Chicken Tortilla Soup

Back in college, my friends and I would take trips to Mazatlan, Mexico.  To say that weChicken Tortilla 7 had a little fun is a bit of an understatement.  We baked in the sun, talked to other college students from all across the U.S. and went to clubs I wouldn’t be caught dead in now.  At the time, it was the best thing ever!

Believe it or not, one of the highlights I remember was a chicken tortilla soup served at a tiny corner restaurant.  I feel like we went there almost every day for lunch.  They would serve the soup with all the fixings on the side – avocado, crispy tortilla strips, cheese, etc.  Once it was loaded up with the fixings, it was heaven in my mouth.  The salty soup combined with the creamy cheese and crunch tortilla strips made my day.

Since 2002, I have been on the hunt for a recipe that did this soup justice.  What I couldn’t put my finger on was what the broth was made of; chicken broth, onion broth, or something I had no clue about?  The other thing that made it amazing was the crumbly cheese that melted just enough but still kept in tact when dropped into the soup.  It wasn’t feta or goat cheese, but had a consistency similar to those if you mixed the two together.

After over 10 years of searching, I’m convinced I finally found a recipe that brings me back to those days.  Once again, Food and Wine Magazine came through.  I now know the broth is a chicken stock & tomato puree and the cheese is crumbled queso fresco found in the Mexican section at the grocery store.  Duh.  I can’t get over how similar this soup is to what we ordered in Mexico over 10 years ago.  Now if I got some blue hair extensions and put on my backless shirt with hot pink shorts, I might think I was in Mexico while slurping on this soup.  Oh the memories 🙂

Recipe Source: Food & Wine Magazine
Recipe by: Rene Ortiz

What you need:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, halved
  • 4 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 6 corn tortillas, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced
  • 4 cups shredded chicken, from one 2 1/4-pound rotisserie chicken
  • Crumbled queso fresco, dried chile, avocado and cilantro leaves, for garnish

What you do:

  • In a saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened and starting to brown, 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chipotle chiles and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are very soft, 30 minutes.
    Roma Tomatoes

    Roma Tomatoes



  • Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1/4 inch of canola oil. Add half of the tortilla strips and fry over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the strips to paper towels. Season with salt. Repeat with the remaining strips.

    Tortilla Strips and Queso Fresco

    Tortilla Strips and Queso Fresco

  • Carefully ladle half of the soup into a blender and add half of the butter. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a large saucepan. Repeat with the remaining soup and butter.Chicken Tortilla 4
  • Stir in the shredded chicken and gently reheat the soup. Season with salt.
  • Serve the soup in bowls, garnishing with queso fresco, chile, avocado, cilantro and tortilla strips.

Red Bull Flugtag 2013, Chicago!

Red Bull Flugtag is back baby!  If you remember 2010, we were team “Sprocket Rockets” 38470_415417807930_2595556_naka “The Jetsons”.  You can read about our last adventure if you missed it!  This time around, we are packing a punch with some hilarity as Team CaddyShack Attack bringing Bill Murray and that pesky gopher to Chicago.  

Step one, application.  We didn’t have a dang clue what it took to gain entry in 2010 when we applied, but obviously made an impression and got in.  I think part of the “impression” we made was at the 2010 selection party.  Some guy approached Erin and me while we admired our sketch on display among 425 others.  Then he told us he was head of the selection committee for Red Bull.  Erin proceeded to laugh at him and then accuse him of “hitting on us”.  We later found out he was head of the selection committee.  Luckily, we flirted our way out of that one.  Entry gained.

Being that Flugtag is in Chicago this year (we live in Minnesota) and we won’t have the opportunity to laugh at, mock and save ourselves by flirting with the selection guy, we had to bring the heat in another way via the application process.  So we took the same approach but kicked it up a notch and added a bit more humor.  

In case you are wondering what it takes to get into Flugtag, I thought I would share our approach and application.  First, you need a theme.  Both years we searched high and low for a theme that hasn’t been done before and is something everyone knows (Jetsons, CaddyShack, etc.).  Red Bull only requires you answer a few basic questions and submit a sketch online.  They do imply other approaches (pictures, video, etc), but don’t require it.  As in life if you half-ass your approach to things you want, you don’t get the results you want.  Enter…creative writing and iMovie (thank you MacBook Pro!).  We kept the application on the down low in case we didn’t’ get it.  But, we got the call from Red Bull saying we were in and they loved our theme!  And that folks, is how you get into Red Bull Flugtag!  

Follow us along during our journey to launch September 21st.  And if you have any wheels, chicken wire or fake fur lying around, we will take it!

Application Video:


What’s the concept behind your craft?

Caddyshack!!  We searched high and low for a theme that would have mass crowd appeal and hasn’t been done before.  We think we found that theme!  Caddyshack the movie is incredibly popular and allows for us to build a giant, hilarious gopher to ride.  Plus, we can create hot-sexy golf themed outfits and dance to a popular and catchy tune!  We can build this bad ass ride using chicken wire, paper mache, wood, foam and hay (for the gophers fur spray painted brown)!  It’s going to be hilarious and awesome rolled into one.

Why should we pick you?

For us, RedBull Flugtag is sheer entertainment and to provide that, you need adrenaline seeking people who are outgoing and willing to go above and beyond to amaze a crowd.  We can do that.  Last time around, we were delusional and thought we could fly.  This time around, we are aiming for pure entertainment and best crash.   In addition, we have an award-winning choreographer to give us the best dance you have seen.  Last time around, we took the same approach and heard over and over “You had the best dance!”

We have known each other for a long time and know what it takes to build a sweet whip.  We have the same team as 2010 and promise to be back in style, better than ever.   Pick us again, and you will not be disappointed!  It can’t hurt to have crafty Flugtag veterans who know what it takes to get the job done right??


Melissa, Erin, Jackie, Chris, Nik

I’m a landscaping queen.

OK, I’m not really a landscaping queen.  In fact, I’m a total wanna be and a bit of a IMG_20130527_152756_764putz when it comes to growing anything.  But, I’m learning!  A couple of weeks back I planted my first garden and I’m proud to report that the plants have tripled in size.  Yes, tripled!  However, I can’t take credit.  It’s all thanks to that dang mother nature.  She has been a total basket case lately and hasn’t let up on the rain.  Boooo.  Hiiisssss.  I guess the good news is that I haven’t had to water anything myself which is obviously why it’s doing so well.

After I planted my first garden, I got the itch to do something about the eye sore of a space by our shed.  It had 4 sad-looking hostas  which I had dropped into the ground and did nothing with.  I literally dug holes in the grass and plopped them in.  Totally trashy.  So, instead of pouting about how it looked, I grabbed the hubby and headed to the Home Depot.  We picked up some cute pavers and a couple of plants.  I had leftover cedar chips at home so only had to spend about $50.

I tore up the grass, turned over the soil, laid the pavers, dug some holes and plopped in the new plants.  I was even able to salvage 2 of the hostas and they are looking great.

Up next?  Who knows.  You will likely just see food blogs for the rest of the summer and maybe a post or two about my thriving (or dying) garden.  Oh, and a BIG announcement about an upcoming event we are participating in next September. More to come!

P.S. When I used the word “putz”, I thought I had better Google it to ensure it meant what I was trying to say.  Apparently it means “A stupid or worthless person.”.  Totally cracked me up.  Verdict was to leave it in the post 🙂


Eeeek…it’s my 1st garden!

It’s no secret I love to cook. And being able to have fresh picked ingredients for my meals is a dream. But this girl isn’t known for having a green thumb. In fact, my hubby typically takes care of watering the indoor plants. However, now that we live in “the cabin” full time and I actually have a yard, this year it was time. Time to have my own farm fresh ingredients grown by me!

I am starting with more of a simple garden with plants I am hoping are easier to grow since they need full sun. And full sun I have! I planted tomatoes, jalapeño and cilantro so I can make fresh pico de gallo. I planted basil for my favorite caprese salad and chives just because I can use them on anything.

I vow to water my garden and only cook the best of dishes with my ingredients. If anyone has any tips for me as I embark on this new adventure, please share!

Happy Sunday everyone!




Gooey Butter Cake

I am not a huge cake fan. However, this cake is crazy good. My mom used to make it for us when I was younger. While I had never forgotten about it, I haven’t made it in at least 10 years. Mostly because I could never remember the recipe. Well, thanks to a recent move, I found the recipe jotted down on a piece of scratch paper. And since it happens to be my birthday today, I thought I’d make myself a birthday cake.

This cake has minimal ingredients, but they are all the right ones. I mean any time you have butter, powdered sugar and cream cheese, you can’t go wrong. It is beyond moist (ugh, I hate that word!!) and incredible sweet and just a little chewy. There is no frosting but you don’t need it. If you don’t try this cake you are missing out.

Happy Birthday to me!

Recipe Screen Shot:


Cake Mix, Egg, Butter

Powdered Sugar, Egg, Cream Cheese Spread

Powdered Sugar, Egg, Cream Cheese Spread

I love Chicken and Dumplings!!

Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings
By: Mike Lata

What’s my inspiration:IMG_0898

Today is my six-year wedding anniversary and I think I am the luckiest girl in the world.  I have an amazing, loving and hard-working husband (he even does my laundry!).  On our anniversary, we have a tradition unlike any other.  You guessed it, watching The Masters.  Actually, that is my husbands tradition.  I on the other hand, spend my time cooking a nice anniversary dinner while making unsolicited comments about the outfits worn by the golfers and laughing at what seem to be inappropriate comments made by the announcers (yes, like a 15 year old boy).  Makes it more fun for me.

This gem of a recipe was found on the great ipad app Epicurious.  Prepping the meal is a bit tedious since you hand make the dumplings and need to peel and chop the vegetables.  However, I promise it’s worth it.  The dumplings are light, fluffy and fun to eat.  The sauce has a fresh, savory flavor.  I have made this a couple of times and personally feel there aren’t enough dumplings to go with all the chicken and gravy.  Now, I make either a double batch of dumplings or buy a roll of biscuits and have leftover chicken and gravy over that.  So dang yummy.

What you need for Chicken and Dumplings

  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus more
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

Chicken and gravy:

  • 10 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 celery stalks, cut crosswise into 1/4″-thick slices
  • 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, cut into 1/4″-thick rounds
  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/4″-thick slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan

Make the gnocchi! 

  • Gently mix ricotta, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour, egg, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl just to blend (do not overwork).
  • Form dough into a ball (it will be sticky); wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  • Place dough on a lightly floured work surface.
  • Divide dough into 4 equal portions and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Using your hands, roll 1 portion into a 1/2″-diameter rope; cut crosswise into 1/2″-thick pieces.
  • Lightly dust gnocchi with flour and transfer to prepared baking sheet.
  • Repeat with remaining portions of dough.
  • Cover gnocchi with a kitchen towel and chill until ready to cook.
  • DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 months ahead. Freeze on sheets, then store, frozen, in an airtight container.

Make the chicken and gravy!

  • Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan.
  • Add chicken; reduce heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until chicken is tender and cooked through, 20-30 minutes.
  • Remove chicken; let cool slightly and shred into bite-size pieces.
    Gnocchi; Chicken and dumplings
  • Bring broth to a boil and cook until reduced to 8 cups, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter in a small heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is pale beige in color, about 15 minutes (do not brown).
  • Scrape roux into simmering broth; whisk until thickened and broth coats the back of a spoon.
  • Reduce heat to low and add vegetables.
  • Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add shredded chicken and herbs.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Chill, uncovered, until cold; cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.

Finish the dish!

  • Cook gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until gnocchi float to the surface, about 2 minutes (slightly longer if frozen).
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to bowls, dividing equally.
  • Ladle chicken and vegetables with gravy over.
  • Season with pepper and top with Parmesan.

Homemade marinara sauce

I enjoy making things from scratch because you know exactly what’s in it.  You don’t photohave to sacrifice any taste and can do so using fresh, healthy ingredients all while reducing the sodium.  When I realized Spring was “technically” here (although you wouldn’t know it from all the snow on the ground) and I still had 14 jars of my fresh canned tomatoes, I knew I needed to get cracking on using them.  What’s the point of all that work if you don’t use them in the winter when fresh produce isn’t available!

I found a great homemade spaghetti sauce recipe and tweaked it a bit to my liking.  It’s incredible and can give Rao’s sauce a run for their money.  Yeah, I said it!

This recipe makes about the same amount you would get when buying 2 jars from the store.  You can eat this with spaghetti, meatball sandwiches, lasagna or whatever else you like marinara sauce on.

FYI: While its way better with home canned tomatoes, you could certainly make it with store-bought.  Although it won’t be the same!


What you need:

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 quarts / 64 oz canned tomatoes (you can use stewed tomatoes from the grocery store.  I recommend low sodium!)
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh basil
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (omit if you don’t like spicy)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

What you do:

  • Add EVOO to a pan and saute garlic for 30 seconds.  Do not burn!
  • Add tomato paste and stir until combined
  • Add canned tomatoes, fresh basil, pinch of sugar, red pepper flakes and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until reduced and sauce is thickened

    Homemade meatball sandwich!!


Meatball Sandwich

Meatball Sandwich