Ole to Tortilla Soup

I suppose there are lots of problems you can have in the kitchen, but is having too much braised pork one of them? I suppose it could be, but in this case, I’m going to say no. The truth is even after listing all the ways to use the pork in my last post, I felt like something was missing and I needed to find a new way to use my leftovers. Make no mistake, I love tacos and barbecue pork sliders as much as the next person, but this is a chance for me to learn and share new recipes as well.

So, there I am with a tupperware container full of beautifully braised pork and not a clue what to do with it all. I opened the fridge for inspiration and all I saw was chicken broth, cilantro, some tortillas, chili, a little bit of rice, and a few other things. Okay, there is more in my fridge but I needed a setup to share this recipe. So, I closed the fridge and kept saying to myself the only thing in here is soup. It is fall, so maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing after all. What to make I wondered to myself. It was right there on the tip of tongue for a few minutes when I realized exactly what I should make. More soup, of course! Not just any soup though, but tortilla soup!

I had often wondered about tortilla soup as it has such an incredible depth of flavor and was highlighted with that punch of citrus. I quickly realized that I had a great counterpoint to the rich braised pork with that kind of a soup base. When I think about soups like this, I think of broths that simmer for days and days to achieve that perfect balance of flavor. While this can be true, I like the idea of being able to put the dish on the table the same day. Did you know that you can put this recipe on your table in about an hour?? The other thing is that I like pantry friendly recipes. In other words, you likely have the ingredients in your house to make this already. So, I set out to find a recipe that worked.

Here is the base recipe we are using, however, I have made changes. I know, what a shock! Before we talk about mastering this recipe, I wanted to show you what you could be consuming. Ready?

This is absolutely as good as it looks and more!! I am wondering what I should have for lunch? Hmmm……………but I digress. Okay, recipe time!



 Recipe has been halved
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red chile flake or chili powder
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth store bought or homemade
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
juice of 2 limes
2-4 small corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-in.-thick strips
1 lb (3-4 oz per serving) pork or chicken chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
cilantro to taste, chopped
sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Monterey jack cheese, additional chopped cilantro, and/or sliced green onions for topping

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, a pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, and cook about 5 to 7 minutes until softened.

Stir in two-thirds of the garlic, a  pinch of salt, cumin, chile flake/chili powder, and cook 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, and half the lime juice and turn up heat to a gentle simmer and cook about 25 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in a blender or food processor.

Return soup to pot and resume simmering.

Here is a bonus photo of what the broth should look like when it is all done.

In a small bowl, toss chicken or pork with remaining lime juice, garlic (optional), and a pinch of salt, if desired. Marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes, then add to soup and simmer 5 minutes, until chicken or pork is just cooked through.

While your soup finishes simmering and before are ready to serve, add 2 tbsps of olive oil into a small frying pan set over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add one-third of the tortilla strips and cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a paper towel-lined baking pan. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips in two batches. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt while hot.
Top with tortilla strips, additional toppings, and fresh cilantro.

There it is! Boom! This is so good!

Let’s talk about some changes:

Servings for centuries- When I test recipes I am only testing for a couple of people. Even cutting this recipe in half I had a lot of leftovers. That isn’t a problem, but keep that in mind unless you plan on freezing some or giving away some amazing tortilla soup. By the way, it is almost the holiday season and this could make a great gift! I’m just saying.

Salt- If you read the reviews and look at the recipe, there is a lot of salt here!! In fact, there is way to much salt in the original recipe from my vantage point as I type this. Here is my take on this issue. You are always better to under season than over season since you can fix that, but going the other way is much more difficult. We add salt to help enhance other flavors and it helps to wake up the palate so we can taste other things better. As you cook, season each layer with a little salt. Also, you are adding more salt right at the end before you serve this to really give some complexity to the the lime juice. So, it is totally okay to ease up on the salt if you are concerned.

Cumin and Chile Flake/Chili Powder- As I discussed in my chili post, these flavors can pack a punch and can easily overpower a dish. You can always add more, but again, less is more. This is especially true if you have someone who is sensitive to those flavors for whatever reason.

Cilantro- Maybe this goes with saying, but sorry, I can’t stop myself from talking about it. There are two cilantro camps, either you love it or you hate it. There isn’t much love in between. You could certainly leave it out and go with something like parsley, celery tops or even some basil. But, you don’t need the cilantro to sell this soup because this soup will sell itself.

Topping takeover- This recipe lists all kinds of topping options and they will compliment the soup perfectly. I opted to keep it super simple with just cilantro and the tortilla strips. For me, that was all the soup needed. You worked hard to make this soup, so make sure you have a chance to enjoy the fruits of your labor without getting lost in the toppings.

Gravity of Garlic- This recipe does call for fresh, raw garlic to be used to marinate your choice of protein before it is added to the soup. As much as it provides some additional flavor, I’m not sold that you need the garlic. It could be overpowering and super sharp when you take a bite of the soup. Just be careful if you decide to use the fresh garlic in that application. Also, cuddling and breathing on or near your significant other could be compromised by heavy garlic consumption. Unless your significant other has consumed garlic as well, then party on! Hey, I’m just trying to look out for my readers.

Ready to make this for meatless Monday?? Yup, you are practically there and you didn’t even realize it I bet. Just replace the chicken or pork for things like roasted corn that you have taken off the cob, roasted bell peppers, zucchini or some sweet potatoes that have been grilled or sauteed. This is will make for an an amazing lunch or dinner anytime!

I hope you enjoy this simply delicious, but complex soup. This is perfect for the fall months and it just looks pretty!

As always, be sure to leave a comment or email me and let me know your thoughts about this recipe. I look forward to hearing from you!

I’ll Make Chili For You

When it comes to cooking, there is nothing better than a dish that simmers away on the stove top for hours. Not only is the smell intoxicating, it provides a nice continuous gentle heat in the house, and lifting the lid on a gently simmering pot of delicious ingredients is the best! That only gets better when you can basically throw a bunch stuff in a pot, walk away for a while, and let it simmer away until it turns to something flavorful, satisfying, and just plain tasty.

I started thinking about this since I am helping with a family member who is very ill and trying to make sure that I can provide the one thing I know, food. But, I wanted to be able to create a few recipes rather quickly with little fuss. I could think of nothing better than homemade chili.

Let’s talk chili, I think there is a stigma about chili that hangs around. It is either too spicy, salty, too meat-centric or it just takes too long to long to make. Sounds like a familiar story, right? I am here to tell you that you can have chili ready to eat in about ninety minutes and you can have it your way. Yes, your way. I will tell you that I’ve never made my own chili until the other day, and it couldn’t have been easier!

For those of you who don’t like my billion photos, you are in luck, because I made this recipe under a deadline and I only took two photos. As luck would have it, only one photo really turned out the way I wanted. Rest assured, I won’t let my photo taking lapse because I would hate to deprive you of that.

Click here for the original chili recipe, which is a recipe I adapted from allrecipes.com. Below is my version.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons of paprika
  • 1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (16 ounce) can beans, drained such as red, black or navy beans
  • salt and pepper to taste


    1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat, saute ground beef until browned, about 5-7 minutes. Season both ground beef and pepper and onion mixture with a little salt and pepper. Remove ground beef with slotted spoon, drain most of the fat, leaving a little to saute peppers and onions until softened about 5-7 more minutes.


  1. Add the remaining ingredients, reserving the beans until near the end of the cooking time. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. With about 15 minutes remaining, stir in beans till they are warmed through and serve.

Below are a few changes I made to this recipe:

I doubled up on the canned beans to give the chili some extra substance and body. This is great way to make it if you want to go the vegetarian route.

*Scaling back on the dried spice is okay. I only used about a 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder and about an 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of cumin. Both of these go a long way and tend to really perfume and flavor the dish. When you “bloom” or cook dried spices in some oil over heat, those spices release a lot of their oil and can intensify in flavor. Make sure to give the spices time to develop so you can accurately adjust your seasoning level if needed. Remember, it is easier to add than have to try to take some of that spice out. Also, I omitted all the jalapeno as well.

*Just a quick follow up related to the spice/heat level of the chili. I was making it for someone who can’t really tolerate much spice, but I wanted to give the chili a little undertone of heat. If you want to add more chili powder, jalapeno or something more intense like a fresno chili, then go for it! Remember, it is about knowing your audience and what they can tolerate. We want our family and friends to enjoy what we are cooking, but not make them feel like you are serving a bowl of Mount Vesuvius. Again, unless that is your goal, then let it rip!

Paprika makes the world go round. Seriously, it has such a great flavor profile and provides a subtle depth. I added a couple of teaspoons to the chili when I made it. Oh, it also adds an incredible color and that makes it really look like you fussed over it for hours even though you didn’t. I will call this a cooking hack to save you some time.

After some stirring, perhaps a beverage or two, and some patience you are rewarded with this.

Serve this in a bowl with some cheese, sour cream, and a little cilantro on top. If you want to step this up, spoon some of this over some chips and top with cheese for some chili cheese nachos. Oh, still not enough hacks? Okay, how about some scrambled eggs topped with a little homemade chili to get your day started? Do it! You won’t be disappointed.

Want to make a vegetarian version? As I said, no problem! Take out the ground beef, add a little vegetable stock, add some fresh yellow corn, and toss in some sauteed mushrooms near the end until they are warmed through and have absorbed some of that amazing chili base.

If you end up with tons of leftovers, don’t worry! Throw some
pre-portioned containers into the freezer for a quick lunch or dinner anytime you.

Once again, the twists on this are unlimited If you really want to wake this up, add some beer or coffee to really help reinforce some of those great flavors. The limits are your own, so be creative! I promise, nothing will be beat a bowl of this on a cold blustery days around the table with your loved ones.


Using your Noodle-Veggie Style

As I mentioned before, the food world is changing. We are looking for ways to maximize what we are eating, how we eat it, and why we are eating the things we do. Lots of us are really having to look at the kind of relationship we have with food.  I know this because we are going through a bit of a food revolution in our house. Why you ask? Well, it has to do with how our bodies handle and process certain foods. Simply put, like the allergies that cause you to sneeze during the summer, you can be affected by the foods you eat as well.

If you have read any of my blog, you know that one of the most popular dishes in my house is pasta. However, traditional pasta contains gluten and not everyone can tolerate gluten. So, the question becomes how can we make pasta delicious, fast, and easy without giving up on any flavor? I have a perfect solution.

The first option is more obvious, which is gluten free pasta. You can find it in most grocery stores these day and it is very tasty. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic solution and one that I would go to more often than not. In fact, I am still recipe testing homemade gluten free pasta which I hope to share with you. However, I am working through a few snags at the moment. That should do it, right? No, not exactly. I think we should shake noodles up a little bit.

What if I told you that some of the vegetables in your house right now could be turned into healthy, super easy noodles? No, I am not kidding. Do you have carrots, zucchini or sweet potatoes in your fridge or pantry right now? Check, I can wait………….got them? Guess what? You have an amazing substitute for regular pasta that you can use for any application. It is truly that simple.

So, what are we making? We are making zucchini fettuccine with my ground turkey bolognese. Don’t remember how to make bolognese? No problem, just click here for a refresher.

That leaves us with how to make the noodles. Okay, you have a couple of options. If you have a vegetable peeler or a wire cheese slicer then you are good to go. These will come out looking more like ribbons, but the effect will be the same.

Zuchinni Pasta style

The noodles on the left are various sizes that I made from a vegetable peeler. I was able to create a spaghetti, fettuccine, and a wide noodle with the peeler. On the right are the noodles I made with my “Zoodle” maker. Yes, it is an actual thing. It is too much fun to say to not have it be true. If you want these fancy zoodles then head to your favorite online kitchen store and look for a “zoodler.” Again, the gadget name is too good to make up. Having done my own research, I know you can find a basic one on Amazon for about 10 dollars, but there are plenty of options if you want to up your zoodle game. You can’t go wrong either way, in my opinion.

Okay, time to fire it up! Follow the directions to make my bolognese. While  the bolognese is cooking down, you will have plenty of time to prep your noodles.To get the zucchini ready, trim off the ends and follow the directions of your zoodle maker. If you are using your vegetable peeler, remove the the zucchini skin and form a large pile of the strips. If you notice your noodles are too long just cut them down to a desirable size or cut it in half before you make your noodles. Once you have reached your desired thickness of the sauce, pile some noodles into a bowl, and top thusly with bolognese. Make sure to cover the noodles fairly well. The heat of the bolognese will soften the noodles and provide that cooked sensation.

Zucchini Bolognese
Even I have to remind myself that these are zoodles because this bolognese sells it! If you want to take this dish to the next level, sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the finished dish. Honestly, I didn’t miss the cheese and I ate the whole bowl full!

If you want to take this dish totally vegetarian or vegan, you can omit both the ground turkey and the cheese. Of course, if you have any other restrictions feel free to make any changes that are necessary. You could also throw in some mushrooms or a number of other vegetables to bulk this dish up a little bit.

A couple of things to keep in mind here. You may find that you need to season the bolognese a little more than normal. The regular pasta releases starch and holds some salt from the boiling water, so there is a little less salt in the dish. That is totally okay if you feel like that is needed. However, you can certainly add other seasonings or herbs such as basil, oregano, pepper, thyme, and wine as well. If you add more wine, make sure you allow time for the alcohol to cook out of the sauce. Again, make sure you use you wine you would drink, because as wine cooks down those flavors are concentrated. Feel free to add vegetable or chicken stock to help reinforce those flavors as well. Oh, yes, I just used the word cooking, so let me talk about that before I forget. Zucchini has a high water content, so we don’t want to cook it in the classic sense. So leave the noodles raw if you can so you can retain some texture and don’t end up with mushy noodles.

This is only the beginning of the possibilities with veggies noodles. So, be creative!

Congratulations we have taken this dish to a whole new level! We did it! Let me know what you think by commenting on the recipe or sending me an email. I know this dish will surprise you as it did for me.