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There's nothing better than warming up to a bowl of soup on a cold winter's day. Canned soups are convenient, but they lack the comfort brought on by a pot of homemade soup that's simmered on the stove for hours, sending wonderful aromas throughout the house.

With the strong possibility that cold weather is on the agenda for the next couple of months, is there any better time to make a pot of soup than right now?

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Anne Braly

Chicken noodle soup is the standby, but it's rather humdrum compared to all the other wonderful concoctions you can put together. I like a soup that talks to me — bold with good textures and a bite of spice.

Chicken soup isn't all celery and noodles, as you'll discover when making barbecue chicken soup and topping it off with cornbread croutons.

I started making cornbread croutons when I had leftover cornbread. I liked them so much, I found myself making cornbread just so I could make croutons. The actual cornbread became the leftovers to eat as a side dish to the soup.

This soup brings the essence of summer — barbecued chicken — into the kitchen for winter, making it the kind of meal you'll want to eat while cozied up under a blanket next to the fire.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken Soup With Cornbread Croutons

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/3 cup diced onion

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 can (15.25 ounces) fire-roasted corn

1 can (15.5 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed

5 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

1 cup barbecue sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Cornbread croutons:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 large pieces cornbread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Place chicken breasts in slow cooker with onion, garlic, corn and white beans. In large bowl, mix broth, barbecue sauce, red pepper flakes (if using), salt and pepper. Pour into slow cooker. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 6 hours.

Remove chicken breast from slow cooker, and shred using two forks. Place back into slow cooker. Cover; cook 30 minutes or until heated through. Ladle into bowls, and serve with cornbread croutons.

Croutons: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in skillet, and add garlic. Saute garlic for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Toss cornbread cubes with garlic oil and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool and serve.

COFFEE CATECHISM

If you've ever wondered why the coffee served in a coffeehouse tastes just a little bit better than the cup you prepare at home, the baristas at Mad Priest Coffee and Cocktails will serve up some answers in a Coffee Catechism series. Classes meet 10-11:30 a.m. monthly at 719 Cherry St.

The series starts Saturday with Coffee Extraction Basics/Brewing Science. Still to come are: Coffee Origins and Varietals, Feb. 16; Coffee Tasting and Evaluation, March 23; Tea Brewing and Tasting, April 6; Coffee at Home, April 20; and Latte Art, May 18.

Each class is limited to 10 participants and costs $10 per student. You can sign up through an EventBrite.com link on Mad Priest's Facebook page or by calling 423-541-1395.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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