Baby, it’s cold outside! Or at least it is here in Minnesota. There is definitely that ‘winter-is-coming’ chill in the air. And this is just the start. Wind chills will eventually plummet to -50 degrees F, snow will pile up on the sidewalks. Ugh. I always complain as autumn comes to a close, knowing that we face the long slog to April. My body just isn’t acclimated to the cold for the first month or so. Ah well, I guess there’s also the comforting expectation of snuggling into a warm blanket and a good book while the kids head out to play in the snow. There is that to look forward to…
As soon as the weather turns, I start thinking about soup. This particular one is a beauty. It’s substantial– more like a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s loaded with healthy protein from lentils and beans, though my favorite ingredient this time around is most definitely the corn. It makes so many soups better. It adds a nice flavor and a bit of texture, as well. Not to mention, it pairs beautifully with the Mexican flavors.
Let’s talk about those flavors, shall we? Years ago I began making my own taco mix. To be honest, it happened a bit by accident. I ran out of my usual purchased taco seasoning, so I had to improvise. Luckily, I keep a well stocked spice cabinet (Penzys really should send me a thank you note). In looking at the recipe, don’t let the length of the list scare you. I realize that not everyone has all of the spices on hand. As long as you have the main ones (chili, paprika, garlic, onion, and cumin powder), you will be just fine. But, if you do happen to have the others, even better. Try this seasoning the next time you make traditional tacos– you’ll love it!
The soup is wonderful served with the usual taco accompaniments– sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, and of course some tortilla chips. However, I also discovered another way that I like to eat the leftovers. Since the legumes continue to soak up more broth overnight, the soup becomes a bit thicker. I love to serve it atop baked spaghetti squash. It’s delicious and makes a great gluten-free, paleo, and even vegan meal! So– perfect to serve to friends or family that might be trying to eat that particular way. Stay warm, friends!
The Recipe: Vegetarian Lentil Taco Soup
(serves 4-6 comfortably)
2 cups dry brown lentils, rinsed
2/3 cup dry red beans (or 1 can), rinsed
2/3 cup dry black beans (or 1 can), rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped white onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 quart puréed or crushed tomatoes
1 quart vegetable broth (or use chicken, if you’re not trying to stay vegetarian)
1 heaping cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
scallions, jalapeños, sour cream (if vegan isn’t your aim) and limes as garnish options
For the Taco Seasoning:
(makes a scant 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
To begin: soak and cook your red and black beans separately following standard directions to cook beans. Honestly, I usually have extras in my freezer that I pull out to throw into this soup. Beans freeze incredibly well, so feel free to make extras for that purpose. You’ll want about 1 1/2 cups of cooked red beans, and 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans. Or simple choose to use one can of each, rinsed.
Mix all of the taco seasoning ingredients together in small bowl, set aside.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Begin to saute the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until somewhat soft. Add the taco seasoning to the onion mixture. Then add the tomatoes, vegetables stock, cooked red and black beans, and the lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium simmer. Cook covered for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender, but have not fallen apart. Stirring a couple of times along the way. Make sure not to overcook the lentils, or they will turn to mush. When the soup is done, add the frozen corn, cilantro, and juice of one lime. Reseason with salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve with sour cream, cilantro, jalapeños, and more lime. Enjoy!
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