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Steamboat Magazine

Food is Fuel – Chicken Tortilla Soup

09/30/2019 05:25PM ● By Alesha Damerville

By Alesha Damerville

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS– While everyone seems to be flipping out over pumpkin spice everything, fall – to me – is a celebration of soups.

The key to creating the best soup is easier than one might think. The trick, you may wonder? Homemade stock. Homemade stock is the easiest thing to make, and it also helps with greatly reducing waste. 

One year ago, I took the Zero Waste Challenge through the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. I learned during this 30-day process exactly how much waste I was contributing to the landfill. Although it wasn’t awful, there is always room for improvement.

While taking a cooking class at Elkstone Farm, the chefs leading the class informed us that nearly everything can go in a stock. I was in disbelief when they mentioned onion and garlic peels, but they weren’t wrong.  

Stock can be made with pretty much any meat and/or vegetables. The first tip in creating stock? Don’t throw away anything. Well, almost anything. Onion and garlic peels, parts of vegetables we don’t normally eat or that are leftover, lemons, herbs and bones all can be thrown into a stock. Start by keeping everything in a bag in the freezer. When it’s full, throw it all into a saucepan, fill it with water and boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low/medium and simmer for an hour, seasoning as necessary. If it tastes bland, you haven’t added enough salt, so slowly add more to taste.

Over the last year I’ve been able to create six different versions of stock from leftover produce and rotisserie chicken bones. It has stepped up my soup game immensely. Today I’m sharing my recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup.



2 T olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 red pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 jalapeño, finely diced (taste for heat before adding)

6 C chicken broth/stock

1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

3 C chicken breasts (I use pulled rotisserie chicken and save the bones for the next batch of stock)

2 limes, 1 juiced, 1 wedged for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 t paprika 

1/2 t cumin 

1/2 t cayenne 

1/2 t turmeric 


1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 avocado, pitted and cubed 

Cotija cheese

Crushed tortilla chips 



In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and red pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Once the onions have softened, add the garlic and jalapeños and cook for five minutes. Pour the chicken broth, lime juice, chicken, tomatoes, seasonings and beans into the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Top with a lime wedge, avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips and cheese.

This recipe is super healthy and tasty, and the addition of cheese and crumbled chips is optional. I added exact measurements, though I don’t follow them. I season to taste. If you’re new to cooking, following the recipe is a great way to ensure a delicious soup. If you’re an avid cooker, try seasoning to taste; after it was recommended to me, I can’t go back.  

Image from Bioversity International on Visual hunt

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