My brother, bless his heart, sometimes needs help in the gift giving department. Usually, if there is a girlfriend in the picture around Christmas and birthday months, things go pretty smoothly. And there are other times when, left to his own devices, things turn out less so. I don't want too sound ungrateful here, but I must say that there was a Christmas where gifts were wrapped in brown paper and duct tape. I realize that is almost too prime-time-sitcom to believe, but it is the truth.
I had been craving a Crock Pot ever since I had moved out on my own. It seemed too perfect not to own one, yummy meals ready upon your arrival home. After a few years of being on my Christmas list, I was lucky enough to have one show up on my doorstep a few days before the big holiday, courtesy of my brother. Excited, I opened it up immediately. However, within seconds afterwards, I was on the phone with my mother upset. He had bought me a refurbished crock pot. I didn't even know you could buy refurbished crock pots, but somehow he had managed it. I sat there, cross legged on my shag brown carpet, on the phone with my mother, upset and sadly rocking the lid back and forth on my refurbished crock pot. It wasn't supposed to rock that much.
After a few failed attempts and a good amount of phone-bitching to Ben, he has just about convinced me to send the crock pot to Goodwill and simply buy a new one, when the lucky boy proposed. I then promptly talked myself out of Goodwill/buy a new one plan, content to wait for the glorious days of wedding registry and gifts. However, that left me with several months without one. And I'm not about to give up on yummy, convenience dreams. Enter, tinfoil, stage right. A few extra minutes in the morning, along with a few choice words, and I have a somewhat tight seal on my crock pot. Those few strips of tinfoil is what I plan on getting me through the next months. Not that that will spare poor Ben from a few annoyed phone calls, but hey, he knew what he was getting into.
PS - My brother does now have a wonderful girlfriend who he is living with, whom we all adore. Basically, we're waiting for her to officially join the family, hint, hint, wink, wink...
Chicken and Black Bean Soup
Adapted from: A Year of Slow Cooking
As is the theme as of late, this was a quick and easy dinner (inherent to crock pot meals). Simple, yummy and it makes great left overs. Extras go great in the freezer and make for some additional quick and easy lunches later on (tried and true).
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 c. frozen corn
1 jar (16 oz) prepared salsa (I used Pace Medium)
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
Plain Greek Yogurt
Cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper jack)
Layer black beans in the bottom of the crock pot. Lay chicken breasts on top. Pour remaining ingredients over top, making sure chicken is submerged in liquid. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Once done, remove chicken from soup. Shred chicken into bite size pieces. Using immersion blender, blend soup into desired thickness. Return shredded chicken back to soup.
I found the best way to serve this was to place some cooked quinoa in the bottom of a bowl and ladle a good amount of soup over top. Garnish with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of cheese. Enjoy!