Caroline’s #SOUPCLUB Challenge: Mexican Chicken Soup for them poor college kids

A few weeks ago, I was doing some late night tweeting about #SOUPCLUB. Which is basically just a virtual club in the form of a hashtag about how awesome soup is.

…Listen. It’s a fake food blog. Made by a nerd for nerds. So, a hashtag about soup should be absolutely NO surprise to anyone.

ANYWHO. My very lovely friend Caroline responded to my tweet with a request: could you blog a cheap and easy soup for the poor college kids of the world without Dutch ovens or food processors?

I like a challenge as much as the next girl. I’m game. Let’s do this shit.

So, I brainstormed for about a week and I offered her a choice: chicken noodle soup (basic, but a little cheaper) or Mexican Chicken soup (a bit pricier, but more flavorful). And she chose Mexican Chicken soup, which made me rull excited. Cause that is what I wanted to make today.

Another Ina Garten recipe, this time from Barefoot Contessa at Home (click to buy here).  And honestly, it’s fool proof. Yeah. I didn’t even mess any of it up. I KNOW. It’s almost like I could have a REAL food blog.

The real question is: will it be cheap enough to pass the college kid test?

Sidenote. Sigh. I wish I could go back to college. I miss the football games. I miss the plays. And the theme parties. When I typed “I wish I could go back to college,” I started singing this in my head and it will be there forevermore.

For this #SOUPCLUB challenge, I’m going to assume that my lovely college friends have to buy all the ingredients except three essentials: salt, pepper and olive oil. Because even though they’re in college, they’re not cave people.

In addition to the ingredients, I’ll also include the prices for all of these items as purchased at the regular gro sto.


  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on | $6.95 (on sale $1.97/lb!)
  • good olive oil | FREE!
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper | FREE!
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions) | $1.03
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks) | $1.99
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots) $1.79
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped | $0.50
  • 2 ½ quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade | 3 boxes at $2.99 = $8.97
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed by hand | $2.19
  • 2 to 4 jalapenos, seeded and minced | $0.28
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin | $2.59
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander seed | $5.45 YIKES
  • ¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional) | $1.69
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas (Ina doesn’t consider this optional, but I do…more to come)

To serve:

  • Sliced avocado
  • Sour cream | $1.49
  • Grated cheddar cheese | $2.75
  • Tortilla chips | $3.50

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle GENEROUSLY with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done.

If you have fat chicken breasts, like I did, make sure you bake for the full 40 minutes. And really, really season those things generously. That’s the only way they’re going to get any flavor. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin (…by eating some of it…) and bones and shred the meat with two forks. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a big ole pot. (Or a dutch oven if you have one, fancy pants.)

Add onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. It took me about 15. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree (crush these babies in a bowl by hand…this will get messy), jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using.

I felt like an episode of I Love Lucy.

Now, here’s where I depart from Ina’s recipe. The first time I made this soup, I forgot to buy the tortillas. Because I am a dumb. So I didn’t put the tortillas in. And it was awesome without them.  With all the chicken and vegetables, it almost becomes a Mexican chicken stew vs. a tortilla soup. But, if you want the tortillas, go nuts. Directions to follow.

Cut the tortillas in half, then cut them crosswise into ½-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste.

(Arrested Development pilot, anyone?)

Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

The only thing I would change if I was remaking it is I’d add more jalapeno. It could use a little more heat. But it’s really comforting and the cumin/coriander/cilantro really give you that Mexican sabor. That means flavor, y’all. Oh, did I forget to tell you that I speak espanol? CAUSE I DO.

And let me just give a little shout out to Tostitos Artisan recipes Roasted Garlic & Black Bean chips. They are STUPID good. I am about to throw the bag away so I stop eating them. Seriously. But they’re 9 grain, so they’re basically diet chips. Right? That makes it ok.

So, how’d I do with Caroline’s challenge for the college kids who are living their lives on a budget?

Well, the total for all the ingredients is $41.17. Which is a chunk when you’re shelling it out all at once. But, if you think that this thing makes 8 servings, it’s roughly $5.15 per serving.

The cost can come down a bit. Do you NEED the sour cream? Or the cheese? Or the tortilla chips? Nah. They’re nice to haves, but this soup stands on it’s own. I just saved $7.74. New total: $33.43. That’s only $4.17 a serving.

Let’s face it. That’s cheaper than a night at the bar.

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