Thursday, February 21, 2013

Southwestern bean soup with chicken and kale (7-can soup)

Southwestern bean soup with chicken and kale (aka 7-can soup)
I'm excited to tell you about this recipe -- probably way too excited, actually, as it is only soup.

But what a soup, my friends!

Regular readers know that my favorite recipes are those that meet the following criteria:
  1. Must be delicious
  2. Must be simple, ingredient-wise, so it can be made with pantry staples rather than a trip to an exotic market, as well as wicked easy to prepare (read: no creme brulee torches required)
  3. Should be stealthily healthy (that is, one bite should not prompt Mr. Ninj to say, "This must be good for me, right?")
This bean soup? Check, check and check.

About the same time I was reading in Eating Well magazine about low-calorie power soups inspired by a Weight Watchers garden vegetable soup, my friend Maria -- who I trust as an authority on healthy-yet-flavorful recipes, given that she is a caterer who also recently lost over 90 pounds -- posted the recipe for another Weight Watchers favorite: Seven-Can Soup.

The name says it all: seven cans of ingredients, thrown together in a pot, heated though and served.

Ridiculously easy!

I was really skeptical at first (just a bunch of canned stuff? really?), especially because one of the seven cans is refried beans, which I hate (it's a texture thing). I talked to Maria about omitting the refried beans but she cautioned against it, as they are what gives the soup some body.

Let's just say I'm glad I didn't omit the refried beans in the end.

My only variations to the original recipe were to add some chopped kale and to use cooked chicken rather than canned chicken. Canned chicken is a great pantry staple to have on hand for whipping up a quick chicken salad on the weekend, but I didn't think it would hold up well in the soup.

So we've covered criteria #2 and #3: what about #1, deliciosity?

Double check. I decided to lure you in today by renaming the soup with more of a taste description than a practical one. The salsa, beans and corn give it a nice spicy, southwestern flavor, which it will still retain if you decide to make a vegetarian version by substituting mushroom broth for the beef broth and omitting the chicken. Feel free to make any other modifications you like: adding some cooked rice along with the kale might make it a little more gumbo-esque.

I have already made this soup three times since the new year, given how effortless it is. If you keep all the necessary cans in the pantry, this bean soup is the perfect dinner after returning home from a trip, rather than ordering take-out.

Do you have any favorite easy-and-healthy soup recipes? The Ninj wants to know.

Southwestern Bean Soup with Chicken and Kale, aka Seven-Can Soup
(adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe via The View from the Last Row)
There's no need to follow exact measurements here: if the can you buy is a little larger or a little smaller than what is listed here, it won't matter a bit.

1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium beef broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (I like those that are fire-roasted)
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added corn
1 16-ounce can fat-free refried beans
1 15-ounce can black beans
2 cups diced cooked chicken
8 ounces bottled salsa (I use mild)
2 cups chopped kale (optional)
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a soup pot and heat thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Seriously, that's it.


  1. My kind of recipe!! Thanks to you and Maria.

    I have a cooking light quick-meals cookbook that you'd love, and there's a nice soup recipe in there called something like "italian white bean soup". It uses white beans (duh), canned chicken broth, canned tomatoes, and jarred pesto for the seasoning. I'm sure could easily add whatever else you wanted, the pesto really makes it.

    1. I think the best thing about your comment is that I GAVE YOU THAT COOKBOOK FOR XMAS ONE YEAR. :-)

    2. Actually, this is a different one; the recipes all involve using convenience items, like rotisserie chicken, frozen veggies, etc.

      But I do love the one you gave me, too, I use it a lot!

    3. OK, that's fair. ;-) Sounds like a good one!!

  2. I have an equivalent easy-peasy-good-for-you soup that uses frozen veggies with beans and broth in the Trader Joe's-purchased proportions!

    1 carton vegetable broth
    1 can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted or regular)
    2 cans beans (any type - I usually use black and kidney), rinsed and drained
    2 bags of frozen vegetables (I usually use mixed veggies and a leafy green)
    4 cloves minced garlic
    1 teaspoon basil
    1/2 teaspoons oregano
    1/2 teaspoon thyme
    a shake or two of hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
    black pepper and salt to taste

    1. Excellent -- this sounds just as easy, which is right up my alley. Thanks for sharing!!