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I hate cold weather. Especially when it is cold and gray. So every year I dread midwestern winters, where the sun hibernates from November to March. Even with the excitement of the holidays, I can’t help the sense of impending doom when I can’t walk around the house barefoot anymore and I have to get out an extra blanket for my bed.

Last week it was 80 degrees and sunny, which was beautiful and refreshing at the time, but now that it’s back to 50 and cloudy the nice weather seems more like a tease, and the cold gray weather feels somehow worse. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that I’ve had a minor sinus infection for like two weeks, which I also blame on the cooler weather. I will say I am lucky at least that I’m not living in the middle of a superstorm, and my sincere condolences (and apologies for being a sissy) to anyone who is.

The point of all this mid-autumn whining is that last night I needed some comfort food. Something warm and delicious and soothing. We have a couple of family recipes for soup, but nothing I was really in the mood for. Lately, I am perpetually hungry for Mexican food. We also have a great family recipe for tacos, which I frankly cannot believe I haven’t posted before. That sounded good, but again, I really wanted soup! Tacos are more of a summery food to me. So I thought about how I could compromise, and I thought of a nice, creamy tortilla soup. Since I had never made it before, I did what I always do and took to the Internet.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I based my recipe off of the chicken tortilla soup by the Pioneer Woman but I made some changes to make it a little healthier and a little cleaner. (Although the original recipe is pretty healthy in its own right.) Mostly I just added some vegetables and cut some sodium. I also added Greek Yogurt (surprise, surprise) to give it some creaminess.

This soup is fantastic. It is the ultimate diet food success: it is super healthy but doesn’t taste like it. It is low fat, low sodium and low carb, which is quite an accomplishment for such a hearty soup. Altogether a one and a half cup serving has 350 calories, but considering how much goes into it, I think that’s pretty light. It is definitely a meal all on its own. I also avoided using any processed foods, and stuck with (almost) all fresh ingredients instead, so I could keep it clean. Especially considering how good it tastes, I would say it is a diet-friendly success.

Pre-garnishing

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Serves: 5 (makes about 7.5 cups)

  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Taco Chicken (See Below)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 Cup Diced White Onion
  • 1/4 Cup Diced Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 Cup Diced Green Bell Pepper
  • 1 Cup Diced Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Finely Diced Fresh Jalapeño
  • 2 Cups Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup 0% Organic Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 2 Cups or 1 Can Organic Black Beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 Cup Corn (I use Fresh Market Organic Frozen Yellow Corn Kernals)
  • 1 Cup Finely Diced Zucchini (Basically 1 whole small one)
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Coriander
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • Dash Cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch, mixed with 1-2 Tablespoons Water
  • 5 Corn Tortillas (1 per bowl)
  • Avocado Slices for garnish (optional)
  • Organic 2% Grated Cheese for garnish (optional)

Taco Chicken (This is specifically modified for the soup. It’s basically halved from my normal recipe, and usually I use diced chicken instead of shredded, so no broth in that one.)

  • 2 Cups Broth or Stock (I used Organic Low-Sodium Vegetable Stock)
  • 2 Boneless, Skinless Organic Free Range Chicken Breasts (about 12 ounces total, raw)
  • 1 Teaspoon EVOO
  • 2 Teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Teaspoon Cornstarch, mixed with 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 Cup Water

Directions for Chicken: In a medium saucepan, bring broth and chicken breasts to rapid boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked enough to shred. Drain the broth. With a fork, pull on the chicken breasts until it comes apart into shreds. It should be broken apart enough to work as little pieces in the soup.

In a saute pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add the chicken, followed by the spices. Stir until the chicken appears covered in the spices, then add the water. Let simmer just a few minutes (maybe 3) then add the cornstarch. Stir well, so chicken is evenly coated in the liquid. Let simmer another 5 minutes or until the water evaporates enough so it is a more sauce-like consistency. But make sure not to let the chicken overcook. It should not be in the saute pan more than 10 minutes total.

Directions for Soup

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.
  2. Prepare the chicken as described above.
  3. Dice vegetables and mince garlic while the chicken is simmering.
  4. In a large pot (I used a 4 Quart stock pot) heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat.
  5. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño, tomato and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tomatoes are a stewed consistency.
  6. Add in chicken, using a rubber scraper to add all of the sauce as well.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and water. Stir. Let everything cook together for a minute.
  8. Add the tomato paste. Stir well, until the paste is completely integrated into the soup. Let cook a minute or two to let the flavor of the paste sink in.
  9. Add the coriander, chili powder, cayenne and salt. Stir well. Again, let it blend into the rest of the soup for a minute or two.
  10. Add the black beans and corn. Stir until they are evenly distributed in the pot.
  11. Add in the Greek Yogurt. Stir until it is melted and blended and the entire soup has a lighter color and thicker consistency.
  12. Prepare the tortillas by laying them out on a large piece of foil. Brush them lightly, using the remaining 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil. Each tortilla should be nicely coated in oil, but not too soggy with it. Then lightly salt each one. Stick them into the oven. Cook about 8 minutes or until crisp. (If you prefer a prettier display you can slice the tortillas into strips before baking, but I kind of like the crumbier effect of breaking them apart after baking.)
  13. Add the zucchini.
  14. Add the cornstarch. Stir well.
  15. Lower the temperature and let the soup simmer for a few minutes.
  16. When the tortillas are beginning to brown along the edges and appear crisp, remove from oven. Break apart if you did not do so before baking.
  17. Scoop soup into a bowl, top with tortilla bits.

*Garnish with avocado, cheese or whatever else you fancy. Or garnish with nothing at all! I will say the avocado was a fantastic addition because it cut a little of the spiciness and add some extra creaminess, so I highly recommend sticking with that.

All mixed up and ready for eating!

I really loved this soup. I am very excited about how well it turned out because there are a lot of cold months ahead before the warm ones come back to me, and I think this recipe will really come in handy. I know it looks a little daunting with the number of ingredients and steps in the recipe instructions, but basically here’s all it is–just put everything in a big pot, in the order it is listed in the ingredient list, stirring and resting a minute between each new step. So, it ended up being one of my easier and faster endeavors of recent memory.

Plus, even with the cheese and avocado garnish it is still very reasonable health-wise. I baked a couple extra tortilla chips to use in place of bread, and those suckers are tasty, too. The soup is fairly spicy, but it is easily adaptable. Add less chili powder or cayenne, or skip the jalapeno. On the other hand, you could add more of those things if you don’t think it’s spicy enough. It would go really great with some mixed greens and the spicy balsamic vinaigrette I wrote about the other day. It also is just as fantastic reheated the next day, so it is a great lunch option too.

I am a little worried about how I will fare in the cold months ahead. Last year I ran away to my parents’ home in Texas, but they moved back here recently and now we are all without refuge! Thus, I am sure I will be on a constant mission to find warm, comforting foods that still meet all of my requirements for clean and healthy living. I will just have to hope they all turn out as successful as this one did!

-lj

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