Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

I have a love-hate relationship when it comes to restaurant copy cat recipes. In theory, it sounds like a great idea (oh boy I can recreate my favorite restaurant dishes at home!), but rarely does the end result actually end up tasting like the beloved dish. I’ve tried copy cat recipes for many different dishes, but have never posted them here because the end result was disappointing every single time. Until now.

It’s a poorly kept secret here at Ex Libris that I love soup. A lot. I’m “that person” who orders a bowl of soup at a restaurant and only a bowl of soup. And yes, that is all I really want for my meal, thank you very much. One of my favorite restaurant soups has always been Chili’s Chicken Enchilada soup. I’ve tried many different recipes for enchilada soup (including this slow cooker version), but ultimately was unsatisfied because none of them had the rich taste and thick texture of the Chili’s original. But I’m happy to report that I have finally found the recipe! I’ve made this soup twice now, and have loved it both times. Enjoy!

***

Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

Adapted from: Food.com & CopyKat Recipes

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Ingredients (* see note below):

Soup:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lb cooked chicken breast, diced 

2 (medium) onions, diced

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 garlic clove, minced

1 quart chicken broth

1.5-2 quarts water

*2 cups masa harina

can enchilada sauce

*1/2 lb processed American cheese, cut in small cubes

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon chili powder

*1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

*1 teaspoon salt, to taste (optional)

Garnish:

Shredded Cheese

Crumbed tortilla chips

Instructions:

In a large pot, add the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook until soft and translucent (or about 5 minutes). Then, add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and salt (optional). Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the masa harina and 1 quart of water in a large bowl. Stir until all the lumps dissolve. Then, add the masa harina to the large pot and mix well. Once the mixture starts to bubble, cook for an additional 2-3 minutes while stirring constantly.

Stir in the broth, remaining water (Note: I usually only add 2 cups instead of 4), enchilada sauce, tomatoes, and cheese. Mix well and bring to a boil.

Add the chicken to the soup. Reduce heat and simmer soup 30-40 minutes or until thick.

Serve soup in cups or bowls and garnish with shredded cheese and tortilla chips.

Notes:

1) Masa harina is a flour made from specially treated corn, and it is frequently used to make things like tortillas and tamales. You should not substitute the masa with corn flour or cornmeal because you will not get the same results. Besides, why would you want to? It gives the soup a wonderful flavor! It’s frequently found in the “international” section of a well stocked supermarket.

2) After reading Salt, Sugar, Fat I had a knee jerk reaction when I saw this soup called for “processed American cheese.” I was dead set on using the good stuff, but after doing some reading in my cookbooks and on the Internet I decided to go ahead and use American cheese. Apparently, the processing gives the “cheese” a resistance to separating during cooking and therefore retains its taste and texture. If you are dead set on using natural cheese, I would add some extra cooking time to allow the cheese to melt.

3) The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. I doubled this to a full teaspoon because I like some spice to my food. If you prefer milder dishes, I would recommend only using 1/2 teaspoon.

4) As usual, I didn’t add the salt and I didn’t miss it.

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Thursday Thoughts 37.0: June Recap

Is it Mid-July already? Sounds like the perfect time to recap the things that happened in my life during the month of June! Or something like that…

It’s getting harder and harder to stick to any sort of regular posting schedule. Lately I have been successful at getting one post a week out, and that’s good enough for right now. Life as a graduate student is very busy, and as I enter the homestretch (or rather the pre-homestretch) I only expect it to get more crazy. But I enjoy blogging so I’ll keep at it, even if it’s at a slower pace then I would like.

***

[1]

I read 6 books in June and am very satisfied with that number! In fact, I’m doing so well this year that I will probably exceed my yearly goal of reading 35 books in a month of so. What I REALLY need to work on is actually reviewing books.

Books read:

1. My Antonia by Willa Cather

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth

3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

4. The Longest Road by Philip Caputo

5. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

6. World War Z by Max Brooks

[2]

Remember in my May recap I said “any miles are better than no miles?” Let’s pretend I said that for the first time this month.

June

49 miles isn’t too shabby really. Especially when you consider I was a) traveling for the first week of the month, b) hosting my sister for the some of the second week of the month, and c) “down-for-the-count” due to my allergies for the last week of the month. When I look at it that way, I’m actually surprised I got as many in as I did!

[3]

Fun things I did in June:

*Note: I did A LOT of fun things in June. However, I did not take take a lot of pictures (other than the Canada trip). Alas.

1) Traveled to beautiful British Columbia, CA:

K and I traveled to Kelowna, BC for both vacation and the opportunity for me to meet his extended family. After a tense trip in (thanks a lot thunderstorms!), we were greeted at the airport by K’s grandparents. They hosted us the whole week we were there and we are so grateful for the wonderful hospitality.

We spent most of the first day relaxing…and with this wonderful view of the Okanagan valley how could we not?!

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The next day cousin Cathy arrived, and a group of us decided to tour a few (of the many) wineries in the area. Our first stop was Mission Hill Winery. We stopped here first because all of K’s relatives told us we had to visit this winery for the view and the architecture. It definitely lived up to all the hype!

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We also took a guided tour of the winery, which included a trip down to the barrel cellar.

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After Mission Hill, we also stopped at Quail’s Gate winery for some tastings (sorry no pictures from this one).

The next day, we took a day trip up to the Mica Dam. The drive up to the dam was so beautiful, and we had good time stopping along the road for pictures and short side trips. The first stop on our journey was a visit to The Last Spike, which is the location where the last spike of the Canadian Pacific Railway was placed in 1885.

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Since the actual spike isn’t marked (and according to Wikipedia isn’t actually there anymore 😦 ) I don’t have a picture of it.

Our next stop was in the beautiful town of Revelstoke for lunch. It is a very cute town, and we had a nice time walking around and checking out all the shops.

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After leaving Revelstoke, we did the rest of the drive up to the Mica dam. The journey up to the dam is one of the most beautiful and most isolated trips I’ve ever taken. When I’ve done other “scenic” drives, it seems as though everyone else has the same idea and there is lots of traffic. Not the case with this drive. As you can see in the pictures below you could stand out in the middle of the road and take pictures without fearing you would be mowed over by traffic.

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The road up to the dam winds along the Columbia river. As if the mountains weren’t pretty enough on their own, the addition of the river lead to some fabulous views.

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Eventually we made it to the Dam. What a view!

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On the way home, we stopped in Revelstoke again for dinner. If you are ever in the area and are in the mood for a restaurant that features both German and Indian cuisine (I know, I never thought I’d see those two paired together either) then you should check out the restaurant we ate at: Paramjit’s Kitchen.

The next day, more extended family arrived in town. So, we spent the next few days catching up (or getting to know them in my case):

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I spent most of my time losing at card games

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The whole gang

On our last night in Canada, we took a trip down to the waterfront in downtown Kelowna. As is evident by now, the whole region is very scenic (mountains! water!), and the city of Kelowna has definitely made the most of this in their downtown waterfront. It features a nice walking path, beautiful flower gardens, and some interesting sculpture art. We arrived just before sunset, and enjoyed a nice, leisurely walk.

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Along our walk we came upon a sculpture for Lake Okanagan’s very own sea monster: Ogopogo.

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Nessie’s got nothing on you, Ogopogo!

Sadly, we didn’t have any sightings of the actual Ogopogo. But as everyone knows, sea monsters are notoriously fickle.

Overall, we had a great trip. Thanks for being an awesome travel partner K!

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2) Had a visit from my favorite (and only) sister:

Right after I got back from Canada, I had a visit from my sister, Jen. We had a nice (but too short) visit. On her last full day in Chicago, we met up with Tanya to take the River North Food Tour. The tour features five tastings at local eateries, and short walking tour.

We began the tour at the historic Merchandise Mart, and then walked to Doughnut Vault for our first tasting.

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mmmmm

I can honestly say this is one of the best doughnuts I’ve ever had. I’d definitely recommend checking this place out if you are ever in the Chicago-land area. However, they are cash only and are only open until they sell out. Get there early!

The next two stops on the tour were Lou Malnati’s pizza (a Chicago-area staple), and Rick Bayless’s Xoco. Lou Malnati’s was delicious as always, and I LOVED the tasting we had at Xoco. Admittedly I had never heard of Rick Bayless before moving to Chicago, but I’ve been a fan of his food (or specifically Tortas Frontera…the only one I’ve been to) since my first torta.

After Xoco, we walked to Carson’s for some Ribs:

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While I will always probably be partial to Kansas City barbeque, I must say these were pretty darn good! Plus, we got to wear these super snazzy bibs:

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Aren’t those bibs attractive? 😉

The final stop on the tour was Fabcakes. I don’t have a picture, but I also loved the cookies we had there. Overall, we had a great time on the food tour and definately did not go home hungry!

Thanks for coming to visit me J! We don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like, so it was awesome to spend a few days with you!

***

Whew! This was a long post–congratulations if you made it all the way here! Hope you have a great weekend!

Easy Yeast Bread

Happy Friday everyone! I’m back today with another recipe!

A few months ago I decided I wanted to start baking bread (’cause why not!?!). I started simple by using recipes that didn’t require yeast (and therefore rising, kneading, rolling etc), but felt it was time to challenge myself with a yeast bread recipe. Since I was a beginner, I wanted something that was simple to make but still delicious to eat. After trolling the internet for awhile, I decided this recipe fit the bill. I made a few changes to the original recipe after reading reviewer comments, and I think it really helped with the end result. Enjoy!

***

Easy Yeast Bread

Adapted from: About.com

Easy Yeast Bread

Ingredients:

3/4 cup warm water

1 package active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup milk

3 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Instructions:

In medium bowl, mix 2 cups of flour with the salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, add the warm water. Slowly stir in dry yeast. Continue to stir until yeast is dissolved. Add the sugar and stir.

Next, add olive oil and milk to bowl and mix well. Then, add in the flour/salt mixture and stir.

If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl. I added an extra 1/2 – 3/4 cup of flour, but this number will vary depending on factors such as the weather.

Turn dough out onto floured board and knead, adding small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth, not sticky to the touch.

Put the dough in buttered bowl, and turn dough over so that the top of dough is greased. Cover and let rise in warm spot for 1 hour.

After the dough has risen, punch down dough. Then, turn out onto floured board and knead. Meanwhile, preheat oven at 375 degrees F.

Form dough into loaf and set in buttered bread pan. Cover and let rise on top of the oven for about 30-60 minutes.

Score dough by cutting three slashes across the top with a sharp knife. Put in oven and bake for about 30-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Important note: my oven runs hot so I end up baking the bread for only about 25-30 minutes. Many other reviewers have also noted that 45 minutes was too long for them as well. Therefore, I recommend starting the baking time at 30 minutes and working your way up from there.

Turn out bread and let cool on a rack or clean dishtowel.

Notes:

If you’ve never kneaded dough before, this is a good tutorial video: How To Knead

If you’ve never “punched down the dough” before, here is a good tutorial video: Punching Down the Dough

Thursday Thoughts 36.0: May Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I’m recapping my May happenings today because it’s my blog and I can do what I want!

Many apologies for the unintended month(ish) break from blogging. It’s been CRAZY and I don’t imagine that things are going to slow down anytime soon. I do think things *should* be slightly less busy from here on out, so I hope I can get back to blogging semi-regularly.

***

[1]

I read 7 books in May. I can’t believe it–I haven’t read this many in a month in quite some time!  It’s especially surprising considering how busy I was! However, in looking at this list I realized I picked shorter books (~300 pages) after tackling Middlemarch, so maybe it isn’t THAT surprising.

Books read:

1. Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

3. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

4. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

5. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

6. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

7. Cut to the Bone by Jefferson Bass

[2]

Overall May was not too shabby in the fitness department. I didn’t break 100 miles, but I upped my number from April so I’m going to consider that a win. I may not make 1000 miles this year, but I’m of the mind that any miles are better than no miles!

May

[3]

Recipes posted:

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef Stew

[4]

Fun things I did in May:

1) Attended Wine Riot! (for the fourth time):

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2) Attended a Rugby fundraiser for my awesome friend Linda:

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3) Celebrated my birthday at Andersonville Brewing:

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Two Sarah’s and me!

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Thanks so much to everyone who came out! I had a really great birthday!

 4) Went to Dillo Day (the spring outdoor musical festival) and saw OK Go:

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It was a warm day, and after OK Go I was really thirsty. The organizers of the event bragged about the “free water” they were offering, but the “free water” was out by the time we got to the festival. So, we stopped in the Beer Garden (which ironically also had the water we so desperately wanted):

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***

Well now that I’ve recapped May, I’ll probably be back next week to recap June. 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend!

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef Stew

Happy Friday everyone! It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe, but I’m back today with another good one. This stew was very different but very delicious. It’s a nice blend of both sweet and spicy tastes, and was just as fantastic left over the next day. I’m definitely making it again!

***

Mediterranean Beef Stew

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Mediterean Beef Stew

Ingredients:

Approximately 1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 (about 4 pounds) beef bottom round roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes

3/4 cup dry white or red wine

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 medium onions, sliced

1 pound carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks

1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth

1/2 cups dried apricots, sliced

1 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 teaspoons ground coriander

1 lemon

2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into half-moons

1 1/2 cup(s) pitted green olives (optional)

Cooked curly egg noodles, for serving

Salt (optional)

Black pepper

Instructions:

In 12-inch skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil on medium-high.

Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In batches, brown beef on two sides, adding remaining oil as needed. Do not clean skillet!

Transfer beef to 6- to 8-quart slow cooker bowl.

In medium bowl, stir together wine and flour.

In same skillet, cook onions on medium 1 minute, stirring. Add wine mixture. Simmer 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring. Add this mixture to beef in slow cooker.

Stir in carrots, broth, apricots, red pepper, and coriander. With peeler, remove 4 large strips peel from lemon and add strips to slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high 5 hours or on low 8 hours or until beef is tender. Discard peel.

Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from the lemon. Stir into stew with zucchini, olives, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Serve over noodles. Garnish with lemon curls.

Notes:

I used about a tablespoon of granulated lemon peel instead of the fresh (although I’m sure that would have been delicious). Correspondingly, I used 100% fresh squeezed lemon juice in place of the fresh lemon juice.

I also omitted the salt (since there was chicken broth) and the olives.

Thursday Thoughts (on a Friday) 34.0: March Recap

Oh my–can it truly be April already??? March absolutely flew by! Admittedly the days seemed pretty long (I’m busier than ever at work) but the weeks seemed to be over before they even really started. Oh well. As usual, I wanted to take a few minutes to recap the the previous month. Although it was very busy, it was also full of some really good moments and a very relaxing (and much needed) trip home.

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[1]

I read 5 books in March. I’m very happy with my reading progress so far this year–I’ve read 14 books already!

Books read:

1. Little Bee by Chris Cleave

2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

3. Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

5. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Books Reviewed:

1. Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

[2]

After a very slow start, I’ve started to make progress toward my fitness goals for 2014. I’m still far behind where I’d like to be, but 74 miles is a big improvement over 43. To meet my 1000 mile goal for 2014, I need to hit about 105 miles a month from here on out. Admittedly, that’s a little bit daunting but it’s way too early to throw in the towel. Obviously I CAN put in over 100 miles in a month since I did it in April 2013. If I did it once that means I can do it 8 more times, right? RIGHT!?!? Even if I never meet this pie-in-the-sky goal of 100o miles, it’s still kind of fun trying to get there.

March

[3]

March Nail Art:

March

Base/Top Coat: Sally Hansen Clear’d for Takeoff

Nail Polish: Revlon Cherries in the Snow

Glitter Polish: Revlon Sparkling

[4]

Recipes Posted:

Easy Brown Bread

[5]

Fun things I did in March:

1) Hung out with other Ski Trip Orphans (we don’t do snow things):

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2) Finally settled a bet over the outcome of the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (go Cats!):

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First Snap I’ve ever saved…Worth it!

3) Celebrated St. Patrick’s Day

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The best selfie I’ve ever taken

I had to have one green beer:

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4) Took a very much needed, but very short, trip home

I had dinner with my good friend Erin. We’ve been friends for 20-some years now!

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We took a day trip to Abilene to visit the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Of course before visiting the museum we had to stop at the Brookville Hotel for some delicious fried chicken:

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Trust me it’s as good as it looks:

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After lunch, we headed over to the Museum. The first stop on the tour was visiting President Eisenhower’s boyhood home:

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Then, we headed to the library to watch a movie on the President’s life. Finally, we made it to the museum with only an hour left before closing. I got lost in the temporary exhibit (I’m one of those people who likes to read everything at a museum) and never even made it to the actual Eisenhower portion of the museum. Whoops–guess I’ll have to catch it next time!

5) Enjoyed a delicious dinner and good wine at Bin 36

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Wine flights–what a great idea!

The lighting in the restaurant wasn’t ideal for pictures. The waiter took several pictures of us but none of them came out well. Regardless, I’m going to post this one anyway for posterity’s sake:

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Don’t worry–even though we have demon eyes we still enjoyed ourselves!

***

Hope you had a good week and have a great weekend!

Easy Brown Bread

Happy belated Saint Patrick’s Day! This year, I decided to try making a few new Irish-themed recipes and will be posting them over the next week or so. The first I’ll post is this delicious and super easy brown soda bread recipe. I like this recipe because it is a) easy for non-experienced bread bakers to make and b) doesn’t call for raisins (sorry neither me nor the boyfriend are big on these). My first attempt turned out pretty good–it was delicious actually! However, next time I will take the advice given by commenters of the original recipe and will not over-knead the dough (which I think I did this time). Enjoy!

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Easy Brown Bread

Adapted from: Chow.com

Brown Bread

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Instructions:

Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Lightly dust a baking sheet with all-purpose flour and set aside.

Place both flours, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine, breaking up any lumps. Then, add buttermilk and melted butter and mix with your hands until almost all of the flour is moistened and the dough holds together, about 1 minute.

Lightly flour a clean work surface and turn out the dough. Knead until it forms a fairly smooth ball with no visible pockets of flour, about 1 minute. Don’t over-knead!

Work the dough into a flat round about 7 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. Place on the prepared baking sheet and, using a sharp knife, slice an “X” across the top, edge to edge and about 1/2 inch deep.

Bake until the internal temperature registers 190°F to 200°F on an instant-read thermometer and the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing, about 2 hours. If you slice the bread before it has completely cooled, it will be crumbly or fall apart.

Notes:

This is great with or without butter/jam!

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