Monday, November 21, 2011

Taco Soup and Food Exchange

Taco Soup

Don't forget to enter my Big Christmas Giveaway on my last post if you haven't already! A winner will be picked Wednesday morning! Now on to today's post...

Here is the breakdown:

Step 1: You recruit three friends to participate
Step 2: You each pick a meal to make and triple the recipe
Step 3: Divvy up into three portions and place in Ziplock Freezer bags
Step 4: Freeze
Step 5: Meet up with your friends, bring your bags and swap meals
Step 6: You have three different meals ready to go when you are. Just defrost, heat and serve!

Genius, right? I thought I made this up over a year ago but I have seen Martha Stewart advertising something similar to this on her website, so boo to that. Not boo to the idea, just the fact that she stole it from me. Yeah, I'm sure of it. ;) All kidding aside, this really is a good idea. It doesn't take much longer to make and triple a recipe than it does to make enough for your family. It takes way less time than making three separate meals, that's for sure!

For the past two fall/winter seasons I have recruited my friends Melissa and Danielle to swap with each other. Most things can freeze well and you are only limited by your imagination. The usual suspects would be soup and chili. Those are always easy. There are lots of other options though, from homemade spaghetti sauce to sausage lasagna frozen in disposable bakers and wrapped well, to chowders and savory quiche. I happen to know you can freeze already baked quiche. My friend Luanne did it one year. Google it for proper storage, thawing and re-heating instructions.

The happy food swappers: Me, Danielle, Melissa
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This year for the swap Melissa made a yummy and thick vegetarian chili for homemade chili-cheese fries. All you needed to do come diner time is oven roast some potatoes for fries and heat up the chili.

Danielle made a beautiful vegetable pot pie filling. Now, all I need to do is defrost and warm the filling then transfer the contents into a Pyrex dish or pie plate, top with some puff pastry and bake until done. Add a salad and I have one decadent dinner that took me 5 minutes to assemble.

As for my part, I took the really easy road this year and made a big batch of taco soup (it's okay because I'm pretty sure I made a much more labor intensive French onion soup for everyone last year). This is the easiest because all you need to do is heat it through and you have dinner.

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We usually write the name of our dish and date on the Ziplock bags were trading and re-heating instructions if needed. I can't tell you how accomplished you'll feel for having three wholesome and homemade ready to go dinners in your freezer.

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Today, I'll write about my taco soup, but I'll also be sharing Danielle's pot pie filling as soon as I eat it and snap some pictures. Melissa's vegetarian chili-cheese fry chili can be found here if you missed it.

I love this recipe because it's a super hearty one pot meal, but not chili. I like a change every once and a while. Its Mexico in a bowl, with all the flavored tomatoes, beans, corn and olives going on here. The Ranch Dressing mix along with the taco seasoning is what really makes it. I normally don't use pre-made seasoning blends from the grocery store but in this recipe it's highly appropriate. It's casual food that's still fit for company because of how delicious it is. Make sure to serve with corn chips for scooping, green onion and plenty of sour cream or cheese, or both! The original recipe calls for meat, but of course I made it vegetarian. To do the same, substitute 3 more cans of beans total, one of each called for and omit the meat.

Taco Soup

Taco Soup
adapted from Paula Deen
serves 6 (vegetarian version serves slightly more, about 6-8 because of the extra beans)

2 pounds ground beef, ground turkey, or a mixture of both (I made this vegetarian by substituting 3 more cans of beans for the meat)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 -15 oz can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 - 15 oz can kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 - 15 oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 - 15 oz can whole kernel corn, drained or 2 cups frozen corn
1 - 14.5 oz can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 - 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 - 14.5 oz can mild rotel (tomatoes with chile's)
1-2  cups water
1 - 4.6 oz can sliced black olives, drained
1/2 cup green olives, sliced (optional)
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 -1 oz package ranch salad dressing mix 

corn chips, sour cream, cheddar cheese,
green onions, and pickled jalapenos

Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a large pot. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, rotel, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, 1 cup water and ranch dressing mix. If you need additional water to make a soup consistency, add another cup. Bring everything to a simmer and cook together for 20 minutes.
The added water will work with the seasoning mixes to thicken the soup. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve!

You can also make this in a crock pot. If you plan on freezing this soup for a swap or even just leftovers- freeze your bags as flat as possible for the best storage, like pictured.


  1. Great idea! And the soup sounds so yummy!

  2. this is probably the most genius idea i've ever heard! love it!!

  3. I make this ALL the time!!! Your recipe is slightly different, but pretty much the same thing! It's a BIG hit when we have the guys over for football.

  4. I make this in the crock pot at least once a month :) yum!

  5. that swap is so creative and what a fun way to help out other busy women and moms! it is always a good idea to have a dinner in the freeze ready on hand at anytime! those soups all sounds really yummy

  6. What a fantastic idea!! I need some more my-aged, women cooking friends. Maybe I could take out an ad in the paper? ;) The taco soup looks delicious. Any dairy-free ideas or suggestions for a replacement for the ranch-mix?

  7. This is an awesome idea! Wish we could all do it somehow and have a massive bloggers swapathon of food!
    Take care..