Chicken tortilla soup

Chicken tortilla soup

We've reached the early days of October. Despite being in the high 70s to low 80s in the last few days of September, as soon as October arrived the temperature obediently dropped to the 50s. I of course was delighted, as I have no tolerance for heat, and would rather spend all of my time in leggings and fuzzy socks and sweaters anyway.

I was also delighted because this means we've reached the season in which making soups and roasts and slow cooker meals no longer feels like I'm somehow committing a great wrong.

This chicken tortilla soup is perfect for this kind of weather, and it allowed me to take advantage of the last remaining ripe avocados I could find in the supermarket aisle. Although I eagerly fried tortilla strips for my first helping, I'll admit that I did not go to the effort when eating the leftovers. They do add quite a lot to the recipe, but the soup is also delicious without.

Chicken tortilla soup
Recipe adapted from Use Real Butter's chicken tortilla soup

Serves 4

  • Glug olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (prepared from 1/2 cup dry beans, or 1 15-oz. can)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded, and minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 lb. chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. lime juice
  • Vegetable oil
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 cup Cotija cheese (or Monterey Jack), crumbled or shredded
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced

Poach the chicken breasts by placing them in a medium saucepan and pouring in enough water to cover the chicken breasts by about an inch. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 10–14 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165˚ at the thickest part. Drain the water and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, jalapeño and green peppers, cumin, and oregano for five minutes, or until the onions and peppers are soft.

Add the chicken stock, black beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, zucchini, shredded chicken, cilantro, and lime juice. Shred the chicken breasts (I find using two forks to pull the meat apart is the easiest) and add it as well. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The diced tomatoes I used contained added salt, so I found that no additional salt was needed.

Heat two inches of vegetable oil in a small saucepan until a small piece of tortilla bubbles quickly when added. Fry the tortilla strips until golden, then remove and drain them on a paper towel.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with tortilla strips, Cotija or Monterey Jack cheese, and avocado.

Single-serving cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls

To my delight, I stumbled across ramekins (or something like them—they're a bit taller) while at Ikea a week ago. In my opinion, ramekins are among the most useful pieces of cookware—they're useful for mixing small amounts of things or microwaving butter, and they're wonderful for single-serving meals.

I decided to christen them with cinnamon rolls after another fateful Great British Bakeoff episode. Only after I had committed to the idea did I realize that I was out of milk, but a simple water and butter replacement seemed to be fine.

Recipe: Homemade cinnamon rolls from SparkPeople

Chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pies

Once again the pastries episode of the Great British Bakeoff got the better of me, and only a week after the last incident. I intended to make only one pie, but I realized after filling the first dish that the bowls Deb uses to make her individual servings are not ramekins as I initially thought, but rather more around the size of cereal bowls. This fed me (and those around me) for a good week, and kept incredibly well in the refrigerator.

Cornish pasties

Cornish pasties

I have been hopelessly addicted to the Great British Bakeoff, an incredible baking competition show. Their pastry episodes never fail to disappoint, and I always come out the other end with dreams about flaky meat pies and nightmares about soggy bottoms. I couldn't take it anymore, and finally decided to make cornish pasties.

I substituted the turnips for extra carrots. The recipe produces four giant pasties, which I can't imagine actually finishing on my own unless I had actually been working in the mines all day.

Recipe: Cornish pasties from Serious Eats


Prepared dumplings

As is probably apparent, I use cooking and baking as a way to relieve stress. After a long weekend with a lot of social interaction and very little time to relax, I came home and desperately needed to destress. What better way to do that than spend three hours chopping ingredients for dumplings?

Chopped dumpling ingredients

These are the pork dumplings from the recipe linked below. I admit I did not make the wrappers myself. I made the full recipe, which netted me fifty dumplings with some filling leftover. They freeze wonderfully, and I still have about a half of a gallon bag of these sitting in my freezer. I prefer them pan-fried and then steamed, but they're good just about any way.

Recipe: Chinese dumplings and potstickers from Use Real Butter