Chicken Infused Tortilla-less Soup

or how to make soup and make do with what's on hand.

Sounds funny, I know, but I didn't plan this one out so well.  I know, shocking, right?  You don't have to pretend, I realize I'm not always the most prepared for random adventures in the kitchen (it's even worse when I'm so focused on cooking for an upcoming holiday that I all but neglect the days in between when grocery shopping).  So when I decided that I wanted to make something special for my husband who was running about town finishing errands we didn't get to over the weekend I had to improvise a bit. 
He was planning on coming home and making steak fajitas that he had marinating over night using this delicious recipe (substituting cola for lemon juice) so I thought that chicken tortilla soup would be perfect!  Only problem - no chicken and the tortillas were reserved for the aforementioned delicious fajitas.  Oops.

Since I had already started cooking before I fully looked into the existence of the ingredients that I needed I figured I'd just roll with what I had and see what happened (a concept I am desperately trying to apply in other areas of my life as well, but one step at a time and the first step - soup, sans chicken and tortillas).  So I resumed tossing things into the pot while multitasking and cleaning out the refrigerator, we are getting ready for a holiday after all, cooking is no reason to slow down!  Though, in retrospect, slowing down is often a good idea.  It's better to do it yourself before your body doesn't give you a choice and you collapse on  the couch at nine at night.  Not that I know from experience or anything...  The moral?  Take it easy, roll with what you have on hand, and eat delicious soup.  Now let's go!

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth (or 3 tsp chicken base and 3 cups water, chicken base is liquid gold you seriously need to try this stuff)
1 cup milk
1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 jar salsa
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried minced onion
salt and pepper – to taste

1. Melt the butter in a medium sized stock pot over medium heat and stir in the flour to create a roux (a fancy name for a kind of a golden paste that forms when the butter and flour are completely mixed together in equal parts).  Stir continuously for a couple minutes, do not allow it to turn dark.

2. Slowly start to stir in the chicken stock (or water if you are using chicken base).  Make sure to add about a cup at a time and wait until it is fully incorporated before adding more, you don't like to be rushed and soup doesn't either so a little patience goes a long way in this part.  Take some deep breathes and enjoy the aromas, allow it to soothe you as the time slips by.  Better?  Ok.  If using chicken base you'll want to add that now, also stirring a bit to incorporate.

3. Now add in the seasoning and dried onion, mix well.  The bits of onion will seem to almost disappear as they absorb the moisture.  

4. Next stir in the milk and condensed soup, their thickness should balance out a bit once combined, and then add the salsa.  For salsa you'll want to use one that has a spice level that you enjoy, I used homemade salsa that I canned over the Summer in this case but if I didn't have any on hand I would tend towards mild or medium since I'm not really a "heat" inclined sort of girl, you need to go with where your tastes lead you on this one.  

5. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir occasionally for about 20-30 min, careful not to let it boil.  Adjust spices to taste as you go.

Serve as is or top with some shredded colby jack cheese and a drop of sour cream.  This is a perfect compliment to the steak fajitas, and a great main dish for lunch the next day.  A pretty reasonable base recipe I think, take it in whatever direction you wish - if you want to add chicken to make it heartier or switch out the chicken base for a non-meat alternative for a vegetarian dish - it's up to you.  The world is your tortilla, so to speak.  Cheesy, I know, but who doesn't love a little cheese now and then?  Enjoy!

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