Learning to Cook · Miss Mary · Recipes

Learning to Cook, Breaking it Down

2016 break it down 6A few years ago my husband had a Chicken Tortilla Soup at the cafeteria where he worked.   He really enjoyed this soup. The vendor had the soup recipe available for download and he emailed it to me to please make it for him.  Here’s the scoop, it’s for 25.

First of all, I don’t have a pot large enough to hold it, second, I don’t have enough containers to hold the left overs, thirdly, I don’t believe I can find a 1 pound + 12 oz can of green chilies.  Just sayin.

To make this soup recipe you have to Break it DOWN.  In restaurants they speak in large volumes of measures such as quarts, ounces, and pounds.  They use #10 cans.  We typically use a #1 Square can at home.  What’s Cooking America has a handy chart that describes the sizing and measurements in cans. Very helpful.

When downsizing or up-sizing a recipe you need to remember some basic measurements.  25 servings was far too much for us because I only  needed 5 or 6 servings.   If I divided the measurements of the ingredients by 4 that would give me what I wanted to cook.  BUT, it’s not the typical divide by 4.

2016 Cooking measurements

Chart A is an excellent place to help you start the break down.

2016 Chicken Tortilla soup measurements
Original Recipe on the left. Broken down recipe on right.

Example:  The recipe calls for 2 quarts of water.  How many cups in a quart?  What makes up a quart?  Let’s do the math.

  • There are 2 pints in a quart;
  • 2 cups in a pint
  • 2 cups x 2 pints = 4 cups in a quart
  • Therefore, 2 quarts x 4 cups in a quart = 8 cups of water in 2 quarts
  • 8 cups/4 = 2 cups of water needed for the broken down recipe

How does that work with the ingredients requiring ounces?

  • There are 2 Tablespoons in one ounce.
  • There are 3 teaspoons in 1 Tablespoon.
  • 3 teaspoons x 2 Tablespoons = 6 teaspoons / 4 = 1.66 teaspoons.
  • You can feel confident in either rounding up to 2 teaspoons, or rounding down to 1 ½ teaspoons.

What do you do when the recipe calls for a 3.5 pound whole chicken and you only need enough for 6 servings?  That’s really up to you.  I had a Rotisserie chicken with about 1 ½ cups of chicken cubed left.  I used that and called it a day.

2016 break it down 7When you’re breaking down ounces, pounds, it’s always good to have a digital scale to assist you.  This recipe called for 10 ounces of chopped onion.  As you can see here, half of a large sweet onion is 6.4 oz plus on my Taylor digital scale.  Dividing 10 oz by 4 you get 2.5 oz (probably 1/4 of the large onion).  Not everyone has a scale, therefore, a point of reference is always helpful.

After you’ve done all the math, checked your cupboard, done your shopping, finally you’re ready to make the soup.

2016 Break it down 3Printed version:  2016 Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • Half Sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon chicken base
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 4oz cans cans of diced green chilis
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 lb left over Rotisserie chicken, cubed
  • Tortilla chips
  • Cilantro
  • 1 15 oz can petite dice tomatoes


Saute onions and garlic in oil until onion is tender.  Stir in flour.  Cook for 3 minutes.

2016 break it down 4
Chicken Base

Whisk in chicken base and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Allow to cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and chilies and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, Tabasco, and salt.  Cook for 5 minutes.  At this point it looked too thick so I added the petite tomatoes.

2016 break it down 5Add in chicken.  At this point, you should be tasting the soup for seasoning correctness.  Adjust what you might need to do and let the soup cook 5 more minutes or until chicken is nice and hot.

Serve in bowls with tortilla chips and top with cilantro.  This was really good and now I know why he wanted me to make it for him.

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