Taco Soup: The Perfect Weeknight Dinner

As school bells ring signaling the start of a new year, families everywhere will be faced with the weeknight dinner struggle.  Taco Soup is an easy, hearty, crowd pleaser that can be prepared quickly, mostly with ingredients from your pantry.  While the instructions state an hour-long simmering period, this recipe can be prepared in advance or left to simmer on the stove while homework is conquered.  Double the recipe and freeze the leftovers of this delicious dish for the first fall chill.  Tailor the toppings listed or add your own favorites to please everyone in your family.  Best of all, the preparation of this dish only dirties ONE POT making cleanup a breeze!

taco-soup-e1469555980798.jpg

Photograph by Jennifer Henry

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chiles, Italian-style tomatoes or Mexican-style tomatoes
  • 1 can while kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can Ranch-style beans or pinto beans with jalapeno chiles
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning mix
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

Toppings:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup sliced jalapeno chiles
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 avocado, chopped

Directions:

Brown the ground beef with the onion in a large saucepan, stirring until the ground beef is crumbly; drain.  Stir in the undrained tomatoes, corn, undrained beans, seasoning mix, dressing mix, chili powder, garlic powder and Tabasco sauce.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat.

Cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Serve with the sour cream, cheese, green onions, jalapeno chiles, olives and avocado.

Serves 6.

Miss Congeal-iality: Raspberry Salad

I know what you’re thinking: “A congealed salad? How 1960s.” But fear not! Just like those flared jeans you’ve been hiding in your closet since the early 2000s, the congealed salad is making a comeback. Even Southern Living agrees! So break out that jello mold and make sure your next dinner party is on the cutting edge with a course featuring this latest culinary food trend. And if anyone looks at you funny, tell them those boring kale salads are so last year.

Photo by Don Kadair.

Photo by Don Kadair.

Raspberry Salad, RRR I, p. 28

With it’s beautiful pale pink contrasted against the bright green of butter lettuce leaves and lime wedges, this Raspberry Salad from River Road Recipes I will make the perfect addition to your Easter table this year! The best part? It doubles as the salad and the dessert, so feel free to have two helpings, guilt free!

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce package marshmallows
  • 1 package frozen raspberries
  • 1 small can evaporated milk (chilled and whipped)
  • 2 3-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise

Directions

  1. Melt marshmallows in double boiler with raspberries.
  2. Let cool; add cream cheese blended with mayonnaise.
  3. Add whipped milk to raspberry mixture.
  4. Place in tray and freeze.
  5. Unmold on lettuce leaves and enjoy!

Serves 12.

Recipe by Mrs. William Adams of Tallulah, Louisiana. 

New Year, New You

With the New Year comes New Year’s resolutions. By far one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is some variation of getting fit or losing weight. While we all know a combination of diet and exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, actually implementing positive lifestyle changes can feel overwhelming or impossible. Luckily, River Road Recipes is here to help!

Photo by Don Kadair.

Photo by Don Kadair.

Make Healthy Substitutions

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean sacrificing on flavor or giving up the foods you love. Take our Curried Chicken Salad from River Road Recipes III, for instance. Substituting low fat Greek yogurt for mayonnaise, toasting walnuts to bring out their flavor (thereby allowing you to cut calories by using fewer nuts), and adding seasonings like curry powder make this a lower fat alternative to traditional chicken salad recipes while still maintaining great flavor.

Another great example is JLBR Member Dr. Betsy Buchert’s take on the Olive Egg Spread recipe from River Road Recipes I.  Betsyused fresh eggs, substituted Kalamata olives for stuffed olives, and made a few other easy substitutions to create a healthier, yet still delicious, version.

Give Your Salad a Makeover

Salads are another, more obvious way to eat healthier while still getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. Start with your base: there is so much more to enjoy than iceberg lettuce! Arugula, mesclun, kale, and romaine are great, but also check out mâche, dandelion greens, microgreens, baby kale, chicory, and escarole. You’ll be amazed how much flavor and texture they’ll add.

Add nuts, seeds, boiled eggs, cheese, chicken, shrimp, or fish to your salad to get much needed protein and to keep from feeling hungry later. Cruciferous vegetables like raw carrots, cucumbers, broccoli, or sweet bell peppers provide that satisfying crunch so many of us crave (and are far better for you than potato chips!). Fresh fruit also adds the right amount of sweetness for those of us with a sweet tooth. Look for what’s fresh and in season at your local farmers’ market or produce store. Low fat salad dressings, like our Sensation Salad Dressing (a Louisiana staple!) below, also add great flavor. Just remember to use salad toppings and dressings sparingly, or you may end up defeating the purpose.

Happy New Year from all of us at River Road Recipes!

Sensation Salad Dressing

River Road Recipes I, p. 24

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound finely ground Romano cheese
  • 1 pint salad oil (FYI – salad oil refers to any light tasting oil, such as vegetable, canola, olive, etc.)
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 3 cloves of garlic

Directions

Shake all ingredients in a quart jar. Dressing will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. Especially good tossed with lettuce, water cress, and parsley leaves. Salt and pepper greens as desired before adding dressing.

Black Bean Salad

This quick and easy side dish is found in River Road Recipes IV on page 274. While excellent as a side dish, this black bean salad is also quite tasty when eaten as a “dip” with tortilla chips!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes, plus 2 hours of refrigeration time (optional)

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Servings: 6

KITCHEN TOOLS:

  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Chopping knife and cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Colander

INGREDIENTS:

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

  • 1 (12-ounce) can Shoe Peg corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (11-ounce) can tomatoes with green chiles, drained (such as Rotel)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Gather kitchen tools and ingredients. Using a chopping knife and a cutting board, chop the green onions. Open the cans of black beans and the shoe peg corn and drain and rinse. Open the can of tomatoes with green chiles and drain.
  2. Combine the corn, beans, tomatoes, green onions, vinegar, and olive oil in a salad bowl and mix well.
Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

3. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Taco Soup: The Perfect Weeknight Dinner

As school bells ring signaling the start of a new year, families everywhere will be faced with the weeknight dinner struggle.  Taco Soup is an easy, hearty, crowd pleaser that can be prepared quickly, mostly with ingredients from your pantry.  While the instructions state an hour-long simmering period, this recipe can be prepared in advance or left to simmer on the stove while homework is conquered.  Double the recipe and freeze the leftovers of this delicious dish for the first fall chill.  Tailor the toppings listed or add your own favorites to please everyone in your family.  Best of all, the preparation of this dish only dirties ONE POT making cleanup a breeze!

Photo by Jennifer Henry.

Photo by Jennifer Henry.

Taco Soup (RRR IV pg. 45)

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes with green chiles, Italian-style tomatoes or Mexican-style tomatoes
  • 1 can while kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can Ranch-style beans or pinto beans with jalapeno chiles
  • 1 envelope taco seasoning mix
  • 1 envelope ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste

Toppings:

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup sliced jalapeno chiles
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 avocado, chopped

Directions:

Brown the ground beef with the onion in a large saucepan, stirring until the ground beef is crumbly; drain.  Stir in the undrained tomatoes, corn, undrained beans, seasoning mix, dressing mix, chili powder, garlic powder and Tabasco sauce.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat.

Cook over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Ladle the soup into bowls.  Serve with the sour cream, cheese, green onions, jalapeno chiles, olives and avocado.

Serves 6.

Fireworks on the Levee: A Baton Rouge Tradition

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. Growing up, we would celebrate the 4th of July with friends and family, cooking out, soaking up the sun, and of course, setting off fireworks.  My dad would take my brother and me early in the morning to one of those massive firework dealers that seem to spring up overnight around New Year’s Eve and the Fourth, and we would buy an obscene amount of sparklers, roman candles, bottle rockets, and the like. Everyone would gather around after the day’s festivities to ooh and ahh at our firework displays that night, while our miniature schnauzers cowered inside and howled.

Upon moving to Baton Rouge, we discovered the Baton Rouge tradition of watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the banks of the Mississippi River. People arrive downtown early in the morning to claim their spot on the levee and spend the remainder of the day enjoying the nearby festivities, such as the USS KIDD’s July 4th Spectacular or the LSU Museum of Art’s 4th of July Celebration at the Shaw Center, complete with a DJ, cash bar, hotdogs, and jambalaya from Capital City Grill (check out these events and more at Visit Baton Rouge). The fun-filled day culminates with a spectacular fireworks show at 9 pm, sponsored by WBRZ 2 and the USS KIDD. This year, leave the fireworks displays to the pros and come and join us on the levee! You will be  part of a Baton Rouge tradition to remember, and, more importantly, our schnauzers will thank you.

Corn and Black Bean Salad, Warm Welcomes – RRR IV

Of course, no Fourth of July celebration would be complete without a fabulous meal. Warm Welcomes – River Road Recipes IV, features an entire suggested menu to enjoy while watching the fireworks on the levee. One of my favorites from this menu is the Corn and Black Bean Salad, found on page 229. It is cool, colorful, and flavorful, with just the right amount of kick from the jalapenos and spicy cilantro dressing.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

The bright, fresh summer vegetables featured in this salad add the perfect pop of color to your 4th of July menu. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Spicy Cilantro Dressing

  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Salad

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) cans whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 cup diagonally sliced green onions
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

Corn and Black Bean Salad. Photo by Lauren De Witt.

For the dressing, combine the corn oil, vinegar, cilantro, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce, and chili powder in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and seal tightly. Shake to mix.

For the salad, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, bell peppers, green onions, red onion, jalapeno chiles, and garlic in a bowl and mix gently. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Chill, covered, for 6 to 10 hours. Spoon into a salad bowl and garnish with sprigs of cilantro and/or red onion wedges.

Serves 8.