Cold winter days and a piping hot bowl of soup. Made for each other. I love me a delicious, steaming bowl of soup anytime, but when the temperature drops, I start planning on my next batch. A few weeks ago, we had invited some guests for lunch after Sunday’s church service and I decided soup and salad would be on the menu.
Next decision: what kind of soup? It needed to be hearty (I don’t cook twice on a Sunday, so it needed to keep us going for the remainder of the day). My fruit basket held avocados and mangos. These begged for something spicy as a complement. I checked my freezer and my pantry: ground beef, beans and tomatoes. That was that. Taco Soup, Mango and Avocado Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette and a loaf of Dutch oven bread. I also had a bag of apples that cried out for an apple cake with brown sugar sauce for a happy ending.
As always, if you know me at all, you’ll know that this ‘recipe’ for taco soup is really just guidelines. Let your imagination, your pantry stock and your leftovers to be your guide. I like to brown the meat and onions in my soup pot to keep cleanup to a minimum, or in this case, I used my crockpot to have it simmering all morning. My house smelled wonderful when we walked through the door!
We were all hungry when we got home, so my apologies…there are no pictures of everything dished up.
1-2 pounds ground beef
1-2 onions (depending on size), chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced (we like garlic, but you can use less)
Skim off excess fat, if necessary.
1 can of tomatoes plus a generous tablespoon of tomato paste (or just use a can of tomato sauce…remember, you can use what you have on hand)
1-2 cans of beans, depending on how far you’d like to stretch your soup or how much you like beans (I like black beans, but you could use whatever or a mix)
1-2 cups of corn (again to taste or need)
soup stock (beef or vegetable) to cover, depending on whether you like lots of broth or little (my Love likes a heartier soup with less broth)
2 tablespoons of chili powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon each of cumin and coriander
a splash of hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
I have added jalapeños or chipotles for extra kick when we don’t have company. You could add extra veggies. Make it your own. I like to serve it with sour cream, shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar are both excellent choices) and tortilla chips.
Mango and Avocado Salad
For the salad:
1 head romaine lettuce
1-2 diced mangos
1 avocado, diced
1 red onion
For the dressing:
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
juice of 1 lime (or bottled equivalent)
1 teaspoon honey (add more if needed)
1 teaspoon of cilantro (the tube in the vegetable section) or a handful of fresh, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together. I like to keep it in a mason jar, so I can give it a good shake before I dress my salad. If your dressing seems too thick, you may add a little water until it reaches the desired consistency. Again…sorry for no final pictures.
The meal was rounded out with this beautiful loaf of artisan-style bread (you can get the recipe here). The bread is made in a dutch oven or deep casserole dish with a lid to achieve its crusty-on-the-outside-and-chewy-on-the-inside texture. I totally felt like a professional baker with this baby. It’s super easy, no kneading involved, but you do need to plan ahead as it rises overnight.
The happy ending to our meal was this delicious apple cake with caramel topping. I used fresh apples, no nuts and I made this brown sugar sauce:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cream
Put all ingredients in a saucepan, heat until boiling. Boil for 2 minutes. This is best served warm. You can make this ahead and reheat when needed. Trust me when I say you may want to double this. It’s so delicious, I think I could put it in a cup and drink it!
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