Even if you don’t have meat thawed out or you don’t want to use meat because you’re observing Lent, you can still make a delicious soup. All you need is some cheese and a few tomatoes, plus a few other ingredients, and you can treat your family or friends to a rich, thick, cheesy bowl of Mexican soup.

When you think of Mexican food, chicken and beef automatically come to mind, but the following recipe for Mexicali Cheese Soup is flavorful and satisfying without either one.

This recipe calls for green chilies, but if you prefer something milder, you can use pepperoncini rings instead, cutting them into long pieces before adding. However, if you prefer your Mexican dishes hot and spicy, go for the green chilies.

For a tasty meal, serve the soup with some Chili Cheesy bread. It’s easy to prepare.

Just cut a loaf of French bread in half lengthwise and broil a few minutes until it’s lightly browned. Mix 1/2 cup of mayonnaise with 8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese and 1/2 cup chopped green chilies and spread over French bread halves. Broil 2-3 minutes until cheese bubbles; remove and cut into slices. You can exchange the green chilies for pepperoncini here as well.

MEXICALI CHEESE SOUP

Tomato Mixture:

1 teaspoon butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups (3 to 4 medium) chopped, seeded tomatoes

1 cup water

2/3 cup low-sodium tomato juice

1 (4-ounce) can whole green chilies, drained and cut up into bite-sized strips

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 to 5 drops hot pepper sauce

Cheese Mixture:

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk

1 cup water

8 ounces (2 cups) prepared cheese product (Velveeta or other brand), cubed

4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon butter

Garnish:

1 green onion, thinly sliced, if desired

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, if desired

A few tablespoons shredded cheese added to each serving

Melt 1 teaspoon butter in medium, nonstick saucepan. Add 1/2 cup onion and garlic; cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in all remaining tomato mixture ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large nonstick saucepan, combine all cheese mixture ingredients; mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with wire whisk, until cheese and butter are melted and just begins to boil.

Remove saucepans from heat. Slowly add tomato mixture to cheese mixture, stirring constantly. In small bowl, combine green onions and parsley or cilantro.

Sprinkle each serving of soup with extra cheese and green onion mixture.

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