Something about the cooler temperatures softens my heart to the plight of the squirrel*, and I too am squirreling away some freezer meals for the coming days. Part of my motivation is to use the rest of my garden produce before a surprise frost destroys what is left, and the rest of my motivation? Simply to have meals ready to go at any moment. Like the squirrel anticipating spring, I am preparing for dinner on those inevitable busy days that are just a normal part of our life.
Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring.
Laundry, School, Cleaning, Eating.
As the first investment in my freezer stockpile, I pulled together this Chicken Fajita Soup. My jalapeno peppers are growing prolifically, and my onions have rebounded after a dry, trying summer. The cherry tomato plants have not missed a beat and are producing round little beauties at alarming rates. For this soup, the ingredients collaborate for a filling, mildly spicy, warming soup.
Chicken Fajita Soup
1. In a 5 quart pot, place 8 bone-in chicken thighs and fill the rest of the pot about 3/4 full with water (12-13 cups). Add 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp each garlic powder and onion powder, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a steady simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked.
2. Remove chicken from broth and allow to cool. Reserve broth, straining if desired. Remove bones and skin from chicken (set aside to make additional chicken stock) and chop chicken into bite-sized pieces.
3. In a skillet with 3 Tbsp olive oil, saute 3 onions, coarsely chopped, and 3 jalapenos, seeded and chopped. (If you are braver than I when it comes to hot pepper heat, feel free to leave in some seeds!) When onions brown, remove from heat.
4. In a large bowl, combine chicken broth, chicken, onions and peppers, 4 cups cooked black beans, 3 cups fresh tomato puree, 4 tsp. cumin, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp. black pepper.
5. Divide soup into freezer containers, leaving headspace. (I filled 5 quart size ziploc bags.) Chill in refrigerator, and when completely cool, move to freezer.
6. To serve, thaw soup and simmer for at least an hour on the stovetop before serving. (Using a crock-pot for several hours is also a good idea here!) Serve either as soup, or extend it a little further by serving over individual bowls of rice. For garnish, we cut tortillas into strips and fried them in olive oil until they browned. These added a delightfully crunchy texture to our soup!
*I will clarify, that as much as I understand the cute little fluffy-tailed squirrel's plight to stockpile food for the coming days, I would appreciate it if he kept his little paws off the produce in my garden and chose a place to dig and hide his own stockpile someplace other than my nice garden soil! I will gladly offer him any part of my yard that he so desires. I'll even give him first dibs on the acorns. Fair enough?