Tortilla Soup with Sliced Avocado

IMG_0378 Fresh avocados are the perfect addition to brighten up this warming tortilla soup. The creamy avocado flesh contrasts the crisp, baked tortilla strips, and the cool avocado balances the heat from the chilies. This soup is one of my fall favorites and the avocado livens it up!

Growing up, this green super-fruit was not in my family’s produce rotation. When I moved to Los Angeles for college, I was constantly confronted with all things avocado—from guacamole to California rolls. My love for avocados flourished during my tenure in Los Angeles. I even developed one of my favorite go-to dishes: sliced avocado with a sprinkle of creole seasoning, drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon juice.


Avocado trees can't tolerate freezing temperatures, so avocados are not as readily available in NYC as they are in southern California. But when they are in abundance, I partake.

Sliced avocado complements the southwest flavors in this tortilla soup, so it's time to get cooking!


2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for tortilla strips 1 medium onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 chipotle chili en adobo sauce, finely chopped 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 teaspoons salt 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 1 cup corn kernels 1 small tomato, diced 2 medium avocados 2 limes 4 flour tortillas (OK to substitute with tortilla chips) 2 medium avocados 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Optional Garnishes: Cheddar cheese sour cream


To prepare the baked tortilla strips, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (alternatively, you can use tortilla chips).  Stack 4 small flour tortillas and cut them crosswise into ½ inch strips. Place tortilla strips in a rimmed baking sheet. Toss them with enough olive oil to lightly coat them, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a single layer for 5 minutes. Turn the strips over and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. (Be careful not to burn them--like I did the first time I made them!) Set the tortilla strips aside while you prepare the rest of the soup.

To prepare the soup, heat the two tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic and chipotle chili and saute in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the chili powder and salt. Cook an additional three minutes. Add the chicken broth and increase the temperature to high to bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook for five more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Stir in the cooked, shredded chicken (if using), diced tomato and chopped cilantro. Squeeze in lime juice from the two limes and stir.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with baked tortilla strips (or chips), sliced avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine

image This fettuccine boasts Louisiana shrimp and classic creole flavors melded with rich fettuccine in a creamy, spicy Alfredo sauce.  This relatively simple dish is inspired by most recent trip home to Baton Rouge. My sister Dawn made it and everyone loved it. I used Creole seasoning and Louisiana gulf shrimp.  The base of this dish, the holy trinity-- onion, celery and bell pepper,  is the same as the base for many Louisiana classics such as gumbo or etouffee, giving it that familiar Louisiana flavor.


Once the ingredients are prepped, this dish comes together in about 25 minutes, making it a sophisticated weeknight dinner option.  I melted the butter in my round dutch oven, then sauteed the onion, celery and bell pepper. I then stirred in a teaspoon of flour to thicken it. Next, I stirred in the raw shrimp and chopped parsley. I reduced the heat and allowed it to cook until the shrimp were pink throughout. During this time, I also prepared the fettuccine according to the package's instructions.

Once the cheese has melted, stir in the cooked fettuccine

Once the shrimp is cooked throughout, I removed the mixture from the heat and stirred in the velveeta and half-and-half.  Once the cheese was completely melted, I stirred in the cooked fettuccine.

Creole Shrimp Fettuccine
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 servings
  • 2 pounds raw shrimp
  • 2 table spoons Creole Seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
  • 16 ounce package of fettuccine, uncooked
  • ¾ cup butter (1 and ½ sticks)
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • ¼ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  1. Peel and devein the raw shrimp. Generously season the shrimp with creole seasoning. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the fettuccine according to the package’s directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
  3. Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Once the butter is melted, add the onion, celery and bell pepper. Cook until softened, approximately three minutes. Stir in one teaspoon of flour. Stir in the shrimp and parsley. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the shrimp is cooked and pink throughout, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Once the shrimp is cooked, remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the velveeta cheese and half-and-half. Once the cheese is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and creamy, stir in the cooked fettuccine. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with grated parmesan if desired. Serve immediately.


Spaghetti with Sun Sugar Tomatoes

image It's late summer and finally tomato season. I picked up some gorgeous yellow cherry tomatoes, sun sugar tomatoes, at my weekly market.  I decided to make whole wheat pasta with a vegetable and ground turkey sauce, topped with the delicious and vibrant tomatoes and fresh basil.

The yellow cherry tomatoes are "sun sugar tomatoes," and they are a vibrant orange when at their peak ripeness.

These tomatoes are definitely delicious enough to eat on their own.  They are the sweetest and tangiest of the cherry tomato varieties. I used fresh basil from my basil plant growing on my windowsill--one of two plants in my apartment that I have managed to keep alive all spring and summer.


I  make spaghetti pretty much the same every time I make it. I chop an onion, bell pepper and some garlic. This time, I added mushrooms. I sautee these ingredients, then I add ground turkey and creole seasoning.

Once the meat is cooked through, I add a jar of pasta sauce and let it simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. I then added the noodles, fresh basil and tomatoes and served. This dish was the perfect Sunday dinner.  The fresh tomatoes as pasta toppings added a refreshing burst to each bite that balanced the otherwise heavy pasta dish.  I served it with a side of steamed collard greens--satisfying and nourishing.


Spaghetti with Sun Sugar Tomatoes
Author: Vallery
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6 servings
  • 1 box whole wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound mushrooms, washed thoroughly and chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • creole seasoning OR salt and pepper
  • 1 jar tomato sauce
  • handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 small carton yellow cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
  1. Cook 2/3 of the box of noodles according to directions. Drain and set aside. (I like my pasta to have more sauce than noodles, so if you like more noodles, just add the entire box to the dish.)
  2. Saute the chopped onion in a large skillet over medium heat until the onion softens and just starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and continue to stir.
  3. Add the chopped bell pepper and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms soften.
  4. Add the ground turkey and season with creole seasoning. Stir until the turkey breaks up and is cooked and brown throughout.
  5. Once the ground turkey is cooked through, stir in the jar of tomato sauce. Once the sauce starts to simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook, covered, for 10 or 15 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in chopped basil and chopped tomatoes. Correct the seasoning by adding more creole seasoning or salt, if needed.
  7. Stir in the noodles and serve.