Slow Cooker Dinner: Chicken and Four Bean Chili

20140107-091044.jpg Well, hello. Did you think I had completely forgotten what I use to do over here on these pages? That I no longer remembered how wonderful it is to share food with all of you? That I forgot how to type out a recipe?

Well, almost. It was back in March of 2013, after all, when I shared my last recipe- rustic blueberry biscuits! What??!!! And, while I'm not quite certain how much it's actually going to happen, here's a start to the return of recipe sharing. This one...it's a good one too. Yummy and simple- the adjectives that I hope you use to describe the food I share here.

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Chicken and Four Bean Chili

Ingredients 4 cups chicken broth 1 can black eyed peas 1 can black beans 1 can kidney beans 1 can cannellini beans 1 can tomato sauce 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 1/2 tsp dried basil 1 tsp dried thyme 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt 1 tsp black pepper 1/2 tsp red chili flakes 1 medium onion 5 garlic cloves 2 chicken breasts (about 1 pound total)

Open all 4 cans of beans, pour into a colander, and rinse under cold water. Dump the beans along with the chicken broth, tomato sauce, spices, onion, and garlic into your slow cooker. Stir to combine.

Place chicken breasts on top of bean mixture. Cook on low heat setting for 8 hours.

When cooking is complete, shred the chicken with a fork and stir into chili. Top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and serve over quinoa or brown rice, or alone aside some tortilla chips or a crusty sourdough bread.

Italian Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup

20130305-112506.jpg David spent the day snowboarding two Sundays ago, which inspired me to cook a big pot of soup. What better dinner to come home to after a frosty day on the slopes? A house smelling of simmering sausage and vegetables in chicken broth, fresh bread warming in the oven...

I had been thinking of this pot of soup for a while, just waiting for an afternoon at home when I could put it together. I was inspired by a recipe I found in a 2011 issue of Sunset Magazine, which happens to be my favorite magazine for all things Northwest- restaurants, shopping, planting tips, travel ideas, etc.- and knew I wanted it to have chicken sausage, chard, and artichoke hearts, but I also wanted to add some more earthy elements to round out the flavors and to make it more hearty. I decided on potatoes because I have so many sitting around right now waiting to be used and mushrooms, both of which provided the earthiness and hearty element I was hoping for. The sour dough bread paired with the soup quite well and we were actually all wishing for a bit bigger of a loaf to sop up our broth with!

This was a very good bowl of soup, and quite pretty to look at too! It would be worthy of a shared meal, but also perfect for a casual Sunday supper or a quick weeknight meal with just your family. You can choose to simmer the broth with the sausage and potatoes for the afternoon or just enough time for the potatoes to soften- depends on how much time you have on your hands. The soup is yummy, versatile, and easy to make. I hope you try it.

Italian Chicken Sausage and Vegetable Soup adapted from Sunset Magazine

Ingredients 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 pound Italian chicken sausage, cut into small pieces 32 ounces reduced-sodium chicken broth 3 small russet potatoes, cut into small chunks 32 ounces free range chicken broth 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, quartered 1 pound chard, chopped

Warm sour dough bread

Directions Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook sausage until browned, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 32 ounces of broth and the potatoes and simmer for 30 minutes, or longer if you have the luxury of time. Add the remaining 32 ounces of broth along with the mushrooms and artichokes and continue to simmer. Right before you are ready to eat, add chard and cook, covered, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with warm sour dough bread and unsalted butter.

(My Most Favorite Chili...Ever) Edamame Green Chili

20130207-120227.jpg This chili is nothing to look at. I've made it many times and have been wanting to share, just waiting to get a good picture of it, but I've never been successful! Finally, I threw my hands up and decided you deserve to have the recipe despite having a good picture to go along with it.

The chili is green and dreary, but trust me what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste! It has a nice spice from the peppers, jalapeños, and green chiles, yet it is not overly spicy- even Jack likes it and he only has a preference for mildly spiced foods. The edamame provides a unique twist from the typical chili recipe and also some good crunchy texture. The addition of spinach, avocado, and lime at the end is important. These ingredients are essential to balancing the chili and providing a freshness that other bowls of chili seem to lack.

I've served this chili with whole grain couscous, brown rice, and orzo pasta and all have been good. But, our preference is to eat a big scoop of it poured over cheese grits. I use stone ground grits from Logan Turnpike Mill, which is about an hour outside of Atlanta, Georgia. There is just no substitution for real southern grits, so I still have family or friends bring them to me when they come to visit! We stir in freshly shredded white sharp cheddar cheese when the grits have about 5 minutes left to cook. The combination of green chili and cheese grits is really amazing, but if grits aren't your thing, any grain will do!

Edamame Green Chili adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, October 2011

a large glug of olive oil 1 bunch green onions, chopped 2 large red peppers, seeded and chopped 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced 3 stalks celery, chopped 6 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp cumin 1 tsp chile powder kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 12-oz bags shelled frozen edamame 2 5-oz cans chopped green chiles 4 cups chicken broth 2 cups salsa verde 6 cups fresh spinach avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped sour cream shredded sharp cheddar cheese lime wedges

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and celery, and cook 5 minutes, until crisp-tender. Stir in the garlic, cumin, chile powder, and 1/2 tsp salt and cook until fragrant about one minute. Add the edamame and green chiles and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the broth and salsa verde, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until you are ready for dinner but at least 15 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Ladle into bowls on too of grain of your choice, and top with avocado, sour cream, and/or cheese. Serve with lime wedges.