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  • Writer's pictureElise

Virtual Cook Book Club: November's Spice Is Bay Leaves!

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

We've made our cook book club virtual! We may not be able to meet in person and cook for one another, but that doesn't mean we can't create together. Each month we will highlight a different spice or seasoning. Kits will include this spice, a recipe that highlights it, a little history on the spice or recipe, and some best practices. I'll post the recipes and information here as well, so let's get cooking!


A Short Look at the History of Bay Leaves

Adapted and abridged from Britannica and The Epicentre

Bay leaf, also known as the laurel leaf, is the leaf of the sweet bay tree (Laurus nobilis) is an evergreen originally indigenous to the Mediterranean area and has since been introduced around the world and become a number of different variants. The bay leaf has been used both as a popular spice in pickling, marinating, stews, stuffing, fish, etc., and as a symbol of victory. Ancient Greeks not only used it in their cooking but as the wreaths around the heads of athletic victors and as symbolic crowns on the heads of their leaders, heroes and poets. It is said that the Delphi oracle chewed the leaves or sniffed their smoke to promote her visionary trances. In fact, there are many stories in Greek mythology that date back to the laurel and it is seen as a symbol of honor and glory that continues to this day. Think of the fact that we have poet laureates and betting a bachelor degree means you are a baccalaureate. Both originate with the laurel/bay tree.

Cooking with Bay Leaves

Adapted from Britannica, The Epicentre, and MasterClass

Traditionally, the leaves are used whole and then removed from the dish after cooking, although they can sometimes be found and/or used in powdered form for extra strength. Rarely are they eaten directly. Whole leaves can will retain their flavor for over two years, if

stored out of light in a cool, dry place. They are widely used in soups, sauces, stews, seasonings for fish, meat poultry, and as pickling spices.

There are a number of varieties. The most common, the Mediterranean bay leaf (aka Turkish bay leaf) is known for its heady tea-like flavor with notes of menthol and noted for its oval shape. The Californian bay leaf (aka Oregon myrtle or Pepperwood) has a stronger flavor with hints of eucalyptus. It is also more slender than its Mediterranean cousin. Less common are the Indian, West Indian, Indonesian, and Mexican bay leaves. They vary slightly in shape, flavor and aroma, with distinctions as having a cinnamon-like taste, being used to create cologne, or simply having a subtler flavor than the Californian bay leaf.

Whichever you choose to use, this is one of the more classic herbs with a long and lauded history. It is well worth a taste.

The Main Event:

Chicken Enchilada Slow Cooker Soup

Prep: 15 mins ● Cook: 6 hrs 30 mins ● Total: 6 hrs 45 mins ● Servings: 6 For full Nutritional Information, please see for details.


1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1 (15.25 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes including juice

1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth

1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce

1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles

1 white onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 whole bay leaves (remove before eating)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)


  1. Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts, then place into the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the corn, tomatoes, chicken broth, enchilada sauce, green chiles, onion, cilantro, bay leaves, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper. In other words, empty all ingredients into the crockpot.

  2. Cook on Low for 6 hours. Transfer the chicken to a large plate, then shred the meat with two forks. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and continue cooking for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  3. Enjoy! Especially good with a nice dollop of sour cream and some shredded tortilla chips on top. And for you Brown Deer, Wisconsinites, you can't go wrong with a little cheese sprinkled over everything!

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