Three weeks ago, high on adrenaline and eager to drive far, far away from the hellish heat of Texas, I posted here about my upcoming road trip. I have a retraction to make, as I was so excited to drive to Colorado and New Mexico with my son, that I may have glorified the whole travel by car thing. This ugly realization set in on day two of our journey after an unfortunately loud Amber Alert was automatically texted to my phone at 2:30 IN THE MORNING, jolting my sensitive baby and me out of a deep sleep. I’m all for being notified of children that have been abducted, but REALLY–how am I going to be able to help from my bed in the middle of the night?! What followed was a few hours of tossing and turning, listening to my child talk to himself and call out to me over and over again until I made the brilliant decision to check out of the hotel super early and just get on down the road. Only problem was I had left my suitcase sitting in the lobby and didn’t notice it was missing until we were an hour down said road.
It was at this exact moment that I decided to start drinking coffee (and not even the good stuff!) again after a three month hiatus. Let me tell you what really helped keep me alert (and therefore, alive) though. It was my tiny bottle of peppermint essential oil that I had decided to grab on my way out the door at the last minute. I inhaled it like a delinquent teenager addicted to glue sniffing and also dabbed it onto my temples and the nape of my neck. Boy, did it burn. But that icy-cool burning sensation kept me awake! And like a dutiful public servant, I left a trail of minty freshness at every disgusting rest stop along the way. Despite the extreme fatigue, though, overall it was a gorgeous drive and when Spotify wasn’t being spotty, we happily zoomed along to one heck of a playlist.
We had an amazing time visiting with dear friends in breathtakingly beautiful Evergreen, Colorado and then spent a weekend discovering Santa Fe. We returned with an additional 1500 miles on the odometer and a few more pounds on me. Having spent the whole vacation overindulging, I am now craving light and nutritious sustenance. I am crazy for quinoa, especially the more nutty flavored red quinoa. Indigenous to Peru, this grain is really high in protein, low in carbs, and includes all eight essential amino acids. Before cooking, it’s essential to rinse the quinoa in a mesh colander, to wash away the bitter saponins that coat the grain. This soup has a subtle kick to it thanks to the Aji Panca paste, which I found at Whole Foods. Aji Panca is a common mild chile found in Peru. It is described as having a “fruity almost berry-like flavor” and a low-to-medium heat level. I disagree. It’s HOT, people, so start with a small amount (especially if you’re serving to kids) and add more if a higher level of heat is desired. Don’t stress if you can’t find this paste. You could use the same quantity of chipotle chile puree or add an extra teaspoon of chili powder. I like to make this soup when I have leftover chicken to use up and before I can say “Machu Picchu“, it is done!
Recipe for Peruvian Tortilla Soup:
(Yields: approx. 10 c. soup)
1 T. canola oil (or oil of choice)
1 c. onion diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground chili powder
1 c. diced cooked chicken
1 t. salt
6 C. chicken broth
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes OR the equivalant of diced fresh tomatoes, peeled
1 t. apple cider vinegar
1 c. corn kernels (I used frozen organic)
2 t. aji panca paste (use more or less depending on desired heat level)
1/3 C. red quinoa, rinsed
2 C. kale pieces (bite-size)
In a large deep pot (a dutch oven is perfect), heat oil and add onions and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring over medium heat for about five minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in the chile powder and cumin. Add tomatoes, corn, chicken broth, aji panca paste and salt. Bring to a simmer and add the quinoa. Allow to simmer for about 15 min. or until the quinoa grains are just beginning to burst open. Add kale, chicken and apple cider vinegar. Simmer for another five minutes until the kale is bright green and wilted. Ladle into bowls and enjoy the nourishment!