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By the bowl: Spicy chicken soup chases away cold-weather ills

Southwestern Chicken Soup1 / 2
Corn tortillas are cut into strips, lightly coated with oil and baked.2 / 2

Spring officially arrived just a few short days ago, but we realistic Minnesotans know that we’re apt to suffer through a few more bouts of lingering winter conditions before warm temperatures fully take root.

It’s not quite time to retire the soup pot and get out the grilling tongs.

In our kitchen, the soup pot got a workout this winter. Although we never labeled it as such, Monday turned into Soup Night. Every Monday, I came home from work, scoured through the veggie drawers and threw together some sort of a soup or stew.

On last week’s menu was this Southwestern Chicken Soup — the product of a little advanced forethought and preparation instead of my usual use-up-refrigerator-remnants method of soup cookery. I did manage to clean out the last of a package of corn and a bag of homemade chicken stock from the freezer, but my main reason for selecting this particular soup was its possible curative powers.

Both Hubby Bryan and I have been plagued by the effects of a lingering late-season cold. After weeks of sniffles and nose-blowing, I thought some liquid penicillin — aka chicken soup — might be just the medicine we needed. Plus, I figured a good dose of spice might give this kitchen prescription a bit of a boost.

Tips from the kitchen:

* I had a couple of leftover chicken breasts from a previous meal to use in the soup. If that isn’t the case, skinless boneless chicken breast (2 or 3, depending on size) can be cooked in the soup broth once it has come to a simmer, for about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth, shred or cube, and add back into the soup. Deli rotisserie chicken would also work.

* I like the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes, but any canned diced tomatoes — including Rotel with peppers — can be substituted.

* If you prefer more heat, add additional cayenne or use jalapeño instead of green or red pepper.

* I baked the tortillas in batches in our small toaster oven. In a pinch, tortilla chips can be substituted for the tortilla strips.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil

½ onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ red or green pepper, diced

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 cups chicken stock

One 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

One 8-ounce can tomato sauce

2 cups diced or shredded chicken

1 cup frozen corn

4 small corn tortillas

Vegetable oil

Optional toppings: Sliced avocado, diced red onion, sour cream, grated cheese

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or pot. Add onion, garlic and pepper and sauté until vegetables are soft. Add cumin, chili powder and cayenne and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly so spices don’t burn.

Add chicken stock, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer. (If chicken needs to be cooked, add skinless, boneless breasts to pot at this point.) Cook for about 15 minutes, until tomatoes begin to break down. Add in cooked chicken and corn and cook until heated through. Adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, cut each tortilla into four strips. Coat lightly with vegetable oil (cooking spray works well) and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, turning once, until strips are crisp.

Ladle soup into bowls and serve with tortilla strips and optional toppings.

Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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