Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

When planning an informal work lunch this week, I reached out to several catering companies to provide the meal. This became tricky because the luncheon was being held off-site, roughly three hours from my home, and my budget was tight. When I quickly added up costs related to preparing and delivering food for the group, I realized that ordering from a local caterer was going to be a far too expensive option. As I searched my mind for an alternative, I was reminded of this recipe for a hearty soup that would hit the spot as the weather forecast predicted rain and 45 degree temperatures for the day. Adding a few other lunch items to the menu would round out the meal.

I ended up ordering a 4-ft. long sub sandwich from the deli department of the area grocery store. I picked up a large vegetable tray and a case of bottled water. Finally, I headed to the store bakery and purchased a box of freshly made oatmeal cookies for the group. I paired this soup with all of the other items that I had purchased and covered the tables with seasonal table clothes. Returning to our meeting room, I quickly popped all of my purchased items in the fridge and plugged in my trusty, 6-quart crockpot. I opened all seven cans and popped them into the slow cooker. Lunch would be served in three hours, so I had plenty of time to warm the soup and meld the flavors. Last, but not least, I crumbled up a bag of Frito’s Corn Chips and opened a package of sharp cheddar cheese to sprinkle over the top of the individual bowls of soup. This step is the game changer; bringing this ridiculously simple soup over the top. The warm hearty soup, paired with a topping of slightly melted cheese and crunchy corn chips really makes for a mighty good, super quick and easy lunch idea.

Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed(15.5 oz)

1 can pinto beans, drained and well rinsed (15.25 oz)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained (15 oz)

1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain (15 oz)

1 can mild enchilada sauce (10 oz)

1 can chicken broth (15 oz)

1 can chicken breast, drained and flaked with a fork (12.5oz)

1 package low sodium taco seasoning mix

2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions

Combine all ingredients and cook using preferred method below:

Crockpot – Cook on medium temperature for 3-5 hours

Stockpot – Cook on medium-high heat for 25-35 minutes

Instant Pot – Cook on “Manual” for 4 minutes with quick venting method

Serve topped with crushed Frito or Dorito Corn Chips and shredded cheese.

Note: Can sizes listed above are approximate; this is a very forgiving soup recipe. Add water or extra broth, if needed. Also, use lower sodium versions of the canned products, if your concerned about salt. If you’d prefer to use fresh chicken breasts for this recipe, use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked, diced chicken.

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Colorful Stuffed Peppers

While gathering produce during my weekly shopping trip, I noticed an abundance of beautifully colored bell peppers piled high in the sale bin as I entered the store. I realized that it had been a very long time since I had made stuffed peppers so I went through a mental checklist of all of the ingredients I would need to make the dish for our Saturday night meal. When picking peppers for this recipe, I was careful to select large, wide, flat-bottomed peppers that would sit nicely in my baking dish. As luck would have it, ground beef was also on sale, so I purchased several pounds of the 93/7% mixture. I love to stock up on versatile meat options, bring them home and divide them into meal-sized portions for the freezer. This allows me to have plenty on-hand, when needed. Here’s how I divided things up:

2 lbs kept for the stuffed peppers

2 lbs were made into hearty hamburger patties, placed in freezer safe container

2 lbs were mixed with ingredients to make 2 meatloaf bricks and wrapped in foil

2 lbs were used to make simple chili without beans, packed into freezer safe bags

(I usually add beans to the chili meat once I reheat later.)

Carefully labeling everything, I used a permanent marker to date and identify the items enclosed. I also bought several pounds of fresh, boneless, skinless chicken for other future meals. I divided each large family pack into 4 freezer bags with 4 chicken breasts in each.

I always feel so accomplished when I have a productive day assembling meals that can be cooked with very little effort during the busy week. These delicious peppers were gobbled up quickly with a few left over for weekday lunches.

I’m ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Colorful Stuffed Peppers

6-8 large bell peppers

2 lbs ground beef

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (5.6 ounce) package Knorr seasoned rice and pasta blend (chicken or beef flavor)

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned; drain.  Mix in Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, diced tomatoes (with juice), seasoned rice package and 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes to cook rice.  Remove lid, turn off heat and let cool slightly.  Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Fill a 13X9” baking dish with about 2”of water.  Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward.  Tightly cover dish with aluminum foil.  Bake 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the peppers are slightly tender. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle each pepper with sharp cheddar cheese before serving.

Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches

  We’ve lived in our home for over 15 years, yet every time I make this recipe, I’m reminded of the day we moved our young family to our country home so many years ago.

If my memory serves me correctly…    My husband and I had moved a few basic items to our new home a few days prior to the “big” move that would take place on the weekend. On the morning of the “big” move, I made a large pot of sloppy joe meat in our new home kitchen before pouring it into a crockpot to be eaten later. I knew this would be a long day so I wanted to be sure to have plenty of food at the ready when our crew of movers finished up their job. After plugging in the crock pot, my husband and I headed back to our home in the city. There we were met by a fine group of young men that would take charge of the move. The company that we had hired employed a group of college students that were home for the summer and were trying to make a little money before returning to school in the fall. I have to say, these kids were awesome movers. They carefully wrapped furniture, lifted and carried an enormous load of boxes filled with everything from kitchen linens and cleaning supplies to garden tools and silverware. All of our heavy appliances were carefully loaded onto the trucks and carried across state lines to our new location.  
After a long drive, the cycle began again… The trucks were unloaded, hauling boxes, furniture and appliances into our new spacious home. The movers asked where we’d like things placed and willingly followed our directions as the sun fell from the sky and the crickets started to chirp.  

At the close of a long day of grueling work, I welcomed the group into our kitchen to share a meal. The guys scooped out oversized helping of sloppy joe and placed it on hearty brioche buns. A sprinkle of cheddar cheese completed the sandwich. Bags of chips, a crock of baked beans, and bowls of salad were wiped out in no time. Before leaving, one of the young men asked for my sloppy joe recipe as he wanted to share it with his mother. He also asked if there was any more meat left in the crock pot for one last sandwich. I quickly scooped out the remaining mixture with a spatula and slathered it onto a roll. “One more for the road”, he said, as he gulped down the sandwich in a few quick bites.

  
As the crew gathered up their belongings and headed for the trucks, my husband and I stood in the driveway and thanked them again for their hard work. The group happily patted their tummies and thanked us for the delicious meal.  

I look back on that day with fond memories…

This group of movers made the day fun, exciting and stress-free. I’ll always be grateful for their hard work, cooperation and expertise. It was truly a pleasure sharing this special day with such a fine group of young men.

  

  
Hearty Sloppy Joe Sandwiches   (adapted from the Betty Crocker Cookbook – 1988)

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 of a large onion, diced

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

1/3 cup chopped green peppers

1 cup catsup

2 1/2 tablespoons A1 steak sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoonred pepper sauce

6 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Cook and stir ground beef and onion in skillet until brown; drain. Stir remaining ingredients, except buns. Cover and cook over low heat for an additional 15-30 minutes; just until vegetables are tender. Fill buns with meat mixture. Top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Cheeseburger Soup

Years ago, when our children were little, we used to hold an annual fall party for family and friends on our beautiful wooded lot.  We’d elaborately decorate the barn and yard with hay bales and pumpkins, colored lights and corn stalks.  I’d cook large pots of soup, chili, baked beans and bratwurst.  A dessert table always displayed an abundance of tasty autumn treats to satisfy all of the guests.  This cheeseburger soup was always a staple recipe made for the festive backyard party. I would double or triple the ingredients and separate the batch to freeze a portion in serving sized containers.  This way, we had a supply on hand to enjoy during the cool autumn and winter months. 

Cheeseburger Soup

2 pound ground beef
1 cup diced  onion

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

4 tablespoons butter, divided

6 cups chicken broth  (I use chicken soup base mixed with water, as directed on package)

5 cups diced peeled potatoes

1/4 cup flour

4 cups (16 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed

2 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon pepper 

In a large soup pot, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts. 

Tip: I make my own croutons to top the soup.  Just cube a few slices of day old bread or leftover buns and sprinkle them with oil, garlic powder and salt (to taste).  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.  Cool; store in an airtight container.

Finger-Licking Pizza Roll

A sheet of Pillsbury crescent dough and a few spicy ingredients make this recipe a snap to pull together for a weekday dinner or afternoon snack. 

I’ve seen (and tasted) a version of this recipe posted elsewhere using a traditional bread dough loaf.  I found the dough to be dense and heavy… Frankly, the “dough to filling” ratio was a bit overwhelming.  

Here, I have used Pillsbury crescent roll sheets to bundle up the tasty Italian ingredients to make this undeniably delicious roll.  I just love the way the traditional filling sits within the light and flaky crust.  This Finger-Licking Pizza Roll recipe is incredibly hard to resist! 

Finger-Licking Pizza Rolls

1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheets

1/2 6 oz. package pepperoni rounds

1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup pizza sauce 

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Lightly flour counter surface.  Unroll dough.  With a rolling pin, flatten dough evenly to stretch dough to 13×9″ rectangle. Spread pizza sauce over surface.  Layer on pepperoni, overlapping rows. Sprinkle evenly with mozzarella cheese. 

Starting with one short side, roll up rectangle; press edge to seal. Place cut side down on cookie sheet.

Bake 25-35 minutes or until roll is dark golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes. Slice roll into 3/4″ slices. Serve warm with leftover warm pizza sauce for dipping. 

Creamy Chicken Lasagna



This is an adaptation of a recipe that I found in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine many years ago.  I had received the magazine as a “free trial” but I rarely had time to read it as my 3 children were young and my life was busy.  I did, however, make it a point to visit the recipe contest page to see what recipes had been selected as “winners” for each monthly issue.  

One month, a recipe for a white chicken lasagna was chosen.  It was a bit more complicated than the adaptation I have submitted below. The white sauce was elaborate…starting with a classic roux.  Managing a busy household, I had no time for that so I decided to use a purchased sauce.  This eliminated a few time consuming steps and made for a quick and tasty alternative.  It was a big hit in my household so I’ve been making it this way ever since.

Creamy Chicken Lasagna

1 (16 ounce) package lasagna noodles

1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli

3 boneless chicken breasts, poached and diced

2 (16 ounce) jars Alfredo-style pasta sauce

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 (16 oz) container cottage cheese

1 egg

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9X13″ baking dish.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Cook broccoli according to package directions; drain well.  In a medium bowl, combine cooked chicken, broccoli and one jar of Alfredo sauce, garlic powder, and pepper; stir together. In a separate bowl, beat egg into cottage cheese.  Add Italian seasonings; stir well.  Pour 1/3 of the jar of remaining Alfredo sauce in bottom of the pan, spread evenly.  Place one layer of lasagna noodles, edges overlapping, into the baking dish.  Pour 1/3 chicken, broccoli, and Alfredo sauce mixture over the noodle layer and spread evenly. Spread 1/3 cottage cheese mixture over chicken, broccoli, and Alfredo sauce mixture.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella over chicken mixture.  Continue to layer two more times, ending with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. Tightly cover with foil.   Bake 30-35 minutes.   Remove foil and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes until top is brown and bubbly.



Chilly Weather Chili

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The past few days, I’ve been thinking of those living in New York that have been hit with an unimaginable amount of snow. While many in the Midwest might feel the need to complain about the bitter cold (late fall) temperatures, in comparison, we’ve certainly got nothing to complain about.
As the cold winds begin to blow down the length of Lake Michigan, I often turn my attention to chilly weather recipes that seem to comfort us as we make our way through a season of bitter cold and snow.
This Chilly Weather Chili recipe fits the bill as the spicy notes bring their own kind of warmth to the tummy. The recipe makes a nice sized pot of goodness that can be easily scooped into serving sized containers and kept frozen for a quick future meal.

Chilly Weather Chili

3 lbs lean ground beef
1 (29 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (29 ounce) cans kidney beans ( with liquid)
1 (29 ounce) cans pinto beans ( with liquid)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green chili pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

In a large (thick bottomed) pot , cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Combine beef with the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue to cook while stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.