Soup is on!

It is fall.  I mean, it is really fall now.  We had our first full day of rain yesterday and it was cold!  Too cold to be wearing the cropped pants I threw on before heading to work.  I thought wearing a rain jacket would counter my bare ankles, but it didn’t.  I suppose it is all boots and long pants for the next six to eight months now.  We are officially in the rainy season and it won’t let up until early summer.  Such is life in the Pacific Northwest. It is all I know and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  So what does this have to do with tailgating, you ask?  Well, to me, fall means it is time to pull out the big soup pot, or crock pot, or Dutch oven.  It is time to experiment and use up all those cans of chicken broth you stocked up on at Costco last spring.  It is time to wow your fans with a piping hot bowl of deliciousness. It is time for SOUP!

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

1 large green pepper, diced

1 medium sweet onion, diced

1 cup chopped carrots (a bit smaller than the peppers and onions)

1 tbs minced garlic

4 oz can mild diced green chiles

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

15 oz can tomato sauce

64 oz chicken broth

1 cup shredded cooked chicken, or 12.5 oz can chicken breast meat

14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp dried oregano (spicy if you have it)

Salt & pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

For garnish:

Sour cream

Shredded cheese

Sliced avocado

Chopped cilantro

Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips

Heat about a tablespoon of olive or canola oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add peppers, onions and carrots and sauté until the onions begin to soften.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onions are clear and the carrots and peppers have begun to soften.  Add the green chiles, tomatoes and sauce, stir well.  Pour in the chicken broth and add the chicken, beans if desired, and spices.  Stir well.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the cilantro about 10 minutes before serving.  Serve soup topped with avocado, cheese, sour cream, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.  This recipe makes 8-10 bowls of soup and can easily be doubled for a large crowd.

And for dessert…

CHERRY OAT BARS

2/3 cup sugar

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

2 cups pitted tart cherries (or one 12.5 oz can pitted tart cherries in water)

¼ – ½ cup sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 ½ tsp cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray.  Mix sugar, flour, oats, butter, egg, baking powder and salt in a mixer until well-combined.  Mixture should be slightly crumbly.  Press just over ½ of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan.  In a separate bowl, mix cherries, sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch.  Spread fruit mixture over the crust in the pan.  Sprinkle remaining dough over top of fruit.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and set.  Cool completely before serving if you are taking the bars to a tailgate party.  If you are serving them at home, serve warm with a little whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.  You can easily double this recipe.

Serve the soup with your favorite Mexican beer or margaritas.  If it is chilly and you are outside, serve hot apple cider spiked with spiced rum and cinnamon schnapps when it is time for dessert.

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