Taco Soup

Tacos are one of my favorite foods and I usually make them for dinner at least once a week in one combination or another.  Tacos also make great leftovers, check out Joanie’s Southwest Enchilada recipe for a great use of leftover taco fixins!!  This week it was all about taco soup, hot and steamy, and especially satisfying with loads of cheese and cilantro to garnish. I love it SPICY (surprise, surprise), and I mean make-your-eyes-water-and-your-mouth-drool kind of spicy.  Luckily, my husband also loves a little heat.  We keep a giant jar of chili paste in the fridge and use it on almost everything.  Of course, you can make this recipe as mild or as spicy as you wish.  To make it extra fiery, try adding diced fresh jalapenos, powdered cayenne pepper or just dump in some tapatio!  To tone down the heat a bit just use plain diced tomatoes instead of the ones with green chilies and don’t use tapatio or hot sauce at the end.

I’ve been on a couponing kick lately and have gotten some great deals on canned beans, taco seasoning, canned diced tomatoes and even tortilla chips!  So I put it all together in a big pot (or crockpot) and voila: lovely, spicy, mouth watering taco soup!  This soup is perfect paired with a cold, wintery evening, and like most soups even better for lunch the next day.

Makes about 6, 1 cup servings.

Taco Soup Ingredients

Ingredients:

2 Tbs butter
1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
6-8 chicken tenderloins or about 3 breasts, cut into bite sized chunks
0ne packet of taco seasoning
A few dashes of fresh ground black pepper
2 cans chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, with juice
1 can black beans, drained but not rinsed

Garnish:
Tortilla chips, roughly crumbled
Shredded cheddar, Colby jack or Mexican blend cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Tapatio or other hot sauce, if desired
Sour cream

Method:

In a large soup pot cook chicken and onion in the 2 Tbs butter until chicken is cooked through and onion softens.Taco soup Meat

Add a few dashes of freshly ground black pepper, about 1/2 a can of the chicken broth, and the taco seasoning.  Stir around and scrape the bottom of the pan to unstick all those yummy chicken bits.Taco Soup Simmer

Let simmer for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more broth if it gets too dry and thick.  Add the rest of the chicken broth, the diced tomatoes with chilies and the black beans and let soup come back to a simmer.  Salt as needed.  🙂Taco Soup Beans

Taco Soup End

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream and cilantro!  I put a few dashes of hot sauce in it as well.  Enjoy!Taco Soup Final w Title

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Roasted Chicken Breast with Balsamic Cream

A foody friend of mine gave me this recipe for a balsamic cream sauce and it sounded so delicious and simple that I tried it that very night with a roasted chicken breast. I was not disappointed.  In fact, that rich, creamy sauce immediately landed among my favorite recipes, not only because it is delicious, but also because the ingredients are ones that I generally have on hand, and preparation is incredibly simple.  And, although I have this paired with chicken, I think it would go incredibly well with any cut of steak or a pasta dish.

Ingredients:

Chicken:
2 chicken breast halves, bone in
2 Tbs butter, divided
Drizzle of Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Balsamic Cream Sauce:
2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs Butter
¼ cup minced sweet onion (Mayan or Vidalia work well)
1 Cup heavy Cream
2 tsp chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
½ Cup grated parmesan cheese (the kind in the can works best)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rinse the chicken breasts and pat dry.  Gently loosen the skin to create a pocket, but don’t pull it off.  Cut the butter into 8 chunks and slip it under the chicken skin, 4 chunks for each breast.  Season the skin of the chicken well with salt and pepper and any additional herbs you prefer.  Place breasts in an oven-safe dish and drizzle with olive oil.

Roast the chicken for about 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches a safe 165 degrees.
While the chicken is roasting, heat the olive oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir in the minced onion and cook until it has caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the bouillon and cream.  Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat and stir in the parmesan cheese until melted.

Note: I used fresh parmesan in this picture, which tasted great but left the sauce a little chunky.  For a smoother sauce, use the pre-grated parm in a can, the stuff you sprinkle over spaghetti.

When the chicken is done roasting, allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.  Serve it whole or slice it up, but either way, be sure to serve with a generous portion of the balsamic cream.  I LOVE this combination with Oven Roasted Potatoes.  Enjoy!

Hearty Chicken Noodle Soup

I didn’t really have much appreciation for homemade chicken noodle soup, until my niece, Lindsie, asked me to make it for her wedding.  I don’t know what changed, but ever since then it has been one of my favorite soups to make, maybe because it reminds me of her and that special day.  Now, there’s nothing more comforting to me than a big, steaming bowl, freshly made from (mostly) scratch. 
For convenience sake, I’ve opted to use canned broth and a hot & ready rotisserie chicken from the grocer.  Rotisserie chickens also (generally) happen to be cheaper than buying a whole, fresh chicken, so not only are you saving time, you’re saving money.  Of course, you can roast your own chicken and make your own chicken stock, but that’s another recipe in itself.  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

4 cans of chicken or vegetable broth
5 or 6 sprigs EACH of fresh rosemary, sage, & thyme, OR 1 pack fresh Poultry Medley herbs (usually found in your grocer’s refrigerated produce section.)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp salt
4 large carrots, chopped
3 large stalks of celery, chopped
1 whole rotisserie chicken, or 1 lb cooked chicken of your choice
8 oz Egg Noodles
Salt & Pepper
Large stock pot

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Directions:
In a large stock pot, add broth and herbs.  Let herbs simmer on med heat for about 20 minutes or until they’re limp and have given up their flavor.  Fish out the herbs and discard.

Add onion and garlic and salt.  Let simmer while you chop carrots and celery.  Add remaining vegetables and turn heat to low.

Next, deconstruct your chicken.  Start by removing the breast meat, then the legs & thighs and last, the wings and any remaining meat sticking to the bones.  Don’t let any go to waste!  Chop up any large pieces and add all meat to the pot.  Add meat to the stock pot.  (Save the bones and skin for making chicken stock.)   

In a separate pot, cook egg noodles using package directions, until texture is al dente (slightly firm).  Add cooked noodles to the soup.  If needed, add salt/pepper to taste and garnish with chopped green onions.  Serve immediately and enjoy.

**This soup freezes really well and is perfect for lunch on the go!

Sweet Chili Cucumber Bites

This recipe is for our brother, Jamin.  I catered one of his art shows a few years ago, and he wouldn’t stop talking about these tasty little bites for a long time after that.  I was flattered!  Now every time I make them, I think of Jamin, and this recipe will forever be dedicated to him.  I hope you enjoy them as much as he does!  ~Joanie

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Ingredients:
2 Cups pre-cooked & chilled chicken breast meat, finely chopped
3 TBS Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce
2 TBS Lemon Grass Paste
2 TBS Lemon Juice
½ Cup Chopped Cilantro
2 Large Cucumbers

Directions:
Combine chicken, sweet chili sauce, lemon grass paste, lemon juice and cilantro, stir until ingredients are incorporated.

Wash, peel, and slice your cucumbers into about ½ inch thick coins.  Using a melon baller or a metal measuring spoon scoop out a portion of the seeds and flesh to make a well.

Top each cucumber with a scoop of the chicken mixture.  Garnish with cilantro or lemon zest.  Serve chilled and enjoy!

White Chicken Chili

I LOVE beans.  I could eat them raw right out of the can.  In fact, I have.  I also love cumin and cilantro, as you may have already gathered from my other recipes.  This soup is like my perfect meal, and so easy to make.  It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but most of it is pretty ordinary stuff.  Don’t fret about the green chilies, they are NOT hot.  This soup has been 7-year-old approved so you can confidently serve it to your little ones.  

You can EASILY make this a vegetarian recipe by omitting the chicken and adding more beans or rice.  I’ve done that and it’s just as amazing.  You can also use dried beans, which is a little more work, but for convenience sake I just used the canned variety.  ~Joanie

Makes about 8 servings.

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Ingredients:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 onion, chopped
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 cans white beans, great northern beans, or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
32 oz chicken broth
2 4oz cans Chopped Green Chilies
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp lime zest
½ Cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ Cup Whipping Cream
1 Cup (8 oz) Sour Cream

For garnishing:  Green onion, jalapeno, cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat.  Saute garlic until golden, then add onion and cook until soft.  Add chicken, cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings.  Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes.  The soup may look a little “muddy” at this point, but carry on.  Trust me.

Remove from heat.

Before you add the cream and sour cream, you will need to temper it so that it doesn’t curdle.  Scoop a little bit of soup out into a separate bowl, add cream to this small portion and stir.  Add that portion back into the soup pot.  Repeat this process with the sour cream.  If the soup is too cool after this, you can heat it back up, but heat slowly.

Garnish with chopped green onions, cilantro, and/or cheese.  I like to eat my chili with a few  chili-cheese fritos.  They are the perfect compliment to this creamy, zesty soup.

Crunchy Honey Dijon Chicken

This chicken really needs no introduction. Its crunchy, tangy, and delicious, and takes less than 1/2 hour to prepare.

Ingredients:

2 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1 8.5oz bag Honey Dijon Kettle Chips
5 TBS Honey
3 TBS Dijon Mustard
2 TBS White vinegar

Directions:

Honey Dijon Sauce

Combine honey, dijon mustard, and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk until smooth.

**If you want extra sauce for dipping, make a double batch and reserve ½ for your meal.

Crunchy Honey Dijon Chicken:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut your chicken so that all pieces are uniform in size. This recipe is tailored toward cutting the breast into three pieces: removing the thin end first, then splitting the thick part of the breast. You can do it however you like, but remember to adjust cooking time and coating amounts accordingly.

Throw chicken and honey dijon in a bowl, stir to coat each piece, and set aside. Remove about ½ of the kettle chips from the bag and set aside. You may not use these. Lay the ½ full bag out and use a rolling pin to break up the chips into crumbs.

Coat each piece of chicken thoroughly in chip crumbs. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray or olive oil and arrange the chicken evenly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. If it needs a little extra browning, throw it under the broiler for a minute but watch it very carefully!

Drizzle with a little of the reserved honey mustard and enjoy!!
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