Thursday, May 17, 2012

Spicy With a Chance of Meatballs

For Tiny's Tasty Thursday this week, I decided to highlight one of the recipes I have been dying to cook since I first saw it in Cooking Light in the October 2011 issue.  It is called Tortilla Meatball Soup.  Now, if you know me, you know that I HATE hamburgers and most ground meat meals, especially meatloaf, but I love Mexican food, especially tacos, so I thought I would give this little recipe a try.  I have always envied those of you hamburger lovers and want to like them; however, I cannot get past the texture or hard pockets within the ground meat sometimes.  Who knows why really...I just don't like them.  BUT, I have recently learned to love meatballs and lasagna, especially when made with love by mom, so this seemed like the perfect combination of Mexican, meatballs, and spice for my hot pepper Sooper JB.  Now, I need to warn you in advance, this is not one of those "30 minute meals" you  read about in magazines, cookbooks, or online.  Besides, I am NEVER able to cook something in the suggested amount of time for the recipe, and it is NOT because I am a procrastinator and I play around/laugh with Sooper, my sous chef and master chopper/can opener/reacher of all things higher than me (most things), the whole time (though that probably contributes to my lengthy cooking process). :)  It is mostly because I am meticulous and want all ingredients to be recently purchased (like a day or less) and freshly chopped, and I make impromptu healthy changes to the recipe while cooking.  I know, I am crazy, but that is why I like living in the city so I can go to the store 2 minutes away from my house 2 times a day if necessary.  Well, sorry for all that rambling, but I just wanted to provide you with the background to my cooking process.

The recipe for Tortilla Meatball Soup, created by Julianna Grimes, can be accessed via October 2011 issue of Cooking Light.  But, of course, I made some healthy adjustments (Shh...Don't tell Sooper)!  For the ingredients, I used 3 ears of corn on the cob and 2 cups of sliced carrots to add more substance since I eliminated the red potatoes to reduce the heavy starch content.  I also added four cups of chicken broth instead of three because I thought it could use more liquid.  To increase the spice in the soup for Sooper, I used 2 chipotle chiles from the canned chipotles in adobe sauce.  Plus, I added all the adobe sauce from the can to make it extra spicy (eliminate this step if you don't want it extra spicy, but it does taste Sooper delicious with the addition of the sauce added at the same time as the chicken broth and water). The BIGGEST CHANGE was to bake the meatballs at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, instead of frying of the meatballs in oil. Makes it even healthier! Hopefully you have an awesome kitchen asset like Sooper to freshly chop all the veggies and seasoning ingredients.  :)

Something crazy (kind of funny, looking back on it now) happened while Sooper and I were broiling the corn tortilla strips.  The tortilla strips are sprayed lightly with oil so they can easily catch on fire, which they did!  A substantial oven fire ensued, but Sooper was there to pull the baking sheet out of the oven, put it in the sink, and pour water on the strips and sheet.  It worked brilliantly and prevented us from having to resort to the important steps for fire safety: Stop, Drop, and Roll, which Justin thinks is just if someone is on fire (or the other alternative, preventing the house from burning down using a fire extinguisher).  :) So, I mentioned this little occurrence to suggest that if you have a gas oven, you should not put the baking sheet with the tortilla strips sprayed with oil at the top rack near the flame!  Put the baking sheet one or two notches below the top. 

Pot of soup (the little black specks are broiled corn kernels)
The Ingredients I used...See the Tortilla Meatball Soup recipe for original ingredients and directions.
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 ears of corn of the cob
  • 4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-thick strips 
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • chipotle chiles, canned in adobo sauce, minced
  • Adobe sauce from the canned chipotle chiles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot
  • 4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
The directions I used. 

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Cut jalapeños and bell pepper in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Arrange corn on baking sheet with peppers. Broil 4 to 6 minutes or until blackened, turning corn once. Place peppers in a paper bag; fold to seal. Let stand 15 minutes; peel. Mince jalapeños, and coarsely chop bell pepper. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Set aside.
3. Place tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet; lightly coat with cooking spray. Broil for 3 minutes or until golden brown, turning after 2 minutes. Set aside.
4. Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 garlic clove, panko, and the next 3 ingredients (through chipotle chiles) in a large bowl, and gently mix until just combined. With moist hands, shape the meat mixture into 24 meatballs (about 2 tablespoons each).
5. Bake the meatballs at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until meatballs are lightly browned. 
6. Place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add onion, potatoes, and carrot to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 5 garlic cloves; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add peppers, broth, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender, stirring occasionally. Return meatballs to pan. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and corn; return to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes or until meatballs are done. Ladle 1 1/2 cups soup into each of 6 bowls; top each serving with 4 teaspoons Monterey Jack cheese, 2 teaspoons cheddar cheese, and 4 teaspoons cilantro. Top evenly with tortilla strips.
7. Have Sooper set the table.  Enjoy spicy soup with a salad.  We made a great strawberry/berry honey salad and parmesan crusted catfish filets (recipes coming soon!)

Tortilla Meatball Soup...YUM!

Tiny's Oyster Pearl of Wisdom for Tasty Thursday is to find great recipes and make them your own.  Remember if you can read, you can cook.  Recipes are meant to be guides not strict rules.  Have fun with them and add or remove ingredients, freshly chop veggies and seasoning (if possible), have a heavy hand with the spice, and use recipes that suit your lifestyle and family.  (If you decide to make a recipe healthier, you don't have to even mention it.  (What your picky eaters don't know, won't hurt them) :) Share your kitchen tips and ideas!  I would love to read them!

Happy Tasty Thursday,
The Tiny Librarian


  1. I just read this whole post to the condo and we are laughing!! I am imagining Justin trying to put out a fire and you screaming " stop drop and roll!"

  2. hahaha That is pretty much how it know me too well! :) It was quite an interesting occurrence in The Tiny Librarian's house that evening!

  3. Julie, this sounds so good and delicious. My tastebuds have changed lately so darn girl I wish I could make this.

    By the way, I found your blog two days ago and I am now hooked. Please start following me and my style (though no recipes LOL) at

    Thanks a Lot, Ada. =)