? As it was ready when we walked in the door with the aforementioned cranky infant after a very long day, it probably could have tasted like sun-baked seaweed and I would have still licked the bowl.

But it really is good. Trust the sleep-deprived.

Chicken stew

Tomato Basil Chicken Stew

1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes (with their juices)
1 (14 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb chicken breasts or tenderloins
2 handfuls baby spinach
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese (to taste)

In a medium skillet, saute onions, carrots and celery in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and saute for additional minute, then put aside.

In a slow cooker, pour in and crush tomatoes. Layer chicken over tomatoes and add remaining ingredients, except cheese. Stir gently to combine and cover chicken. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Before serving, remove chicken and shred with two forks, then add chicken back to stew. Serve with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Recipe lightly adapted for the slow cooker from Gimme Some Oven

Chicken stew

Tuscan chicken stew in the slow cooker


It all started with fennel.

Now that we’re well into a sparkly new year and I’m no longer stricken with delightful nausea for most of my waking hours, Spence and I have been trying to get back into regular meal preparation. We both love to cook and enjoy coming up with creative dinners, but we don’t always have the energy to devote to that awesomeness during the week. It’s been a lot of pizza and skillet meals, friends — and I don’t feel great about it, but sometimes we have to do what we have to do.

Enter the slow cooker, which takes away that angst. If you’re not in love with your Crock Pot, especially in winter, I highly suggest giving it a try! We try to make at least one dinner in the slow cooker each week, usually on Monday or Tuesday, so we have homemade lunches for the rest of the week. It works out well . . . and hey, it’s always nice to have a husband who beats you home because he can’t wait for dinner.

Crock Pot nights are the best nights. Twenty minutes of prep in the morning and WHAM! — dinner is ready and fragrant as soon as you get home.

Turning to Pinterest for slow cooker meal ideas, I found this recipe for a stew that looked simple, delicious and healthy. And fennel! It has fennel! Seeing that, I was immediately in. We stocked up on the herb at an Amish grocery store months ago and love its distinctive flavor.

I made a few modifications from the original, outlined below. Because I’m always trying to clear out the pantry and use what we already have, I used canned tomatoes in place of fresh and chicken breasts instead of thighs for the meat, which we then shredded.

But you? You’re awesome. You can get creative and add whatever the heck you want. The thing I really love about soups is their versatility: if you don’t have fresh potatoes, add canned. If you have some kale or parsley to use up, throw it in! You can’t really hurt them. And who can’t use a few extra vegetables in their diet?

If you’re looking for a stew with excellent flavor that sticks to the ol’ ribs, look no further.

Can’t wait for lunch!


Slow cooker Tuscan chicken stew

4 chicken breasts, or 6-8 chicken tenderloins
2 carrots, peeled and sliced (or shredded carrots)
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 can whole tomatoes, drained
12 baby potatoes, cut in half
4 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp black pepper

Just before serving:
¼ cup water
2 ½ tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt (to taste)

• Toss chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, fennel seeds, rosemary and black pepper into the slow cooker.
• Cook on the lowest setting for 6-8 hours.
• Remove chicken and shred with two forks, then return meat to stew.
• Just before serving, combine corn starch with water and mix until no lumps remain. Add the water/cornstarch, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire and salt. Taste and add additional salt if necessary. Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from Sweet Peas & Saffron

Chicken stew

Ham and green chile soup with cheddar cheese and chives

Ham and green chile soup 3

My husband returned from New Mexico a changed man.

Not because he beheld the majesty of the Southwest, per say . . . or not in the form of mountains, anyway.

He fell in love . . . with green chiles.

They’ve taken over our life.

When I stumbled across this recipe in a slow cooker book from my mom, I knew we’d have to get it on the schedule. I’ve gotten obsessed with our Crock Pot since getting married (when I suddenly became responsible for feeding myself regularly), and it’s fantastic because it does all the work for us. Is there anything better than dragging yourself in from work to find a hot, fragrant meal ready to be served?

I dare say not.

Before we got ourselves organized, I’ll admit that getting up before work to chop onions and meat was not at the top of our list of Most Awesomely Fun Things in the World — especially before coffee. But once we had the brilliant idea to, you know, get everything prepped the night before, we now just jump up to drop everything into the bowl of our slow cooker and go on our merry way, returning nine hours later to be served a delicious dinner. Just as God intended.

This recipe for ham and green chile soup was adapted from a green chile corn chowder recipe, and we both really liked it! I’ll admit to preferring chunkier, thicker soups, and this was . . . well, it was a soupier soup. But it was flavorful and different without being too heavy, which would make it a great choice for summer. We did add a slurry of cornstarch — about 3 tablespoons — and broth taken from the basin to help thicken it, but it was still on the soupy side. Which was perfectly okay.

We used fresh green chiles instead of canned, which may have impacted how hot/not hot they were, but our version of this was not every spicy at all — and I’m normally very susceptible to spice. I actually went back and added more black pepper after the fact. Give it a test as you go to determine whether it’s going to slay you . . . and adjust accordingly!

Ham and green chile soup

Recipe adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Recipes for Entertaining

Serves 6-8

16 oz. can cream-style corn
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
4 oz. can diced green chiles, drained
2 oz. jar pimentos, chopped and drained
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cups cooked ham, chopped
20 oz. chicken broth (about 1.5 cans)
2 tbsp oregano
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
2 cups milk
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream (optional, for garnish)


1. Combine all ingredients except milk, cheese and sour cream in slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until potatoes are tender.
3. Stir in milk. Heat until hot, stirring occasionally.
4. Serve in individual bowls, topping with cheddar cheese and sour cream as desired. Enjoy!

Ham and green chile soup 2

Ham and green chile soup

Buffalo chicken chili for a cold day

Buffalo chicken chili

This recipe has nothing to do with turkey or stuffing or what to do with all that leftover pumpkin pie (and anyway, here’s an idea).

As we all recover from last week’s Thanksgiving festivities and look forward to continued cookie gluttony later in the month, I’d like to share a delectable creation that lit a fire in my bland little soul. Though I’m not one who typically tolerates spice well, I happen to have pledged my life to a man obsessed with green chiles. Spence has a growing interest in spicy food . . . and I’m trying to expand beyond the chicken, fish and Brussels sprouts I usually have for dinner.

Enter this Buffalo chicken chili, a Weight Watchers-friendly recipe shared by a friend. With just the right amount of heat balanced by the Gorgonzola cheese (seriously, don’t skip out on the cheese), I gobbled this up for dinner and actually looked forward to lunch the next day. And the next. In fact, this recipe fed the pair of us off and on for a week.

And I didn’t mind a bit.

Chili 2

Buffalo chicken chili

Recipe from Weight Watchers Magazine

2 tsp canola oil
1 lb ground skinless chicken breast
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 (12-oz) bottle light beer (I actually used pumpkin ale. Oops?)
1 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 c black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 c mild cayenne pepper sauce (We used Frank’s RedHot)
1/4 c crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 c light sour cream


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add onion, celery and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add beer, broth, tomatoes, black beans and pepper sauce; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

Garnish each serving of chili with 1 tbsp Gorgonzola cheese and 1 tbsp sour cream.

Chicken cooking

Chicken and veggies


Chili 1

Chili 3

If you’re a Weight Watchers devotee like yours truly, each serving of chili (1 3/4 cups with garnishes) comes to a PointsPlus value of 9. And well worth it! For muggles, each serving is 293 calories with 11 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 16 g carb, 8 g sugar, 3 g fiber and 29 g protein.