It’s FINALLY starting to cool down in Sacramento. I know I’m not alone in saying it’s about dang time! Since the beginning of the month, it seems I haven’t been able to get in my car without hearing a “pumpkin spice” sales pitch… as I sat there and baked in the sun (insert pumpkin pie joke here). As the season goes from Summer to Fall, the weather isn’t the only thing that’s changing. The cooler weather brings with it Holiday parties, homecoming, and – an office favorite – football! As our schedules get increasingly hectic, one of the first things that a lot of people begin to cut corners on is eating healthy. Even though calling in for take out in between practices and recitals is much easier than spending 45 minutes in the kitchen throwing something edible together, is the convenience of the drive through really worth negating all of the hard work you put into your diet and exercise regime during the warmer months? I sure don’t think so!
Let’s welcome the Slow Cooker back to the party! A busy schedule Fall favorite, the slower cooker does the cooking for you. The morning of, or even the night before, you play the role of sous chef, chopping and dicing as needed, and when you’re ready… it’s time for the culinary pool party! Throw your ingredients into the slow cooker, season as needed, and go about your day! Seriously, if you aren’t utilizing your slow cooker, you’re missing out. You can make breakfast (check back in December for a ready-to-eat Christmas morning breakfast!), lunch, dinner, and even dessert in this bad boy! Today though, to fully immerse myself in the less-than-90-degree-weather, it’s all about soup. At the first sign of dark clouds, this recipe is goin’ down! Here it is in all of it’s seasonally appropriate glory.. Crockpot Chicken Veggie Quinoa Soup!! You knew I was going to sneak some quinoa in there. Protein is always welcome at Camp NorCal! 😉
Optional toppings: low-fat sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh lime wedges or lime juice
Trim the fat of the chicken breasts or thighs. If using breasts, cut each breast into 3 large even pieces.
Place the chicken breasts or thighs in the bottom of a large crockpot. I use a 6 quart crockpot.
Add in the drained and rinsed pinto beans, drained corn, thinly sliced carrots, sliced celery, diced onion, quinoa (rinse if not pre-rinsed to remove the bitter saponin coating), orange juice (or extra broth), undrained can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Ro-Tel), tomato paste, minced garlic, and chicken broth or stock.
Add about 1 teaspoon seasoned salt (or to taste) and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste), bay leaves, chicken seasoning blend (or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon), cajun seasoning, oregano, ground cumin, and paprika.
Stir and then cover and cook on high for 3-5 hours or until the chicken easily shreds and the quinoa has “popped.” My crockpot takes about 3 hours. The longer it cooks, the more liquid the quinoa absorbs which is why I don’t recommend cooking on low unless you are fine with a stew 🙂
Remove the chicken and shred. Return to the crockpot.
Remove the bay leaves and then enjoy the soup topped with optional toppings such as fresh cilantro, fresh lime, sour cream (we use low fat), and additional cajun seasoning, salt, pepper.
For a “brothier” soup just add a few extra cups of chicken broth to desired preference! *I use McCormick cajun seasoning which tends to be a bit more mild than others. Scale up or down to personal preference.