Crock Pot fall soup with butternut squash, chicken, coconut milk and… peanut butter

Just so we’re clear, I love peanut butter and would use it in/on everything if that was an acceptable option. From this information you can derive that I was more than excited to add it to this batch of soup. You can omit it if you’re dealing with allergies, but “hint of pb” goes a long way in it if you are cleared for peanut consumption.

I made this soup the same day I had the pleasure of staying late at the gym to workout with Tony Horton. What an excellent excuse to work late, and a wonderful dinner to come home to.

Before I start with the recipe, I’ll cover some variations for this soup. You can use rotisserie chicken (pulled/chopped with skin removed) as a shortcut, dark or white meat will work equally well – you could even use turkey to make it taste more like Thanksgiving; the cayenne is optional if you’re not into spice; you can puree the squash (or use frozen butternut squash puree) rather than cube it depending on your desired consistency.

This soup is perfect for fall and full of protein, good carbs, and spices that will make you feel warm from the inside out.

Spiced Butternut Squash and Chicken Soup

  • 1 3lb butternut squash cubed (Click here for instructions on peeling and chopping these tough buggers!)
  • 1 pkg (just under 2lbs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp of each of the following: ginger, cumin, cinnamon, paprika (smoked paprika, preferably)
  • 2 tsp curry
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • salt and pepper

Add cubed squash, red pepper and dried cranberries to the slow-cooker /crock pot. Salt and pepper the chicken and cook with red onion in olive oil until you can’t see anymore pink on the outside of the chicken. While chicken and onion cook, mix all remaining ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. It’s okay if peanut butter doesn’t separate while stirring. It will blend easily by stirring once the soup is hot from cooking. Add chicken and onion to crock pot and pour liquid-spice mixture over it. Mix with a wooden spoon, and don’t worry about the liquid not appearing to be enough. It will all cook down and magically turn into soup.

Cook on med-high for 4-6 hours (medium if all day). Before serving, scoop out about 1.5 cups of the squash and mash it up with a fork. Stir the mashed squash back in to make the soup thicker and creamier. Give it a taste and add more s&p if your tastes say it needs it.

Serve on its own, or you can top soup with a spoonful of yogurt, cilantro, basil, toasted squash seeds or parmesan.


Recipe: Aromatic Pork Loin, Northern Beans, and… Jello

What could be better than a great meal of protein and fiber, followed by a dessert you won’t regret eating?
I ran across a rub recently that called for zest and fennel seed and, because I normally reach for garlic and herbs, I was excited to try out something different. You can never go wrong with a pork loin – they’ll always come out tender, and leftovers make for great sandwiches, so I decided it would be my test subject. I’m also on a bean kick right now, and I wanted a meal that would all end up in one dish, thus the beans going in with the loin.
The dessert portion of this recipe came to me after I made the rub. I was staring at a juicy orange that had just been stripped, but I wasn’t hungry enough at the time to chow down. Not wanting to waste it, I looked for another way to use it. I had a box of lemon jello mix in the pantry and 1/2 cup of leftover coconut milk in the fridge, so I decided to put them altogether. I like cream and citrus together, so I liked my odds.
In the end, the meal turned out great, and I felt great after eating it. What more could a person ask for?
Ideally, you should marinate your pork and make the jello at the same time. That way, they’re both ready to go when you’re ready to put together your meal.
Pork Loin with Zest-Fennel Rub and White Beans
  • 1 Tbsp fennel seed
  • 3 garlic cloves – minced
  • zest of one orange (save the insides for your jello)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pork loin (the one I used was just under 2 lbs)
  • 2 cans of northern beans
  • juice of one lemon
Rub your pork loin with salt and pepper. Work the first 5 ingredients into a paste and rub all over the pork loin. Cover and marinate for at least 3-5 hours. Preheat oven to 400. Combine beans and lemon juice, and set aside. Bake pork for 30 minutes, remove from oven, add beans to the same pan/dish and stir around so that some of the juices mingle with the beans. Return to oven for another 15 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes once done. Serve hot and enjoy!
Alternatively, you could cook the pork loin in a crockpot and add the beans just before serving.
Not Bill Cosby’s Jello
  • Pulp from orange you zested for the pork (I used blood orange, but they’re more easy to come by in Italy)
  • 1 package of sugar-free lemon jello mix
  • 1/2 cup of coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups of cold water
Combine coconut milk with 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add jello mix and stir until dissolved. Add 1 cup of cold water. Spread pulp in jello mold dish. Pour jello mixture over the pulp. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours so it has plenty of time to solidify.

Recipe: Slow cooker turkey breast soup

Mother Nature is trying to push Spring our way, but so far the weather seems pretty indecisive. Between the pollen and the random chilly days it’s tough to stay healthy.

At the first sniffle of a stuffy nose, my soup craving begins. The trouble is I know now how much sodium is in the old chicken noodle soup I used to eat. I don’t really want to be stuffy AND swollen, so I have to be choosy with anything canned. Soup is a great option for a healthy diet, as long as it isn’t brimming with preservatives, cream, etc.

Organizing the refrigerator (yes, I do that, and I enjoy it) this past weekend I found a frozen turkey breast and had a Clueless moment as I said, “Project!” They sell frozen turkey breasts year-round, we just don’t think to make turkey except for on Thanksgiving – when it’s a major task.

The recipe below turned out to be one of the best, easiest soups I’ve ever made. Whether you’re in perfect health or not, it will make you feel good. Because it’s cooked in a slow cooker, it’s also an easy meal that requires minimal hands-on time.

Slow cookers, crockpots, whatever you prefer to call them, are wonderful because they do the work for you. You get to come home to a house that smells like someone’s been cooking for you all day. I should add that my husband thinks this must be torture for our dog.

In conclusion, this is, indeed, turkey soup for the soul – just not the dog’s soul.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast Soup…for the soul

Serves 4

  • Defrosted turkey breast
  • 1 Tbsp. prepared pesto
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 14oz cans of chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup frozen diced onion
  • 1 cup frozen sliced carrots
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • Optional: any frozen veggies of your choice, low sodium crackers for topping

Remove excess fat/skin from the turkey breast, but leave the main piece of skin over the top. Combine pesto, olive oil and pepper and rub all over turkey and under skin. Put turkey breast in slow cooker and pour half a can of broth around it (around, not over, as you don’t want to rinse off the seasoning). If you’re in a hurry, cook on med-high for 4 hours. If you’ll be gone all day, leave it on med-low for 7 hours. After the initial cooking time, you should be able to pull the turkey breast apart with a large fork easily without removing it from the cooker. Once it’s well separated, add frozen vegetables and remaining chicken broth. Turn up to high and cook for another 30-45 mins, or until it has reached and held a simmer for at least 15 minutes.

Serve hot with crumbled crackers on top. Whoever is served the piece of turkey skin can just discard it.

Turn your cooker back down to med-low to keep it warm for seconds. Save leftovers in fridge or freezer.