Friday, June 24, 2011

Tortilla soup (...or IS IT??)

Big things come in sets of three, right?? I know that bad things do... but what about good things, too?? Banana splits have three flavors, for example. Dad got three flavors of cookies for Father's Day, and I'm about to give you one soup recipe that can be three different, wonderful things.

I love salads. They're crunch, fresh, healthy, and no heating up the kitchen in a sticky summer. However, sometimes people with digestive diseases (like Crohn's or IBD) have problems digesting raw vegetables (mmm, fiber!!).
With all the warm weather, and cooking rich foods way more than I was used to during class, I haven't been feeling super great lately. And I sometimes let myself get over-worked (big surprise) and then I feel even worse because my body is tired but my brain isn't. And then I get frustrated because I see myself as weak, and then I don't let myself rest because that's weakness. This is all, of course, crazy train. If I admit to being crazy, that means I'm not actually crazy, right? Because crazy people don't know that they're crazy... please say right. Obviously, a huge challenge with any chronic disease is self-acceptance. It's just as hard with the Crohn's (something that not everyone can see, but I feel), as it is with the Alopecia (something everyone feels, but doesn't hurt me). They're challenging for different reasons, and often at different times, but what they have in common is acceptance. And lately, I've been eating what I want (not what I should) and today I feel a little crummy because of it. That was dumb. Admitting to crazy and dumb... I'm on a roll.
One of the ways to ease digestion of tasty, tasty vegetables is to cook them. Obviously, not a treat anyone is looking forward to on hot days (at least, I can assume... being in the northwest, we've only had one hot day this year...). These soups I am about to show you cook up quickly, with lots of tummy friendly vegetables, and it's light and fresh enough to not melt you on a hot summer's night. The recipe below was roughly inspired by the great and wonderful Emeril Lagasse. However, if you look at the recipe, you'll find that first he makes his own chicken stock, then he makes corn tortillas and then fries them into chips. AND THEN HE STARTS THE SOUP. I mean really?? I'm a busy woman here!! I have a hungry husband and two cats that think they're dogs. I don't have time for your silliness, oh great and knowledgeable Emeril. First of all, I am of the opinion that store-bought stock is worth the money, and it won't heat up your home like crazy business. Having never made corn tortilla chips, I'm not super anxious to start learning. Just buy a good bag. It's fine. Unless you are supreme chef. At which point, you're not going to learn anything from me.
 Now, once I started changing things from his recipe like, not making stock and buying chips (I know, I'm super lazy), I decided to change a whole lot more - so really, that recipe is just the crazy-train that answered the question "what's for dinner?" but did not tell me how to make it. Now, you can probably guess that version #1 of this soup is Tortilla soup. After the first recipe, I'll tell you some super tasty updates that will also Tuscan Soup and Mediterranean Soup. Just by changing the seasonings and one or two other ingredients. It's a working girl's dream. Not only is it a super easy recipe to memorize, but if you get it once, you have three recipes built right in!
Now, I am going to start by throwing out a handful of shortcuts, and then you should create from there!! That's the wonderful things about soups - you though stuff in a pot. Add liquid to pot. Cool until delicious. Frankly, it's hard to mess up. SO!
  1. For all soups, I used about half of a deli rotisserie chicken - I made my hubby shred it by hand while I cooked the rest. Put your hubby or munchkins to work!
  2. Some grocery stores sell pre-chopped mirepoix in the produce section - no shame, no judgement - just realistic. I used measurements for the oh-so-hard work of chopping a few veggies.
  3. For the Tortilla soup, I used a packet of low-sodium taco seasoning to season it, but you can use your favorite mix. In the recipe, though, I listed a seasoning mix similar to taco seasoning, and you can adjust the cayenne pepper to your spice level.
  4. Don't be a hero - it's okay to use store-bought chicken stock. Or you can be a hero, if you're one of those "plan-ahead" type people and you remember to save chicken bones to actually make your own stock... I am not so awesome.
  5. If you are into it, you can use fresh tomatoes. I am not into that. If you like them, feel free to substitute 6-8 Roma tomatoes, chopped.
  6. You don't have to use the tortilla chips - one of the other recipes I read used hominy, and the chips replace that as a thickener - and I keep them in all recipes. I like it.
  7. The hand blender is not a necessary step - I like the soup a little less chunky, so I used the stick blender a bit. I don't know that its worth getting a blender dirty. Because it just has to go back into the pot.

 1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped (leaves are okay!)
1 T cayenne pepper (approximately, to taste)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, ribs removed and chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (with juice)
Large handful of corn tortilla chips
About 6 cups chicken broth
2 zucchini, chopped
2 cups shredded chicken
2 Tbl chopped cilantro
For garnish: avocado, lime, sour cream

  • In a pot, heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil. Sautee the mirepoix and salt lightly to sweat them. Let them go a few minutes, then add the seasoning (taco seasoning, or the long list above) and sautee for 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and jalapeno and cook until fragrant (2-3 minutes).
  • Add tomatoes and their juice and cook about 2 minutes, then crush the tortilla chips over the mix and stir until combined. Add the broth and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  • Use the immersion blender chop up to your desired thickness.
  • Add zucchini and simmer about 10 minutes more.
  • Add cooked chicken and cilantro and simmer until heated through (about 5 more minutes).
  • Garnish with avocado, a squeeze of lime, and sour cream if you're into that.
This makes about 4 man-sized servings.
For Tuscan soup:
Replace the taco seasoning with your favorite Italian herb trio - mine is basil, thyme, and rosemary. These are fragrant herbs, and three is enough. Maybe 1/2 tsp of each if dried, about 1 tsp if fresh. Be sure to still salt the mirepoix, but you may omit the jalapeno. When you add the zucchini, also add a can of drained white beans. When you finish the soup, instead of avocado and lime, garnish with some fresh bruschetta (chopped Roma tomatoes with basil and balsamic).
For Mediterranean Soup:
Add in 1 chopped bell pepper with the mirepoix, replace the taco seasoning with dried oregano, salt, and pepper, and omit the jalapeno. For the garnish at the end, consider a little bit of feta cheese and a squeeze of lemon.

Have fun with it and enjoy!


  1. Ooooo yumtown!! I'm diggin' the three soups three quick ways thing. Fab!!

  2. mmm, i love emeril's recipes. these look great.

    i am the exact same way about not letting my body rest when it needs it because it would mean i'm weak. i'm constantly frustrated about not being physically able to do (and eat) the things that i want to.