Sunday, March 4, 2012

What do these recipes have in common?

I am a big fan of the black bean, so when I saw Martha Stewart's recipe for Tortilla Soup with Black Beans I knew I had to give it a try. Her recipe didn't call for chicken, but that's how we prefer this soup and I really didn't think Martha would mind if I added it. Every recipe I've ever made for Tortilla Soup uses crushed tortilla chips as the thickener (hence the name "Tortilla Soup"), but I don't like this particular soup thick. So I just leave that step out. I do add tortilla chips or strips when I serve it, along with wedges of lime. This recipe is also surprisingly fast and goes from stove to table in almost no time!

P.S. If you, too, like black beans, check out this Black Bean Brownie recipe. It's chocolate perfection that's good for you!

Tortilla Soup with Black Beans and Chicken

I love almost every recipe I've ever tried from Martha Stewart, but her recipes are almost always bland when it comes to seasoning. Instead of just tossing out the recipe, I've learned to adjust (or add) the seasoning myself - to my taste. I like to think of her recipes as a basic structure to which I add my own embellishments (and really make the recipe my own). I've added a list of seasonings that work well with Mexican dishes to help "perk up" this soup. You can stick to just adjusting with salt and pepper or you can try adding one (or all) of the seasonings from the list below the recipe. My only suggestion:  add the seasonings a little at a time. You can always add more (if you like), but once you've got too much in there, the adjusting process becomes much more difficult!

1 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. chili powder

2 - 14 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes in juice

2 - 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 - 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth (or stock)

1 - 10 oz. pkg. frozen corn

salt & pepper

1 cup crushed tortilla chips plus more for serving (optional)

1 tbsp. lime juice (if using fresh limes, save some wedges for serving)

1 - 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook until fragrant - about 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice), beans, broth, corn, and 1 cup water. If you like, you can also add some finely diced pepper (like jalapeno). Taste and season with salt and pepper and other seasonsing (see list), if you like. Bring the soup to a boil and add the chicken; reduce to simmer and add the crushed tortilla chips. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes or until tortilla chips have softened. Remove from heat, stir in the lime juice and taste. Season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with lime wedges and tortilla chips or strips.

** Spices typically found in Mexican dishes:  cumin, oregano, chili powder, (add more, if you like), coriander, and cilantro. If you're feeling really adventurous and want to add some interesting flavor dimensions, try adding a little cinnamon, ground cloves or anise to the soup or other Mexican dishes. **

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Spiced Chai Latte

I feel that I have to redeem Martha after telling you most of her recipes are a little bland. This spiced chai latte recipe is perfect just the way it is. My photo and the one on shows this drink with frothed milk. You don't have to froth the milk, if you don't want to. If you like froth, follow this link for a quick and easy way to froth milk with a whisk (there's also a great recipe for cappucinno):  Easy Handmade Cappuccino. If you try the whisk method for frothing milk, just pretend that you're trying to start a fire with sticks!

2 tbsp. loose black tea (I used 4 tea bags)

3 whole cloves (about 1/4 tsp. ground cloves, if you don't have the whole cloves)

1 star anise (I didn't have whole star anise on hand when I made this, so I used 1/4 tsp. anise extract)

1 whole cinnamon stick

4 cups boiling water

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 tbsp. sugar

1/4 cup hot milk (use 1/2 cup hot milk, if you plan to froth the milk)

Put the tea, cloves, anise, and cinnamon in a teapot or heatproof pitcher; add the boiling water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain the tea into 4 cups. Add the vanilla and sugar; stir. Add the hot milk (heat the milk, then froth it if you plan to use this method). Enjoy!

P.P.S. Did you find the ingredients these two recipes have (or could have) in common?

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