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The tables were turned recently when I paid a visit to my daughter in California. For years, actually decades, she's been calling, emailing or texting to get recipes from me. However, on this last trip I found myself asking for her recipe for the amazing chicken tortilla soup she made.

She said it's so easy, it's perfect for a midweek meal or, even better, to serve as a casual meal for guests. You can set up a soup bar near your slow cooker and place all the toppings — sour cream, avocados, shredded cheese, cilantro, lime and the all-important tortilla strips — and let your guests serve themselves, adding whatever toppings they like.

This is one of those wonderful dump-and-go recipes that make life just a little better on a busy day. Set your slow cooker on low, and let it do the job while you do whatever else needs doing. Or you can let it simmer on the stovetop until all the flavors have married and it's good and hot.

I would imagine any enchilada sauce will work in this recipe, but my daughter insists that no other should be used than that from Trader Joe's. It has just the right amount of kick that doesn't hit too hard but only serves to enhance the flavor. Now that we finally have a Trader Joe's in town, it's possible.

Use a store-bought rotisserie chicken, leftover chicken or boil your own chicken. You will need chicken stock in this recipe, and if you boil your own, you'll have some excellent stock — and homemade is always my preference. Otherwise, you can use store-bought chicken broth or make some from Better Than Bouillon, which my daughter did when making the soup.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped

Pinch of chili powder, or more, to taste

1 jar Trader Joe's enchilada sauce

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 small can diced green chilies

1 can corn (or 1/2 bag frozen corn)

4 cups chicken broth

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

Garnishes: Shredded pepper-Jack cheese, tortilla chips, lime slices, cilantro, sour cream, avocado slices

In a skillet, saute onion in a little oil, and add a pinch of chili powder once they're softened. Place onion in a slow cooker, and add enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes, chilies, corn, chicken broth and shredded chicken. Cook on low for a couple of hours. Add garnishes, as desired.

 

AIR FRYERS COME OF AGE

Much like microwaves that started life as an expensive luxury item with dials rather than smart technology and no turntable, they're now in most every kitchen and are cheap enough to quickly replace. Air fryers are the same.

Older models look like ancient dinosaurs compared to state-of-the-art air fryers on the market now. I couldn't wait for my old air fryer to give up the ghost. I was just looking for an excuse to get a new one. It was a kitchen warrior during its day, but slowly developed glitches and became undependable when I needed it. That's not good.

I was amazed at all the air fryers out there when I went looking for a new one. One of my daughters has the toaster-oven type of air fryer, and I'm not a big fan of that style. I wanted a larger basket, and one that could do more than air frying. I found what I was looking for when Dreo came out with its large smart air fryer that, in addition to air frying, bakes, roasts, broils and dehydrates, and it has preset functions for poultry, vegetables and other foods, too. It's almost like it has a brain. There's a large viewing window in front that allows you to see how your food is coming along. No surprises.

There are several higher-priced air fryers that do the same thing as this one, but the Dreo comes in at a remarkable $119 on Amazon.

If there's anything they can do to improve this air fryer, I'd like to know what it is. So far I've roasted a pork tenderloin, air-fried Brussels sprouts, radishes, baked potatoes, salmon and french fries, all of which have come out perfectly in just a fraction of the time it would take in my oven.

 

'OUTRAGEOUS' CEREAL

A cereal inspired by a locally produced treat has made Eat This, Not That's list of the 20 Most Outrageous Foods of 2021. Kellogg's Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies cereal, introduced in May, was No. 5 among "the wild eats that got everyone talking."

The label describes it as an "iconic indulgence you remember loving as a kid" made into a "crispy, chocolatey breakfast cereal for the whole family to enjoy together." The media outlet noted, "Probably little surprise that the first ingredient is sugar."

The original treats, Cosmic Brownies, are made by McKee Foods in Collegedale. The snack has a brownie base topped with fudge icing and candy-coated chocolate pieces.

Topping the Outrageous Foods list was Pringles' Wavy Moa Burger Crisps, inspired by the supposed taste of the meat of the moa bird, which exists only in the fictional universe of the "Halo" video-game franchise.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or annebraly.com.

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Anne Braly
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