Three pots of soup on the stovetop
#100daysofcooking, Recipes

Day 32: A Soup Night dinner party with friends

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder
Ed’s Hamburger Soup

The wine and conversation were flowing. The aromas of warm bread and savoury soups were filling the kitchen. And Mitch, the unexpected romantic among us, summed it up beautifully.

“This,” he announced, inhaling deeply, “is love.”

Welcome to Soup Night, the not-nearly-often-enough dinner party of three (or four, or more) women who became friends working on the Edmonton Journal’s night copy desk.

The premise is simple. We each bring a pot of homemade soup, a selection of alcoholic libations, bowls, and our husbands. There is bread, cheese, veggies, meats, dessert, coffee and tea. And we talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

Years fly by in between these nights, but the conversations are seamless. Our jobs, our families, politics (and yay us for not letting 45 dominate the night), social media, mainstream media. The world, our worlds.

And soup.

A sweet potato and corn chowder, with a bit of a jalapeño kick, from Helen and Mitch. A hamburger soup, with its beef-tomato-rice richness, from Karen and Ed. And, from Dan and I, a Mexican Tortilla Soup — think tomato soup with shredded chicken and smoky chipotle, served with avocado and crunchy strips of fried tortillas.  (And yes, you will get all three of those recipes today.)

As group, we sample one soup, then the next, then the third. Portion control is very important. When all the soups have been sampled, anything left in the pots is fair game.

When Mitch came back with his bowl carrying the trifecta of soups, the lines that divided them slowly blurring and the flavours mingling, Karen caught the moment. “See, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Everyone respecting borders and getting along just fine.”

(We may or may not have been talking about 45 at the time.)

The trifecta of soups in a single bowl. Why have just one?
The trifecta of soups in a single bowl. Why have just one?

Naturally, I was quizzed about which kitchen castoff or leftover was in my pot. This time, there was none.

Well, said Helen, I guess tonight is just about leftover friends.

We all laughed, but there is a bit of poetry in that thought.

Not castoffs. Not leftovers. Just a very special set of ingredients for a very special night.

Kitchen castoffs used

Absolutely none. Because we’re worth it. 🙂

This is how we did it

Mexican Tortilla Soup, from Dan and Therese

Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup garnished with cheese, avocado and strips of crunchy fried tortillas, from Therese and Dan.

This recipe is cobbled together from recipes on The Pioneer Woman and Simply Recipes websites, plus everything that I can remember about my wondrous first experience with tortilla soup at the Marival Residences All-Inclusive in Riviera Nayarit, Mexico.


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • olive or canola oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 chipotle chili, seeded and chopped, plus another teaspoon or so of adobo sauce
  • 16 ounces canned tomatoes (I used tomatoes from our garden that we had roasted, pureed and frozen)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 or 2 tortillas (flour or corn), cut into thin strips between 3 – 5 inches long
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional (but strongly encouraged) garnishes: avocado, cut into thin slices, Monterey Jack or mild cheddar cheese, plain yogurt or sour cream, lime wedges


Prepare the chicken:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and salt together. Brush the chicken breasts with some oil, sprinkle a small amount of the spice mix on them, then bake the chicken until cooked (25 – 45 minutes, depending on the size). When the chicken is done, let cool then shred with two forks.

For the soup:

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, red, green and chipotle peppers, and cook, stirring, until the onion is tender. If there is any spice mix left, you can add that in. If you have adobo sauce (you can buy canned chipotles packed in adobo), spoon about 1 tsp in and combine. When the onions are cooked, stir in the shredded chicken.

Add the tomatoes, stock and tomato paste, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

For the tortillas:

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a non stick frying pan. Put in the tortilla strips, add salt and cook, stirring, until the tortillas are crispy

To serve:

Put some tortilla strips in the bottom of a bowl. Ladle in the soup, then add toppings, such as thin slices of avocado, grated cheese, or a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder, from Helen and Mitch
Adapted from a recipe by Bonnie Stern, Oct. 2009, The National Post

A bowl of sweet potato and corn chowder
Sweet with a bit of heat: sweet potato and corn chowder from Helen and Mitch.


  • 2 tsp  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced (add 1-2 more if it’s not spicy enough, or shake in 1 tsp dried hot pepper flakes)
  • 2 lbs  sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (we used yams)
  • 4 cups  vegetable or meat stock, or water
  • 1 cup corn niblets (we used the whole can)
  • 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and diced
  • 1½  tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro


Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onions and jalapeno and cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Cook, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender.

In a blender or food processor, puree half or ¾ of the soup. Return soup to pot. Soup should be slightly chunky. (Add stock, water or cream if too thick)

Add corn and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Hamburger Soup, from Karen and Ed

A bowl of hamburger soup at the dinner table
Drinks and conversation plus three kinds of soup, including Ed and Karen’s hamburger soup.

Ed says his soup came from an Atco Blue Flame Kitchen recipe, but it was very similar to this recipe from my mom (which was based on a Best of Bridge recipe.) Ed used brown rice instead of barley.


  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 28 oz can of tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups beef stock (but add more depending on the consistency you want)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • 8 tbsp pot barley


Brown the beef, then drain off the fat. Brown the onions and celery, then return beef to the pot. Combine all the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer at least two hours.

Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.

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