For as mild as November and December were, January has given me a chill I just can’t seem to shake.
That extremely cold stretch that started MLK weekend was a busy time for me, so rather than parking on my couch next to our wood stove, I was coming and going, wearing down coats, a fur hat and insulated snow boots everywhere, even though it didn’t really snow. The times that I could be home, I took up residence 7 feet from the fire, but if I drank a glass of water or had wondered away to use our chilly bathroom, I then had to stand 1 foot away from the fireplace until my skin felt on the verge of actually burning before I felt “warm” again.
My husband and I call this phenomena being “heatitized,” similar to the term being “velocitized,” a concept we were taught in driver’s education to describe not realizing that you’re doing 50 mph on a rural road because you were just doing 65 on a state highway and you’ve adjusted your sense of normal speed. I have been heatitized, to the point that when our first floor drops below 74 degrees, I put on a fleece. And I don’t think I’m going to take off my down coats outside until the tulips are up this year.
All this is to say that we are very much in the middle of winter now. Winter is not my favorite time of year, but it does seem to be the best time of year for eating soup, so at least that’s one little pleasure to look forward to once or twice a week. This week I have three recipes for soup that you can easily make in your slow cooker, or if in a hurry, just throw it all in a big pot on the stove and it can be ready in an hour.
First up, this creamy gnocchi soup with sausage and kale. This is a lot like the Italian Zuppa Toscana, but instead of using potatoes it has fresh gnocchi, which I thought would be an exciting switch-up. It’s also got a healthy amount of kale in there, and I would probably double the carrots as well, but creamy soups really do make kale taste so much better.
Next, a chipotle chicken tamale chili. There are a million variations on soups on the Mexican scale from chili, to tortilla soup, to enchilada soup, and this one is a little bit of a mix of all three. I liked the idea of putting the cornmeal in the soup from the beginning so it acts as a thickener to the soup, plus this recipe recommends putting a quick salsa on top made from mango, lime juice and cilantro, and that’s certainly something I haven’t done at home before.
And finally, a cabbage roll soup that I prepared over MLK weekend for the Shepherd’s Table soup kitchen in Westminster with other families from my church. Our group coordinator provided the recipe and it smelled so delicious, I made a second batch, this timing using ground turkey instead of beef, for my own family. There is a lot of cabbage in there, but the slow cooking really breaks it down making it easier on the digestive system while still capturing all the nutrients in the broth. The rice kind of breaks down too, so is more of a thickener than a chewy rice, but it really all worked together and tasted great.
Here’s to hoping that these soups can warm your bellies, and your toes, until spring. Enjoy!
Slow cooker creamy gnocchi, sausage and kale soup
1 pound ground hot Italian sausage, browned
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, diced
5 cloves garlic (or 1½ tablespoons minced garlic)
4 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
¾ teaspoon salt, (adjust to your tastes)
⅓ teaspoon cracked black pepper, (adjust to your tastes)
2⅓ cups evaporated milk or half and half
3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch mixed and dissolved well in 2 cups of milk
1 pound fresh gnocchi (found in the refrigerated section of supermarket
4 cups shredded kale leaves, stems removed
Optional toppings: freshly grated Parmesan cheese and crispy bacon
Place the browned sausage, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, broth, Italian seasoning, bouillon, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a crockpot or slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for four to five hours or low for six to eight hours.
Add the evaporated milk (or half and half), milk/cornstarch mixture and gnocchi. Stir and replace cover. Cook another 30 minutes until the soup has thickened and the gnocchi has softened.
Add the chopped kale, cover for an extra 5 minutes or until just beginning to wilt.
Taste test and season with extra salt and pepper, if desired. Serve immediately with optional parmesan cheese and bacon. (If soup thickens too much when cold, just add extra milk in half cup increments until achieving desired consistency while warming it up to serve.)
Slow cooker chipotle chicken tamale chili
1 sweet onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, or thighs
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder (or regular chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (or regular oregano)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 cups red enchilada sauce, homemade or store-bought
4-6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
¾ cup ground cornmeal
1 mango, sliced or diced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Sliced avocado, tortilla chips, and crumbled goat cheese, for serving
In the bottom your slow cooker, layer the onion and garlic. Add the chicken, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour over the enchilada sauce and 4 cups broth. Add the apple cider vinegar, chipotle chilies, and cornmeal. Cover and cook on low for six to seven hours or on high for four to six hours. Shred the chicken using two forks. Taste and add salt if needed.
In a small bowl, combine the mango, lime juice, and lime zest and cilantro.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with mango, tortilla chips, avocado, and cheese. Garnish with cilantro and limes.
Crockpot Cabbage Roll Soup
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
⅔ cup uncooked long grain rice
6 to 8 cups cabbage, chopped
1 (10-ounce) can tomato soup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
In a skillet, brown onion and beef in a tablespoon of oil. Drain excess fat. Add beef and onion to a 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker.
Add all remaining ingredients to the crockpot and stir (it will be very full).
Cover and cook on high three to four hours or low for six to seven hours until rice is fully cooked.
Source: Adapted from www.spendwithpennies.com