July 21, 2011

The Lunch Box: Chicken Tomatillo Soup

Packing my lunch most days for work has been a huge factor in weight-loss (and it’s helped slim down my dining expenses, so bonus!) Last year I would eat lunch out 2-3 times a week, but now I almost always brown bag it.  I try to save my daytime dining out for work lunches or the occasional Fojol Bros. treat.

Because I get tired of eating the same thing, I rarely have dinner leftovers for lunch. Sundays I often cook a separate meal to take to work during the week and put some in the freezer so I can mix it up. Keeping lunch interesting but also portable and healthy can be a challenge, so I thought it would be fun once a week to share some of the best lunches I’ve brought in my lunch bag (and I’ll be honest - sometimes the laziness strikes. Hello Kashi microwave meals!)

This week I had two definite successes. Over the weekend I made the aforementioned egg salad, and had that for lunches two days this week. When I ran out of whole wheat wraps, an English muffin did the trick just fine.

Note balcony garden arugula. And BACON.

The star of the week, however, was the Chicken Tomatillo Soup. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while, so when we went down to the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sunday I was on the lookout for tomatillos. The recipe also provided an excellent opportunity to use up two ears of fresh corn that MG picked up from the farmers’ market by his office, a jalapeno from our balcony garden, and some of the chicken we froze after our roast chicken feast last week.

The farmers' market bounty.

Fun tip: if you want to avoid painful mishaps involving fingers in eyes and essence of jalapeno, wear latex gloves.

I made the soup on Sunday evening, but today was the first day I had it for lunch. It was...delicious. I love tomatillos because they have this awesome tanginess, and even add a certain creaminess to the soup - almost as if there was some melted cheese in there, but there isn’t (although there could be.  I always advocate for some melted cheese).

I enjoyed mine with some multigrain tortilla chips.

Tomorrow we’re doing a work lunch outing and Friday I have lunch plans with a friend, but I have 3 more servings of this in the freezer to look forward to over the next couple of weeks. Excellent!

Tangy tomatillo-y goodness!

Chicken Tomatillo Soup
Adapted from Heat Oven to 350

Yield: seven 1.5 cup servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds chopped tomatillos
1-2 jalapenos, seeds removed, minced (I just used one, because ours are so freaking hot!)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped cooked chicken
1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 ears of corn, husks removed
1/8- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it - I went with the 1/4 tsp)
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Toppings:
cheddar cheese, shredded
tortilla chips
chopped fresh cilantro - I omitted this, because MG doesn’t like cilantro (“It tastes like dirt”)

While you’re chopping up your tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapeno, place a steamer basket upside down in a large pot. Fill with about 1 inch of water. Bring to a boil. Place the ears of corn onto the steamer basket, reduce heat, cover, and steam for 15 minutes. When the corn is done, allow it to cool enough to be handled, then using a sharp knife, remove the kernels.

Meanwhile, in a stockpot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds (be careful not to let it burn!) Add tomatillos, jalapeno and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender (my preferred method) or transfer to a conventional blender or food processor to puree in batches.* Return to pot and add cayenne, hot pepper sauce, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken, black beans and corn and simmer until heated through.

Serve with desired toppings and enjoy! (P.S. I bet this would be good with some diced avocado on top. Hmm...I guess I’ll have to make this again to test my theory...)

*Blending hot liquids can be dangerous because they want to expand and go all over the place. I know from personal experience. It involved sweet potato bisque and it was embarrassing. Anyways, a couple of steps you can take to minimize the likelihood of getting hot tomatillo soup all over your floor and your body are to only fill the blender halfway, and to remove that little cap in the lid to allow the hot steam to escape. Just make sure to hold a clean dish towel over the opening.

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