Apr 192011

As some of you may remember from my gloating “I’m in paradise” post, I was in Cabo a few weeks ago.  I came back on a sunshine high…completely relaxed, perfectly browned, and emitting happiness.  Now, it rains every day, my skin’s dry and peely, and the stress of work and school have wiped away any residual joy.  I had to get back to my happy place, and in Cabo, I ate tortilla soup just about every day, so I wiped up a pot and crossed my fingers for teleportation.  Well, the soup tasted really good at least…

Tortilla soup is super healthy.  It’s a brothy tomato base, flavored with garlic, onion, and peppers, cumin, oregano, cilantro, and lime.  The one thing that makes it not so good, at least in Cabo, was the mountain of fried tortilla strips garnishing the soup.  I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I baked my strips instead, and they were AMAZING…just as good as fried, really.  

But, the real fun of tortilla soup still lies in the garnishes, so fresh avocado slices, cilantro, cojita cheese, and BAKED tortilla strips were necessary additions to this amazing soup.   

Nutritional highlights:  This soup has it all…chicken for protein, plenty of vegetables, healthy fats (avocado and a littttttle cheese), and a little spice to kick start your metabolism.  It’s really versitile according to your preferences too.  Mine had added black beans and corn, but you could leave them out for a more traditional take.  It’s a meal in a bowl and it may be why people in mexico are all pretty thin.  Either that or the 90 degree heat.  

Chicken Tortilla Soup


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (I keep some seeds in because I love the heat)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 cups low sodium chicken stock 
2 tablespoon tomato paste (I didn’t have this, so I used a few extra chopped tomatoes)
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles)
Cooked chicken, shredded (I bought a rotissere chicken to make it really simple)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one fresh lime
Optional additions to make it a one pot meal: 1 can black beans, 1 cup frozen corn
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4″ strips (stale are best)
1 cup Cotija, Chihuahua, Feta, or Monterrey cheese (I used feta)
1 avocado, sliced or cut into chunks about 1″ square

For the soup:  Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeño, cumin, chili powder and oregano. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft.

Add chicken stock, tomato paste, tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice. Now here you have a choice.  If you want your soup to be uniform consistency, blend the ingredients so far and return to the pot.  You can also leave it chunky, or blend half of it which is what I did.  Add chicken, black beans, and corn.  Taste your broth and try to decide if it needs a little extra flavor–season with salt, add more lime juice or cilantro, whatever your inner Cocinera tells you.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and let cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For the tortilla strips:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, spread tortilla strips in a single layer on sheet and spray again. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Bake 8-10 minutes until crisp and lightly browned (keep watching and shaking the pan until they’re really crisp). 

Prepare your condiments plate: Grated cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, sliced avocado, and maybe some chopped red onion.  

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and add all the toppings.  And enjoy a really brief trip to mexico!

Mar 252010
If you’ve been around me in the past, oh, year, then you know I’ve been talking big game about starting a healthy cooking blog. And just when I was about to cross that thin line between building suspense and everyone completely losing interest, here it is! As a food lover and a nutrition enthusiast (and hopefully someday a nutrition professional), I’m going to share healthy and delicious recipes straight out of my bite-sized New York City kitchen. I decided for my first post, I’d use one of my go to meals that is the epitome of healthy meets delicious: Minestrone Soup.

This is a pretty magical soup. It’s comforting and hearty but doesn’t make your hips more comfortable and hearty. It’ll simultaneously satisfy the health freaks and the vegetable averse. And my favorite part: one pot of soup + individual Tupperware bowls = frozen dinners for weeks! Warning: This recipe is NOT for those who hate chopping. I personally think taking out your aggression on some helpless veggies at the end of a long day is pretty therapeutic. Ok, time to get started. Step 1: Set up your ipod speakers and turn on some tunes. Step 2: Start chopping.

Once you’ve gotten some of the chopping done, pull out your soup pot and sauté the garlic in some olive oil. This is when your apartment starts to smell unreal.

Then go the onions. Then carrots and celery.

After those work for a while, you add the liquid ingredients—tomatoes, broth, and wine. Reserve the rest of the wine.

Now that it’s starting to look soup-like, we’re going to add the rest of the fresh ingredients. So I took a trip to my garden to pick some fresh basil.

Ok, made it back. Now you add the zucchini, green beans, spinach, basil, and oregano. I usually use this veggie combo because it’s pretty traditional to minestrone, but you don’t have to adhere to these…this is a great clean out your veggie drawer recipe so throw in whatever you have. You’ll want to let the soup simmer for at least an hour, so now is when you’ll grab the rest of the bottle of wine and a glass. About 20 minutes before you serve, throw in the beans (you don’t want them to fall apart too much) and boil some whole wheat macaroni or ditalini in a separate pot if you like noodles in your soup. I like to garnish with parmesan and fresh basil and serve it with garlic bread baked with fresh mozzarella on top. Writing this is making me hungry…good thing I have a freezer full!!

Nutritional highlights: We can all probably stand to mix a meatless meal into our repertoire. You’ll still get protein from the beans and veggies, calcium from the spinach and cheese, and your heart will be loving the garlicy-tomato goodness. Plus you’ll tone your arms chopping. Make this on the next cold rainy, miserable day and I promise it’ll be less miserable.

Minestrone Soup
Adapted from allrecipes.com

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 small onions (or 1 big one)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup red or white wine
1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups baby spinach
2 zucchini’s (or one zucchini, one yellow squash for color)
1.5 cups of cut green beans or 1 14.5 oz can
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can cannellini or garbanzo beans
salt and pepper to taste
whole wheat ditalini pasta (optional)
grated parmesan for garnish

1. In large stock pot over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and saute garlic for 2 minutes.
2. Add onion and saute for 4 minutes or until translucent
3. Add celery and carrots and saute for 4 minutes
4. Add broth, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add wine.
5. Reduce heat to a simmer and add green beans, spinach , zucchini, oregano, and basil. Taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If soup is too thick for your liking, add 1 cup water. Add beans and start to boil ditalini. Simmer for another 20 minutes or until you’re ready to eat.
7. To serve, put about 2 tablespoons cooked pasta in the bowl and top with soup. Sprinkle with grated parmesan and garnish with fresh basil. Enjoy!!!