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?