Thursday, February 24, 2011

"So Mark...when did you become all food and cooking obsessed?"

Homeskillet supplement: A brief tale about the reason for this blog site and my recent culinary obsession.

Look, now, I’m not going to lie to you here because, well, that’s not my usual style and not the focus of this Homeskillet blog page. Why would I lie here? I’m sharing recipes, telling you about our favorite places to eat and drink in Tucson and all sorts of awesome grubby stuff. I’d only be lying if I said that I didn’t like to cook, that I don’t enjoy eating yummy food or that I will refuse another round of drinks from you. But that aint gonna happen.

Here’s the thing kids: It’s taken me a little over three decades to finally simmer down to what I want to do with myself and what I really love to do: And that is cooking and training myself to be better at it and open a fun place with She-Ra. Believe me, I have tried so many different “careers” and “job opportunities” in my time only for them to all, basically, fall by the wayside and be a memory. Fun memories, some of them, but none of them stuck with me like I thought that they would. Why? Because I never felt that intense urge deep down inside of me to make this, whatever gig that was at the time, to be and become the thing that I was meant to do for the rest of my life.

Until recently.

Okay, so, I hope I’m not confusing you or setting you up for some kind of jag about me changing careers (yet again) only for this one to melt away like all the others because I have some form of ADD and can’t commit to anything for more than a year or two. Because that’s not the case here. Sure, I’ll try (almost) anything once, and sorta have, and, yeah, I am a bit spastic when it comes to working and relationships (now that’s a whole different story) but it was a revelation about a year ago that set me ablaze and got me more excited about waking up and getting started with another day than anything else. It’s so freaking cool.

With that, let’s take a brief tour of my career path past and see where I went wrong. Well, not ‘wrong’ but, let’s say find out why most jobs and careers were the wrong fit. How’s that?

Now, I graduated high school a year early, thanks in part to my English teacher, Mrs. Favalora, who knew and saw that I was really struggling with school (not that I am dumb, I just really hated my high school, so instead of going there, I preferred skateboarding and playing D&D) and suggested I take a proficiency test and get me out instead of having me held back. I took the test, passed with flying colors and was enrolled in theater classes at the local community college, Monterey Peninsula College, soon after. Seeing as my dad was an actor and my mom did costumes for years, I figured I had some kind of chance in theater. It was fun, but I quickly found out that actors bug the crap out of me and I felt like an idiot having to “emote” and say stupid lines while wearing a codpiece. Doing backstage work was always fun though. I liked being behind the scenes and making the show a success by setting the actors and show up by doing lighting, sound, rigging, running crew and all that.

 Me at age 14 with a little 'light' reading

Thrash metal and Xmas fanatic theater dork me at 16

By the time I moved to Santa Barbara, following a girlfriend who got into UCSB and some other pals who did the same, I was pretty much over school. But, when in Rome, I took a bunch of classes anyway, ones that interested me at the time like philosophy, psychology, theology, literature, etc. It was during this time that I thought a career in film would be a good idea so, instead of moving to LA and hacking my way out of that nightmarish jungle, I followed the girlfriend and friends to San Francisco where a job doing production work was waiting for me. See, it’s all in who you know. And I guess I knew somebody.

Being a production assistant on films, music videos and commercials is tough. Long hard hours, low pay and having to hustle yourself all the time for more work just didn’t cut it for me. Plus I was pretty bad at it. The relationship was ending with the girlfriend during this time so my head wasn’t in the game most jobs. When the relationship finally ended and job offers came to a halt, I did what I had to do and start working in cafes and restaurants, because, luckily, San Francisco is filled with them.

With the “I’m just passing through till the next awesome opportunity arrives” attitude, I tended to stay at most restaurant jobs the longest. It was fun, the tips were good, and I always liked helping out in the kitchen. But, no!, I was “too cool” for that stuff, so I continued trying my hand at things that I thought, at the time, were cool.

Writing had always come fairly easy to me so when the chance to pen articles for a friend’s up and coming magazine came along, I jumped right in. It was the beginning of my music journalism stint, one that lasted almost a decade, and I really liked it. For a while. Why? Because (just like they say in Almost Famous) I felt cool. I was hanging out with bands, meeting people like Henry Rollins, Bad Brains, The Misfits, Lemmy of Motorhead, all my high school heroes basically. I got into shows for free, CDs came in the mail everyday, so much in fact I had to get a mailbox service to handle the load. At one point, I wrote for over a dozen websites and magazines which soon got me jobs working for dot coms (this was the late 90’s and early 2000’s in San Francisco, dorks like me with a portfolio got work) and marketing firms allowing me to actually make some decent money. Then, boom!, or should I say ‘crash’? The great “dot bomb” hit and jobs just stopped coming in. Even this project I was involved with, one that had me living online in the old SF Real World house with a bunch of other people went up in flames. No really, the house caught fire destroying everything. Most of my portfolio stuff was in ash and I had no real proof anymore that I was who I was. So, it was back to cafes and restaurants while I still wrote for some of the magazines that kept me on.

But there was no pay, or very little of it, being a freelance music journalist, one that specialized in heavy metal, so I had to have “real” jobs while I wrote. I worked as a bartender and host at a popular eatery called Q, which was featured recently on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which was a great gig for a while. Up the street from Q was my favorite bar called the 540 Club, which I hung out there often seeing as it was between Q and my apartment in the Presidio. One night at the 540, a bunch of us were hanging around the bar, listening to some DJ spin bleak and boring indie rock. None of us were having fun, including the owner, the regulars and the bartender. Now, at this point, I had been writing mainly as a heavy metal correspondent and doing work for magazines such as Pit and Metal Maniacs, seeing as I am a longtime fan of the genre, and the CDs, mostly metal, were piling up in my small place. As that DJ continued to bore us to death, an idea hit like lightning bolt.

“Would you guys be interested in doing a Metal night?”, I suggested. Everyone, including the owner, all perked up and said a resounding “YES!”  And that was how Metal Mark was born.

My first night DJing at the 540, a Saturday night none the less, was so massively popular that the fire department had to be called in because the place was so packed. The fog machine I had purchased, one that I hid behind my Castle Grayskull, along with strobe and black lights and skull candle holders, engulfed the crowd as I blasted old and new school metal. Obviously we had hit a nerve and I became a regular DJ at the 540 Club. 

 NILE listening party at the 540 Club sponsored by Metal Maniacs

This lead to a guest spot on KUSF’s “Rampage Radio” where every Saturday (well, Sunday really) from 2am to 8am, they played the most extreme punk and metal music. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of that crew. Unfortunately this lead me to try cocaine which I soon became quite reliant on and even hooked on. Which, of course, increased my drinking. The drug was simply everywhere, at the station, the bar and grill I worked, “friends” always had it on them, not to mention I was pretty lonely and confused since all my real pals moved away and I was stuck taking care of a creaky apartment that belonged to an ex-girlfriend. Luckily, right before I hit rock bottom, I met She-Ra and moved to Tucson to be with her…that and the cheap rent. And Mexican food.

After detoxing and letting what little savings I had run out, I looked for jobs. No DJ work for me, that is unless I wanted to make right above minimum wage and pull graveyard shifts at some crappy ‘new rock’ stations. I did work two nights at a prominent “gentleman’s club” as a DJ but couldn’t do it as blow was being passed out everywhere and when I heard my voice over the house system “Now lets hear it for Sinnamon! C’mon guys, get those dollars out and…” I cracked up and walked out. That eventually lead me a freelance job for a “professional” DJ company doing weddings, proms, etc. It sucked but it was work. I also tried journalism again, but no one would hire me and the only paper I got in with folded six months after I got hired.

Frustrated and impatient, I began looking for something solid, some job that I could enjoy just enough while I try my hand at book writing.

“You could always work in the kitchen at Old Chicago,” She-Ra suggested. It was where she bartended and where I had made a bevy of good friends because of her job there so, after some deliberation, I said why not. I had never worked in a real kitchen before but, hey, how hard could it be?

Yeah. It was pretty rough at first. Even though I was hired as just the pizza guy it was made quite clear very quickly that you have to know every aspect of that kitchen. I had dough making shifts, prep, front line, even dishwashing (which I strangely actually enjoyed, and still do), expo, opening and closing shifts, all of it. Seeing as I was part time then (still DJing weddings and crap and even did fundraising for the Tucson symphony for a while…that’s right, we have a symphony) I was still a floater, but when I went full time, to start my first novel, I was put on the pizza line, mainly because I am real meticulous when it comes to presentation and the front line is just too hot with servers and managers screaming at you.

I wrote my first book “Rabbit Every Tuesday”, a memoir about my tumultuous last year in San Francisco and finding true love, and began sending it out to publishers and agents in hopes of getting published. Nothing. Then I wrote my second book, a children’s novel called “In The Thicket”, which I had hoped to make a series out of, and, again, rejection after rejection after…heck, sometimes they never even bothered to get back to me. So I kept on trying, editing and submitting my work while outlining my third book and continued to think that my kitchen job was just a necessary evil and I’d be out of there soon.

But then, through time, I found myself really enjoying my job. I like how kitchens work. It’s kind of like working backstage at a theater. Making things happen from behind the scenes was a lot of fun. Plus I found myself reading cook books more so than other normal books, I started getting memberships at food and cooking websites, subscribing to cooking magazines, obsessing over shows like Top Chef and No Reservations, watching online instructional videos on knife techniques (I am a bad ass chiffonier by the way, who knew?) and all things culinary. My book writing took a backseat to me wanting to know how to properly braise a chicken, what stock to use in what soup, which herbs to use in what dish, how Thomas Keller came up with his “oysters and pearls” genius entrĂ©e, and so on and so forth. I was soon consumed with my love of eating and a new found appreciation of cooking.

Then, one night…it happened.

After a particularly hard day at work, and us just talking about our options of the future as far as jobs are concerned, She-Ra said something that set the wheels in harmonious motion:

“I’ve always wanted to open up my own place,” she quietly said.

I immediately hit the ceiling, jumping up from my seated position on the couch. The sky, literally, opened up. That was it I thought. That was IT! And, to be honest with you, it is all I ever wanted yet never fully accepted. Four decades on planet Earth and I finally know what I really want to do with the rest of my life.

I wanna be a cook. A really, really good cook. And I wanna eat…well. Which, we do, already, for the most part, but I mean really well.

Oh, and I wanna hang out with She-Ra too. Which I’m sure you thought was already a given. Which…it is.

So there you go. That’s the Reader’s Digest version of it all (which is still pretty long for a blog, right?) and why I started this page and who I am all about now and what I have in store for the near future. It’s like I don’t even notice what I did for “careers” in the past; it was all just fun and story makings for the most part. Sure, I love to write and will NEVER give that up, along with being a dedicated lifelong metalhead, but now I have a different way of expressing myself, another medium to make people happy. And that, my dear friends and readers, is to cook for you and share my adventures as I do so, as I self-teach myself in all manners of becoming a real chef, doing the Top Chef University online program (which is pretty amazing by the way) and, eventually, getting certified from a local culinary academy. It’s so much fun and I’m so excited I can’t even explain it to you.

Wait. Maybe I just did.

Thanks for listening. Now I gotta get back in the kitchen. I think my tater-tots are done…

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter can only mean one thing....its time to make sicky soup!

Our beefed up re-imagining of the classic chicken noodle soup

Late winter. There's snow on the ground. Frost on the windows. Black slush in the streets. Frozen dog pee on your bike. Sure it's a great season but, hey, there's some crap that comes along with the “winter wonderland” poetic butt wax as well. Like those bills that are starting to pile up from Xmas? Yeah. I bet you can't wait for summer.

Thing is we live in Tucson and shop using debit or cash. So I actually like late winter. Except for that recent deep freeze that killed everything in our garden. That sucked. Another aspect of late winter that everyone seems to be prone to these days is one annoying and drippy thing:

The common cold.

I mean for real! Everybody is sick right now. Most of my pals on Facebook have updates like “Sooo sick. Feel like crap. Watching 'The View'. Feel even worse.” Most of my co-workers seem to be ill as well, and not in the approved hip hop style either. My prep guy has to stop every five seconds to cough into his sleeve and a line guy didn't even show up because his sneezing and fever were so bad. Even my boss recently locked himself in the office, bald head covered in a wool cap, sucking down chicken noodle soup and hot lemon tea. And the guy hates tea.

Even She-Ra and I got a bit of the ick. Fortunately, me being the consummate hypochondriac that I am, I pop a lot of vitamins and drink a lot of Emergen-C, that and consume tons of water, so my “cold” only lasted a day. She-Ra, on the other hand...not so much. As I type this she is tucked into bed, eyes half mast, blowing her nose and coughing every few seconds. Poor thing. Luckily for us we have a recipe for the perfect get-well-soon sicky soup that you have to try next time you feel like garbage. Unless you feel like that now. Well better get someone to make this for you stat!

Here's what you're gonna need:

½ bulb of garlic (I am not fooling you, at least 6 to 10 cloves)

Pre grilled or baked chicken breast (the kind you find cooked and ready to go at your local deli or meat counter works really nice here, and is way easier)

A zucchini, diced or matchsticked

Yellow squash, sliced or matchsticked

A shallot, cut thin



Package of Buitoni tortellini, the spinach and plain variety works best here

2 large cans of chicken broth

Few hearty tablespoon fulls of Sriracha

Good pinch of Garlic Powder

More pinches of Dried minced onion

Salt and pepper to taste

    * Chicken bouillon: Only if you have too much stuff and you need to make more broth - chicken stock works perfect here as well if need be *

OK. Here's what you do.

Get out the biggest soup or stock pot you got and fill it full of the broth. If you're entire family is sick, as is/was the case with my line guy pal at work, you'll need to add a lot more broth and stock. Just eyeball the soup, it should be hearty but not too much nor too thin.

Next, add the garlic, shallot, Sriracha, salt, pepper, garlic powder and minced onion. Let that simmer on low for about 10-15 minutes, infusing the broth with the spicy garlicky awesomeness. When you lift up the lid, you're going to want to tear up a bit from the spices and garlic. That's the idea. This soup is not only delicious, but it'll sweat out the bad stuff. 

 (we had to add some chicken stock, which is what that bulbous lump in the middle is)

With your pre-cooked chicken, get out a fork and gently scrape the breast (or breasts depending on how big a pot of this stuff you wanna make) and shred it up making it into thin long pieces. Toss it all into the pot, stir it up and simmer for a few more minutes. Your broth should be at a good roiling, not a full on boil, like it should have some bubbling but not be all erupting volcano.

After a few more minutes, lets say 5 to 10, of simmering, the tortellini gets added. Like any other pasta, its a good idea to stir it for a minute or two to ensure that it doesn't all stick together. Once you are satisfied that you're not going to have blobs of pasta, kinda like when nachos stick together (mmmm, nachos) put the lid back on and simmer for another 6 or 7 minutes. 

Now it's time for the squash and zucchini. Get those essential vitamins in there and stir it all together.

The soup should look pretty hearty and smell amazing right about now. Literally, you can feel your nose open up and that annoying mucous character from that Mucinex commercial be all “Sicky soup? Oh Nooooooo...!” About a minute or two before serving, add in the spinach and kale, which could either be rough cut or even chopped depending on how you feel about amazingly good for you leafy greens and how you like them in soup. Us? We like big hunks of the stuff. Plus the spinach and kale will render down some so if you add say a cup of them each, the end result will be more like ½ or so. 


Once everything is cooked, combined and smelling like a pot o' spicy garlic yum, ladle it into a big bowl and serve it up to your favorite person who is feeling like absolute ass. Even if that person is you. Sure, standing up and “doing stuff” when you feel as if you've just been handed a Petri dish filled with major suckage, the type that makes you watch and appreciate afternoon telenovelas, is near impossible, this soup can be accomplished. But I highly suggest getting a good soul to whip this up for you. And the next time they feel like ass, you can do the same.

Well kids, I hope this recipe helps a little when you're feeling as if your head's about to cave in, your nose is basically a snot faucet, your throat is filled with gerbils and Tribbles (look it up) and the floor around you is covered in used tissues, because, well, it works for us. In fact, She-Ra is back at work and feeling better after eating yet another heaping bowl of this stuff. I'm pretty sure you'll be happy with the results.

Oh yeah, and wear lots of thick socks when you're sick. And watch Disney movies.

This combination always makes me feel better. I mean...with the soup too.

Feel better!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Step by step: The best cheeseburgers ever!

Step by step: how to make amazing and (as close as we can get it) healthy cheeseburgers.

Here's the thing. A goal of ours when we cook, and is the focus when we finally get our food truck and restaurant up and running, is to create and offer super yummy comfort food without all of the grease and over salted crap and gloop that usually comes along with it. That and the whole personal trainer option “comfort food” that is pretty much a sandwich the size of a poker chip, a thimble full of wine and some low-carb side dish that tastes like that paste you used when you did art stuff in the 3rd grade. No way. All that wackness can suck it. We all like to eat, we all want good grubby fare at the end of a long day or work week but we don't want to suffer the battle of the bulging neck or gut flab because of it. Well, my dear readers and feeders, we have come up with a savory, home style, just like you remember after school post eating that gross paste in the 3rd grade style of burgers that is delicious and not too bad for you, fat grams and calorie wise.

You ready? Here is the shiznit.

You will need:

1 pound of lean ground beef

1 yellow onion

I packet of onion soup mix

6 slices of fat free American cheese (trust me, Kraft puts out a decent product and melts really well)

6 small hamburger buns

Lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard to your own liking.

Now, for the step-by-step:

Pre-heat the oven to 425.

In a good sized bowl, mix the beef and onion soup mix together.

Line a square 8” x 12” casserole pan with wax paper and spread the burger mix until it is shaped like the pan. Once it's all squarey and stuff, remove the burger mix and set aside.

Thinly slice the onion and spread it around the bottom of the casserole pan. Once the bottom is covered in onion, take the squared meat and flip it on top of the onions, using the wax paper as a vessel to do so. Be careful, this step can be a little tricky. And messy. It can be tricky and messy.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. The meat should be shrunken by a third and look, well...cooked.

Remove from the oven and cover the beef with the cheese slices. Then bake for an additional minute or two, melting the cheese just enough to keep its consistency.

(this picture does the burgers no justice...the taste and smell is unreal, plus I'm not much of a photographer after a She-Ra cocktail)

Once everything is cooked and looking like a big cheeseburger casserole, cut the beef into 6 squares, place on the buns and serve with your favorite condiment and side dish.

Yum! Super awesome cheeseburger goodness, almost like a beefed up slider or White Castle burger. You'd think fat free American cheese would suck but, hey!, we're going traditional here and trying not to load up on oily trans fat. And it tastes good too along with being good at being all melty and stuff.

There you have it Homeskillet fans, our best and favorite way to cook burgers. Hope you like them just as much as we do. Now I'm inspired to make these right now. Why?

Because, dude...I'm so hungry right now!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

She-Ra's "Ratatouille" ratatouille

How to make She-Ra's famous ratatouille.

We love movies that involve cooking. Why? First off, because we're dorks and second, we love movies and cooking. The combination of the two? Well, sometimes it works out, like the Queen Latifah remake of “Last Holiday”, or it doesn't, such as watching Catherine Zeta-Jones try to act like a pernicious perfectionist chef in “No Reservations”, which is also the title of Anthony Bourdain's TV show and, he too, hated that movie.

But one film that stands out to combine everything we love about movies that involve cooking is Ratatouille. It's funny, it's cute, it kinda shows how a real French bistro might operate and Patton Oswalt does the voice of Remy. So...there you go.

Now, if you've seen it, you know that Remy helps out a bumbling would-be chef by hiding out in his hat and telling him what to use and how to use it. One dish, the one that sends the snobbish curmudgeonly food critic to accept the fact that a rat made his food and save the failing restaurant was, yep, ratatouille.

Sorry about the no sound thing. It's the only clip I could find.

Welp, after we saw that movie and fell in love with it, She-Ra came home and started to do a bit of research. That night she basically whipped up Remy's ratatouille and I'm here now to tell you how she does it.

Trust me, it's amazing.

OK. Here's what you're going to need:

5 cloves of garlic, minced

I cup Pomi tomato puree

I small vidallia yellow onion

1 small eggplant, the Italian version if you can get one

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 orange pepper

Thyme, dried, about a ¼ teaspoon

Some salt and pepper

Soft goat cheese (for serving)

Pre-heat the oven at 350.

If you have a mandoline that's awesome, if not a sharp knife will do. Cut the eggplant into about 1/16 inch slices, removing the tips first, and place the slices on paper towels then sprinkle them with a bit of salt. This is known as “sweating” your eggplant which removes some of the moisture and bitterness. Then cut the zucchini, squash and pepper (trimmed and de-cored) in the same uniform fashion and set aside.

Finely chop up the onion and mince up the garlic. Pour the Pomi (or whichever kind of tomato puree you prefer) into a casserole dish then add the garlic, onion, thyme and salt and pepper.

Now, here's where it gets fun. Arrange the slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables; sorta like zucchini first, then the squash, then the pepper, etc etc. Once everyone is in place (and yes, you may have some leftover...just thrown that in your next pasta dish or salad!) add a tad more salt and pepper and cover the dish with either wax or parchment paper.

Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes. Basically you want the vegetables to release their liquid and are still firm but not brown. Not to mention, that tomato sauce should be bubbling up around everybody.

The result should look like this:

Plate that sucker up and serve with good crusty bread, perhaps a yummy salad and top the ratatouille with the goat cheese. Holy merde!, is this good stuff. 


Well, there you go. Simple, fun, delicious and above all kinda healthy. Some recipes involve olive oil but...nah. You really don't need it. You want the pure vegetable flavor to stand out on it's own.

Good luck and make Remy proud!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Metal Mark's Tortilla Soup

Ah Tortilla Soup. You love it, you know I love it and I love it when I get a recipe down that tastes like a good Mexican restaurant. Mind you, I cut a lot of the lardy stuff out because, and I'm sure you know by now, my goal is to cook as healthily as possible, without skipping out on that all important “flavor” thingy. Because, then, you know...what's the point?

So, after some practice and doing a bit of 'take this / take that' from various recipes, I got one down that I'm sure you're gonna love. Because I know we did. And it's around 300 calories and low sodium.

You ready? Let's get started!

Now first, you can use either chicken broth or stock. She-Ra and I usually have a good amount of stock kept in our freezer. For this, though, I used broth. If you don't know how to make chicken stock, dude, it's way easy. We usually make ours after a chicken feast and use the whole carcass and bits, which we place in a big pot with chopped white onion, celery and carrots (the holy trinity!). Pour in enough water to cover the chicken and put the temp to low or simmer. Let that simmer for a few hours, strain through either a micro sieve or cheesecloth into a freezable bag or container and, wa-binga!, you have stock. Easy right? And it really adds a whole new dimension to your soups or whatever.

Here's what you'll need for the Tortilla Soup:

1 lb of boneless skinless chicken breasts

6 cups of chicken broth (I just used one of those big 48oz cans of the stuff)

Tablespoon of canola or vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of chipotle pepper

2 or 3 cloves of peeled and chopped garlic

1 can of whole peeled tomatoes (I used Muir Glen organic with chiles)

Salt and pepper

2 limes


Hot sauce

An avocado

Jalapenos, chopped onion, radishes (for garnish if you want)

For the actual tortillas, you can either get a couple of corn tortillas, cut them into strips, place them in a preheated oven at 450 degrees and bake them until they are light brown and crispy or you can buy the pre-stripped bagged kind, like from Fresh Gourmet, which works just as well...but has more sodium. But is easier. It's up to you.

In a large pot over medium high heat, put in the oil. Then add the garlic and onion until they are soft and translucent. Transfer the onion and garlic into a blender and add the tomatoes and chipotle. Make sure you use the entire can of tomatoes. You want that juice buddy. Hit the “Puree” button and blend it until it is all smooth.

Here, again, you have a choice. You can either pre-cook your chicken, in an oven set at 450 for about 10 minutes (season them with salt and pepper first!) and drop it in the soup later or you can try poaching them. To poach the chicken, return the blended stuff to the pot and add the broth (or stock) and bring it to a simmer. Season the chicken with the almighty salt and pepper and drop the breasts into the liquid. Poach them in the soup for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked all the way through. Once, cooked properly, remove the chicken and slice or shred them before serving. A good way to shred chicken is by using a fork and dragging it on the breasts until you have rendered the chicken down to a pile of shreds. We just sliced them thin because it was getting late, we had a few cocktails and I didn't feel like shredding chicken. Sliced chicken works best here anyway I think.

Now add the lime juice and a good amount of chopped cilantro. Let it simmer a bit more getting the juice and cilantro all up in that piece. If you want, which we did, we added a bit of hot sauce. Nothing fancy, just the stuff you find at Food City, a Mexican carniceria or, crap, Ralph's. Tapatia and Valentina work great here. Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Once the soup is in the bowls, top it with the chicken, tortilla strips, avocado (which you need to cut into cubes, and easy way is just, after cutting the avocado in half and removing the pit, take your knife and trace down the pulp, all the way to the shell, then scoring width wise, in a criss-cross fashion, then just scoop it out and there you go!) and the other garnishes that I highly recommend.

In the end, it might look like this:

Yeah, I know – crappy presentation. Look pal, like I said, it was getting late, we were pretty hungry and I think “RuPaul's Drag Race” was about to start. I should've wiped the rim of the bowl but...whatever. It was good eats anyway. I served it with a salad of romaine, black beans, tomatoes, red onion, shredded cheese and this southwest ranch dressing that I made (I can get you that recipe too). Super yummy and pretty darn healthy.

There you go. Good luck, good eating and above's good for you!