tortilla soupI’m well past the age when Cinco de Mayo means donning some culturally stereotypical hat and drinking myself into oblivion, so this year I used the holiday we’ve purloined from our friends to the south as an excuse to prepare a caliente feast for my husband and myself.

Since I don’t eat meat, I often enjoy the challenge of taking a recipe and creating two versions: one with meat for my husband and one sans meat for myself. Dishes like coq au vin are pretty much impossible, but soups and stews are a snap.

I love tortilla soup but it almost always comes with chicken, so a couple years ago I decided to dream up a chicken-optional recipe of my own. Plus, leave out the cheese (or add a dairy-free version) and it’s vegan.


  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 16 ounce can of black beans, drained
  • 1 16 ounce can of corn, drained (or frozen corn, thawed)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon of oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (more or less, depending on your preference)
  • Dash of chili powder
  • 6 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded (optional)
  • Garnishes: Lime wedges, sliced jalapenos, avocado, scallions, cilantro, tortilla strips, sour cream


  1. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper and saute until softened, about five minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and saute for another three to five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the black beans and corn and season with oregano, crushed red pepper, and chili powder. Cook for a few minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
  5. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil (you could also use water and vegetable bullion cubes—1 cube per 2 cups of water), then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  6. If you want to add chicken, while the soup is simmering, heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and a dash of oregano and crushed pepper. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes per side and transfer to a cutting board. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then use a fork and knife to shred it into small/medium pieces.
  7. Stir in the cheese and simmer for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is fully incorporated into the soup.
  8. Serve with the aforementioned toppings and pair with some chips and guacamole and one or dos margaritas (I highly recommend squeezing some fresh lime juice into the soup—it really enhances the flavor).

Chopped bell pepperOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERApeppers, onions, tomatoespeppers, onions, tomatoes, black beans, corntortilla soup toppingstortilla soupMy guacamole is simple:

  • 5 good quality, ripe avocados, mashed
  • 1 vine ripened tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red onion (more or less, depending on preference; I like a lot of red onion)
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced (optional if you don’t like spicy guacamole)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (again, more or less, depending, on preference; I don’t really care for cilantro)
  • The juice of one lime
  • Salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

avocadosguacamoleguacamoleHappy Cinco de Mayo!