Tortilla Meatball Soup

November 2nd, 2011

There are so many variations on tortilla soup.  In my opinion you can’t  go wrong with any of them.  Tortilla soup is warming both in temperature and in taste.  Jalapeno peppers give it just the right heat and the garlic infused broth adds pleasure for the soul.  With the addition of flavorful meatballs to the soup, you will gild the lily of satisfaction.

Sometime I want to do a series of posts on what you can do with a pound of hamburger.  That is just what Cooking Light Magazine has done in it’s latest issue.  One of the recipes featured was this tortilla meatball soup, which I have adapted.  A Summer and Fall of overindulgences have brought us to the realization that we need to temper our calorie intake.  This soup is full of flavor and I have discovered that, for us, flavor trumps richness every time.  Eating lighter fare does not have to be a sacrifice.

There are several steps involved in making this soup, but all of them add to the depth of flavor.  This is a good soup to make on a lazy weekend afternoon.


2 jalapeno peppers
1 red bell pepper
2 cups of frozen corn, thawed
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4 inch strips
Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
1/3 cup panko crumbs
1 pound ground round
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, minced
1 tablespoon oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cups cubed red potatoes
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat broiler.

Cut jalapenos and bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes.  Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Broil 4 to 6 minutes or until blackened.  Place peppers in a paper bag; fold to seal.  Let stand 15 minutes; peel.  Mince jalapenos, and coarsely chop bell pepper.

Place tortlla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet; lightly coat with cooking spray.  Broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch closely so the strips do not burn.  Set aside.

Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 garlic clove, panko, ground round, egg and minced chipotle chile in a large bowl, and gently mix until just combines.  Shape the meat mixture into small meatballs.  I ended up with 28.

Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add meatballs to pan; saute for 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from pan.  Add onion, potatoes, and carrot to pan; saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add remaining 5 garlic cloves; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add peppers, broth and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally.  Return meatballs to pan.  Add remaining salt and the corn; return to a simmer.  Cook 10 minutes or until meatballs are done.  Ladle soup into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with cheese, cilantro and tortilla strips.  380 Calories.

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My new website is under construction.  I plan to launch it on the third anniversary of my blog in January.  Here is a sneak peak.

I am so excited.  It will be a collaborative effort of my talented Son and Daughter-In-Law.  Check out Kristen’s business blog here.

Mexican Casserole

August 27th, 2011

It was a good idea.  I was looking for an easy to assemble casserole that was tasty and would feed a crowd.  This may be that very thing, but you see, sometimes I can’t leave a recipe alone.  The recipe was on Epicurious.  It was called  My Favorite Mexican Casserole.  It won a blue ribbon from Parade Magazine.  It is made from shredded cooked chicken ( a chance to use a rotisserie chicken ), canned kidney beans, garbanzo beans and corn.  It uses crushed tortilla chips instead of corn tortillas.

I made some good changes to the recipe.  I used frozen corn instead of canned corn.  I used black beans instead of garbanzo beans.  For the final layer I mixed crushed tortilla chips with the last of the cheeses.  But my big mistake was using two layers of corn tortillas where there was no call for them.  It made the casserole too dry.  The only tortilla chips called for were a layer on the bottom.

I will give you the recipe as written and if anyone tries it without messing with it, I would like to know about it.  Not everything we make can be a success.  Now I have to figure out what to do with this huge casserole when there are only the two of us to eat it.


1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1 pound shredded cooked chicken meat (from a small roasted chicken)
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) garbanzo beans, drained
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) kidney beans, drained
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) corn kernels, drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce (I used enchilada sauce)
1 cup prepared salsa
1 cup chopped red onion
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
6 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese

2 cups diced (1/4-inch) ripe tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking dish, then scatter the crushed tortilla chips evenly on the bottom.

2. Combine the chicken, beans, corn, tomato sauce, salsa, onion, bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Place half the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Combine the cheeses, then sprinkle half over the mixture.

3. Cover with the remaining half of the chicken-and-bean mixture and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

4. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serve the garnishes in bowls, so guests can top their portions with diced tomatoes, sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro.

Foster’s Market and a Cinco de Mayo Casserole

May 3rd, 2011

Sara Foster has two markets in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.  The area includes Duke University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and The Research Triangle Complex.  So much happens in this incubator of thought, science, software and medical research.  The people drawn to this part of North Carolina are highly educated, enviromentally aware and demanding about what they eat.  It was the perfect place for Sara Foster to open her food emporiums.  Sara worked for Martha Stewart in the early years of her career and long ago branched out into her own style.  She has written several cookbooks and is recognized for her approach to cooking which involves simple honest food prepared with local  and seasonal ingredients.  Her cookbooks inspire me.

Over the Easter holiday we traveled to the coastal area of North Carolina.  While skirting Chapel Hill I suggested to David that we stop at Foster’s Market for lunch.  OK this is something that you need to know about me.  I take any and every opportunity to experience an interesting meal.  Forget the fast food joints;  I want “an experience” of unique eats.  Why waste your time on mediocre meals?  So we got off of Interstate 40 and proceeded to Foster’s Market.  It is not far, but our GPS gets confused.  I hate my “Betty” sometimes.  I thing she is trying to land us in a dump or no man’s land.  Right before we arrived at  the restaurant on the left of Martin Luther King Blvd, Betty sent us to the right through a winding neighborhood and landed us back on the right street to turn back to the left for a few yards.  Evil Betty!  That’s why my next picture is crooked.  I was upset.

The Chapel Hill branch of Foster’s Market is not as funky as the Durham restaurant, but is set up in the same manner.  Orders are placed in front of a display case of delicious looking salads.  You have your choice of interesting sandwiches, soups and salads.  There is also a bakery, shelves of jams and mixes, and a wine section.  One of the unique offerings of the restaurant is a weekly dinner offering for take out.  You sign up by Friday of the week before and on Monday you can pick up dinner for 5 nights, all packaged and ready to heat in the oven.  Check it out here.  Many of the current offerings are from Sara’s new cookbook Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen.  Click here to view all of her cookbooks.

We had the soup and sandwich combination featuring pork and black bean soup with a ham and cheese panini.  I didn’t get a good picture of our food but this is what the market looks like on the inside.

In honor of the upcoming Cinco de Mayo holiday, I made Sara Foster’s Southwestern Shepherd’s Pie with Chicken and Chili Mashed Potatoes.  It is in her Foster’s Market Cookbook.   If you are short on time you can use a rotisserie chicken.  There is a little heat to it, but not much.  It is an interesting take on shepherd’s pie and we loved it.  It was both homey and satisfying.


3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 red onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups shredded cooked, chicken
3/4 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kernels from 2 ears fresh corn (1 cup fresh or frozen corn)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mashed potatoes made from 6 large Russet potatoes
2 teaspoons chili powder
Fresh parsley and fresh thyme, to garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the celery, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper and cook 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and jalapeno and cook 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour starts to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken and wine and stir until the wine begins to evaporate, about 1 minute.  Slowly add the chicken broth, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon.  Reduce heat to low, bring the mixture to a low boil, and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and is creamy.

Remove from the heat and add the parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, and corn.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer the mixture to a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.

To make the chili mashed potatoes,  Mix basic mashed potatoes with 1 teaspoon of the chili powder in a bowl until well combined.

Spoon the chili mashed potatoes on top of the chicken and bake 20 to 30 minutes or until the potato peaks are slightly brown and the chicken mixture is bubbling around the sides of the dish.  Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining chili powder and the parsley and thyme, if desired.  Serve immediately.

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Mexican Benedict

April 27th, 2011

We have been away from home for the long holiday weekend.  While at my Daughter-in-Law’s sister’s home, Kim made a wonderful brunch for the crowd.  She and I poached the eggs for her Mexican take on eggs benedict.  It is a challenge to poach 12 eggs, but by the time we had gotten to the twelveth egg we were pros.  We poached 6 eggs at a time in a large skillet.  The 1/4 cup vinegar called for is enough for any number of eggs.  Vinegar in the water helps the egg whites stay together.  To make it easier to drop an egg into the simmering water, break it into a small shallow bowl first and then slip it into the water.

The recipe for the Mexican Benedict came from The Blue Plate Diner in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Dried black beans are cooked and seasoned before the dish is put together.  If you are in a hurry canned black beans could be substituted and seasoned according to the recipe.

Everyone enjoyed this and there was no pesky hollandaise sauce to deal with.  The topping of picante sauce and cheese was just right.  Kim topped the finished dish with sour cream, cilantro and guacamole.  The mojitos hit the spot also.


For 1 serving:
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 eggs
1 English muffin
1/4 cup Blue Plate Black Beans, heated
1/4 cup picante sauce, heated (such as Pace)
3 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons shredded provolone cheese
1 heaping tablespoon sour cream
2 tablespoons sliced black olives (optional)
2 sprigs cilantro
1 tablespoon guacamole

1. Fill a deep skillet with water ( 3 inches deep ), add vinegar and bring to simmer over medium heat.  Heat broiler.
2. Crack eggs into simmering water and cook until desired doneness, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Split and toast English muffin.  Place on an ovenproof plate.
4. Remove poached eggs from water with slotted spoon and place one egg on each half of muffin.
5.  Spoon black bean mixture over eggs.  Spoon picante sauce over black beans.  Sprinkle top with shredded cheeses and place under broiler until melted.
6 Remove from broiler and garnish with sour cream olives, cilantro and guacamole.


1 cup dry black beans
3 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons canned diced green chiles
1/4 cup diced white onions
1/4 cup picante sauce (such as Pace)
1 1/2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place beans in a colander and rinse well.  Place in large saucepan, add water, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes.
Makes 2 cups

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Mexican Chicken Casserole with Charred Tomato Salsa

January 18th, 2011

I would make this dish again just for the charred tomato salsa.  We have been eating light since the first of the month, but every once in a while I get a desire for Mexican food.  Most of my recipes for Mexican dishes are heavy on the cheese and sour cream.  My good friend Maxine has been passing on her Cooking Light  magazines to me and I found this recipe for a lightened up Mexican casserole.  It add lots of vegetables, a homemade tomato salsa, chicken instead of beef and less of the cheese and corn tortillas.

I did make some changes to the recipe.  I had two turkey thighs that I simmered in some water and taco seasonings instead of the chicken breasts.  If you were pressed for time you could even substitute a rotisserie chicken.  The recipe also calls for 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese which is not one of my favorites so I eliminated that and added a little more of the Monterey Jack.  I used black beans instead of corn only because I had no corn in the freezer like I had assumed.

The charred tomato salsa uses plum tomatoes which are easy to find this time of year, a jalepeno pepper, onion and garlic.  It is easy to assemble and would be good on it’s own with tortilla chips.  For the original recipe you can go to the Cooking Light website.  Here is my version.


8 plum tomatoes, halved and seeded
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 seeded jalapeno pepper, quartered
Cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fresh or frozen corn ( I used black beans)
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken ( I used turkey thighs )
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (10-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

I halved this recipe successfully.

Preheat broiler.  To prepare salsa, combine first 4 ingredients on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Broil 20 minutes or until charred, stirring once.  Remove from oven; cool slightly.  Place tomato mixture in a food processor; add cilantro, lime juice, and pepper.  Process again.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  To prepare casserole, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat pan with cooking spray.  Add 1 cup onion, zucchini, and bell pepper; saute 6 minutes or until tender.  Add black beans and chicken and next five ingredients; saute 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.  Remove from heat.

Spread 1/2 cup salsa ove the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Arrange half of tortillas over salsa.  Spoon 2 cups chicken mixture evenly over tortillas.  Top with 3/4 cup salsa.  Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese.  Repeat layers, starting with remaining tortillas, and ending with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly.  Yield; 8 servings. 

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