Monday, September 30, 2013

Tortilla Soup

It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend in Georgia.  We spent as much time as we could outside - enjoying the beautiful Fall weather.  I snapped a few pictures of some of our weekend activities to share with all of you. 

Can you tell that I had a great weekend?  I am loving this September weather.

As soon as the cooler weather moves in, I start craving warm, hearty soup.  Last week I had a craving for tortilla soup.  I did some internet searching for a new tortilla soup recipe.  I was looking for a recipe that was loaded with vegetables and didn't have cream.  (It was harder to find than you might think.)  I finally found a recipe on and even though it was called Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup and contained cream - I decided to go ahead and make it anyway and just leave out the cream. 

Ben brought some banana peppers home from a friend at work this week and I wanted to use those in my soup so I swapped them for the jalapeno.  (My family isn't too fond of spicy food anyway.)  I made a few other changes to the recipe so I am going to give you my - modified - version of the recipe.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded
2  tablespoons olive oil
1  small onion chopped
1  small orange bell pepper, diced
3 banana peppers
4  cloves garlic, minced
2  tablespoons chili powder
1  teaspoon cumin
1  teaspoon oregano
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/4  cup flour
3  cups chicken broth
1  can (15 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
1  can (4 ounce) diced green chilies
1  can (15 ounce) sweet corn, drained 
1  can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 lime, juiced

Colby-Jack Cheese
Fresh Cilantro, minced
Avocado, diced
Corn Tortilla Strips

Roast chicken in the oven with for 40 minutes at 375.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large Dutch Oven or soup pot.  Add the onion, red bell pepper and banana peppers and saute for 3-4 minutes until soft.  


Add the garlic, Chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne pepper.  Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.  

 Add the flour and continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.

Slowly add the chicken broth, tomatoes, green chilies, corn and black beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes until slightly thickened. 

Remove from heat and stir in the cooked chicken.  Squeeze a half a lime into the soup.

Stack tortillas and slice into strips.

Lay strips on a baking sheet, spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.

Bake 8-10 minutes at 400.

Ladle soup into bowls.

I like to put my toppings in separate bowls on the table because not everyone in the family likes the same things in their soup.


Craving satisfied - deliciously!  This soup definitely hit the spot on a cool Fall evening.  And now, I have lunch for the rest of the week - bonus!


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Coconut Granola Bars

Did you know that it is highly frowned up to take pictures in a grocery store? Probably not because normal people don't walk through grocery stores with their camera in their hand. Well, food bloggers do that on a regular basis but I had no idea that grocery store owners didn't exactly welcome photography in their stores. Let's just say that I have been asked to leave more than one grocery store establishment for pulling out my camera during a shopping trip.

The first time it happened, I was innocently snapping pictures of an unusually creative produce display when I was told that I had to get approval from a manager before I could take any more pictures. After asking to speak to the manager and waiting for a full 20 minutes, I was told that the manager was unavailable. In lieu of a manager, the community relations director for the store came out to talk to me. (I didn't even know grocery stores hired "community relations directors".) After explaining my perfectly innocent intentions to her she willingly granted me permission to photograph the rest of the store. 

I assumed that my experience at that particular store was not typical but since then, I've found out (the hard way) that MOST grocery stores are not in favor of shoppers taking pictures. I guess store owners are afraid of competitors coming in and photographing their displays. I would have assumed that the competition would be a lot more subtle about their undercover surveillance than walking around the store with a Nikon D60 around their neck.

For the most part, I have stopped taking pictures at the grocery store. If there is really something that I can't pass up the opportunity to photograph, then I pull out my phone and snap a picture with that. (Apparently phone photography is perfectly acceptable because I've never been asked to stop taking pictures on my phone.)

You will be happy to hear that I did my grocery shopping this week without a camera.  I even resisted the temptation to pull out my phone for a picture of a very large eggplant.  (Mostly because I was short on time.)  I gathered up all of the groceries that I needed and headed home to whip up a quick snack.   

I found this recipe for homemade granola bars on  It combined so many of my favorite snacks: almonds, coconut, chocolate and oats.  Throw in some honey and butter and brown sugar and forget about it - how could I resist? 

My Version of Homemade Granola Bars
  • 2½ cups rolled oats (old-fashioned or instant)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ (I used wheat bran because I was all out of wheat germ.)
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp mini chocolate chips
While your oven is preheating to
300°F, spread the oats, coconut, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat
germ and almonds evenly on a 9" x 12" baking sheet. 

Bake these dry
ingredients for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat the butter,
brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan, allowing the brew to simmer
until the oat mixture is ready to come out of the oven. 

Remove the honey mixture from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before stirring in the vanilla
extract. Pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture and stir until all the dry ingredients are coated.

Next, spread the granola mixture into the bottom of a greased 9" x 12" pan.

Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips over top. Press the granola firmly into the bottom
of the pan.

Tip: Place a piece of wax paper over the granola mixture and use another pan of the same size to press down and evenly flatten the granola mixture. 

Bake at 300°F for 15 minutes* or until golden brown at the edges. 

When you remove the granola from the oven, allow it to cool only slightly before cutting it into bars,
but wait until it's completely cool before removing the bars from the pan.

Here they are - super yummy - and chocolaty - granola bars. 

I have no trouble taking pictures of the beautiful granola bars at home, do I?  Enjoy.