Sasha’s Chicken Tortilla Soup

Months ago, I sent out a Twitter request for a tried and true Chicken Tortilla Soup. I’d tried a number of online recipes but never found one I liked. My long-time friend Sasha Knight, editor extraordinaire, came to the rescue and emailed me her recipe. It’s…fabulous.A? The recipe below is exactly as she sent it to me and she said I could share it with you. You should make it, it’s really delicious!

Chicken Tortilla Soup from Sasha Knight

This is the basic recipe, but I change it up all the time, add a little more of one thing, throw extra spices in, sometimes I add in zucchini or peppers. Just whatever Ia??m in the mood for. This is a good base though, and is good as is if you dona??t want to experiment.


2 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I prefer thighs)

1 4 oz can of green chilis

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of pinto beans (I use jalapeno pinto beans), drained and rinsed

1 can of corn, do not drain (I use mexicorn)

1 can of tomato sauce

2 cans of chicken broth

1 pkg or taco seasoning or 1 pkg of dry fiesta ranch salad dressing (I prefer the fiesta ranch, but I was told that ita??s hard to find outside of California)

2 (or more) whole jalapenos, puncture to allow flavor into the soup

1 bunch of cilantro chopped (minus stems)

1/2-1 cup of salsa (any brand, I tend to use chunky)

Tortillas or tortilla chips (optional)

Sour cream (optional)

Shredded cheddar and jack cheese (optional)

Avocado (optional)

How to prepare:

Put chicken in the bottom of the crockpot and pour remaining ingredients on top of it except for the salsa, tortillas, sour cream, and cheese. Stir and cook on low for 6-8 hours. The last 30 minutes, remove chicken and shred. Put the shredded chicken back into the soup and add the salsa. Mix well. Serve with tortilla chips or tortillas and garnish with sour cream, cheese and sliced avocado.

(AJ: I didn’t read the instructions totally right and added the salsa with all of the other ingredients at the beginning and this didn’t seem to hurt it. I served with grated cheese–mix it into your bowl and it gets a deliciously creamy taste. Top with tortilla chips and…yum! Also, I found Fiesta Ranch packets in the salad dressing aisle, but didn’t use that, because my husband doesn’t like ranch flavor.)

White bean and ham soup

One of the main reasons I like cooking a ham is so I can have this soup, which I love. Not only is it tasty, but it uses the ham bone, so it makes me feel like I’m getting as much possible use out of my ham as possible.

I’m going to give you a few variations on making this–the variations aren’t in the ingredients, but in the beans and how you cook it (soaking versus not, stove versus crockpot). Oh and original recipe is here but duh, I’ve adapted it for my purposes. Also, no pictures of this because I don’t think there’s a good way of photographing a few things, bean soup and pot roast being two of them.


  • 1 pound dry great Northern beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons chicken base (alternately, 4 cups water, 4 cups chicken broth)
  • 1 ham bone with some ham still on (I just cut the bone out of the meat and then throw it in, don’t worry about trimming meat off)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions for Stove

  1. Rinse the beans, sorting out any broken or discolored ones. In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the beans and remove from heat. Let beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes (I do this step the night before and soak them overnight, then drain the water and add 8 cups fresh water).
  2. After the 60 minutes of soaking, return the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, 2 cups ham, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard, ground white pepper and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 more minutes.
  3. Remove one to two cups of soup, add to blender or food processor, puree and return to soup for heartier, thicker soup.
  4. Remove the ham bone, strip off any lingering ham and discard the bone. Stir in any ham from ham bone, remove bay leaves and serve

Directions for Slow Cooker

  1. Rinse the beans, sorting out any broken or discolored ones. You can skip the soaking for slow cooker.
  2. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook for 4-6 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low.
  3. Remove one to two cups of soup, add to blender or food processor, puree and return to soup for heartier, thicker soup.
  4. Remove the ham bone, strip off any lingering ham and discard the bone. Stir in any ham from ham bone, remove bay leaves and serve

Soup base

Recently on a forum I belong to, we got into a short discussion about soup base, because someone was asking about making homemade chicken soup. A few months back, here, I posted a recipe for homemade turkey soup, using the leftover turkey carcass. But the truth is, for many of my recipes–and for any recipe calling for chicken broth–I use a soup base. In fact, on my chili recipe you’ll see that one of the ingredients is beef base.

Soup bases are a concentrated paste of flavor that, when mixed with water, create a broth or a stock. They come in a variety of flavors. The main three are probably chicken, beef and vegetable. But you can also get ham, turkey, seafood, and pork. There may be others out there I’m not aware of as well.

Once it’s opened, soup base usually needs to be refrigerated, but it’s well worth the space in your fridge to store a small jar of soup base. For every recipe that calls for broth, you can mix hot water and base to create the right amount of broth–much, much cheaper than buying it by can, and much tastier than the bullion cubes.

Not only that, but using the base allows you to control both the sodium level in your dish (which you can’t do with pre-made broth) and the intensity of flavor. With base on hand, you’ll always have the beginnings of soup stock/broth. Just add pasta and veggies and serve!

Red Bean & Barley Soup

This post was written by Sarah of SmartBitches

Last week I mentioned one of my favorite cookbooks, “Saved By Soup,” which I keep for exactly one recipe: Red Bean and Barley Soup.

In addition, this recipe is the single reason I own a immersion blender. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I make this soup a LOT in the winter. It’s very easy, I can keep the ingredients in the house with little trouble, and it’s delicious – and it needs about 30 minutes to cook.

So, let’s get started.

You need: olive oil, pearl barley, water, one small saucepan, one dutch oven, onion, kidney beans, broth, salt, and parsley if you have some.

You’ll also want an immersion blender, or a potato masher if that does not seem to be among your kitchen appliances.

I use Goya beans, because they are inexpensive and the kidney beans are HUGE. Goya stuff generally rocks, and I learn the Spanish name for everything if I didn’t know it already.

Dice your onion, and saute it until softened in a little olive oil in the dutch oven. Oh – and this is the part I don’t have a picture of. Rinse the barley in a colander, then put it in a small saucepan. Cover the 1/2 cup of barley with water and put it on to simmer for about 5 minutes. It helps soften the barley before you toss it into the soup. Let them simmer for 5-8 minutes, then take them off the heat. The cookbook recipe says you should rinse them again (but that 2nd rinse is not mandatory).

Rinse the red beans while the onion cooks. Rinse them. Rinse them again. Rinse them bad until they’re all good because otherwise: Too salty.

Toss the beans and broth into the dutch oven with the onion.

When the beans and broth have cooked for about 15 minutes, and you can totally fudge that by 10 minutes if you have to, grab Ye Olde Immersion Blender and use it to break up the beans. You can break them up almost entirely, or only a little bit – depends on how much you like whole beans in your soup. Us, we love whole beans.

Toss the barley in, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer it for about 30 minutes until the barley is tender. Keep an eye on it, and stir every now and again, so it doesn’t get all stuck to the bottom. If you want to add meat, this is a good time – toss it in and let it cook with the barley, keeping an eye on the whole thing for sticking and burning and cooking.

Serve with chopped parsley or a swirl of olive oil or a giant piece of bread. The leftover soup is even better, if that’s possible, the following day. Especially if there’s sausage up in there.

Happy eating!

Printable recipe ahoy:

Red Bean & Barley Soup

1/2 cup pearl barley, rinsed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium size onion, chopped
4 cups (or 2 cans) red kidney beans, rinsed omg like rinsing has never been done before
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup of parsley

Optional additions:
2 cups of white beans (substitute for 2 cups of red beans)
Sweet Italian sausage, taken out of casings and crumbled into soup when time to cook for 30 min
Hot Italian sausage – same thing

Cover barley with water, rinse off, and put in small saucepan with water to cover. Bring that to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Chop onion, and saute over medium heat in a dutch oven or 4 qt stockpot until soft (2-3 minutes). While the onion is cooking, open cans of beans and RINSE RINSE RINSE OMG RINSE like you’re using Breck conditioner and it’s not coming out of your hair.

Add beans and broth to pot. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minute (or 10. Or 5).

Grab immersion blender and turn off heat on stock pot. Break up the beans with the blender – or with a potato masher, or if you really like doing dishes, use a slotted spoon to transfer some or up to half of the beans to a food processor and pulse a few times to break them up. Me? Immersion blender, baby.

Add the barley to the soup, bring to a boil again, and then simmer for up to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until barley is all tender and the house smells so good you want to eat the atmosphere. If you want to add bits of sausage or meat, do so when you add the barley, and keep an eye on the liquid level and the sticking-to-the-bottom thing.

Makes 6 servings, or four if you’re hubby and me and you have big ass soup bowls.

Happy eating!

Tuscan White Bean Soup Adjusted for Slow Cooker

This post was written by Sarah of SmartBitches.

YumLately on Saturdays I’ve been trying to make one massive recipe in the slow cooker so that (a) we have awesome smells in the house all day and (b) we have leftovers for meals during the week. This week, I’m trying a free recipe from Cooks Illustrated for Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew. Cook’s Illustrated recipes are not usually free, but this one is and since I love beans, and I love Tuscan flavors, I wanted to eat the recipe right off the screen.

However, I wanted to do the recipe in the crock pot. I happen to know that for Hanukkah, one of Hubby’s and my gifts to one another is a very nice cast iron Dutch oven, but Hanukkah isn’t until next weekend and I didn’t want to wait – or spend that much time putting a Dutch oven into and out of my oven. So I used this guide to adapting recipes for the slow cooker and am trying it out.

Note: I’m not adding kale, or any other hearty green. I can’t stand cooked greens of any kind, as they target my gag reflex like nothing else, so I’m not kidding when I say that cooked greens make me gag. No no no.

I started off by soaking the beans per the recipe overnight in salted water. I used Kosher salt, however, which means I used 6 tablespoons – two times the amount of table salt that’s called for in the recipe. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the fine Hebrew people cornered the market in sparkles and pixie dust because Kosher salt is some light and fluffy stuff.


The beans soaked overnight – I know, you’re on the edge of your seat with this bean soakin’ madness up in here. So exhilirating! I barely had a bowl big enough for the 4 quarts of water. I did, however, have enough Press n’Seal to cover the bowl and keep one of my cats out of there. He likes to eat raw onion, tomatoes, and uncooked pasta. I think slightly salted beans would send him to the moon of joy.

Pancetta baby.

Then it was Pancetta Time, baby. A few words about Pancetta: first, it is one of those ingredients that tv chefs say as heavily-accented as possible, because it sounds authentic (to them) and pretentious (to me). However, regardless of how you say it, go get some as a base for any aromatic sautéing you might be doing for a soup because OH HOLY NIGHT PANCETTA smells GOOD.

Aw Yeah

Another word about pancetta: yes, I’m Jewish. I do not keep Kosher, though many awesome Jewish folk do. I eat ham, bacon, shrimp, bacon wrapped in shrimp with a side of ham, and OH HOLY NIGHT PANCETTA. Seriously. Hubby, who is always somewhat repulsed (ok a lot repulsed) by my preference to use bacon fat instead of oil in some of my recipes that call for frying, walked into the house and said, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing that.”


The pancetta needed about 6-7 minutes to get all frilly and awesome and fat-render-y, and then it was vegetable time.

Six minutes in heaven

After about six minutes of sautéing in the rendered OH HOLY NIGHT PANCETTA, the house smelled so good I nearly stopped cooking and grabbed a fork. As I said on Twitter, if there were scented candles of carrots, celery, garlic and onion cooking in pancetta, I’d buy those bad boys in minutes – and I as a rule think scented candles are among the most useless things ever, right up there with those electric baby wipe warmers that dry out the baby wipes into a brown crusty mess.

Rinse it, rinse it good

Then, you rise the beans. I know, could there be a more exiting photograph than my hand rinsing a big ol’ wad of beans while Diego looks on? Right – it’s only here to impress upon anyone reading that you have to rinse the beans like rinsing beans is the most interesting activity ever because otherwise you’ll have salt problems like crappin’ damn. Rinse and rinse and rinse some more. Rinse like you have long hair and the water is soft. Rinse it, baby, rinse it good.

Yo, Baby, Whassup?

Meet Ferdinand, my new slow cooker, named with the help of @Dalmation1011 on Twitter. Thanks to a gift card I lost and then found again, I have a bigger badder more awesomer crock pot than before – my old one is about 10+ years old, and covered with baked on whatevertheheck. This one is shiny and big and has a warming feature. It is dead sexxy, I tell you. (Note: my appliances have names. The rice cooker is Poseidon. I thought about naming the slow cooker Hephaestus, but I’d never remember and end up calling it Hiffy, which is sort of lame for a big honking slow cooker.)

The beans, the vegetable and OH HOLY NIGHT PANCETTA mixture, four cups of broth and three cups of water went into Ferdinand, along with a can of diced tomatoes and two bay leaves. When I read about adapting recipes for the slow cooker, I learned that with the exception of bean recipes, slow cooker recipes need less water than traditional recipes because the water never evaporates in the slow cooker. But beans need all that liquid to absorb so there’s exactly the same amount of liquid in there as the recipe demands. I’ll see if that’s too much or what. I can always reduce it later if so, or thicken it by crushing some of the beans and stirring them into the broth.


Here’s the soup prior to 8 hours on low. I calculated the time in the slow cooker based on the cook time in the original recipe. The recipe calls for about 90 minutes of cooking time, before and after adding the kale, so with that I estimated that it would need about 8 hours. I could be wrong – but the nice thing is, I’m home. So if the beans are tender and awesome and it’s only been 7 hours, whatever. I can switch it to warm and eat when I’m ready.

Done! Now that I’ve had a bowl, here are the adjustments I made:

When there was about an hour left, the beans were still gritty, so I turned the heat up to high for the last hour, then added 30 minutes. For the last 30 minutes, I submerged a big ol’ sprig of rosemary, then pulled that and the bay leaves out before I served it. That, plus the additional time on high, made the soup perfect – absolutely perfect.


I served it as Cook’s Illustrated suggested: over toasted rounds of bread that I rubbed with a smashed garlic clove. It was outstanding – definitely a recipe I’ll make again. The broth is simple and almost sweet, and the beans are soft but still have a chewy density that isn’t out of place in the soup. Here’s the optimal serving arrangement:

Fire and soup

Fuzzy picture, but trust me. Perfect environment for soup consumption.

I’ve been thinking about the recipes I would most like to share, and a lot of them involve beans. I’m big into savory flavors, beans and other high-fiber foods, and soups, especially in winter. So expect beans, barley, and slow cooking from me, with some grilling recipes from Hubby every now and again. If you have a favorite bean soup recipe, please share! I’m always looking for more. Happy eating!

ETA: It seems the recipe is no longer free, and the technique itself is copyright, though not the ingredient amounts. So, here is the ingredient amount list, at the request of Jenifer:

Table salt
1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves , peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Ground black pepper
8 slices country white bread , each 1 1/4 inches thick, broiled until golden brown on both sides and rubbed with garlic clove (optional)

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