Monday, April 22, 2013

The Distraction: Chicken, Lime & Tortilla Soup

Whenever I'm in need of a distraction; something to occupy my mind other than anxiety, I head to my kitchen.  And lately I've been in the kitchen a lot.  You see, tomorrow morning, I check myself into the local hospital for a minor day surgery.  Well, that's what the physicians call it.  I call it ohmygodyouaretakingmygallbladderoutofmybody day.  I've known for quite some time that the surgery was impending, but given that I've never even had a tooth pulled, tomorrow holds a whole bunch of unknowns for me, and I'm kinda sorta freaking out a lot.  Don't get me wrong, I know I'm terribly lucky to have never before needed an extended hospital stay.  In my almost 40 years of life I've only sprained ankles, had the occupational cuts and burns and bruises, a couple of root canals and a broken heart.  Oh, if only there was a bandage for the latter.  I've gone through life fairly unscathed, and tomorrow that record is up.  Tomorrow I get an IV and anaesthetic for the first time.  That alone is giving me the heeby jeebies.  The procedure itself sounds short and simple and I can kind of wrap my brain around that bit.  But then there is the recovery and the pain and reduced mobility for awhile.  I have no idea what to expect from this whole situation and for a control freak like me, it's scary as all heck.  I've been tempering my fear with bouts of yoga and cooking, and find both processes meditative and soothing - something to steal my brain away from worst-case-scenario-land. But if you've ever had a gall bladder attack, you know of which sweet hell I speak.  Having that knife-stabbing pain gone for good is going to be quite awesome.  I just have to get through the next several days and my over-thinking ways.  And now I'm rhyming.  Let's move on to the soup!

Making soup is my therapy of late.  I've been loading the freezer with it because I know I won't feel like cooking while I'm rehabbing on my couch.  Today's tomato, lime and tortilla soup is fresh and lively and pretty healthy.  There are a couple of make ahead steps, like roasting some spice-rubbed chicken and deep frying crispy tortilla strips.  If you aren't a friend of the deep fry method, no worry, you can easily bake the strips too.  The pulled chicken is quite awesome, adding full meaty flavour to the soup.  And of course the garnishes here are the key players.  Avocado! Cheese! Lime! Tortillas! Cilantro!  Put these in individual bowls and let everyone garnish their own soup as they like.  Sometimes I forget that not everyone adores cilantro like I do. 

First off let's cook some chicken.  Slather the meat with chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin, coriander and give it a good rub.  Bake for about 25 minutes, then shred it with two forks.  Meat is tender and juicy and really adds kick to the soup. 

Corn tortillas are good to have around the house.  They make an excellent base for tacos and tostadas and of course, they lend a crunch to today's soup.  Cut them into strips, like so.

Preheat a little oil in your frying pan and fry the strips until crispy and golden. Doesn't take long, just a few minutes.  These are so tasty, but remember to save some for the soup.

Now to the main event.  The soup itself comes together in about 30 minutes.  The base is onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers and spices.  My friend Stacy suggested the nutmeg and as per usual, she was totally right.  Diced tomatoes and chicken broth are added and of course fresh lime juice is stirred in at the end along with the shredded chicken.  Ladle into bowls so everyone can garnish their own soup.  It's a simple, delicious bowl of nourishing goodness.  I love when there is a bit of avocado and tortilla in every bite, and it's spicy enough to make my nose run a little, but not a lot.

Thanks for listening to me and my freak out.  In fact I'm not quite sure why I've spilled the beans to you.  I could have just talked about the crappy weather (again) and been done with it.  But this is me and this is what I'm going through.  Frankly I'm not sure when I'll be back writing but cross your fingers it won't be long.  And if you could send me all of your healthy, healing vibes, that would be super cool too.  Thanks friends.  Talk to you soon.  xoxo Renée.

Tomato, Lime & Tortilla Soup

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder
1/2 tsp salt
pinch sugar

6 corn tortillas, cut into strips
1 cup canola oil, for deep frying

1 cup chopped onions
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1-2 minced jalapeno peppers
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 28 oz. (796ml) can diced tomatoes
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
juice of two limes 
2 tsp honey
salt to taste

1 cup grated cheddar
1 avocado, diced
sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges

To prepare chicken:  combine the spices, salt and sugar in a bowl.  Place chicken on parchment lined bake sheet.  Drizzle oil over chicken, then sprinkle spice mixture over each breast.  Use your hands to rub the spices into the meat.  Place in preheated 375*F oven and cook for about 25 minutes.  Let chicken stand for 10 minutes.  Take two forks and shred the chicken.  Set aside.
While chicken cooks, prepare tortilla strips: cut the tortillas into strips, about 2 inches long.  In a small frying pan over high heat, add the canola oil.  Let it get nice and hot, but not smoking. Toss a little strip of tortilla in and if it starts to fry right away your oil is hot enough.  Reduce heat to medium high and fry the tortillas in batches, draining each batch on paper towel.  (If you are not comfortable deep frying, you can toss the tortilla strips with 3 tbsp oil and place them on a bake sheet and bake until crispy, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until golden.) 
Sauté onions and garlic in 3 tbsp oil over medium high heat for a few minutes.  Stir in peppers and spices.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in the diced tomatoes and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Stir in lime juice, honey.  Stir in shredded chicken.  Season to taste, with more salt or pepper.  Ladle soup into bowls, garnish with crispy tortilla strips, cheddar, avocado, cilantro and lime wedge.   Serves 4-6. 


  1. Good luck Renee, I'll be thinking of you. Get well soon!

  2. Renee, you'll be fine! I know it's scary but you'll get through it. Sending you lots of well wishes. Oh! And your soup looks fantastic, as usual.

  3. I know you're worried about the surgery but it will be fine Renee and the recovery is quick. Good idea to pack your freezer with delicious soups like this.

  4. Sending you best wishes for a speedy recovery! xox

  5. Sending good, super healing vibes your way as you head into tomorrow. Wishing you a quick recovery!

  6. I hope your surgery and recovery go well! Also hope the weather improves to spring quality soon. ;-)

  7. Renee,
    I hope your surgery is going well! I know what you mean about being scared by that sort of thing. Just entering a hospital ( even to visit someone else) makes me a bit anxious.
    And your soup looks delish - as per usual:) Love the photo series. Beautiful!
    Wishing you good healing.

  8. I don't comment much, but I read ;-0)

    had to jump in to wish you a smooth surgery, I would be freaking out too because I am the worst kind of wimp there is: the one who never gets sick or has any problem

    But my sister and my niece both did this exact surgery and recovered quickly, no problems, said that the worst was the expectation of it. So, there you go...

    hope you will be back to relate the adventures and cook up a storm!

  9. Sorry to hear about this, sending prayers your way. Get well soon!

  10. Renee- I hope all went well today and you're on your way to a speedy recovery. I'll keep you in my thoughts.

  11. Good vibes coming your way! I've been through the surgery as an emergency patient, so much pain I had to go. Recovery, for me, was a breeze after induring so much pain leading up to that point!! So glad not to have that any more!! You will be fine. :) I love Tortilla soup! This recipe sounds so very good, thank you and best wishes!! :)

  12. wow, looks amazing, thanks for recipe

  13. Thank you SO MUCH everyone. I'm home now, recovering, and the procedure went well. Still highly uncomfortable and in some pain, I'm toughing it out with lots of tea and good books. I really appreciate all of your kinds words. xoxo

  14. Happy to hear your procedure went very well Renee! Don't worry, you be back at it in no time!

  15. First of all, surgery is scary and it's ok to be nervous. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers! The soup looks so good- I love those flavors and I adore cilantro! Take care and remember to take it easy after the surgery- seriously!

  16. I'm so glad to hear that everything went well, and cups of tea accompanied by good books sounds like a pretty awesome way to spend your time post-surgery. Also, can I just say this soup looks ah-mazing!! I'm adding it to my dinner rotation for next week. I know my whole clan will love it.

  17. yes! you came through like a champ! here's to a speedy recovery!

  18. Thanks everyone! I'm healing slowly but surely. The sun's out, temps are rising and things are good :)

  19. Here's to a speedy recovery. The soup was so good and tasty even though no cilantro was added...I'm really trying to like that herb! You post the best recipes. Enjoy the wonderful weather.

  20. I know this is belated, but glad to hear that all went well and hope you're doing great!
    The thought of this soup has my taste buds tingling in anticipation. Soups are great for chasing the blues away and so I think I need some of this just about now.

  21. Made your soup for my family today, and, my oh my- we adored it!!! This was so yummy! I added some corn and black beans to beef it up a little, and it was so delicious. Party in your mouth, I say. Thanks for sharing- this will become a regular at our house.


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