Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder

Mother nature seems to be playing nicely with me lately. The summer months over here feel a lot like the desert -- dry and hot as all get out. Our deck overlooks the western sky making it a great spot to catch the sunset, however it can also roast you like a thanksgiving turkey.

Conveniently our grill is located on this very same hot deck. However, lately whenever I decide to grill for dinner, the clouds magically appear cooling the temperature and making grilling much more comfortable.
Likewise, when I decided to make this Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder I realized what I was up against. Hot spicy soup in the middle of summer? It seemed like a rediculous idea, but I went with it anyway. 

And wouldn't you know, the clouds came and the thunder rolled all afternoon dropping the temperature 20 degrees. It rained hard at first tapping the roof like a mad hatter, then soft and steady. The perfect weather for my chowder. I consider this a huge french kiss from Mother Earth herself.

With the crock pot set to low and the cream cheese and shredded cheese added, I set off on a drive. 
I turned left onto a windy dirt road and rolled down my window and took a deep breath. The whole earth smelled of wet pine needles, fresh mowed grass, and moist soil. There was the scent of wild roses coming from overgrown bushes filled with roses as small as your fingernails.
I kept driving and ran into three spotted fawns in the road (they ran to fast to get a picture, but they were adorable!). While stopping for them I smelled wild sage, damp aspen, and the rubber from my tires. Clouds lace the sky like Picasso's Cystene Chapel. 

On the way back home off in the distance was a rainbow over the mountains at sunset.
When I returned to my crock pot, big bowls were set out ready to be filled with this smokey, sweet chowder. 
The smells eminating throughout the house were as complex as Mother Earth with a savory,  yet spicy aroma mellowed by the sweet cream cheese and cheddar that were added in. Not to mention the roasted corn, salty ham, and bright minced garlic.

All was right with the world in that one moment when I topped my Black Bean and Ham Chowder with extra cheese..
and fresh cut cilantro...
And I took my first bite...

Life is delicious.

Now on with the recipe!

Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder
2 Ears Sweet Corn (or 2 cups frozen corn)
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Sweet Onion, Chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno Pepper; Minced
4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 (15 ounce) Can Low Sodium Black Beans; Rinsed
3 Cups Cooked Ham; Cubed
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Curry Powder
2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
salt and pepper to taste
4 Ounces Low Fat Cream Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Husk the corn and spray the corn with cooking spray and sprinkle each ear with salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. Once cooked remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing the corn kernels off the cob. ***Speedy Note: If you are a little rushed on time, you can add 2 cups of frozen corn and skip this step.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with one tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper and saute until the onion becomes translucent and the pepper starts to slightly soften and char on the outside (approximately 4-6 minutes).
3. Transfer to a large crock pot and add the chicken broth, corn (if using frozen), black beans, ham, liquid smoke, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, cayenne and salt and pepper. If using roasted corn add to the crock pot once it has been roasted, cooled, and cut off the cob.
4. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. After this time add the cream cheese. Then in a bowl combine the shredded cheese and flour and add to the crock pot. Stir until combined and cook for another 30 minutes.
4. Serve hot and garnish with extra cheese and fresh cilantro!
Servings: 8 (approx 1 cup)

Nutritional Skinny:

240 calories / 8.5 g fat / 18 g carbohydrates / 4 g fiber / 21 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: Chowder is one of those heart soothing, mind calming, and body comforting foods that will cure whatever ails you. Whether it's a frazzled mind, a broken heart, or a wounded ego. This chowder will help. The crock pot also makes this a no brain recipe that you can't mess up. Throw this in the crock pot and consider this dinner one of your many successes of the day.

The end.

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