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Tortilla Soup

I have so many great winter weather recipes to share still, I really need to keep cracking away. Luckily I’ve been taking pictures all along even if I have slacked on writing up the posts. I could eat most of these things 3 seasons a year (just not in St. Louis’s ridiculous hot and humid summers). This tortilla soup recipe is delish and like many soups just gets better the longer you’re able to let it cook, but you can also whip it up in a hurry and it’ll still be good. Maybe the most fun part of this recipe are the toppings. I’ve made this soup for a party and my table looked great with all the little dishes of topping choices.

Tortilla Soup

~10 Chicken Breast Tenders (can also take 4-5 breast halves and slice them up)

2 Tbs. Oil (olive or canola)

1-2 tsp. Penzy’s Southwest Seasoning*

2+ Tbs. Lime Juice

2 Tbs. Tequila (optional)

One medium yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 7oz can chopped green chiles

29 – 30 oz fire roasted tomatoes (you’ll ether find 15 oz cans or a big 29 oz can in the grocery store)

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

6-8 cups chicken stock (gluten free if you are so inclined)

For topping choices:

avocado, diced

onion, finely diced**

sour cream

lime juice** & slices if you want to be fancy

cilantro (or even italian/flat parsley)**

shredded cheese

crushed tortilla chips

hot sauce

Start with your heavy duty soup pot – I use my Le Creuset dutch oven. Put 2 Tbs. oil in the bottom and heat on medium high. Season your chicken tenders with the southwest seasoning* and place in the oil to cook. Cook chicken through – few minutes a side should do. You want it cooked through but it will cook more in the soup later so try not to dry it out now. Once the chicken is cooked pull it out and set it aside. Deglaze your pot with 2 Tbs. Lime juice and 2 Tbs. Tequilla – scrape the bottom and enjoy the aroma.

Put your diced onion in the pot to cook until translucent (you may need to turn your heat to medium). Meanwhile, shred the chicken – I hold the piece down with a fork and shred portions away with a knife at an angle. Keep shredded chicken set aside. When the onions have about a minute to go, add the minced garlic and cook and stir for about a minute. Next add the chopped chiles and cook another minute or two. Add the fire roasted tomatoes, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir and cook 4-5 minutes.

Add shredded chicken and chicken stock, bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, though the longer it simmers the better it gets. Dish into bowls and top as desired.

*Penzey’s southwest seasoning is a staple in my kitchen, especially since typical taco or fajita seasonings often have gluten. This just seems to be the perfect blend for seasoning anything in a semi spicy way. You don’t have to use southwest seasoning, you can make your own blend of cayenne, parika, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle pepper, salt, etc. Or you could season with your favorite southwest, Mexican, or similar blend.

** I like to combine the chopped onion with some flat parsley, salt and lime juice and let it sit while I cook. I’ll stir it occasionally since I don’t put so much lime juce that the onions swim and I want it all to be coated. This makes a sort of salsa as one of our toppings.

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The minestrone I make is the same that my mom makes which started with Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone from her book “The Essentials of Italian Cooking”. I highly recommend this book. If what I make from memory isn’t dead on with Marcella’s recipe, then it’s pretty darn close. First thing to know – although minestrone is essentially a vegetable soup, this is no vegetarian vegetable soup. I’m sure that an interested vegetarian could easily modify the recipe and switch the beef stock with vegetable stock. Probably the single most important ingredient is the hunk of reggiano parmigiano rind. I’ve had the soup made without it and well, let’s just say that making the soup without it really isn’t an option. My grocery store sells the rind in the specialty cheese section, they also have hunks of the parmigiano for sale that still have a rind side on them. I usually go for the hunk of cheese, cut the rind side off for the soup and save the rest for grating over the top at the end. This is a soup that the whole family loves. If you’re going to make it I sure hope you have some decent knives that are sharp and ready to be put to work!

Minestrone Soup

2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter

1 medium white onion, diced

4-5 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery, washed and diced

1 1/2 handfuls of fresh green beans, ends snipped and beans cut into bite sized sections

2-3 zucchini, washed well, ends cut off, quartered and sliced

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and large diced

1 head of napa cabbage, washed and chopped

2 cans of diced tomatoes

6 cups of Beef Stock (GF peeps, make sure you use a GF stock – I often use Kitchen Basics)

Reggiano Parmigiano cheese and rind

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy stock pot (I heart my Le Creuset Dutch Oven), melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes more, stirring. Then add the green beans and zucchini. Cook, stirring for another 3-5 minutes. Add the diced potatoes, cook and stir for 4 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and then the stock. Stir, turn the heat down as low as it can go for a simmer. Put the rind from the parmigiano into the soup, cover and simmer for at least an hour. Stir the soup occasionally, if you have anything sticking to the bottom of the pan then the heat is too high. Once you are ready to serve the soup, dish it into a bowl and grate some parmigiano on top.

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I welcome the arrival of fall and cooler weather. Fall and winter foods are my favorite! Chili is one of the first things I make at the sign of cold weather. It’s also the food that both my husband and I grew up eating on Halloween night. The chili I make has beans and ground beef. Sometimes I change it up just a little – maybe adding some chopped pickled jalapenos or fresh chopped chilies of any variety. You’ll find my classic recipe below which started from very nonspecific directions from my mom and has changed to become what we like (and gluten free). This recipe makes 6-8 servings, which can be stretched out if you make some noodles and serve it over the noodles. It’s great left over too.


1 3/4 lbs ground chuck

1-2 T. Oil (Olive or vegetable)

1 large white onion, diced

3 stalks celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 – 2 T. chili powder (you can always add more!)

3/4 t. cumin

1/2 t. cayenne

1/2 t. chipotle powder (this isn’t necessary, if you don’t have it, leave it out – it just adds a bit of a smokey pepper flavor)

1 t. garlic powder

2 T. ketchup or 1 t. tomato paste

2 cans diced tomatoes, drained

3 cans kidney beans, drained (beware – many brands of “chili beans” have gluten so I use regular and season the chili myself)

2 cans red beans or pinto beans, drained

1-2 T. corn starch + water

Salt and Pepper to taste

Things to accompany chili – chopped onion, shredded cheese, sour cream, noodles, oyster crackers/goldfish crackers.

Using a large stock pot or dutch oven, put the oil and ground chuck in the pan. Cook over medium high heat. While that cooks, clean, chop and dice your onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic. Be sure to stir and scrape and bottom of the pan as necessary to cook all of the meat. Keep in mind that the more you break up the beef, the smaller the chunks will be in your chili. Once the beef has all browned, you can add your spices – chili powder, cayenne, cumin, garlic powder. Stir. Add your onions, celery and bell pepper. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium. Add the minced garlic stir and be sure not to burn your garlic because it will turn bitter. Add the drained tomatoes and ketchup or tomato paste. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the cans of beans. If your chili appears dry you can fill one can with water and add it. Cook on low heat with your lid askew, stirring every so often – take care that your heat is low enough for a simmer but not so high that the beans burn to the bottom. The longer your chili simmers, the better the flavors will come together and the softer the beans will get. This past week in a pinch, I put my canned beans in a glass bowl with some water and covered them with plastic wrap and then microwaved them for 4 minutes to soften them up because I wasn’t going to be able to cook my chili long enough before it would be time to eat it. This worked well to soften them up. Once you’re close to mealtime, taste your chili and make any seasoning adjustments. Remember that salt will bring out flavors. If your chili is good but not quite there, add some salt, stir and taste again. If you want to thicken your chili put 1 T. of corn starch in a glass and add 1 T. water. Stir it around to make a slurry. Then pour the slurry into the chili and stir while simmering (turn up the heat if you need to). The corn starch will thicken the whole mixture. If after a few minutes of stirring the bubbling mixture it still isn’t thick enough then repeat – be careful though because the corn starch will thicken all of a sudden so make sure that you’ve stirred it at a high enough heat to activate it before adding more.

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