After posing last week about the new blog series I am going to start writing, I couldn’t wait to write the first post! The perfect example of how ‘I make something I’m craving as I go’ hit me last week. I was suffering from an upset stomach most of the day and knew I wanted something light and comforting for dinner. Soup sounded divine. Even more divine sounded tortilla soup, as I had been thinking about making it for several weeks but hadn’t gotten around to it.
I have a process when I’m craving something and want to make my own version. It goes something like this:
- Look around for recipes: I usually google recipes and look at several recipes first to see what the common flavors are in the dish and the variations that people put on the dish. Other times I will just look to cooking light or eating well first to see if they have a recipe similar to what I am looking for. For this tortilla soup, I found an eating well recipe and based my creation off their recipe.
- Sometimes I will pick just one recipe, like this time, or other times I will have a starting point in my brain using main ingredients most recipes used.
- If I am just using one recipe, I will find the recipe using the most ingredients I have on hand. Tonight the eating well recipe only required me to go to the store for 4-5 ingredients, so I chose that one. I have a well stocked pantry, so I try to use food I already have anytime I’m making something.
- I also look for a recipe that using ingredients I am comfortable with using. For example, I’m not going to make something with a condensed can of cream of anything soup. I just won’t do it. So if I recipe uses that, it’s nixed and I move on to the next.
- In fact, I rarely use the recommended amount of meat when I’m making a meat dish and always just use what I want or what I have. The recommended serving of meat is 3-4 ounces per person per meal and most recipes give each portion 6-8 ounces.
- I substitute greek yogurt for sour cream always. Doesn’t matter what the dish is. If it needs sour cream, I use plain 0% greek yogurt.
- I always subtract mushrooms. I can’t stand them when cooked so I just leave them out!
- I substitute with what I have at the house. The tortilla soup called for chicken breasts but I only had ground chicken so I used that.
- I try to add more vegetables to every single dish I make. Especially since I do cook meat, most recipes are heavy on meat, light on veggies. I always try to double the amount of vegetables in the recipe or sneak in extra veggies where possible.
- Zucchini is the typical addition vegetable I use because it’s so versatile and works in any type of cuisine.
- I also add onions and garlic to every single dish I make. I love them and can’t get enough.
- I try to make recipes using canned tomatoes. There are so many great recipes with this ingredient and it’s just one other way to add more vegetables to your dish.
- Anytime I’m cooking if I think something needs salt, I will add half the recommended salt to the recipe. Sometimes I don’t add salt at all. You really just have to re-adjust your palate and this is a super easy trick.
- I ALWAYS use low sodium chicken stock and no salt added canned tomatoes. If I need italian tomatoes, I use no salt added tomatoes and add my own italian seasoning.
- I do the same thing with breadcrumbs – buy the plain and season them myself. You save so much sodium that way.
- Anytime you have the ability to season your own dishes, do it.
- The eating well recipe called for 1 T of olive oil. Knowing I was using ground chicken breast (that is 99% fat free) and used twice as many vegetables, I used 2 T of olive oil so I didn’t burn anything.
- I didn’t follow the directions in the recipe for adding ingredients. Basically I added the oil, added the veggies, added the chicken, then added everything else once the chicken was cooked.
- I eyeballed the stock to get the liquid consistency of the soup that I wanted. Since I messed with the ratio of ingredients the recommended amount of stock was not right.
- I sprayed my tortillas with canola oil cooking spray when I put them in the oven, otherwise they would have burned and been gross.
- I didn’t measure anything Just added it all to the pot and went with it!
So these folks are my general cooking rules and the way my mind moves when I’m coming up with a recipe off the top of my head. I figure out my flavors, subtract things, add things and try to cut back the sodium. Here is a little summary of what I did to to come to this delicious pot of chicken tortilla soup (which made about 3-4 servings):
- Decide I want to make tortilla soup
- Google “tortilla soup”
- See if eating well has a recipe
- Look at their recipe and decide I have most of these ingredients.
- Decide to use fresh bell pepper and onion instead of frozen.
- Decide to use the ground chicken breast I had at home.
- Decide to add avocado to the top of the soup.
- Go to store for cilantro, bell pepper, corn tortillas and green chilies.
- Add 2 T olive oil to dutch oven. Meanwhile cut bell pepper, onion and garlic.
- Add said vegetables to pot and let sweat. Then add ground chicken and brown.
- While browning add cumin and chili powder.
- Next add green chilies, diced tomatoes and mix.
- Squeeze one lime’s juice into the pot.
- Realize I didn’t add zucchini and decide zucchini won’t cook if I add it now so forgo it.
- Start adding chicken stock and stirring to see what soup consistency will be.
- Decide it’s good and let simmer while 2 tortillas (not 4) are in oven. Add some more cumin, chili powder and black pepper.
- Then dish up and top with chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, cheese (a few pinches) and avocado!
If you would like a written copy of this recipe in full, click here to view and print.
What are your cooking rules?