Simple Taco Soup

taco soup 1

I can’t get a good picture of this soup. This is so easy to make and it’s amazing to eat and the picture looks like eh, whatever. So just glance over the picture and know that you need to make this soup.

Here’s my happy little soup secret: This Taco Soup is made with none other than this Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Recipe. See, you make that recipe and you double or triple it because it just makes sense because it is so delicious. You eat it with chips, or you boil some pasta and make it into Spicy Mac and Cheese. Or if you’re feeling soupy, you stir in some chicken or beef broth and top it with crunched chips. It becomes Taco Soup and you love it so much you can’t even stand it. Or maybe it’s just me.

Simple Taco Soup

Simple Taco Soup
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 1 pound hamburger meat
  • 2-4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
  • 2-3 cups chicken or beef broth
Instructions
  1. Brown the hamburger meat in a large pot.
  2. Add butter to the meat, melting it throughout the pot.
  3. Sprinkle in corn starch, coating the meat.
  4. Pour in water, chili powder, and salt.
  5. Turn heat up and stir until the mixture thickens.
  6. Add cream, continuing to stir as the mixture thickens. (This all happens quickly in my experience.)
  7. Stir in Rotel and broth, heating for about 5 more minutes.
  8. Remove from heat.
  9. Add shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese has melted and the dip is smooth.
  10. Serve with tortilla chips.

I know I’ve said it before, but I really, really love making triple batches of Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel. It’s super easy and it is so versatile! Every few weeks I make it and store it in my fridge to pull out for easy meals. Now we use it to make soup too!

Here are some pictures of your options to entice you:

Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel, served as a dip:

Real Food Velveeta and Rotel Dip

The very same dip, stirred into boiled pasta and served as Spicy Mac and Cheese: 

Spicy Mac and Cheese

Same dip again, with broth stirred in, served as Taco Soup:

Simple Taco Soup

Do you see why I make big batches of this?? 

If you’d like to take a look at my favorite way to make nourishing broth for soups like this, check out this post:

How I Make Veggie-Packed Chicken Broth and Beef Broth

Have you made the Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel recipe? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

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Easy Chicken With Cream Cheese Sauce

Cream Cheese Chicken

Once upon a time, I was dating my husband. I mean, my boyfriend. I mean, we weren’t married yet when we were dating but then we did get married and all of that barely has anything to do with this recipe.

But back in the days of our dating, engagement, and early marriage we drove an hour away from our college town each Sunday morning to a small church with a sweet youth group. Matt was their youth leader, teaching Bible classes and forming relationships with the teens. These dear ones became our church family, worshiping with us, throwing us a wedding shower, celebrating our marriage, being a part of our first pregnancy, and welcoming Baby #1 into the world with us.

Some of our fondest memories of those years are looking back to the Sunday afternoons in the homes of various church family members. They took turns signing up to feed us after church. Those meals!!! Talk about a church full of good cooks. The fellowship was precious and I can remember in detail many of the ladies’ specialties. We were very well taken care of, that is for sure.

Well, one of these ladies frequently made chicken that was slathered in the most delicious cream sauce. When we knew Carlene had signed up to feed us, I’d always say to Matt, “Ooooh, I hope she made that chicken this time!” Anytime she did make it and we sat there gushing over the meal, she’d always shake her head at us and say, “Oh. It’s just food.”

Right. Just food. Just the best chicken I’ve ever eaten!!!

Since that time, I’ve always regretted that I never got her recipe. I’m not even kidding you that 20 years later I still get hungry for that chicken. Finally about a month ago I thought to myself, “Laura, are you or are you not the lady who invents recipes? For Pete’s sake, woman. Go to the kitchen and figure out how to make Carlene’s chicken.”

You’d think I would have considered this option before.

Well, my friends. I now present to you Not-Quite-Carlene’s Chicken with Cream Cheese Sauce. Make this.

Easy Chicken with Cream Cheese SauceYum

Easy Chicken With Cream Cheese Sauce
 
Author:
Serves: 6-8
Ingredients
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat flour
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup palm shortening or other oil for frying
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Mix flour, salt, and pepper.
  2. Dip chicken in egg, then coat in flour mixture.
  3. Fry in oil for just a few minutes on each side. (Do not over cook or the chicken will become dry.)
  4. Remove chicken from pan.
  5. Pour chicken broth into the pan, scraping up the chicken drippings.
  6. Add softened cream cheese, stirring until smooth.
  7. Place cooked chicken back into the pan, coating on both sides with sauce.
  8. Serve with rice or pasta.

Make-Ahead Chicken Instructions

Prepare and fry chicken as directed. Allow meat to cool, then cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two days. Prepare sauce as directed and stir in the chicken, heating through.

Freezer Instructions

Prepare and fry chicken as directed. Allow chicken to cool. Freeze in a well-sealed freezer bag for up to three months. To serve, thaw cooked chicken. Prepare sauce as directed and stir in the chicken, heating through.

Easy Chicken with Cream Cheese Sauce Recipe

I can’t think of a brilliant way to end this post. Go make this chicken! There. That oughta do it.

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Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Yes You Can!

huge turkey 1

That is one huge bird.
Read the whole tale here.

There are people who wake up in the middle of the night to begin cooking their turkey for a holiday meal. There are people who baste and stuff and rub down their bird. These people are so very nice and dedicated to turkey perfection.

And then there’s me.

I cannot find it within myself to do any of this to my turkey. I’m just not as devoted of a turkey baker as some. I’m a plop the bird in a pan, add nothing to it, cover it, put it in the oven, and take it out a few hours later kind of turkey baker.

And…my favorite turkey baking tip of all: I cook my turkey before the holiday. Like, two days before, usually.

I bake it, de-bone it, prepare all the broth, dispose of the carcass – basically I do all the messy, tedious, laborious turkey work ahead of time. Then on the day of the holiday feast, I take out my big dish of cooked meat, pour on a little broth, cover it, rewarm it, and we eat it. This is stress-free turkey baking.

My turkey always still tastes delicious.

That’s why I keep doing it this way.

No, our table doesn’t hold a big un-carved turkey. There is no turkey carving tradition at our house. For those who love traditions like this, I say go for it! Baste and carve and enjoy that special tradition.

But for those who find the turkey to be tedious, you might instead consider making it ahead of time.

But won’t the turkey be dry?

Not if you don’t over-bake it in the first place.

The trick is to drizzle broth over your cooked, de-boned meat (I’d say one-two cups of broth per 9×13 inch dish full of meat), then cover the dish well. I warm it on Thanksgiving day for 30-45 minutes in a 300-350° oven along with other dishes that are baking. I pull it out and have a steaming, moist, delicious pan of turkey.

Make-Ahead Turkey

Yum

4.7 from 3 reviews
Make-Ahead Turkey
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 Turkey
  • 1 Large Roasting Pan
  • Foil if necessary
Instructions
  1. Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 3-4 days until thawed.
  2. Remove the bag of giblets from the inside of the turkey.
  3. Empty the giblets into your roasting pan as they help make a good, rich broth.
  4. Place the bird, breast side up, into a large baking pan or roaster.
  5. Cover with foil or with your roaster lid.
  6. Cook at 325° for 15-20 minutes per pound.
  7. You know your turkey is done cooking when the red thing pops up, or when the legs start to pull away from the body. It should be golden brown and slightly crisp looking.
  8. Be sure to save the broth that formed naturally!
  9. Allow the turkey to cool, then de-bone completely. Store meat in baggies or in covered pyrex dishes in the refrigerator.
  10. Save turkey carcass to make another round of broth for gravy, soup, and other nourishing meals.
  11. On serving day, drizzle a liberal amount of broth (one-two cups per 9x13 inch pan of meat) over turkey, cover and warm in 300°-350° oven for 30-45 minutes or until meat is hot and steamy.
  12. Serve right away.

Simple Make-Ahead Turkey ~ Easy, Moist, Delicious

Additional Turkey Tips:

  • Adding a few onions to the turkey while baking is an effortless way to add more flavor.
  • Be sure to save the broth that forms naturally while your turkey bakes.
  • Do not wait until your turkey is cold to take the meat off the bones. This makes the job much harder!
  • After you’ve taken all the meat off the bones, save the bones and put them into a stock pot. Fill the pot with water, carrots, onions, and any other veggies you like. Salt liberally. Cook on low for 4-6 hours to create a wonderful broth. Strain out bones. Blend the veggies until smooth and stir them back into the broth for added richness.
  • Use turkey broth for gravy. Use it to make Turkey and Noodles a few days after Thanksgiving. Use it for any soup or recipe that calls for chicken broth.
  • While making your turkey ahead of time is wonderfully helpful in cutting down work on your holiday meal serving day, you don’t want to make it too far in advance! I recommend making the turkey Tuesday or Wednesday, then serving it on Thanksgiving Thursday.

What’s your turkey tradition? To carve, or not to carve? To baste, or not to baste? Ever made a turkey ahead of time?

Getting Ahead for the HolidaysLeave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of  three $25 Gift Certificates good toward any of our eCourses or downloadable items in the Heavenly Homemakers Shop!

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Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole

Bacon Hashbrown Casserole

A friend had just stopped by when I was pulling this dish out of the oven for lunch earlier this week. It smelled quite amazing. She asked what it was, so I went down the list of ingredients our lunch included, “bacon, ranch dressing, sour cream, cheese…” Then this is when she said,

“Bacon? Ranch? Cheese? With all that in it, you know it’s going to be good!”

Yep, pretty much.  What’s not to love?

You might also love knowing how easy this is to make. Cook the bacon, stir in the other ingredients, spread it all in a cooking dish, put it into the oven. Easy. It does help if you have premade frozen hashbrowns and a jar of homemade ranch dressing mix ready to go. Just please put the lid on your ranch dressing before you shake it up. Please. I’m only here to help.

A big thanks to Plain Chicken for the idea for this recipe! I’m excited to think about possibilities of ways to continue tweaking this. Maybe add some cooked chicken to the mix? What else can you think of to add to this dish?

Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole
 
Author:
Serves: 10 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar or Colby jack cheese
  • 3 cups sour cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns (about 8 potatoes worth of homemade)
Instructions
  1. Cut bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook.
  2. Drain grease.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together cooked bacon, shredded cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix.
  4. Fold in frozen hashbrowns until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for 45-60 minutes or until casserole is lightly browned and bubbly.

Some recipes you’ll need to go along with this one:

Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix

Homemade Hashbrowns

Lately I’ve been finding really great deals on packaged hashbrowns at the store, so I’ve picked up a few to save me some time. I much prefer homemade, but busyness doesn’t always allow me the luxury. It’s good to be relaxed and flexible about healthy eating, right? Right.

So far I’ve only served this casserole for lunch or dinner. But I also think it would be great for breakfast or brunch!

Want to make Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole ahead and freeze it for later? Here’s how:

Make the casserole as directed. Before baking, cover well and freeze for up to three months. To cook and serve – thaw and bake as directed. Or, cover frozen casserole and place it into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 225° and bake for 2-3 hours or until casserole has thawed, baked, and is heated through.

Bacon Ranch Hashbrown Casserole - Easy!

Note: This recipe is naturally gluten free. Hold onto this one if you have to avoid gluten – or so that you can bless friends who eat gluten free!

I’ll definitely be making this casserole often! Since it’s freezer-friendly, I’ll likely be making two or three at once so I can have no-brainer meals on hand for busy nights. After all, why dirty up more dishes tomorrow when tomorrow will have enough dirty dishes of its own? Right??

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Hamburger Pot Pie Recipe – Nourishing Comfort Food

Hamburger Pot Pie22

Oh comfort food. You are so…comforting.

If you love Chicken Pot Pie, you will love this Hamburger Pot Pie. I actually think I like this one even better. (No surprise there. I’m a beef-loving girl.) Pin this recipe so you can use it to keep yourself warm all winter long.

For the record, if you need to eat gluten free – or if you’re like me and you’re more into meat and veggies than bread – you can skip the topping on this and just eat it in a bowl like Hamburger Soup.

Hamburger Pot PieYum

4.0 from 1 reviews
Hamburger Pot Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 pound hamburger meat
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • ⅓ cup cold water
  • 2 Tablespoons organic corn starch, arrowroot powder, or wheat flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (I use Hain Safflower Mayonnaise)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour from hard white wheat)
Instructions
  1. In a large cooking pot, brown hamburger and onion together.
  2. Stir in broth and prepared veggies.
  3. Cook until veggies are tender.
  4. Mix cornstarch with water until smooth. Stir mixture into the broth/veggies, cooking for about one minute on the stove to help the mixture thicken.
  5. Pour contents into a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir together milk, mayo, and flour.
  7. Spread mixture over the veggies in the baking dish.
  8. Bake in a 350° oven for about 45 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

To save money and add nourishment, I recommend making your own broth for recipes like this one. Here’s How to Make Beef Broth. While we’re at it, here’s How to Make Chicken Broth. :)

Hamburger Pot Pie

What are your favorite winter comfort foods? Which do you typically enjoy more – hamburger or chicken?

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How to Cook Beans in the Crock Pot

Cooking beans is crazy easy. It’s remembering to soak the beans the night before that is the hard part.

My morning brain and my night brain are two completely different beasts. My morning brain is like, “Wooooo yeah! We gonna cook all day and do school work with the kids (let’s do art today!) and organize ourselves completely and make all the phone calls and make 20 quarts of applesauce and finish the laundry and write two blog posts! Let’s do this!”

As the days wears on, I knock out about three of my twenty lofty goals (because my time and energy always run out before my to-do list ends –  and also because I hate making phone calls). After a full day of thinking hard and working hard and loving hard, my night brain is like, “I’m not speaking to you right now.”

This is why it is hard to soak beans.

The irony is that I never forget to grind coffee beans at night to put into my coffee pot for easy coffee making the next morning. Obviously, I have my priorities. Perhaps my two bean worlds could collide and I could let my coffee beans trigger a reminder about my pintos? It only makes sense.

On the rare occasion I do remember to soak beans, I feel so accomplished when I get into bed at night. Forget all the other stuff I did for 15 hours all day long. I totally put my beans in a pot with water! I am so very amazing!

Once the beans have been soaked, we can put them into a crock pot to cook all day for our dinner that night. 

How to Cook Beans in a Crock Pot

How to Cook Beans in a Crock PotYum

1. At night before bed, put about 4 cups of any variety of beans into a pot with 6-8 cups of water. 

2. Splash in a little vinegar. It’s supposed to help with the toots. I offer no guarantees.

making beans1

3. Let the beans soak overnight.

4. Strain and rinse the beans in the morning. Put them into a crock pot and cover them with fresh water.

5. Add a couple of chopped onions to flavor the beans. This is optional but yummy and recommended.

6. Cover and cook the beans on low for 8-10 hours or until beans are tender. 

multitasking 5

At this point, you can enjoy your beans in any way you enjoy beans. Our favorites are:

What are your favorite ways to eat beans? Please tell me about your morning brain vs. your night brain. Which works better for you?

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Help! My Alfredo Sauce Leftovers Don’t Reheat Well!

alfredo leftovers 2

Not that I know much about leftovers around my house anymore. But occasionally when we have a little bit of Alfredo Sauce leftover, we’ve found that the butter separates when reheated, making for a greasy noodle on a plate.

Perhaps you have figured out the trick to prevent this and would like to share. In the meantime, this is what our family does to remedy the problem:

We stir the leftover Alfredo Sauce into some marinara sauce. Have you ever had marinara mixed with alfredo? It’s incredibly delicious. It’s so delicious, in fact, that my boys sometimes request that I make this on purpose. This is fine because I always love preparing two separate sauces when I make pasta because I have nothing better to do than to double my efforts in the kitchen.

alfredo leftovers 1

But seriously, it’s worth making two sauces because the combination is so good. Or…we could simply make extra Alfredo Sauce on purpose one day to eat as Fettuchini Alfredo. Put the leftovers away, then make spaghetti with marinara sauce the following day. Put those leftovers away, and then on the third day we can stir all the leftovers together and have a Spaghetti Alfredo meal.

Probably the day after that, we should make something besides pasta. You think?

The Perfect Solution for Warming Leftover Alfredo Sauce

Yum

The two sauces together with pasta truly is delicious. If only all leftover issues could be solved by stirring them into something else to create a delightfully brand new dish.

Have you discovered any tricks for reheating Alfredo Sauce?

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Easy (Make-Ahead) Baked Potato and Bacon Casserole

Bacon Baked Potato Casserole

This is so easy we can hardly call it a recipe. I’m pretty sure my family will be having this every other week for the rest of our lives for the following reasons:

  1. Bacon. Of course. And also, cheese.
  2. We can slather it with Spicy Ranch Dressing, which tastes so good I believe I shall become addicted to it.
  3. I can make several of these casseroles at once and freeze them for later, making this easy meal even easier.

This “casserole” is basically baked potatoes cut up in a dish with bacon and cheese all over it. I’m sorry that I can’t make it more complicated for all of you who would rather spend many more minutes sauteing, braising, and broiling. This time, you’ll have to get your steeping and zesting fix elsewhere.

Everyone else: I lovingly suggest that you go scrub some potatoes. You’re having this for dinner tonight.

Baked Potato and Bacon CasseroleYum

8 medium-sized potatoes (any variety)
1 pound bacon
2 cups shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
Sour cream, chives, and/or Spicy Ranch Dressing for topping

Scrub and bake potatoes by putting them into a covered dish in a 350° oven for 1 1/2 hours. Or bake them in the crock pot like this. In the meantime, cut bacon into bite-sized pieces and cook thoroughly on the stove-top.

Cut baked potatoes into chunks, spreading them out into a 9×13″ baking dish. Sprinkle cooked bacon over the potatoes. Top with shredded cheese. Bake in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Offer sour cream, chives, and/or Spicy Ranch Dressing to complete this main course. Serve with a salad and another fruit or veggie. It is too easy. Makes 6-8 servings.

Baked Potato Bacon Casserole

To Freeze This Dish: 

Make it as directed above. Allow it to cool completely. Cover and label. Put it in the freezer.

To Reheat and Serve This Dish:

This is my favorite trick. Get the casserole out of the freezer. Cover the frozen dish with foil (somebody needs to invent a 9×13 glass cover for my pyrex dishes). Put the frozen casserole into a COLD oven. Turn the oven on to 250° allowing it to heat up along with the casserole. After one hour, turn the oven up to 350° and bake for one more hour or until the casserole is thawed, heated through, and looks like wonderful cheesy deliciousness.

Let us all add this recipe to our “Reasons to Make Extra Baked Potatoes When We’re Making Baked Potatoes Anyway” list.

7 Ways to Use Baked Potatoes

Switch out the bacon in this casserole for other cooked meats. Switch out the regular potatoes for sweet potatoes. Just whatever you do, try it with the Spicy Ranch Dressing. Ah-mazing.

 

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Using Our Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel to make Spicy Mac and Cheese

Allow me to introduce you to one of the easiest meals and most delicious comfort foods around:

Spicy Mac and Cheese

Remember the Real Food “Velveeta” and Rotel Dip recipe I posted a few days ago? You need to make that today. I’m only bossing you around because when it comes to that dip – I know best, I’m right, and that dip will change your life. It’s a proven fact.

Then here’s what you do: You either eat that dip with chips because that’s what we do with dip. Or – you boil 16 ounces of pasta, drain off the water, then stir this dip into your noodles for the most delicious Mac and Cheese with a kick. The most delicious.

My kids, my kids’ friends, all the adults -we all love this dish. I love that it’s super easy, flavorful – and all real food.

A little hint: Double the dip recipe. Eat it one day as a dip. Put the leftovers in the fridge. A day or two later, boil noodles and stir in the leftover sauce for an oh-so-easy meal to throw on the table. (With fruits and vegetables. This is a given.)

I used whole wheat noodles (my favorite kind) and I’m sure brown rice noodles would work great too.

Spicy Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Dip
16 ounces of your favorite pasta

Make the dip as directed. Boil and drain pasta according to package. Stir sauce into cooked and drained pasta. 

Spicy Mac and Cheese 3

Now go make the dip! Then watch as life as you know it improves for the better – one bite at a time.

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Make Pizza Boats on the Grill ~ Fast and Easy!

Ever since I became a big girl and learned how to turn on our grill, a whole new world of summertime food opened up to me. I think I turned 38 that summer. I had always left certain tasks like that up to my husband – things like installing our window air conditioners, getting the oil changed in our car, and grilling meat.

Then one day I was like, dude it sure would be nice to get dinner cooked instead of waiting for Matt to get home and grill the meat. (The deep thoughts of a hungry 38 year old…)

So I prepared myself for a detailed lesson in propane and matches and safety and how to avoid setting the house on fire. Then Matt got home and showed me how to simultaneously turn a knob and push a button. Four seconds later, the grill was aflame.

Hmmm, thought I. I probably could have even learned that when I was as young as 37.

Don’t tease. Need I remind those of you who have been operating a grill since adolescence that some of us experienced trauma at age 17 which may or may not have involved a fire and the total destruction of a huge barn on my family’s property? Some of us have hated fire for a very, very long time. Some of us might have equated lighting a grill to lighting a barn on fire and watching it smolder for three to fourteen days. Some of us.

So now I’m 41 (and three quarters) and the grill is my best friend in the summertime. In my 3 years of grilling experience, I have not burned anything down – not our house, not someone else’s house, not even a barn.

Regarding food of many kinds: if I can grill it, I do. If I’ve never seen it grilled before, I try it. Anything to avoid turning on the oven on a hot day. Plus, grilled food is fun and special and it feels like a big deal to say, “we’re grilling chicken tonight” instead of simply saying, “we’re having chicken.” Right? Can’t you hear the difference?

So enter: Grilled Pizza Boats

Making pizza on the grill (the regular crust kind) is quite doable and very yummy. You can learn how to do that here. But that is a bit time sensitive and laborious (woe is me) so I rarely go to the trouble. Pizza Boats, however? Well this is absolutely too easy.

Make a Quick Meal of Pizza Boats - On the Grill!

How to Make a Pizza BoatYum

Slice a loaf of French or Italian bread in half the long way (you know, like a boat). Top each half with your favorite pizza goodies. Bake in a 350° oven or on the grill until the cheese is melted (about 10 minutes).

It’s as easy as that.

In fact, it’s one of the easiest meals there is. Slice the pizza boats and serve them with salad and fresh fruit.

And then I just have to say it: Be sure you turn off your grill. I refuse to be the one responsible for any other fires, large or small. I’ve met my quota.

What are your favorite foods to grill?

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