The perks of freelancing are many, the biggest perhaps being the ability to make your office wherever you feel like working. For this I am incredibly grateful, but it also makes organizing the day a bit more problematic. I attempt to enforce some structure – waking up at the same time, doing morning stretches, changing out of pjs, sitting an actual desk instead of the couch – but without a consistent coworker or a large office clock keeping me on routine, I end up with a pretty varied work day. Again, usually not a problem, because I ardently believe that variety is the spice of life, but it means that I often forget to do other things. Like eat lunch.
When I’m alone and left to my own devices, I typically eat like a toddler – think apple slices, peanut butter, carrot sticks, and popcorn – but I know I would feel more satisfied if I ate something a bit more substantial and “meal-like.” I recently came across an article on Serious Eats for DIY Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodle Cups to make an office desk lunch a little more exciting (and perhaps a bit more economical). While I have a full fridge and kitchen at my daily disposal, this kind of DIY prepackaged meal might get me to eat better and more consistently. But, of course, I needed to make things a little spicier and little more in my preferred flavor profile. And that’s how this DIY Just-Add-Agua Tortilla Soup came to be.
I can make a handful of these jars and store them in my home fridge, but they are really designed to be taken out of the house and into an office or even out on a picnic. The only thing you need to add is hot water, either from a kettle at work or a packed thermos from your picnic basket. Using a trick from Serious Eats, store the more fragile ingredients – like fresh herbs and other finishing flavors such as lime wedges – in a separate zip-top bag so they don’t get muddled with the other bits in the jar.
In this recipe, the classic instant noodle is swapped out for similarly starchy corn tortilla strips. And while I added black beans and a few fresh vegetables, you could easily add leftover shredded chicken, pork, or any other protein that goes well with the Mexican flavor profile. Or pretty much whatever you can fit in the jar.
DIY Just-Add-Agua Tortilla Soup
in the jar:
1/4 cup black beans
2 tablespoons onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons carrots, thinly sliced
1 heaping spoonful canned green chiles
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 heaping teaspoon chicken stock or vegetable stock bouillon concentrate
generous pinch cumin
1 corn tortilla, cut into thin strips
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
pint or half pint glass jar with lid
method for boiling water (kettle, thermos, etc)
1. Add all the ingredients to the jar and store the tortilla strips, cilantro, and lime wedges separately in a zip-top bag. You can tuck this bag into the jar as well to store while traveling.
2. When ready to eat, remove the zip-top bag and fill the jar with hot water, stirring to combine. Add the tortilla strips, top with the lid, and tighten. Set in a warm spot for 3 to 4 minutes until everything is warmed through. Remove the lid, add the fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, and salt and pepper to taste. Lunch away.
Happy lunching, y’all.