The Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen: Chicken Enchilada Soup

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is treating you well so far. We’re in the time of year when many people are putting their New Year’s resolutions into action, often related to living a healthier life. This seems like a perfect time for another installment of The Lazy Psychologist in the Kitchen. What’s that? Why is a psychologist offering recipes on her blog? What an excellent question! The answer: because food affects mood. We have a lot of scientific evidence that what we eat can directly affect how we feel, both physically and emotionally. I even blogged about this a few months ago when I wrote about our second brain that lives in our gut. Didn’t catch that post? No worries, you can check it out here. So, this psychologist likes to offer a healthy recipe from time to time as a way to encourage you to make healthy eating choices that benefit your mind and body. Established readers of my blog know, however, one of my deeply personal secrets. I’m rather lazy when it comes to cooking, and complicated recipes tend to leave me feeling overwhelmed and inept. Thanks, blog readers, for helping me hold this secret gently and without shame. One of my daily goals is to find easy, non-overwhelming ways to put healthy, tasty food into my body. An important disclaimer for all of my recipe posts: I’m a psychologist, not a nutritionist, dietician, or physician, so don’t take my recipe posts as golden advice based on the most recent nutrition science. In sharing some of my personal recipes, my goal is to inspire you to find easy ways to incorporate healthy eating as one way to cultivate healthy mood.

Today, we pull out the slow-cooker again, this time for a hearty soup. A few months ago, I talked about how a slow cooker can be a very good friend to a lazy chef. My favorite part of using a  slow-cooker is that you can make a large batch of whatever you’re cooking, which means oodles of leftovers. I am a BIG fan of leftovers because the prep for leftovers usually involves zapping the meal for a couple of minutes in the microwave. That’s a major win for the lazy chef! For those who’ve read my previous Lazy Psychologist posts, you may also remember that I am less than gifted at trying to prepare multiple dishes at the same time, nor do I want to clean up a mess of dishes. I want to throw everything in one pot and be done with it. That’s why I’ve developed such a close friendship with my slow-cooker. It enables my lazy-chefness.

Boast warning: I am going to brag about this recipe for a moment so bear with me. I think this recipe for chicken enchillada soup may be the best thing I’ve ever made. In my whole life. Ever. I have fed it to many, many people with a variety of palates and it has been uniformly well received. In fact, a young family member just sent me an email that read, “Hi Aunt Jen! I was wondering if you could send me the recipe for the Enchilada Soup. I absolutely love it and it is the best soup ever.” What an awesome endorsement! It was a totally unsolicited testimonial, I promise.

Now let’s get to the recipe. I was inspired by this recipe from Nealey Dozier at The Kitchn, and have incorporated my own touches along the way. I use a 7-quart slow cooker to make this recipe. (Lazy Tip: try using slow cooker liners to make cleanup extra easy). You can see that this receipe has a fair number of ingredients and comes dangerously close to triggering my “too many ingredients = good chance of failure” state of ineptitude. To help ease my easily overwhelmed mind, I make this on the weekend and then eat on the leftovers throughout the week. The results are absolutely worth it. One more important selling point for this recipe: I’ve never messed it up. I have made it dozens of times and it always comes out delicious! I’ve included some optional ingredients below so that you can make this to your taste. I’m always looking for ways to increase the vegetable content of my meals so I tend to throw it all in.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon cooking oil (I like sunflower or grapeseed)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped

2 peppers (optional), sliced into bite-sized chunks (I like Poblano or Anaheim)

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2 tablespoons chili powder (I like Penzey’s Spices “Chili 3000”)

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon raw honey

1 15-oz can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies

1 15-oz can tomato sauce

3 cups chicken stock

1 15-oz can black beans

 

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 medium zucchinis (optional), sliced into bite-sized chunks

2 – 4 tomatillos (optional), husks removed, sliced into bite-sized chunks

1 15-oz can corn (optional)

 

Serving options (optional):

Avocado slices

Tortilla chips

Cilantro

Grated cheddar cheese

Chopped cilantro

 

Serves 8-12

 

Instructions:

Place the chicken thighs on the bottom of the slow cooker bowl. Add black beans and optional ingredients (zucchini and tomatillo chunks, corn) if you’re using them.

Heat the oil in a large pot (I use a wok) over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.

Add the chili powder and cumin and stir for 1 minute. Add the honey, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and and chicken stock. Bring to a slow boil, then add to the slow cooker bowl.

(Lazy tip: you can skip this step and just toss the diced onion, peppers, spices, etc., into the cooker. Sautéing the onions and peppers beforehand just brings out more flavor.)

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, or on high for 4 hours.

When the cooking cycle is complete, use two large forks to shred the chicken in the slow cooker. Serve with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

A few recipe notes:

I’ve made this with chicken breasts when I didn’t have chicken thighs. It works fine but white meat usually comes out a little drier in the slow cooker.

One of my favorite aspects of this soup is how well it keeps. I’ve safely eaten leftovers a week after cooking it. It also freezes very well.

Happy healthy eating,

Dr. Jen