That being said, there are occasions where, like it or not, I am required to cook (or endure yet another fast food meal). It usually happens when C is out of town on business or when he's not feeling well or like this evening, when he decided he was just too tired to cook after a challenging day at his job.
The amount of things I have learned to cook well over the years can be counted on one hand, I think, but only one is such a success, it is the main thing our kids look forward to when their dad must leave town or whatever. They know, if Daddy goes away on business, Mama will plan to make Taco Soup probably the first night he's gone (so there will be leftovers for the next day -- which means less cooking to do!).
Several years ago, my sister passed a taco soup recipe on to me and I have tinkered with it over the years, doubling the ingredients to feed our larger family and modifying things so that it became more of a whole meal in one bowl. It's now so different from that original recipe, that I think I can claim it as my own. For what it's worth, it's one thing I do well in the kitchen that seems to please just about everyone.
I like it, too, because most of it comes from ingredients easy to keep on hand. It's kid-friendly, but not so kid-friendly I wouldn't serve it to some surprise or last-minute dinner guests. It's homey, but easily dressed up to be something nice. We like it in any kind of weather. My version serves seven (plus leftovers) and could easily serve ten people or more if there were sides -- but if you don't have seven to ten people waiting to eat, ingredients could easily be adjusted to smaller portions.
Typically, I wing this recipe based on what's in the pantry, but tonight, I made some notes and took some pictures along the way. I am not some great photographer, but maybe the pictures will at least break up the textiness and give you an idea of the outcome.
I hope you'll try this yourself some time ... and feel free to tinker with the recipe and make it the way your family likes it. It's pretty hard to mess this one up -- take it from a non-cook like me.
Mama's Taco Soup
Ingredients (measurements are approximate and may vary slightly depending on brand purchased):
- ~ 2 lbs. ground beef (90/10 or lower fat is best - if you use 80/20 or something else, you may prefer to rinse and drain the beef before adding other ingredients just because I think the finished product looks more appetizing) -- ground turkey or chicken would also work in this recipe just fine
- 64 oz. beef broth (or other low-fat broth)
- 2 packets of taco seasoning (choose mild or hot based on your family's liking - I usually do one of each for medium spice)
- 27 oz. canned black beans, rinsed & drained
- 27 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed & drained
- 27 oz. canned kidney beans, rinsed & drained (or for extra flavor, use Bush's Best Chili Beans - mmm mmm! do not drain!)
- 16 oz. canned white beans, rinsed & drained (Northern Whites are okay, too, but I prefer the smaller white beans)
- ~ 30 oz. canned sweet yellow corn, rinsed & drained (if your audience will take it, try canned Mexicorn for extra zest)
- 10-3/4 oz. can of cheddar cheese soup (optional, though I do like the added fullness this adds)
- 19 oz. canned enchilada sauce (optional, though if I'm not using Bush's Best Chili Beans, I do prefer the flavor, color and body the enchilada sauce adds to the soup)
Step 1: Brown meat in large pot on medium heat (I use a 3-gallon dutch oven for this recipe typically); stir frequently, breaking the meat into small, even bits as it cooks.
Step 2: Pour in broth and stir to remove some of the bits stuck to the bottom.
Step 3: Add taco seasoning and stir
Step 4: Rinse beans and corn in a colander in the sink (not the chili beans, though!). (Tip: My kids love to get involved in this step with opening the cans and rinsing the contents -- it's a great way for them to help while I'm browning the beef.)
Step 5: Pour beans, corn, cheese soup, enchilada sauce into the pot with meat, broth and seasoning.
Step 6: Stir well and increase the heat to high.
Step 7: Bring to a boil.
Step 8: Cover pot and reduce heat to low.
Step 9: Allow to simmer for 10 minutes to an hour or more, stirring every 15-20 minutes (ours usually simmers about 30 minutes before serving, but one time I had an emergency and left it on the stove for nearly two hours before we got to it and it was fine).
Step 10: Enjoy!! You may wish to allow the soup to cool some before serving -- especially if there are kids eating (my kids usually add an ice cube to their dish because they don't want to wait).
Dressing It Up & Other Notes:
Some of our favorite toppings for dressing it up: shredded cheese (fiesta blend or other grated or crumbled favorite), sour cream, pickled jalapenos, sliced avocado, chunky salsa, olive slices, diced onions....
This soup is great served alone or with corn/tortilla chips, warmed flour tortillas or a green salad with my favorite Trader Joe's Cilantro Dressing!