Chicken Tortilla Soup

When I was a working girl, one of my favorite lunch spots was Hof’s Hut.  A bowl of steamy chicken tortilla soup, a cool crisp salad and a side of garlic bread – heaven.  When I started to cook on my own more, I created my own version of chicken tortilla soup.  It changes a bit each time I make it, seasonings, ingredients, crockpot or stove top.  But each time it’s hot and filling and good.

chicken tortilla

Chicken Tortilla Soup

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 – 13 oz canned in water chicken breast pieces
4 oz can green chilies
15 oz can black beans – rinsed
1 cup corn – I like the fire roasted corn from Trader Joes
3/4 c to 1 cup chopped carrots
3/4 c to 1 cup chopped celery
3/4 c to 1 cup chopped onion
4 c low sodium chicken broth
2 to 3 c water (if needed)

All seasonings to taste:
salt – table or smoked sea salt (Trader Joes)
celery seed
onion powder
chili powder
few dashes of hot sauce
black pepper sauce (Trader Joes)
dried basil
South African smoke seasoning (Trader Joes)

Crock-Pot.  Combine tomatoes through onions in a 5 quart crock pot.  Pour in chicken broth and add water if needed to cover ingredients.  Season soup and turn on low setting for 5-6 hours.  Stir occasionally and taste to see if any further seasoning is needed.

Stove-Top.  Use a 5 quart dutch oven or heavy stock pot.  On medium to med-high heat, coat bottom of pot with olive oil.  Start with the onions and garlic, saute till the onions begin to turn clear.  Add carrots and celery, saute for another 2 minutes.  Add in corn and chicken, saute for another couple minutes, then add the tomatoes, chilies, beans and broth, using water if needed to cover ingredients.  Season your soup, and bring to a low simmer.  Turn heat to low and let sit until everything is heated through.

Serve with: Tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream or black olives.

Magical White Bean Soup

bread&wine_cover_artI can’t remember how I stumbled upon Shauna’s first book, Cold Tangerines, but after my first read through I was hooked.  A woman writing openly and honestly about her delights and struggles in life.  I read her heart.  I read her joys.  I read her tears.  And in doing so, I felt like her friend.

Bread & Wine is a celebration of gathering around the table with our friends and family.  Whether for an impromptu birthday party, non-traditional holiday celebrations, or just to share a favorite cookie with our best friend.  Shauna challenged me to think on why I want to have friends and family around my own table, and the atmosphere I give them to live in while in my home.

Bread & Wine will be released on April 9th, but is available for pre-order now at

What people are craving isn’t perfection.  People aren’t longing to be impressed; they’re longing to feel like they’re at home.  If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd. – Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine


Magical White Bean Soup

This recipe was inspired by Nancy Silverton’s Tuscan White Bean Soup with prosciutto and Parmesan in her cookbook, A Twist of the Wrist.  I liked the idea of a thick bean soup with ribbons of prosciutto (for the meat eaters), a dusting of Parmesan (for the dairy eaters), and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette.  Even though Nancy’s recipe calls for just olive oil, I’m in a serious balsamic phase, and I want it on everything – Bread and Wine.

Magical Bean Soup 1

2 shallots, sliced
1/4 lb carrots, sliced into thin coins on a diagonal
1 blub fennel, sliced
4 celery ribs, sliced on a diagonal
6 can white beans in liquid (cannellini or great northern beans)
Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

For serving:
Prociutto, torn into ribbons
Parmesan, curled into strips with a vegetable peeler
1 tblsp rosemary, rough chopped

In a stockpot or dutch oven, soften two sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat.  Add carrots, fennel and celery, allow to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add beans in their liquid, cover and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.

Taste, add salt and pepper, taste again – keep in mind that you’ll get a good amount of salt from the toppings.

Cook for an additional 20 minutes, or longer if you have time.  Off heat, mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic, chunky texture.  If you’d like a smoother texture, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the pot.

magical bean soup 2

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

Mix a spoonful of Dijon, a few tablespoons of balsamic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil, some salt and pepper in a glass jar, then shake well.  Adjust to taste – I usually like a 2:1 ratio of oil to vinegar and Dijon.

Serve with a small pitcher of vinaigrette, and bowls of prosciutto torn into ribbons, curls of Parmesan and shopped rosemary.

magical bean soup 4

cartoon-strawberry-9This soup is amazing.  Dense, rich and flavorful.  And I’m glad to have a “go to” recipe on hand for my friends and family who have dietary restrictions.


shauna1Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life–friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.

French Onion Soup

There’s French Onion Soup.  And then there’s Julia’s French Onion Soup.  This is the best there is, just be sure to set aside 2 hours for this endeavor.

The recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Vol 1.

No substitutions were made.

French Onion 1

Onion Soup

1 1/2 lbs or about 5 c of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tblsp butter
1 tblsp oil
A heavy-bottomed, 4 qrt covered saucepan

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 min.

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar (helps the onions to brown)

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar.  Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

3 tblsp flour

Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 3 minutes.

French Onion2

2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boilinb water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
– I used 2 quarts of Trader Joes beef stock
1/2 c dry white wine or dry white vermouth
salt and pepper to taste

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid.  Add the wine, and season to taste.  Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally.  Correct seasoning.  Set aside uncovered until ready to serve.  Then reheat to a simmer.

3 tblsp cognac – I skipped this
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread
1 to 2 c grated swiss or parmesan cheese

Just before serving, stir in the cognac.  Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the rounds of bread, and pass the cheese separately.

French Onion3

Hard Toasted French Bread

12 to 16 slices of French Bread cut 1/4 to 1 inch thick

Place the bread in one layer in a roasting pan and pack in a preheated 325 degree oven for about half an hour, until it is thoroughly dried out and lightly browned.

Olive oil or beef drippings
Cut clove of garlic

Halfway through the baking, each side may be basted with a tsp of olive oil or beef drippings; and after baking, each piece may be rubbed with cut garlic. – I brushed one side with olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder, onion powder and pepper.

French Onion4

cartoon-strawberry-9This is the best French Onion soup you’ll ever make or eat.  Do it ASAP!

Meatballs in Pasta Soup with Basil

I could make soup every night of the week, and husband would be a happy man.

This recipe is from ‘The Complete Book of 400 Soups’.

I altered slightly, all noted below.

Meatballs in Pasta Soup with Basil

14 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable stock
3 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped ** for the onion, celery and carrot – I used the Trader Joes mirepoix mix.
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small red chili, seeded and chopped ** I couldn’t find a red chili, so I subbed a small jalapeno
1 tblsp tomato paste
11 oz small pasta shapes
large handfull of fresh basil, torn
salt and black pepper
basil leaves to garnish
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

For the meatballs:
1 thick slice white bread, crust removed  ** I used wheat bread
3 tblsp milk
12oz lean ground beef or veal  ** I used ground turkey
2 tblsp chopped fresh parsley
2 garlic cloves, crushed
grated rind of 1 orange
1 egg, beaten
2 tblsp olive oil

First prepare the meatballs.  Break the bread into small pieces and place them in a bowl.  Add the mile and leave to soak for about 10 minutes.  Add the beef, parsley, orange rind and garlic, and season well.  Mix well with your hands.

When the bread is thoroughly incorporated with the meat, add enough beaten egg to bind the mixture. Shape small spoonfuls of the mixture into balls about the size of a large olive.
** I used a little too much egg (approx half), the mixture would be fine without adding the egg.

Heat the oil (from meatball ingredients) in a frying pan and fry the meatballs in batches for 6 to 8 minutes, until browned all over. Use tongs or a draining spoon to removed them from the pan and set aside.
** Do this in a separate pan than the one you’ll be making soup in. I didn’t and had quite a mess on my hands…

Puree the cannellini beans with a little of the stock in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the oil (from the soup ingredients) in a large pan. Add the chopped onion, garlic, chili, celery and carrot; cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Cover and cook gently for a further 5 minutes.
** Cook gently? This was a new phrase for me. So I covered and turned the heat to low.

Stir in the tomato paste, the bean puree and the remaining vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.
** I also added 2 cups of water. The stock alone wasn’t enough liquid.

Stir in the pasta shapes and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the pasta is tender, but not soft. Add the meatballs and basil and cook for a further 5 minutes. Season the soup well before ladling it into warmed bowls. Garnish each bowl with a basil leaf, and serve freshly grated Parmesan cheese with the soup.
** As you can see in the picture below, I skipped more basil. I used a Parm/Asiago blend from Trader Joes.
** 11 oz of pasta is A LOT, I would cut this to 7 or 8 oz max.

 We had a friend over for dinner when I served this soup, and we all liked it.  Husband and friend did not like the orange rind in the meatballs.  And as I said above, 11 oz of pasta is a lot, I would definitely cut this down.  I’ll be making this one again, with a few slight tweaks.

P.S. – By the time this soup got to leftovers the next day, it had turned into a pasta dish instead of a soup.  The 11 oz. of pasta had soaked up all the liquid.  So less pasta, and adding 3 or 4 cups of water will keep this a soup until leftovers.