Confession: I LOVE my slow cooker. I recognize that it doesn't necessarily take a lot of culinary expertise to chop up some vegetables, brown some meat and throw them in a pot with some sauce and seasonings, but dude is it easy! Plus when you walk into your apartment after work, you can smell the delicious food that is just waiting to jump on your plate. All the work has been done while you've been off at work yourself. Perfection on a lazy night! :)
Another confession: Soup on a 95 degree day is not always the best idea... Summer is out in full force this week in IL and Monday was a hot and humid day. I set up this soup, which is fairly light and summer-y in regards to the flavors, in the morning. When I got home, I added the grilled chicken and tomatoes and let it go for the remaining 30 minutes. While I was waiting for it to be ready for consumption, I went for a walk... outside... wearing jeans... (did I mention it was still like 90 degrees outside at 7:00 pm?). I finished the walk, ate my soup, and sat down to watch some TV. About 5 minutes after sitting on the couch, I was sweating up a storm. I may have stood in front of my fan for 10 minutes just trying to decrease the body temperature.
I probably should have looked at the weather forecast alongside my meal planning this week. I mean, today would have been a great day for this soup. A cooler front has come through, we got a little bit of rain, and the temperature is in the high 60s. Ah well, the lessons you learn. That's why I'm telling you- either make sure you've got some good air conditioning or wait until the temperatures are in the 60-80s to make this soup. It is worth it though. It's great! And the leftovers are perfect for lunch.
My favorite part was probably chopping the fennel. The anise flavor makes you think you're about to eat some black licorice. Don't worry, the soup doesn't taste like licorice. Also, recipe.com suggests using the precooked packaged grilled chicken from the deli section. I chose to grill some myself. Do what you like.
Also, note in the picture, I served the soup in a homemade bread bowl. I made these awhile ago (pre-blog) with whole wheat flour and froze the extras (thawed and rebaked to have with this meal). I don't love these bread bowls, so I'm not going to be sharing the recipe with you. They just turned out a little too fluffy and not quite crusty enough for a bread bowl, in my opinion. I'm going to play around with some more recipes and come up with a fabulous one worthy of sharing on the blog. If you're looking for homemade bread bowls right now, I would suggest buying frozen french bread dough from the grocery store and using that. Or pop over to Panera and buy some bread from them. Or just serve the soup in a regular bowl with some crusty bread on the side. You definitely need that bread for dipping. ;)
Slow Cooker Chicken and Bean Soup (adapted from recipe.com)
1 cup dry great northern beans
6 cups cold water
1 cup chopped onion (1 small to medium onion)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
4 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium, preferred)
1 large chicken breast
1 tsp grill seasoning
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste
Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper and the grill seasoning. Grill for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through. I used my George Forman for this, but you can use a grill pan or an outside grill as well. Or just sear it off in a pan. Cool and cut into bite sized pieces. Store in refrigerator until ready to add to soup.
The night before you are going to start your slow cooker, combine the dry beans with the 6 cups of cold water in a large pot. Let soak overnight.
Drain and rinse the beans. Combine beans with the onion, fennel, carrots, garlic, parsley, thyme and chicken broth in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or high for 4-5 hours).
Turn your slow cooker to high and add the chopped cooked chicken and the diced tomatoes (including liquid from the can). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 30 min on high until everything is heat thoroughly.