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Editor’s note: At the Table with the Gabels features tasty recipes and tips from Vanessa Gabel and her daughter, Kaitlyn, of Danville.

Kaitlyn: We have been making and enjoying this taco soup recipe for years, and it never gets old.

As the air is getting colder, we make soups like there’s no tomorrow, but it’s easy to get tired of typical soups, which is why this one is a fun change to have every now and then. Taco soup is very delicious by itself, but it can be topped with different things like sour cream, cheddar cheese, or dipped with tortilla chips. You can use anything that you would enjoy on a traditional taco.

With everyone in our house packing lunches, we get bored of eating a sandwich everyday, so this is a perfect alternative.

Vanessa: Prep once, eat twice. This recipe is a magnificent time saver, due to its flexibility in serving size and cooking preference.

If you need more than 5 servings, you can cook all of it at once in a large pot. Just adjust the cooking times accordingly.

We’ve also cooked all of it ahead, then froze individual servings for an easy one-serving meal. (As long as you thaw it before eating.) During busy weeks, we will make one batch for immediate consumption, then freeze the other for when we are in a pinch for time to cook or get groceries. It’s a good feeling to know that there is a backup meal waiting to be heated in the freezer.

It can be accessorized with your favorite Mexican ingredients to make it your own, or add your favorite crusty bread for an amazing pairing.

If you like more spice in your Mexican dishes, feel free to add a chopped jalapeno.

Need a little more variation? Substitute cooked, shredded chicken for ground beef. Bottom line: this recipe pulls together with very little effort, and you can easily stock up on all of these pantry ingredients ahead on a very conservative budget.

If you prefer your soup to be less brothy and more full of substance, either drain the beans, or cut back on the amount of broth added.

Taco Soup

1.5 lbs. ground beef

2 tbsp. taco seasoning

1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix

15-oz. can kidney beans, undrained

15-oz. can pinto beans, undrained

1 can whole kernel corn, undrained

28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

10-oz. can Rotel tomatoes with diced chilies, undrained

1 onion, diced

29 ounces chicken broth

Optional:

Tortilla chips

Shredded cheddar cheese

Sour cream

Green onions

Brown the ground beef and drain the grease.

Divide ingredients equally into two one-gallon freezer bags. Freeze one or both bags. (Each bag makes about 5 servings.)

From thawed: Stove top — Medium heat about 20 minutes; Microwave — about 20 minutes. Crock pot/slow cooker on low for about 4 hours.

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