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Sharing Is Caring: Tis The Season

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There’s a never-ending question that comes up at my house more often than not: “What should we have for dinner?” It seems to be a question that no one can ever answer. Does that happen to you? As the main cook in the house and the creative one, or at least that’s what they tell me to get out of answering, the question always gets put back on my shoulders. Some days I debate the question but for some reason there’s never an answer. I then take a quick check of my pantry to see what I have and I know that I had purchased some chicken breast a day ago when doing my shopping. It’s like watching the cooking show Chopped and these are the items I have in my basket. The advantage is, I don’t have to finish in 20 minutes to come up with a dinner.

Got it: chicken tortilla soup! It’s easy, quick to make, and it will take only about 20 to 30 minutes to make this luscious pot of soup, from start to finish. Add to that, it’s winter and cold outside and this will warm you right up. It’s the perfect planned meal for a cold night of comfort.  

As I smelled the amazing soup and thought how good dinner was going to taste, I looked out my window and saw the single lady who lives across the street with her daughter. She was later than normal getting home and had grocery bags in her hand, struggling to get into the house. The little voice in my head reminded me that I have had the same kind of day before and I could tell she was done. You know the feeling, wanting the day to be over and knowing that you still had to make dinner and probably do laundry. This soup makes great leftovers, but tonight I bagged up tortilla chips, some shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado and put a half gallon of the soup in another pot and walked it across the street. When she opened the door, you could see the tears well up in her eyes as she tried to thank me for dinner without bursting into tears. She said, “I have had a bad day at work and had no idea what to cook for dinner.” Back to that daily question, right? You could see the relief in her body language that someone really cared and her day just got a little bit better. After I came home and we had our dinner, there was still soup left for the next day. My heart was warm knowing that I helped someone out. It wasn’t much, but to her it was huge. 

We sometimes forget that there are needs out there other than our own, so if you have a neighbor who may be struggling or tired from the day, or an elderly couple that lives a couple of doors away, don’t forget about them. Share and feel good about helping another person. That is our purpose as human beings: to serve each other. Even something as simple as soup can make a difference. I found that out for myself. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

3 large chicken breasts, skinned and boned (3 lbs.)
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups water
1 15-oz. can of beef broth
1 15-oz. can of chicken broth
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained/rinsed
1 15-oz. can red beans, drained/rinsed
1 15-oz. can refried beans
1 15-oz. can corn, drained
1 jar medium heat salsa
1 medium red onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. cilantro flakes
Tortilla Chips
Monterey Jack cheese shredded
Avocado, sliced
Lime wedges
Snipped fresh cilantro
Sour cream

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Pour the olive oil into a large soup or stock pot. Heat the oil, then place the chicken into the hot oil, stirring until the chicken slightly browns. Add onion and green pepper, stirring until the onion starts to soften. Pour in the water, broth and undrained tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Add corn, black beans, red beans, refried beans, salsa, chili powder, cumin, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine, then place the lid back on the pot and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, crush a handful of chips into the bottom of the bowl. Ladle soup over the chips and add the toppings you desire. Sprinkle with cheese and a slice of avocado with a small dollop of sour cream and some chopped fresh cilantro. Have lime wedges ready for those who desire to add them.

Yes, it is the season for giving, and it really doesn’t need to be something extravagant. My challenge to all of you is to see if you can make someone’s life just a bit easier this week. After all, just a small gesture can change a bad day for someone well deserving.

Once again from my recipe box to yours, I hope this soup gives you something warm and comforting.