It's getting a little more chilly and rainy here as fall finally dons her hat, so I thought I'd share my excuse for a soup that is really chunky chili stew for the occasion. We made this soup awhile ago actually, but I'm behind on blogging here at Cindalou's due to much excitement and distraction in the "real" world. The bank bailouts and election coverage in the media are more intriguing than pepper stew, but they certainly lack the Vitamins A and C and healing capsaicin that the peppers pack. Capsicum is a collection of compounds found in chili peppers with amazing pain-reducing abilities when taking both internally and externally (with caution). There has been recent hype concerning the age-old capsicum and cayenne, also a source of the compounds, for use in arthritis creams and other topical aches and pains. Other benefits of capsicum include better digestion, ulcer treatment, a slight metabolism boost for weight loss, and some gentle pain relief. Personally, I'd rather eat a spicy stew than take a pill or use an external cream, though Jon swears the stew is what causes his pain ("mouth fire") :)
Late summer brings us the last of the pepper harvest around here, so drag out your slowcooker and stuff it full of some hot peppers and seasonal fall produce, or sit back to watch the fireworks on CNN. Hey, as bad as your lips and tongue sting at the spice (which is actually releasing aspirin-like compounds called salycilates and endorphins inside your body during digestion to relieve the pain), that spice is not as bad as the rhetoric on the economy. (Oh, and the white pepper innards hold the spice, not the seeds, so watch out!) Don't blame me for loving spice: I'm related to the Scovilles, though not the namesake of the Scoville pepper rating scale.
photo courtesy of squidoo hot sauce blog
3 large organic carrots 4 jalapeños, whole 1 habanero, whole (optional) 1 fresh, large, green banana pepper 1 red cherry pepper 1/2 green wax pepper 6 cloves fresh garlic 4 large whole thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs) 2 ears fresh corn, sliced off ear OR 2/3 lb. frozen corn kernels 2-3 sundried tomatoes 1/2 can large black olives, drained 1 28 oz can organic crushed tomatoes 1 large onion 2 c. low sodium gluten free chicken broth (We use Imagine*) ~12 c. water (enough to cover the chicken breasts in your slow cooker, we have a large Crockpot) ~1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (to taste) 1 7 oz. can fire roasted diced green chilies
Seasonings: rosemary garlic powder sea salt and pepper dash cayenne pepper (optional but highly recommended for optimal health whallop) dash crushed red pepper flakes parsley
Optional add ins (if you have on hand): 1/2 bag (5 oz) of fresh, washed organic baby spinach or other dark greens 2 stalks organic celery, washed
First, wash and pat dry all of the peppers, celery, and greens. I minced about half the garlic and reserved the rest of the whole cloves for the soup. Slice the peppers (wear a glove if you're sensitive to the oil) to your liking and set aside. I finely chopped my jalapeños, but roughly sliced the longer wax and banana peppers and quartered the cherry peppers. The habanero I leave whole in the soup for the "winner" (around here, that's me since Jon's terrified of it). If you do choose to chop up the habanero, be aware that your soup spice level will go through the roof as the oils disperse in the broth. Don't fret about all the different varieties of peppers, substitute ones you like. Note that sweet bell peppers will not have the capasicin-loaded benefits, but they are still excellent sources of Vitamin C (especially eaten raw).
Drizzle the olive oil into the slowercooker and place the washed chicken breasts in the bottom of the slowcooker. I chose to slice the corn off the cob and add the kernels directly to the Crockpot. Chop the carrots and celery and add to the pot as well. If you're adding any heavy greens like mustards or kale, chop and add them now as well. Either add whole sundried tomatoes, or chop them with kitchen shears and add to the pot. Add in all of your seasonings, broth, and water.
If you're using a Crockpot, make sure your's is large enough for all of the liquid. Cook the soup on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 5-7 hours - whichever timing fits your schedule best. Serve hot with a garnish of avocado wedges and a squeeze of lime. If you have fresh basil available, some chopped basil would be wonderful sprinkled on top right before serving.
* Imagine broths and soups are kosher, gluten and dairy free (depending on type). They are also non-GMO (not genetically modified). I buy the low sodium versions of the vegetable and free-range chicken broths.
A Brief (Incomplete) Synopsis of capsicum benefits: