I’m a California Girl, born and raised! To say the beach is my ‘happy place’ would be a huge understatement. Beach chairs, sunny days, munchies, body surfing, boogie boarding, warm sand, music and relaxing naps are all a part of the charm! In Southern California, we have miles and miles of beautiful coastline. Located in the town of Newport Beach is a wonderful community called Balboa Island.
Accessible via a bridge, ferry and public docks, the island is surrounded by waterways, a boardwalk and quaint cottages. Balboa’s main street features all sorts of shops, restaurants and a good old-fashioned fire station.
I’ve enjoyed the famous Balboa Bars and Frozen Bananas (two island favorites, dipped in chocolate and tempting toppings) my entire life! There’s a couple of places on the island, but we prefer Dad’s…
From the island, we love to take the ferry over to the Balboa fun zone and pier on Newport Peninsula. Shopping and walking around the island, riding the ferris wheel, playing arcade games, renting roller skates, hitting beach parties, eating at Ruby’s on the pier…my entire life is full of wonderful memories! In fact, my husband proposed to me at a restaurant called The Pavillion just south of the ferris wheel on the peninsula.
No visit to the island is complete without stopping in for a meal at Picante Martins. A family business since 1998, they serve fresh, authentic Mexican food, but my favorite is their Chicken Soup. With tender white chicken breast, zucchini, chayote, carrots, celery, onions, corn, peas, tomatoes and rice, this soup is delicious, low fat and filling. Garnished with fresh avocado, lime wedge, dollop of homemade salsa and salty tortilla chips, it’s literally heaven in a bowl! Between visits to California, I feed my craving by making a pot at home. After moving to Utah, I concocted my own recipe based on years of ‘research’. While my version is very close, I must admit that true bliss is a trip to Balboa Island for a bowl of the original! And don’t forget to grab a Balboa Bar next door at Dad’s!
Mexican Chicken Soup
- 8-10 cups chicken broth
- 3-4 large carrots, peeled & chopped
- 1 chayote, peeled and chopped (optional)*
- 1 large onion, peeled & chopped
- 2-3 celery stocks, chopped
- ½ cup rice
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
- 3 ears of corn on the cob (or 1 can drained or 2 cups frozen )
- 2-3 medium zucchini, chopped into half moons
- ½ cup frozen peas
- 3-4 cups roasted chicken
- 1-2 tomatoes, chopped
- 3-4 green onions, chopped (use white and green parts)
- 1 cup cilantro, rough chopped plus more for garnish
- 1½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)
- Garnish: Sliced avocado, lime wedges, additional cilantro, salsa and tortilla chips (or tortillas)
This recipe is kind of like making a witch’s potion in a large cauldron. Just keep throwing stuff in according to cooking times as outlined below.
First prepare the chicken: 1) grab a roasted chicken from Costco and use the breast meat or 2) place 2-3 bone-in chicken breasts on a baking sheet and cook Barefoot Contessa style or 3) put 2-3 boneless chicken breasts in water and simmer until cooked. Whichever is easiest for you, just break the chicken into large pieces.
Pour chicken broth into a large pot. If you want to make homemade, follow this recipe (always the best, but not necessary). Or use broth from a can or carton. Sometimes when I’m low on broth, I’ll just use water and ‘Better Than Boullion‘, available in large jars (beef and chicken) at Costco.
Peel carrots, chayote (see prep tips below) and onions; prep celery. Turn broth in pot onto medium heat. Cut carrots, chayote, onions and celery in rough chunks and add to pot. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and add the rice and chopped garlic. Simmer another 5 minutes, while removing corn from the cob (stand on end in a large bowl and cut kernels off from top to bottom using a sharp knife). Cut the zucchini in half-moon rounds. Add corn, zucchini, frozen peas and chicken to the pot. Wait 5 minutes, then add tomato, green onions, cilantro, salt and pepper. Let the brew simmer until veggies are fork tender but not over-done.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with more chopped cilantro, lime wedges, slices of avocado, salsa and tortilla chips or warm tortillas. If I don’t have salsa on hand, I just chop up some fresh tomatoes.
*Chayote is usually available at your local grocery store. If you can’t find any, just omit. Here’s information on what it is and how to prepare it.
Photo Credits: 1) Beach view from the island (Balboa Island Museum), 2) Aireal view of the island (Fine Arts America), 3) Typical cottages on Balboa (Dreamstime), 4) Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop with Picante Martins next door (Google Images), 5) Fun Zone Newport (Google Images), 6) Picante Martins (Liz’s Images) and 7) Chayote squash (Google Images)