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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Southwest Enchiladas

Taco salad is a staple in my household.  We probably have it 3-4 times a month.  I cook and season the meat and make a bean salad, then it’s a free-for-all where we each get to build our own salad.  The only problem is we ALWAYS have leftover meat and beans and, even though we love it, we get kind of bored after the 2nd day of taco salad leftovers.  That in mind, I decided to work on a dish that would use all those leftovers and turn it into something new.  SUCCESS!  Those same savory southwestern spices carry over beautifully into this dish, but in the form of a hot, gooey, delicious enchilada.  And the best part is, they are so easy, even if you don’t have a bunch of leftovers to use up.  Prep takes about 20 minutes and baking is minimal since the filling is already hot.  We still love Taco Salad, but now we also look forward to “leftover” enchiladas.

This full recipe makes a about 18 enchiladas.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef or turkey, or pre-cooked shredded chicken*
2 Tbs taco season
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn**
3 green onions, chopped
¼ cup fresh diced tomato
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 Tbs lime juice
1 Tbs cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
3 +/- Tbs coconut or canola oil
18 +/- corn enchiladas
2 10 oz cans red enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mexican blend cheese

*If you want to make this a vegetarian dish, simply replace the meat with an additional can of beans or about 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa.

**You can also use grilled sweet corn when it’s in season, which is what I prefer.  The grill adds so much flavor!

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If using ground beef or turkey, brown meat in a skillet.

Add taco season and 1/4 cup water to meat and allow to simmer about 5 minutes.

To the skillet add beans, corn, tomatoes, 2 of the onions, cilantro, lime juice and spices. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the mixture to heat through.

In a separate small frying pan, heat oil on medium-high heat.  Once it’s hot, fry the tortillas one-by-one, about 10 seconds on each side.  Drain on paper towels and allow tortillas to cool enough to handle.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan (or 2 8×8′s as I did) with a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce.

Spoon about ¼ cup of filling mixture into each tortilla plus a pinch of cheese.  Fold over filling and place enchiladas seam-side-down in the pan.

Top with remaining enchilada sauce.

Cover with remaining cheese and green onion.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and starts to brown.  

Pile on sour cream, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeno’s or whatever toppings your prefer.  Eat up!

Thai Jícama Salad

A few years ago I started on a mission to discover new fruits and vegetables.  Each week, I would peruse the unique displays of produce, selecting varieties that I had never before eaten or cooked with.  Eventually, I discovered the jícama and it is now on my list of favorites.

Jícama is a root vegetable of Mexican origin, also known as the Mexican Yam or Mexican Turnip.  It has a crunchy texture, much like an apple, but a very mild, earthy flavor.  This particular recipe is a spicy, savory one, but jícama effortlessly combines with fresh fruit as well.

This recipe is not entirely original.  After googling various recipes I found this recipe for Spicy Thai Jícama Salad.  Although that original recipe was delicious, I made a few alterations and substitutions to fit my own taste, and what I had in the cupboard at the time.

1 medium jícama, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
¼ cup red onion, rough chopped
½ cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded & rough chopped (optional)

Dressing:
3 TBS Chili Paste
1 TBS Hot Chinese Mustard
1 TBS Fish Sauce
2 TBS Peanut Butter
2 TBS coconut oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled & minced
Juice of 2 Limes

Finish:
1 TBS sesame seeds
Sprinkle of Old City Salts Smoked Serrano, Ghost Pepper, or Thai Ginger Sea Salt (Optional)

In a large bowl, combine Jicama, onion, cilantro, jalapeno.  Toss together and set aside.

 

In another bowl whisk together the dressing ingredients until well incorporated.  If it looks too thick, add some olive oil until you reach desired consistency.  You should end up with about 1 cup of dressing.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.  Serve chilled, and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a pinch of your favorite Old City Salt blend.  

*This salad keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, just give it a toss before serving as the dressing tends to pool at the bottom.

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!

Savory Cilantro Sauce

Have I mentioned that I love cilantro?  It’s one of my favorite herbs.  I love the distinctive flavor and I use it in many of my dishes.  Unfortunately, fresh cilantro does not last very long once picked.  You can prolong the life of it by snipping the ends and storing it in your refrigerator in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.  Or, preserve it in the freezer using this incredibly flavorful sauce.  Drizzle over meat or seafood, use as a marinade or a stand-alone sauce, toss with pasta, the sky is the limit!  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

Toss all ingredients into a food processor and puree, OR use an immersion blender.  The immersion blender takes a little more time and patience, but it works out.  Taste test it to make sure you have it how you like it.

  

Fill a clean ice cube tray with the sauce and let freeze overnight.  Once frozen, pop those babies out, throw them in a ziplock and store them in the freezer.  The small cubes make thawing a cinch, and you now can add that fresh cilantro taste to any dish.

  

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.

Mango Salsa

This sweet salsa is so simple to make, but the flavors are amazing!  The technique really needs no explanation, it’s just a lot of chopping, but I guarantee it will be worth the work!  Unlike many store-bought mango salsa’s, this one has zero tomato or peaches.  I like to let the mango be the star with just a few complimentary ingredients.  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

3 large mangos (or enough to yield about 4 cups, chopped)
⅓ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Approx 1 tsp salt

Directions:

Peel and chop your mangoes into small cubes.

**If you’ve never worked with fresh mango before, keep in mind that mango has a flat core. If you look at the stem side, you will notice the fruit is oblong shaped. Slice along the length of the fruit on both sides of the stem, then repeat along the width. This will give you the largest pieces of flesh and will make chopping easier. There is still a lot of flesh left, so slice off as much as possible without getting into the fibrous core.


Finely chop red onion to yield about ⅓ cup. You may want to add more later, but start small. A little red onion goes a long way.

Wash and chop your cilantro. The easiest way I’ve found is to keep it in a bundle, like it comes from the grocer. Chop off most of the bare stem, then finely chop as you make your way up through the leaves. I like to use about 1 cup of cilantro. You can adjust according to your taste.  If you have way more cilantro than the recipe calls for, store the extra in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.

Throw everything in a big bowl (if you haven’t already) and squeeze in the juice of one lime. Yes, you can use lime juice from a bottle, about 2 TBS.

Salt to taste, give a good stir, and devour!!

Although for our purposes today, we’re scooping this salsa with plain ol’ tortilla chips, there are so many more ways to enjoy it. It goes incredibly well with blackened halibut, or add it as a semi-sweet side for smoked ham. I’d love to hear what YOU paired it with!