by Amy Phariss

As I sit here in the editor’s office, magazines and papers piled chin-deep on my desk, I look out the window and see deceptively blue skies. I say they’re deceptive because as soon as I step outside, the chill of a January morning will bite at my skin and remind me: Amy, you left your coat at home. I’m like a toddler that way, always flying out the door without proper attire: mittens, a scarf or a coat. I somehow think a cardigan sweater and positive attitude are all I need to keep warm, and truth-be-told, on most North Carolina days, these get me by just fine. But January? No. We need warmth in January, even in the south, even in the land of perpetual golf, galloping down horse trails, jumping out of airplanes and barreling into the parking lot of any coffee shop that will serve up a proper shot of espresso.  

So, if I’ve forgotten my coat, misplaced a mitten or wrongfully thought ballet flats are appropriate footwear for winter, I try my best to compensate with warm food. To that end, I love nothing more than coming home to the smell of a strong stew or soup simmering away in a slow cooker, ready for just the moment when I’ve poured a glass of wine and set my feet by the fire. A slow cooker soup should be easy to throw together, full of hearty ingredients and versatile enough for pantry ingredients. As a bonus, if the rest of the family likes it, I consider it a solid win.

This is my go-to, mid-winter, good-for-a-gray-day soup, which my kids love, my husband devours and which lasts us at least two solid meals. It’s easily reheated and can be dabbled with and adjusted for taste.

Aunt Tammy’s Taco Soup

 *from Aunt Tammy, on my husband’s side, who lives
in Texas and is, therefore, a legitimate source for such
a recipe.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cans corn
  • 2 cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cans beans (pinto, kidney or 1 of each)
  • 2 lbs. browned hamburger (or turkey)
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 package ranch dressing dry mix

Directions: 

Brown the meat and drain. Add the canned ingredients and seasoning packets, and dump it all into a crockpot. Do not drain the beans or the corn. Cook in the slow cooker for 2-3 hours on high or all day on low. Serve in a bowl with toppings or over rice. 

Notes:

Sometimes I omit the corn if the kids have been
angels and I feel like catering to their discerning palates. Sometimes, I try different beans. I go heavy on the meat side of the meat-to-bean ratio, and I always use ground beef, but I’ve enjoyed it with ground turkey as well. 

In our household, we top our bowls with sour cream, grated cheese, avocado, salsa and cilantro. We also use Frito’s Scoops as spoons because we are good people

Also, this recipe freezes and reheats well, which is a blessing when you get tired of the entire pot. Just pop it into a Ziploc bag, store it in the freezer and feel blessed when, a few weeks later, dinner means defrosting and nothing more. 

We’d love to hear how you made it your own or if you’ve been eating taco soup all your life and forgotten, entirely, how good and decent it really is on a brisk January evening.