Well here I am, doing a peachy job of maintaining my blog in the new year. What is this… three blog posts since New Years? I seem to do a pretty good job updating my blog when I put my mind to it. That is usually around the start of the year and when something exciting is going on in my life (unless it was 2008 in which case I seemed to have caught blogging fever). That also seems to be the pattern I have in keeping up to date with my far away friends.
I should fix that.
And since talking about blogging isn’t nearly as exciting to the reader (or the author) as writing about something deep and introspective, I’ll depart from my opening words and embark on a more interesting topic.
The first few days back to the office after an extended vacation (17 days to be exact) are never very easy. Mentally you are ready to head back, but physically, your body is ready for a nap at 11:28AM and then another one after a big, lazy lunch and a movie around 3:21PM. Back in the office, though, you might find yourself in important meetings or water cooler discussions around those times and a nap just doesn’t cut it (at least, not in this country). On top of some long, napless days, you go home to a house void of all Christmas cheer. The decorations have been taken down, your baked Christmas goodies are getting stale, and the money you spent on Christmas is being replaced with a strategic plan that involves eating at home, every night, and on a budget.
Things look bleak right about now…
… unless you’ve found a hidden burst of creativity that you didn’t use up preparing for the holidays.
While lounging about this past weekend, I worked very hard to make available some easy to grab activities and tasty, new menus for dinners. If my evenings are filled with new kitchen adventures followed by a game of solitaire with an REAL LIVE deck of cards, perhaps I have something to look forward to (why solitaire? Well, it’s mindless… sometimes you need mindless in a day, don’t you judge me. And why with a real deck of cards? Because it hurts my eyes less than my phone or computer screen).
Humor me for a minute. I adore cooking. I’m pretty good at it but long days at work coupled with exhausting brain things filling my head all day can lead to cop out meals. These are meals I know how to make without a recipe and that I know will be liked by all parties involved in the noshing process. My go to meals rotate between alfredo sauce on any kind of pasta that suits my fancy that day (sometimes I kick it up a notch and do a cajun chicken alfredo, but it’s still alfredo), various types of enchiladas (I can make any freezer mystery meat into a killer pan of those Tex-Mex favorites), curry split pea soup, curry chicken pot pie, mushroom/sausage/pumpkin soup and… well… sometimes spaghetti and sometimes chili (although I’m not a fan of either but they are easy so we eat them). There you have it. If I’m going to cook at home, it’s usually one of those things.
This can easily lead to thoughts of budget suicide (i.e., running to Cable Car Pizza for $30 worth of gourmet pizza or heading to China Cafe because it’s familiar and they know you are the lady who likes extra sauce with her egg foo young). Foods that used to be tasty and exciting seem, quite honestly, upsetting to the stomach. Changes were inevitable if I was going to be able to maintain some form of a happy home that smells delicious every night.
Thankfully, I’m the proud owner of about 147 food related or recipe filled magazines from the past few years. Between Martha Stewart Living, Every Day Food (also Martha Stewart), and Everyday with Rachel Ray, I surely had a few good recipes to try out. It only took 20 minutes, but I was able to find 2 weeks worth of items to make in just three magazines. I’m happy to report that every single one I’ve prepared so far have been killer good.
Okay, so I’ve only made 3 so far, but things are looking up!
Now, all of this to say, I’m thinking that a weekly post to share one or two of my favorite recipes tried over the past week is surely in the cards. To kick things off, I bring you last night’s Chicken Tortilla Soup – pictured above. The base recipe is from Everyday Food (the Jan/Feb 2012 issue) but I took a lot of creative liberties when cooking this ’cause that’s what I do best.
5 cups chicken broth (I bought a box which had 4 and made a 5th out of bouillon and the hot water I poached the chicken in, I’m sure this made it better)
10 chicken tenders
most of a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)
tablespoon of tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
chili powder (a lot… I didn’t measure)
Mexican or Spanish rice of your choice (I make my own with white rice, a can of rotel, salt and cumin)
Shredded Mexican cheese (or cotija if you have cooler grocery stores than I do)
Poach the chicken until done, shred when cool enough to touch with out cursing
Heat oven to 350, cut desired amount of tortillas into strips (I used 3 for 2 bowls of soup), toss with a bit of olive oil (enough to coat very lightly), season with salt and chili powder, then spread on baking sheet and cook until crisp – turning once.
Cook your rice however you want to cook it (boxed rices comes with their own instructions, I don’t need to put them here)
Cook garlic in a large soup pot with some olive oil until fragrant (a few minutes)
Add diced tomatoes in juice, tomato paste and chili powder (however much you want) and cook until liquid is almost gone.
Add all chicken broth.
Bring to a boil, salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOUR TORTILLA STRIPS (burning them is sad)
Place a scoop of rice in each bowl
top with some shredded chicken
top with a sprinkle of shredded cheese
slice avocado and set on top of the cheese
pour some of the soup into the bowl
top with cilantro and tortilla strips
then squeeze the heck out of a lime wedge over the top of the soup (you’ll thank me later)
don’t throw away the squeezed lime… put that bad boy down in some water, or tea, and pretend you’re in Mexico. Better yet, make a margarita and dream of beach side restaurants in Cozumel. I did.
Serves 4 – don’t be a pig, save the leftovers for lunch, unless you’re starving. In that case, go ahead and be a pig.