Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Taking the Stress Out of Meal Planning

Deciding what to have for dinner is one of the most stressful parts of my day. I knew I needed a tool or plan to make it easier for me to face the dinner hour, so my husband and I put our heads together and came up with some ideas.

Sometime during the weekend my husband and I look over our calendar for the upcoming week and make a plan. We discuss what days of the week will be easier for a home cooked meal, what evenings will be best for leftovers and when we might need to get take-out or dine out.

Whatever the case, it has reduced my stress at the end of the day and has also reduced our food budget!!

Another part of this process has been to decide what day I can try a new recipe. I tend to make the same things week after week and mealtime can get a bit boring. In an effort to do one of those “someday” things on my list, I’ve been perusing cookbooks for new recipes.

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook is one of those “go-to” cookbooks for me because I know I can find a recipe that is usually very tasty and easy to put together before my day gets crazy.

I love a good soup and Chicken Tortilla Soup is one of my favorites. After reviewing the list of ingredients for this new version of a traditional recipe I decided to give it a try. It is now marked in my cookbook as a “keeper”!

Taking the stress out of meal planning | a solution for busy creatives | MamaBleu.com

(slightly revised from the original recipe)

one 28oz can diced tomatoes, with their juice
one 10oz can red or green enchilada sauce (I used the green for a milder flavor)
1 medium size yellow or white onion, chopped
one 4oz can chopped green chiles, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups water
one 14.5oz can chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 bay leaf
¾ tsp dried oregano
1 ½ lbs boneless roasted chicken, shredded (I used leftover chicken)
one 10oz can Hominy (Mexican corn), drained

Tortilla Chips
8 yellow or white soft corn tortillas
3 Tbsp light olive oil

For Serving
finely shredded cheddar or jack cheese
sour cream thinned with a few Tbsp milk, crema Mexicana or sour cream
sliced avocado
sprigs of fresh cilantro

  1. Combine the tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, chiles, garlic, cilantro, water, broth, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and oregano in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-2.5 hours.
  2. Add the shredded chicken and corn, cover, and continue to cook on LOW for another hour. Discard the bay leaf
  3. I used store bought tortilla chips but if you want to make your own - Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of each tortilla with some of the oil. With a knife, cut the tortillas in ⅖ x 1 inch strips. Spread out the tortilla strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake until crisp but not browned, turning once halfway through baking, 8-10 minutes.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle each serving with tortilla strips and grated cheese. Top with a tablespoon of sour cream or crema Mexicana, then with a few slices of avocado and cilantro sprigs.

Serves 4-5

NOTE: In my effort to cut out dairy from my diet I decided not to add the cheese and cream on top. Also, if you want to make this a vegetarian meal, this soup has plenty of flavor and texture without the chicken.

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