Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

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That’s what I think/say when I make anything with meatballs. It’s just a reflex and since it means “meatballs” in spanish, it works. Don’t test me on my knowledge of foreign languages, though…okay? Cause, I will surely fail. Food SO is much easier to understand.

Anyway, this soup begins with searing little, spoonable chicken meatballs flavored with lots of fresh cilantro, some sauteed onion and garlic, and a bit of minced jalapeno for heat and excitement. Once the meatballs are brown and crispy-golden we sauté some more onion and garlic, another jalapeno, plus some carrots. There’s some corn (frozen is totally acceptable) and zucchini in there for health and science. Dried New Mexico chiles ground into a powder and cumin flavor and color the broth. More cilantro is added to brighten the party and bring the soup together. This soup is hearty, but not heavy. The clear broth is light but packed with subtly spiced chile flavor and the meatballs are tender and so flavorful with the cilantro and aromatics. This soup is so warming and with a super cheesy quesadilla on the side, it’s perfection on a cold day.

Cilantro-Chicken Meatball Soup

I find whole, dried New Mexico chiles in the international aisle of my regular supermarket. They are always affordable and pack a lot of flavor. The chiles vary in spiciness, but aren’t ever really super-hot-blow-your-top way. The spice is mild to medium, but you could certainly sub in your favorite chile powder. 


1-2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), minced

1 lb. ground chicken

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped


In a sauté pan heat olive oil and sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeno. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook over medium until onions are tender and translucent  Scrape into a bowl and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl mix together the cooled onion/jalapeno mixture with the ground chicken, cilantro, egg, and breadcrumbs. Add salt (I used about 3/4 teaspoon) and pepper. Mix gently to combine well. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to shape and sear meatballs.



2 Tablespoons oil (I used grape seed, light olive or vegetable oil work too)

1/2 large onion, diced fine

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno (seeds and ribs removed if desired), sliced

4 dried New Mexico chiles

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 carrot, sliced

1 zucchini, sliced

1 cup frozen corn kernels

6 cups low-sodium chicken stock

cilantro to garnish

salt and pepper to taste

Shape meatballs, I shoot for something that fits nicely in the spoon and can be eaten in one bite–think larger than a marble, but smaller than a cherry tomato. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil over medium high heat in the bottom of a dutch oven or soup pot. Sear the meatballs in batches until deep golden brown all around. Place seared meatballs in a dish and set aside.

Over a gas burner (you could also do this in a hot oven, it may take a few more minutes), lightly char the chiles–the idea is to make them extra dry for easier grinding and to add a touch of smokey flavor. Cool chiles and grind in a spice grinder to a medium-coarse powder. Mix chile powder with cumin and oregano in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the onion to the remaining oil and whatever brown bits are left in the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sauté, being sure to scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan, add the carrots. Cook until onions are just translucent and carrots begin to soften, add the garlic and jalapeno, cook an additional minute. Stir in the ground chile and other spices. Add the corn, zucchini, meatballs, and chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, taste for salt and season as needed. Reduce the soup to a simmer and cook an additional 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and meatballs are heated through. Serve hot with additional cilantro for garnish.



Spaghetti Squash Pancakes

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If I’m being real, which is how I try to be with you all–a real deal human being, not some faceless internet blogging cyborg–I often struggle with everyday decision making. For the most part, I’ve got the big stuff on lock, but it’s the little, seemingly inane things that I can’t get a grip on. I know I can’t be the only one (read, please tell me I’m not…), who has this harrowing problem.

For example, it takes me far too long to choose a lip balm. Like, an average of 15 minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES…choosing a dang lip balm. I will waffle over my decision, sometimes even making a choice, only to turn back at the last minute to choose another. As if, somehow, my life hinges on this decision…which it certainly does not. I know this and yet, it still happens on the regular.

This applies to other things besides lip balm–pretty much all bath and body products fit in here–and even when I do have a preffered product, if something is a mere dollar cheaper, it will throw off my game. I blame it on too many choices…and, well, my crazy brain.

It’s silly, really, but indecision is totally in my nature.

This wishy-washy way also translates to recipe naming. I almost never follow a recipe word for word. I gotta freestyle, you know? While I usually don’t have trouble switching it up recipe-wise, I still struggle with the name game. I mean, I try not to get too long winded with the titles–I don’t want to just have a list of ingredients up there–and sometimes I try to be clever, but it often comes out weird. When I was making these pancakes, I couldn’t decide what to call them–a fritter? pancake? cake? Le sigh.

These pancakes are made with spaghetti squash, but their flavor is super similar to a potato pancake. I added some carrot for sweetness and lots of onion for that savoriness I love in a vegetable pancake. These make a great side, but also a little snack to go with something cold–beer or a cocktail would be my preffered accompaniment. I served these with a cooling sour cream and spicy hot sauce. The edges where the squash tendrils fray, are the perfect lacy-crisp bite. In the end, it was simple…when in doubt, go with something familiar.

Spaghetti Squash Pancakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart

The yield here depends on how large and flat you like you pancakes. Since I live for the crispy bits, I made mine pretty thin and yielded about 18-3inch pancakes. Be sure to squeeze/drain as much liquid from the squash as possible, ensuring a crisp and light cake. Leftover spaghetti squash is perfect for this recipe, but you could prep one just to make it…I wouldn’t judge ya. I followed this recipe from Tracy for the squash prep. 

2 cups cooked and drained spaghetti squash

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, shredded

1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

2 eggs

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

oil for pan frying, I used grapeseed

preheat the oven to 300*F.

Whisk together the eggs and flour until combined. Add the spaghetti squash, onion, carrot, jalapeño, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Fold into the batter.

In a non-stick skillet pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan, about 1/8 inch up the sides. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and drop heaping spoonfuls of the vegetable batter into the pan, pat the batter into a flat cake with the back of the spoon. Fry the cakes a few minutes on each side until golden brown and crisp. Place the finished pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve warm.



Roasted Pepper Cheese Dip

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Maybe it’s already obvious, I don’t know,  but I’m not much of a sports fan. If it’s a “game day” of any sort, you just better know, I’m totes in it for the snacks. Wings, beers, brauts, and dips galore.

As an avid fan of dipping crunchy chips/crackers into gooey things, I find the ever-present queso dip to be dangerously alluring. From the jar, I basically feel like I am shoveling straight garbage into my face…delicious garbage, but trash nonetheless. Even most homemade versions turn to a block of processed, melty, orange “cheese”. I mean, yeah, it melts like a dream, but I really wanted to make a cheese dip sans Velveeta. Just once, at least.

Don’t get me wrong, this dip does not lack in cheese or calories. It’s made creamy by way of evaporated milk and a little cream cheese. Real cheesy flavor comes by way of sharp and medium cheddar–though you could really use what you want, anything that will melt with a little gentle heat. The spice is dialed up with a little habañero, some anaheims, and red jalapeños–roasting the mix of peppers adds heat and sweetness. While the end product looks almost identical–it doesn’t quite have the same sheen that the jarred stuff has–the flavor sets it apart and makes the little effort it takes to throw this dip together worth the work.

Roasted Pepper Cheese Dip

All of the peppers I purchased were red. I spotted them at the farmer’s market and they were too pretty to resist! Red peppers are not necessary, just use whatever ones you like, I’m sure the next time I make this, green jalapeños will make an appearance.  Dial back the heat by removing all the ribs and seeds post roasting, or nix the habañero if you want.

1 small habañero pepper

3 small anaheim chiles

2 jalapeños

5 cloves garlic, skins on

1 shallot, diced fine

8 ounces cheddar cheese (I used half sharp, half medium)

4 ounces cream cheese

1, 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 375*F. Rinse and dry the peppers. Snip the root ends of the garlic cloves, leaving skins intact. Toss the peppers and garlic with a few teaspoons oil and roast in the oven until the pepper skins blister and garlic is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, place peppers in a bowl and cover. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Remove the pepper skins, seeds, and ribs (I left a few in for heat). Chop peppers. Squeeze garlic cloves from their skins.

In a medium saucepan, sweat shallot in a teaspoon of olive oil, until tender and translucent.  Add the garlic and peppers. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer, stir in the cheeses, in 3 batches, until everything is combined, smooth, and heated through. Serve warm with chips, crackers, or anything else that needs a cheese blanket.

Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week. Reheat in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring, between each, or on the stovetop over gentle heat, stirring often.