Recipe: chicken tortilla soup

This is another incredibly flavorful soup. If you’ve shied away from tortilla soup for fear of it being too spicy, I can tell you that this soup isn’t spicy, just very well spiced. Every sip is like fireworks for your mouth. It is sweet, tart, tangy, sour, meaty and savory, with a hint of heat that warms the belly, without overpowering the tongue.

IngredientsChicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 pound shredded cooked chicken
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • juice from 5 limes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 chopped, seeded jalapeño
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3 finely chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Toppings:

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar/jack cheese
  • crispy tortilla strips

Directions

  1. Simmer chicken stock, Worcestershire and lime juices with jalapeño and cilantro for 45 minutes.
  2. Strain soup and return to stovetop.
  3. Add chicken, green onion, tomato, bell pepper, rice, corn and garlic, and simmer for 20 additional minutes.
  4. Serve immediately with toppings (cheese and crispy tortilla strips).

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information

  • calories: 382
  • total fat: 15
  • carbohydrates: 37
  • protein: 26

Recipe: Krys’ epic mac-n-cheese

This recipe is based upon a legendary batch of gourmet mac and cheese made by the head chef at the Washington State Convention Center back in 2009. It was so good, we begged for the recipe. The wily chef left out his secret ingredient, so I’ve customized the recipe a bit, and think I’ve hit upon just the right combination of flavors.

The quality of the cheese makes all the difference, so use the highest quality you can afford. I buy Tillamook vintage extra, extra sharp white cheddar from Costco, and use a nice parmesan/romano blend, though I’ve used plain ol’ Kraft parmesan before with good results.

This recipe can serve as the base for some cool variations, too. Lobster mac, buffalo chicken mac (topped with blue cheese!), spinach mac… The possibilities are endless!

Ingredients

Gourmet Mac N Cheese

  • 1 pound of elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Boil macaroni according to directions on packaging. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter, then mix in flour, whisking until smooth. Add heavy whipping cream, and whisk until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and 2/3 pound of cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese is fully melted. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Remove the sauce from heat, and pour over macaroni. Stir the macaroni and the cheese sauce until all noodles are well covered.
  5. Pour mixture into a greased baking dish (I use a 2-quart round glass pyrex baking dish), and top with cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, and then panko bread crumbs.
  6. Bake uncovered until the top browns, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information

  • calories: 873
  • total fat: 55
  • carbohydrates: 66
  • protein: 28

Recipe: baked potato soup

This is no ordinary soup. This is loaded baked potato soup. And, it’s a full-fat version of the soup, to boot. That may come as a surprise, since I’ve mentioned that I’ve been working on losing 50 pounds (I’ve lost 32 pounds in the past 7 months).

I typically choose to eat the full-fat version of foods. I believe them to be less-processed and more flavorful than their lower-fat, lower-calorie counterparts. Whether or not that’s true, I’m not precisely sure, but this is the path I’m on. So, I make a higher calorie version of this soup than you might find in Cooking Light. That means that I choose to eat less of it than I might be able to do if I made the lower-calorie version. However, I find that I’m able to eat smaller portions when I’m eating food that is rich in flavor. And, let me tell you… this soup is so rich in flavor that my mouth waters at the thought of it.

IngredientsBaked Potato Soup

  • 4 medium red potatoes (4 ounces each)
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • bacon drippings from 4 slices bacon
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Toppings:

  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 4 slices bacon, crisp cooked, drained and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

  1. Fry 4 slices of bacon. For best results, start with a cool pan, over medium heat, flipping bacon periodically until it becomes noticeably firmer. Remove bacon from pan, and set on paper towel. Once cool, crumble bacon slices and set aside. Keep drippings.
  2. Scrub potatoes with a brush and pat dry. Poke a few holes in the surface of each potato, on all sides. Microwave potatoes for 10 minutes on high.
  3. Carefully remove potatoes from microwave (they will be steaming hot). Allow to cool, then cut into small cubes (leave skins on). Mash the cubes, leaving some small-ish chunks, as is your preference (I think it’s nice to come across some chunky potato while eating the soup). Set potatoes aside.
  4. Over medium-high heat, saute 3 tablespoons green onion in bacon drippings and butter, until tender. Stir in flour, dill, salt and pepper, until thick and smooth.
  5. Add milk all at once, then sour cream. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, then cook and stir for one additional minute.
  6. Add potato and 1 cup sharp cheddar, cooking and stirring just until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Note: The potato will thicken the soup the longer it remains in the mixture. Take care not to stir or cook the soup too long, or the starch in the potato will get a bit gummy. This will not affect the taste, but the texture of the soup will be different.
  7. Serve immediately with toppings (bacon crumbles, green onion and shredded cheddar).

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information

  • calories: 465.3
  • total fat: 32.1
  • saturated fat: 19.5
  • cholesterol: 85.7
  • sodium: 476
  • potassium: 687.7
  • carbohydrates: 27.3
  • protein: 16.7

Eating to lose weight

I could talk for days and days about what I have done to lose 30 pounds, and what I plan to do to lose another 20 pounds over the next 5 months. Really, days and days. Grab a chair. You’re going to want to get comfortable for this.

Kidding, of course. I will write for days and days about this, but I’ll parse it out for your benefit. Lucky you!

Today, I’m going to talk about what I’ve been eating over the past few months. Bacon. Pizza. Loaded baked potato soup. The other night I had something I like to call Krys’ Epic Mac & Cheese. We regularly enjoy Chipotle and Portillo’s (if you aren’t familiar with Portillo’s, you should be). Basically, what I’m saying is that nothing is off limits. Nothing at all.

I eat bread, meat, vegetables, starches, fruits, sugar, and anything else our species considers “food”. I drink beer, wine, mixed beverages, diet soda, iced tea, water, coffee, pretty much anything that I want.

 

The key? For me? (And, folks – that is the real key – this is what works FOR ME. Not what works for my cousin or neighbor, or for you. Although our bodies work in much the same way, we all have our own way of looking at the world, and what works for me may not work for you.) The key for me is portion control and planning.

I could eat a pound of bacon. Shouldn’t. But could. I could easily eat a whole pound of bacon, but in order to lose weight, I choose instead to only eat two or three pieces.

I could happily consume half a large pizza. Gleefully, even. But, instead, I eat a slice or two. Sometimes three, depending upon the pizza.

Venti peppermint mocha? Don’t mind if I do, but please make it “skinny” by using skim milk, sugar and fat free syrups. That’ll save me more than 300 calories over the original.

Heading to Portillo’s for lunch? Enjoy the usual (beef-n-cheddar croissant, small cheese fries, diet coke), and plan for a light dinner.

Chipotle in your future? Nosh on a burrito bowl, and skip the 200 calorie tortilla. Load up on protein rich meat and beans, and you’ll be full for a long, long time.

I never, ever feel like I’m missing out on something. Mostly because I never, ever miss out on anything. I eat what I want to, when I want to, in quantities that make sense.

It feels wonderful to lose weight while enjoying the same foods that made me fat to begin with. Really and truly. I am finally learning what portion control and moderation feel like. The best part of all of it is that this is absolutely a sustainable lifestyle for me. I could keep this up indefinitely, because I don’t feel constrained at all.

This is just how I live now.

Practicing savoring

Leo Babauta is the author of one of my favorite blogs, zenhabits.net.  I enjoy reading his writing, and I believe that he lives his advice.  Living my advice is something I aspire to do one day.  For now, I’m living my life and writing about what happens.  Slightly less impressive.

Anyhoo… in a couple of recent posts, Leo has been encouraging his readers to savor things on a daily basis, in order to slow down, see more, enjoy more, and get more out of life.

I’m into getting more, so I thought I’d test out one of his suggestions.  Grab a square of dark chocolate, put it in your mouth, and sit there for a moment.  Just sit there, and become aware of the depth of the flavors.  The feel of the chocolate.  Contemplate those that grew the cacao beans, the artisans that crafted the chocolate bar…  Really, you should visit his post, because he has a beautiful way of describing this act that is truly compelling.


Upon reading the post, I immediately dipped into my stash of dark chocolate, whipped out my Godiva 72% Cacao Dark Chocolate bar and snapped off a square.  Then I got a little worried.  What if I didn’t do it right?  What if I couldn’t taste anything more deep than “chocolate”?  I don’t know anything about the people who grew the beans that went into the bar I bought!  What do I do now?!  And then I told myself to shut up.  Just shut up, close your eyes and put the damn chocolate square in your cakehole.

And do you know what?  That was some of the best chocolate I ever tasted in my whole life.  I closed my eyes right there at my desk, in the middle of an open concept office, and didn’t even care who saw me.  I put half of the chocolate square in my mouth, and let it sit on my tongue for a moment, before pressing it up to the roof of my mouth.  It felt smooth, and when it began to melt, it was positively velvety.  The chocolate had a faintly citrusy flavor, maybe orange.  But mostly, it was simply chocolaty-er. When I bit into the chocolate, I noticed that it felt slightly waxy at first, but then it melted immediately, and was soft and gooey.

That moment was rich and sinful and delicious and wonderful.  I did not contemplate the growers.  I did not think about the artisans that crafted the bar, except to think that it was probably not artisans, and more likely a machine that made my bar.  For those 90 seconds, I was living to feel and taste the chocolate.  It was altogether a spectacular moment, and one I am eager to repeat!

What is something you can savor?  Come back and tell me what you did and how it went!