Easy tortilla soup

When the weather starts getting even remotely chilly in Austin, I get the urge to put together a cozy pot of soup.  Tortilla soup is one of my favorite Tex-Mex options when the summer starts to give way to lower temperatures.  Although I have some great recipes for totally from-scratch tortilla soup (involving boiling the chicken, making your own broth, and the like), sometimes, work, school, or life in general calls for a quicker option for the evening meal.  After some tweaking and experimenting, I have come up with the following recipe for quick, tasty, after-work tortilla soup that will fool everyone into thinking you have been slaving for hours.

Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional–omit if you prefer less spicy)
1.25 lbs. of chicken breast, cubed
1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
10 oz. of your favorite salsa
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Grated cheese (as desired)
1 avocado
Crushed tortilla chips (as desired)

Method
Warm olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot or dutch oven. Add garlic and onions. Cook until onions are tender and translucent. Add peppers. Cook 1-2 more minutes.

 

Add cubed chicken breast.

 

Cook until just done on exterior (no pink still visible), or approximately 5 minutes.

Add beans and tomatoes. Add salsa. (TIP: Use the can that held the diced tomatoes for an easy 10 oz. reference). Add broth, water, and all dry seasonings.

 

Add lime juice and 1/4 bunch of cilantro.  Cook over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes. Chicken should easily shred when the soup is ready.

For garnish, sprinkle grated cheese, crushed tortilla chips, remaining fresh cilantro, or chunks of avocado on top of individual bowls.

 

For even less after-work time: Throw all of the above ingredients, other than the garnishes into a Crock Pot or slow cooker on low, and let the soup simmer all day.

To cut a few calories: Use not only reduced-sodium broth, but also reduced-sodium beans, reduced-fat cheese, and baked tortilla chips.