Saturday, November 5, 2011

Simply Saturday with Guest Mindy Obenhaus!

What a pleasure to be here at the Yankee-Belle today with Missy and Ruthy. They’ve done a great job of bringing together two of my favorite things—food and fun. And since they opened their kitchen, I’ve added some fantastic new recipes and ideas to my repertoire.

Ah, but you didn’t stop by to hear me run on. You’re here for a simple Saturday recipe, so let’s get to it.

Now that the weather has turned cooler—which in Texas means we’ve dropped below 80—I like to cook up some hearty meals that are sure to fill the bellies, not to mention the hollow legs, of my teen and tween-age boys. Since acquiring this taco soup recipe from my sister-in-law over a decade ago, I’ve seen many different taco soup recipes. Yet there is one ingredient in this particular recipe that, I think, makes it stand out from the rest.

So grab your can openers and let’s get started.

You will need:

2 lbs. ground beef (I used ground venison in this batch. You could also use ground turkey or bison)
1 onion, chopped
2 – 4 oz. cans diced green chilies (I cheat and use 1 – 7 oz. can)
3 – 15 oz. cans pinto beans (my personal preference is Ranch Style Beans, but if you can’t find them where you live, plain pintos are fine. If you like variety, add two cans of pintos and one of kidney beans)
2 – 14 ½  oz. cans golden hominy
3 – 14 ½ oz. cans stewed tomatoes (Since my boys don’t like big chunks of tomato I use the petite-cut diced tomatoes, usually one 29 oz. can plus one 14 ½ oz.)
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 packet Ranch dressing powder mix (If you buy this in the bulk containers like I do, add two tablespoons)
1 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Lots of ingredients, I know. But as Ruthy would say, it’s easy-peasy.

Brown ground meat and onion in a large Dutch oven or stock pot and drain off fat.

Add remaining ingredients. No draining, just open and dump.

Stir well. Let simmer for one hour.

While you’re waiting, you may want to whip up a batch of cornbread to go with it. Here’s Great-mom’s recipe for good, old-fashioned cornbread.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan or cast iron skillet. When I’m making a big batch, I use a large cast iron skillet, but for everyday purposes I use a small rectangular pan. This one has been blackened by years of use.

Place pan in oven while preheating.

In a bowl, mix 1 cup of yellow corn meal, ¾ cup of flour, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Add 1 egg and 2 cups buttermilk. Stir well. You can use regular milk and the bread will be just as tasty. Simply start with 1½ cups and add more, if needed, until mixture is just a little thinner than cake batter.

Remove heated pan from preheated oven and IMMEDIATELY pour in batter. This will “fry” the bottom, giving it a nice crispy texture. (the corner pieces are my favorite!) Return pan to oven and bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. I like to flip mine over in the pan as soon as it comes out so the bottom will retain that crispiness I worked so hard to achieve.

Voila! Dinner is served.

Other than the ease of preparation, one of the best things about this recipe is how much it makes. Great for feeding a crowd. I have a friend who likes to take it on camping trips. She just browns the ground beef ahead of time, seals it in a Ziploc bag, and then mixes everything together at the campsite. Oh, and taco soup tastes even better the next day!

Ruthy and Missy, thank you for having me today. Hope y’all enjoy this family favorite as much as we do.


  1. Another recipe I've never tried Mindy :) actually, I've never tasted cornbread! Should make it to give it a try too :)

  2. First, I love anyone that uses venison. You have now entered the Ruthy-Elite club of down-home normal folk.

    Good job on that!!!!

    And I buy bulk containers of Hidden Valley Ranch at Sam's Club. Who knew that a Texas hottie and an aging Yank could have so much in common???? Oh my stars!!!!

    And I bet it is awesome the second day. Some things just veg better as they sit. Mindy, thank you so much for this. I'm going to try it over Thanksgiving weekend when the crowd bustles in! And I love your darkened pan. Dark pans (well-used) distribute heat better and more evenly... I'm clinging to the fact that OLD doesn't always equate BAD... sometimes it just means "seasoned"! ;)

  3. Mindy, I can't wait to make this!! And Ruthy, Thanksgiving sounds like a perfect time.

    Mindy, you make cornbread the same way I do. We have an old iron skillet that we got from my husband's grandmother after she died. No telling how old it is. I love it! It's small and perfect for about 6 servings.

    Oh, and did I mention that instead of oil, my dad always fried a couple of pieces of bacon in the pan before heating the skillet? So we'd cook our cornbread in bacon grease. Baby oh baby, it doesn't get any better than that! ;)

    Seasoned. I like that term for the aging process, Ruthy. I'm not getting old. I'm seasoned. :)

  4. Eva Maria! You don't know what you're missing! :) Yes, give it a try. Especially the way Mindy makes it.

    You know, one thing we've always done with cornbread made like that is to slice the crispy outside off the slice of cornbread. Crumble the inside over our serving of pinto beans. Then eat that crispy outside with butter and honey or molasses. YUM!

  5. Missy, I've used the bacon grease for cornbread, too. Remember when you read the "Little House" books they talked about cracklings? Those are like bits of hard pork you skim off the lard, so today's 'bacon bits'... If I have a leftover strip of bacon (and think to freeze it), I crisp it in the microwave, crumble it and leave it in the freezer for "cracklin's" for corn bread.

    And (gasp now) I sometimes save bacon grease to use in pie crust for meat pies. If I'm making chicken pie or beef pie, that hint of smoke in the crust is wonderful.

    This is also the reason that people eye my refrigerator with GREAT SUSPICION.

  6. If we're having confession time...

    I used to keep a coffee cup of bacon grease on the stovetop! Now that I think about it, it probably should have been in the fridge! I'm glad I never poisoned anyone (other than poisoning their arteries). :)

    That was always so good for flavoring vegetables. A spoonful of bacon grease and a dash of sugar. :)

    These days, I use canola or olive oil. We're so much healthier!

    BTW, Food Network is going in the background at the moment, and Sunny Anderson just made red velvet brownies!

  7. Red Velvet Brownies. Now I'm wanting some and it's only 9am.

    Mindy, your chili soup sounds delicious. I'll have to ask Ruthy about her stores, but I don't believe I've ever seen hominy up here in Yankee city. Is there something I can substitute?

    If anyone's interested, I put up a page of great healthy soup recipes as my contribution to today's blog. There's a Chili-spiced chicken soup with stoplight peppers (meaning red, yellow and green) and avocado relish.Yum.

  8. Mary, I'll be sure to stop by later! Sounds yummy!

    I would think you could find canned hominy even if y'all don't eat grits up there. :)

  9. Mary, I have to check that out. We have huge superstores here (Wegmans and Tops) and they carry just about everything from every nation so we should have the hominy. But (confession) I've never bought it, so I'll have Dave scout it out. He works for Tops Markets.

    And Missy, I keep it on the stove sometimes, too. In the winter when I use it more often. And it's fine. No deaths, yet. Remember, they stored lard in jars and tubs in the pantry. And botulism can only grow in an air-tight environment.

    What a horrible conversation. I'm going back to red velvet brownies!!! SOOOOO hungry right now, but my attic is turning into an office and I've got 2500 words done this morning on the synopsis for next November's book... and a formal wedding this afternoon where I must look GOOD for a few hours.

    That is not necessarily easy.

  10. Good morning, everyone. Eva, cornbread is a staple in the south. We always have the ingredients in hand. Some folks add sugar, some a little, some a lot. I prefer it without sugar. However, I do like it with lots of butter :-)

  11. Ruthy, I not only cook with venison, I've even processed it in my own kitchen! I don't know about the hottie or the old, but did I ever tell you I was raised in Michigan? And I LOVE my seasoned pans.

  12. Missy, the crispy part is my FAVORITE. Just thinking about it makes me want to go whip up a batch.
    We rarely have REAL bacon around here. My sixteen year old will devour and entire package by himself. We use turkey bacon on a day-to-day basis and save the real stuff for special occasions or for our traditional camp house breakfast when we're at the ranch. There I do have one of those little grease pots that strains and has the pour spout. Bacon or bacon grease just makes everything taste better.

  13. Red velvet brownies? Be still my heart.
    Missy, I drizzle olive oil over my green beans and cabbage when they cook. Tastes almost as good as bacon. Especially with a little bit of sugar.

  14. Mary, you should be able to find hominy. It's just one of those things you've probably never paid attention to before. I suppose, in a pinch, you could use corn, though that would add a sweeter flavor.
    I'll check out your healthy recipes.

  15. Wow, this looks totally yummy!!! Bacon grease makes everything better. Now you sound like the butter queen, Paula D.

  16. Tina, I always say, when in doubt add fat :-)

  17. Tina was kind enough to lighten the photo of the pan for me, so I just switched it out. you can get a better look at Mindy's seasoned pan! :)

  18. Mindy, I didn't even know they make grease pots!! Oh my gosh. I need a new gadget. :)

    Actually, I learned a tip from Melissa D'Arabian (?sp), the Food Network star from a couple of years ago. She suggest keeping a pound of bacon in the freezer in a ziplock baggie. Then just slice off a hunk when you need it. Slice right across all the pieces. You don't have to separate it. So I usually do that. If I buy bacon for my son, I buy the already-cooked stuff you must microwave. That way he can make it quickly for his breakfast without a mess. :)

  19. Mindy! What a great blog post! I have so many comments to make! Where to start?

    Okay, first - Taco soup? Sounds fabulous. I might have to leave out the hominy for my picky eater (my MIL's fault, not mine), but I'll add it in for my portion.

    Second - corn bread is divine. I've always made it with butter, melting the butter in the pan in the oven, and then pouring it into the batter, mixing, and then pouring the batter into the hot pan. Love the way the crust turns out - but the next time I make it, I'll have to try bacon grease instead :)

    And corn bread with sugar? I've heard that southerners call that cake. I love mine made with sugar and plenty of honey poured over it.

    Third - of course bacon makes everything taste better. Except chocolate.

    Fourth - You grew up in Michigan? So did I! In fact, I still carry around my handy map of Michigan with me everywhere I go. (For you non-Michiganders, just hold up your left hand with the palm facing away from you and you'll see what I mean.) I lived in Kalamazoo from age 5 to 25 - I loved it then, but it's changed so much I have no desire to go back except to visit my brother and his family.

    Fifth - I love, love, love venison, whenever I can get it. Unfortunately, I don't live with hunters, even though I've offered to buy the gun and cook the meat. Maybe someday...

    Sixth - (and last, I promise) we lived in Texas for three years back in the '90's - one of our many moves - and I still love good Tex-Mex. Nothing beats it!

  20. We love us some good huntin' stock here in upstate NY, Jan! :) Dave has always hunted deer, and we raised these leastun's on venison...

    And they'll groan to hear me talk that way.

    Mmm... butter.

    Mmmmm.....bacon grease. ;)

    If God didn't want us to have bacon, he wouldn't make pigs so fat.

    I'm stickin' with that.

  21. LOL, Jan! I can just see you handing your guys a gun and begging them to go shoot dinner. :)

    I have to admit...I've never had venison. And if anyone in my family ever talked of hunting, I'd probably shame them about Bambi. :) I guess I'll never have a taste, but I'm okay sticking with beef. :)

  22. Jan, I can't imagine it without the hominy. That's my favorite part.
    Sweet cornbread has its place, just not with a meal. Unless it's at the end or the beginning. Or all by itself :-)
    Chocolate with bacon? Yes, some things are just wrong.
    I grew up in a small town just north of Lansing. Miss the four seasons, but not all those months of winter.
    Jan, Tex-Mex is a staple. And I have no problem downing an entire bowl of chips by myself. Heaven....I'm in heaven.

  23. Ruthy, I agree 100%.

    Missy, next time I get you to Texas, like next year's ACFW conference, I'll have to rustle up some chicken fried venison. Yum-yum!

  24. I'll tak you up on that, Mindy! :)