1388317_10151682434757055_418703267_oWhen the weather starts to get cold, I always think of soup. A piping-hot bowl of soup always seems like a great meal on chilly nights. And, when I make soups, I always incorporate lots of fresh vegetables. That goes for my chicken tortilla soup. Most tortilla soup recipes include the basics: Shredded chicken, chicken stock, tomatoes and carrots. I like to make mine loaded with vegetables, starting with the basics for a good vegetable stock: onions, carrots and celery. Then I add zucchini, bell peppers and corn. Mix in black beans and the chicken for protein. And when the soup is ready to serve, I top it with even more vegetables: cilantro, avocados and green onions. I think it’s the flavors of the vegetables that give my version of chicken tortilla soup its great taste. By the way, adding a dollop of sour cream gives the soup a creamier taste.

2 whole chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sweet basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 10 oz. can Mexican-style diced tomatoes
32 ounces chicken stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups water
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
corn tortilla chips

sour cream
diced avocado
salsa or pico de gallo
grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese
slices of lime
chopped green onions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add garlic and heat until tender. Add onions, carrots, celery, red pepper, green pepper and zucchini. Stir and cook until vegetables are tender. Stir in spices. Pour in tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, water and black beans. Bring to a boil. Add chicken. Then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Check seasonings, adding more if needed. Ladle into bowls, then top with tortilla chips, sour cream, diced red onion, diced avocado, cilantro, pico de gallo and grated cheese. Squeeze in a bit of lime for added flavor.