Weeknights are easy! Secret weapons in the kitchen

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One of the greatest secret weapon ingredients I know is chipotles in adobo sauce. These are smoked jalapeno peppers that have been stewed in a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and various spices, such as cumin, oregano and paprika. Imagine doing all that yourself! No thanks! Luckily, the whole thing — peppers and sauce — is sold in tiny cans at just about every grocer.

The easiest way to use these peppers and sauce is to puree the whole thing. I just dump the contents of the can right into the food processor or blender. Then I store the puree in a sealed container in the fridge. Whenever a soup, stew or a chili (or anything that calls for a little touch of smoky heat) needs a little something extra, in goes a tablespoon or two of the puree.

Speaking of secret weapons, one of the best appliances to earn that description is the slow cooker. For many of us, this handy kitchen cooker takes up permanent residence on the counter during the colder months. The unparalleled pleasure of walking into your home at the end of a long day to be greeted by the scent of a cooked meal is hard to overstate.

In this chili, these two secret weapons join together to turn juicy and moist boneless, skinless chicken thighs into a somewhat spicy and couldn't-be-easier chili. I often make chili with ground chicken or turkey, which we all love, but it was nice to change it up with real cubes of chicken. This one is a definite weeknight keeper.

Slow cooker chicken chili

Start to finish: 4 to 6 hours on high, 6 to 8 hours on low (15 minutes active)

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons pureed chipotles in adobo sauce

28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Two 15 1/2-ounce cans black beans, drained

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Kosher salt

Shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend

Sour cream

Directions:

In a large slow cooker, combine the onion, carrots, garlic, chipotles in adobo, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin and beans. Stir to combine, then add the chicken and stir again. Cook in the slow cooker on high for 4 to 6 hours, or low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir in the scallions and lime juice just before serving. Taste, then season with salt. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on the side.

Nutrition information per serving: 410 calories; 110 calories from fat (27 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 175 mg cholesterol; 910 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrate; 9 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 44 g protein.


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