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Fresh Food Recipe Makeover: Mexican Meatball Soup

February 21, 2012

It only seemed right that when it came to start my “fresh food” recipe makeovers that I should take a look at recipes I have shared in the past that may have been in need of a transformation.  Those who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw processed foods, or something like that.  I started perusing my recipe database and came across the recipe I decided to revamp first.  Ironically enough, I had already blogged about this recipe and had even commented on the fact that I was a little hesitant to share it at the time.  Looks like I was setting myself up!  What better way to start?

This new recipe involves a few extra steps:

1. Baking your own whole-wheat tortilla chips.

2. Creating your own fresh salsa.

I also chose to take the health benefit one step further, by using lean ground turkey and whole wheat tortillas.  In addition, I added chili powder to help amp up the flavor of the ground turkey.

Recipe Results

Cons: Increased total cooking time by 15 minutes.  (See Kate’s Thoughts below.  I think this can honestly be closer to only a 10 minute increase.)

Pros: Decreased calories by 34%, decreased saturated fat by 66%, and decreased sodium by 69% compared to the original.

Revised Mexican Meatball Soup
Yields: 4 Servings

Total Time: 40 minutes

3 6-inch Whole wheat tortillas
Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (divided)
1 pound Extra lean ground turkey
2 Green onions (thinly sliced)
6 tablespoons Fresh cilantro (chopped, divided)
1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper (divided)
1 cup Yellow onion (chopped)
1 cup Green bell pepper (seeded and chopped, about 1 small pepper)
1 14.5-ounce can Diced tomatoes (undrained)
1/2 Jalepeno pepper (seeded and finely chopped, about 1 tablespoon)
2 Garlic cloves (minced)
2 tablespoons Fresh lime juice
1 2/3 tablespoons Olive oil (divided)
3 cups Water (divided)
1 Avocado (diced)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tortillas into bite size strips. Coat with cooking spray and place strips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season strips with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake strips until crisp and golden, approximately 10-12 minutes.
2. Heat the broiler. Crush 1 cup of the baked tortilla strips and combine with the turkey, green onions, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a medium bowl. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (about 16) and place on a broilerproof baking sheet. Broil until beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Meanwhile place the ingredients for the salsa (onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapeño pepper, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 black pepper, lime juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil) in a blender with 1 cup water.
4. Transfer contents of the blender to a large pot, add 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature, add meatballs, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through about 4-5 minutes.
5. Serve soup topped with remaining tortilla strips and avocado.

Kate’s Thoughts

After I took the time to chop and prepare the salsa, I realized that I probably could have saved time and simply quartered or sliced most of the ingredients, as they were being pureed in the blender anyway.  Preparing the salsa the long way did allow me to ensure the combination of flavors was spot on, but this wouldn’t be necessary in the future.  This would cut the the prep time down by at least 5-7 minutes.

Not only was the revised recipe a health improvement, I honestly thought the flavor was much more robust.  I was initially apprehensive about creating my own salsa as I didn’t think it would stand up to the mingling time of the flavors in the jarred salsa, but this was not the case.  In fact, I found the texture of the soup to  be heartier and that the freshness of the vegetables came through in each bite.

A few notes on ingredients:

Although I chose to use canned, diced tomatoes since tomatoes are currently not in season, fresh tomatoes would also work very well when the time came.  You will need approximately 1 cup of fresh, chopped tomatoes.

I chose to top the soup with an avocado, as in the original.  If I made this in the summer, I would like to try topping it with mango or peach to add an extra level of sweet freshness.

Lastly, adding olive oil to the lean ground turkey mixture puts back “good fat” and creates a moister meatball.

And here is the original recipe for comparison:

Mexican Meatball Soup
Yields: 4 Servings

1 pound Ground beef
2 Green onions (chopped)
1 cup Tortilla chips (crushed, plus more for serving)
1/4 cup Fresh cilantro (chopped, plus sprigs for serving)
1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
3 cups Mild jarred salsa (about 1 1/2 jars, each 16 ounces)
1 Avocado (cut into pieces)

1. Heat broiler. In a bowl, combine the beef, scallions, tortilla chips, cilantro, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls (about 24) and place on a broilerproof baking sheet. Broil until beginning to brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the salsa with 1 cup water. Transfer to a large saucepan, add 2 cups water, and bring to a boil. Add the meatballs, reduce heat, and simmer until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes.
3. Serve the soup with the avocado, cilantro sprigs, and tortilla chips, if desired.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2012 2:43 pm

    Sounds delicious. I’m adding this recipe to my favorites. I just posted a real food Taco Soup in the crock pot, that is super easy and nourishing. Especially if you use a homemade stock.

    Great blog, I’m a big fan!

    • February 27, 2012 8:18 am

      Thank you so much and I am so happy to hear you enjoyed it! Ironically enough, I am working on a taco chicken in the crock pot for tomorrow’s real food recipe. Great minds think alike!

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