Tonight, I will be nursing my post-vacation blues with a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup:
I was very sad to return to New York this morning after a lovely President’s Day weekend in Santa Barbara. In case I’ve never mentioned it before, that is where I grew up. I know this may come as a shock to some of you, but it's true. I used to say “like” a lot more, play volleyball, and wear full Juicy Couture jumpsuits on the reg. I’m not proud of these things, but I was young and impressionable, and my personal style between the ages of 12-14 was heavily influenced by J. Lo in her “I’m Real” music video.
While my accent and fashion-sense may have changed drastically, I’m still a California girl at heart, and nothing makes me happier than spending some quality time on the West Coast. My dad still lives in the house that I grew up in, and despite some truly terrifying photos of me during the aforementioned Juicy jumpsuit-era (and various other awkward stages including the Winona Ryder pixie-cut), it is full of wonderful memories. Even thought the house itself has been re-decorated and I no longer have a shocking pink boudoir, there's no place quite like home.
I spent the past five days hanging out with my half-siblings, Zoe and Rex, who are 5 and 3 years old respectively, and my dad’s three giant dogs. Both the children and the puppies were adorable, full of energy, and an excellent reminder that I am not ready for either. Thank you very much. (Logan kept getting excited every time I pet the dogs, thinking that I was finally coming around to the idea of our own puppy. That was funny.) I also got to go out on the water a few times, eat delicious food, and take plenty of naps in the sun. Overall, it was an ideal vacation.
|I was born to be a lady of leisure.|
Consequently, it was very difficult for me to leave Santa Barbara yesterday. The end of vacation makes me more depressed than Logan at a vegan restaurant, and after such a fabulous long weekend, the past 18 hours have been pretty miserable. Logan got into altercations with not one, but THREE airport employees regarding the size of his carry-on, my Ambien failed me on the red-eye, and I look puffier today than Lindsay Lohan after Coachella. Needless to say, reality currently bites. However, I’m aware that there are still three and a half days until the weekend, and I need to pull it together. So, after a brief dirt nap this morning, I stopped rolling around in my pajamas and got to work in the kitchen.
In hopes of keeping my California buzz, I decided to make something inspired by my So-Cal roots. I love pretty much everything about California cuisine. It’s light and fresh, and it caters to both my avocado fetish and my love of all things grilled. I’m also a big fan of Mexican food and its influence on California cuisine, so I wanted to work in some of those flavors too. I briefly considered making tacos, but I need to do a little cleansing, and Logan only has 9 days left to lose 6% of his body weight. I figured it was smarter to go in a lighter direction. The result? Chicken Tortilla Soup:
This Chicken Tortilla Soup is unbelievable. It’s spicy and comforting, and squeezing a little lime juice in right at the end gives it some zip. The melted cheese factor is always a crowd pleaser, and the cilantro and avocado make it taste amazingly fresh while adding depth and texture. Homemade tortilla strips are a healthy alternative to your average fried corn chip, and the crunchy element really takes the soup to the next level.
There are a million versions of tortilla soup, but this incarnation is definitely the crème de la crème. Beautiful, spicy, and the perfect thickness, I like to think of it as the Beyoncé of chicken tortilla soups. I am still in the honeymoon stage with my Crock-Pot, so I took advantage of it’s slow-cooking magic for this recipe. However, this soup tastes just as fabulous when made on the stove top, and it requires minimal prep work. It's the perfect fuss-free weekday lunch or dinner, but it’s still impressive enough to serve at a casual dinner party or weekend lunch. It freezes like a champ, and you can always mix up the add-ons to give leftovers a lift. Try it over brown rice or cooked quinoa for a heartier meal, or pour a little over scrambled eggs in a low-carb tortilla for a healthy breakfast option. You need this soup stat. Consider it the fiesta version of chicken soup for the soul.
Chicken Tortilla Soup: (Serves 6)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp Mexican chili powder
1 ½ tsp oregano
½ tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1 chipotle in adobo, chopped
½ tsp salt
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups tomato puree
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 low-carb tortilla, cut into ¼ inch thick strips
1 tbsp olive oil
1 avocado, chopped
Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Preparing your Tortilla Soup:
-Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan (you will want to use something relatively deep if you ‘re cooking your soup on the stove-top). Add the minced garlic and onions. Sauté 3 minutes over medium-low heat, until the onions have softened and the garlic is fragrant.
-Add the green chilies, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, chipotle pepper, and chili flakes if using. Cook for 1 more minute.
If you are using a slow-cooker:
-Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree, and chicken stock. Mix well. Add the chicken breasts. Cover with the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
-After 6-8 hours, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using two forks (or your fingers, if you feel like it). Add the shredded chicken back to the soup.
If you are using the stove-top method (no shame):
-Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree and chicken stock to the spiced onion mixture. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Add the chicken breasts. Simmer for at least 40 minutes. Remove the chicken and from the pot and shred it. Add the shredded chicken back to the soup and simmer for another 15-20 minutes before serving.
For the tortilla strips:
*Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
-Brush both sides of a low-carb tortilla with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
-Slice the tortilla into strips about 2 inches long and ¼ inch wide. (A pizza cutter works perfectly for this.)
-Arrange the tortilla strips in a baking pan or on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 6-8 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
(Yes, you can also just use store-bought tortilla chips and crumble them up. My version is obviously better, but you do what you want.)
Serving your soup:
-Ladle the chicken tortilla soup into bowls and top with a squeeze of lime juice, Monterey jack, chopped avocado, and cilantro to taste.
This soup is worthy of a group ¡Olé! chant, to say the least.