Hearty Healthy Chicken Stew
with Chickpeas & Kale

Two things I love about coming back home at night: The lights already on as if to say, “Hey, welcome back, how’d it go today?” and supper a-simmer on the stove, filling the kitchen with spicy warmth. This chicken stew? It’s great to come home to. For Weight Watchers, just 4 points.

UPDATE on LAST WEEK'S COLUMN: Many of you wanted to know more about my friend Ann's success losing weight by combining Weight Watchers and Michael Pollan. She's answered your questions, just scroll down to the bottom of Weight Watchers, Meet Michael Pollan.

Hearty Healthy Chicken Stew with Chickpeas & Kale

Call me amazed that even after six years – six full years! – of learning and writing about vegetables for A Veggie Venture, I’m still learning! It is STILL an adventure, still big fun.

Many of my newest lessons are a side benefit of a new vegetable delivery service, Neighborgood Foods. It’s not a CSA, per se, since John and Andria aren’t themselves growers. Instead, they are good marketeers who have built a CSA-style service that meets the desires and demands of health-conscious families. They’re good people, if you’re in their delivery areas in St. Louis, I’d recommend a look-see.

Now for those lessons.

SIZE Size matters! If you want vegetables to disappear into a soup or stew, cut them into tiny pieces. If you want the vegetables to be identifiable – I’ve learned, I do – leave them in large pieces.

CARROTS To peel or not to peel? That’s always the question with carrots, isn’t it? I have mixed luck leaving carrots unpeeled. It works better when the carrots are extra-fresh (think just-picked, less than a week out of the ground) and still have their tops on, much less well with the standard supermarket variety of bagged carrots. As always, I recommend purchasing whole carrots for cooking. “Baby” carrots aren’t what they seem, just carrot bullets manufactured from large carrots. And you know how “wet” and bland the so-called baby carrots are? If you haven’t tasted a real carrot in awhile, I recommend it.

KALE I always kinda-sorta thought of leafy greens as interchangeable. But recently, after once-too-often substituting leafy spinach for kale, I have learned that kale is just something really special for stirring into hot soups and stews, though only at the end, just before serving. How can something like kale, a “bitter green” (have you seen my post on What Are Bitter Greens?), turn so soft and sweet? It’s worth the extra few minutes. Trader Joe’s sells bags of chopped frozen kale but I’m not a fan, the heavy stems need to be cut off anyway, making it way less convenient.

AND NOW A QUESTION I love the cookbook this Hearty Healthy Chicken Stew recipe is inspired by but wish that unusual techniques were explained. Does anyone know why recipes would specify adding a little salt to the pot when cooking the onions?

ALANNA’s TIPS This soup is half-soup, half-stew, that makes it a “stoop”, right? Right. I’ve made it twice, the basics are the chicken, the dried beans and the spices. After that, make it with whatever vegetables are on hand. The technique I use for cooking the stew down-down-down for two hours really concentrates the flavors with no more than fresh ingredients. Then more liquid is added, just enough for cooking the beans and kale. No chickpeas? "Chicken and chickpeas" just sounds so good but for color, use kidney beans. Slow cooker fans? I think this would adapt beautifully. I’d cook everything except the last-minute additions on low throughout the day or on high for an afternoon, then add the remaining ingredients just before serving.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes to start, 20 minutes to finish
Time to table: 3 hours
Makes 10 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut in large pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 carrots, cut in large pieces (see TIPS)
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 cups water
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans or frozen green beans (if frozen, it helps to thaw the beans at least 15 minutes)
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 ounces kale, washed well, heavy stems removed, leaves cut into ribbons (about 4 cups)

In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium heat until shimmery. Stir in onion and salt (see QUESTION), cook just until the onion is turning golden. Stir in tomatoes and garlic, cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in carrots, chicken, cumin, ginger and water.

Leave uncovered, bring to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let simmer for 2 hours to concentrate the flavors.

BEFORE SERVING (During this last step, you’ll adjust the temperature several times, increasing it to bring the soup back to a boil, then reducing it to simmer gently for cooking.) Stir in chicken stock and return soup to a boil. Stir in green beans and chickpeas, return to a boil, then let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in kale, return to a boil, then let simmer about 10 minutes or until beans and kale are fully cooked.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy! Reheats beautifully.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Cup: 205 Calories; 5g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 57mg Cholesterol; 460mg Sodium; 21g Carb; 5g Fiber; 4g Sugar; 18g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4, PointsPlus 4 This recipe has been 'Alanna-sized' with reductions in fat, increases in no-calorie and low-calorie flavor and nutrition from spices and vegetables.
Adapted from the always wonderful “The Way We Cook” by Sheryl Julian (food editor at the Boston Globe) and Julie Riven (former Boston Globe food columnist who now blogs at Cook, Nonna, Cook.

Their cookbook was recommended by a reader a few years ago, she thought we had similar cooking styles. Boy, was she right, so many recipes marked to make! It has a wintry feel, perfect for cold-weather cooking.

Chapter titles match real life, like “When You’re in a Rush” and “Dishes We Make All the Time” and “Good Enough for Company”. This recipe comes from “Simmering Pots”. Can’t you smell the chicken and spices simmering now?

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. What have you learned about vegetables lately? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

This Week, Years Past 2002 - 2012

Tiapinno - Herbed Fish Stew Sausage & Kale Split Pea Soup Light 'n' Easy Chocolate Pudding Baked Chicken with Herb-Roasted Potatoes Skillet Cornbread Salmon Chowder (<< this week's healthy favorite) Lemon Meringue Pie Easy Baked Fish Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberries Lemon Pudding Cake

This Week, Elsewhere

Butterscotch Pudding from Atlas Restaurant
My Column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

No-Cream Creamy Cauliflower Soup
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More Healthy Chicken & Vegetable Combinations

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
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© Copyright 2012 Kitchen Parade

Alanna, I would think the salt would encourage the onions to release more liquid, or quicker, anyway, which would let you use less fat for sauteing.

And I LOVE kale in soup! Over the past couple of years, kale has become one of my favorite greens.

You mentioned, in your notes, dried beans, but the recipe calls for a can of beans! I've pretty much gone over to the "dried bean" side - can I assume you'd add your soaked beans at the beginning of cooking, with the chicken?
Hi Kris ~ ahh yes, re the salt/onions, that's a great thought. Anyone else?

As for the beans, aiii, I so love careful readers who know that I'm very careful to say what I mean and mean what I say. In this case, though, you're a few steps ahead of me. I have only used canned beans (chickpeas once, kidney beans another time) but your suggestion to cook the soaked beans with the chicken is fascinating.

My only question is timing, would the beans get done? If they're "fresh" dried beans, yes I think so, but if they've been hanging around in the pantry for a few months, if it were me, I'd cook the beans separately and THEN add at the end.

PS As so often, we are on the same track, I've been cooking my own beans too. So good!

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna