Spicy Southwestern Chicken Soup

We are not on a diet, per se, but we are making a concious effort to cut calories in general. Replacing a larger dinner with a flavorful low-calorie soup once or twice a week is a satisfying way to do so without feeling deprived. This particular soup is perfect because it is not high in calories,  tastes great, and is chocked full of protein.

Spicy Southwestern Chicken Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped (green or red)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
1 cup frozen corn
1 14.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I like petite diced)
1 zucchini, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus additional for garnish
crispy tortilla strips for garnish (optional)
crumbled queso fresco (or feta) (optional)
lime wedges (optional)

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Saute until the vegetables are tender, then add the chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. Continue to saute until spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, add the broth, chicken, corn, black beans, tomatoes, and zucchini.  Bring to a boil and then reduced heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add cilantro and serve. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with additional fresh cilantro, crispy tortilla strips, queso fresco, and a wedge of lime.

Hard Apple Cider Bread

My husband was obviously trying to get me drunk last Saturday night because he kept opening bottles of hard apple cider for me to drink.  Since my last pregnancy and the subsequent breastfeeding, I’m out of practice and my alcohol tolerance is a bit low. I was only able to drink one hard apple cider and ended up with two open bottles. I hate to waste anything, so I put them in the fridge. Sunday morning I woke up thinking about beer bread and thought I could substitute hard cider for beer in my favorite beer bread recipe. I tweaked my recipe slightly, adding a bit more (brown) sugar and a dash of cinnamon. The house smelled so good and apple-y while the bread was baking. I was very happy with the results. The bread was not overly sweet, but had a definite apple taste. We enjoyed it. It made great toast the next day too. I think the additon of chopped apples and walnuts would be an excellent. I will have to try that next time.

Hard Apple Cider Bread

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1  12 oz. bottle hard cider (I used Woodchuck Draft Cider ~ Granny Smith Varietal) at room temperature

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the hard cider and stir until just combined.

Spray a bread loaf pan with cooking spray, then pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool completely before removing the loaf from the bread pan to slice.