Budget-friendly. Quick and easy. Serves a crowd. Need we say more?

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There is a tangible difference in the atmosphere these days. The light is different in the early morning hours, a bit sharper perhaps, because the sun’s rays do not have to sift through layers of thick humidity to reach us. I can enjoy a cup of coffee outside at daybreak without blindly swatting at swarms of biting no-see’ums. The change is still palpable at noon, producing unrestrained smiles on the faces of coworkers as they head outside for lunch. As the temperatures change so do my weeknight dinner choices. In the warm weather months, along with roasted chicken, seafood, and summer vegetable dishes, I use ground beef quite often for outdoor grilled burgers and meat sauce for pasta dishes. With the coming of cool weather and fall, however, my favorite recipe using ground beef is what my family calls Santa Fe Soup.

A variation of this recipe appears in most community cookbooks, and a quick review of the ingredients and instructions reveal why this soup is so popular. Sometimes referred to as Taco Soup, Southwestern Soup, or some other name with a Tex-Mex twist, the “bones” of this recipe are always the same. Browned ground beef. Multiple cans of a variety of beans, i.e. black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc. Canned diced tomatoes and canned corn. Packets of ranch dressing mix and taco seasoning mix. You get the picture – this soup is made with items you probably already have in your pantry. No exotic, hard-to-find ingredients, just a can of this and a can of that, blended together in one pot to create a mouth-watering dish of cool-weather comfort food.

This recipe is also a favorite because it is so adaptable. Use your favorite combination of beans and peas. If you don’t have shoe peg corn, use creamed corn or even frozen. Chop and stir in an onion or carrot. Use leftover chicken instead of ground beef. Some recipe variations will call for two packets each of the seasoning mixes – again, it is cook’s choice as to what and how much of something you put in the mix. You really can’t ruin this soup.

Budget-minded cooks can feel good about making a batch of this soup because the recipe, which uses inexpensive ingredients, makes a LOT. I always have leftover soup to either freeze for another time or serve for lunch and supper over the next two to three days. Simple, economical toppings such as sour cream, grated cheese, diced avocado, or lime wedges add extra flavor and visual appeal. Aside from the meatf, beans, and vegetables, the soup has a delicious broth, and you will want to serve a hunk of white bread, a slice of hot cornbread, or crunchy corn chips to help sop it all up.

I no longer have a written copy of my recipe anymore, and I can’t remember who shared it with me in the first place, so many years ago. I have passed it along to friends and family, and now I will share it with you. Tell me about your own variation of this soup, and the different ingredients you use.

Santa Fe Soup

Yield: A Lot
Do not drain cans. All cans will be the standard 15.5oz except niblet corn, which is 7 oz.

1. Brown 1 lb. of ground beef, drain beef and place in a Dutch oven.

2. ADD: 2 cans of black beans, 2 cans of garbanzo beans, 2 cans of kidney beans, 2 cans of hominy, 2 cans of diced tomatoes, 2 cans of niblet corn, 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix and 1 packet of taco seasoning mix (I cut the seasonings from two to one each – I felt the flavorings were a bit overpowering) Add water if mixture is too thick.

3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes before serving. 

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Budget-friendly, quick and easy, high yield, and totally delicious. What more do you want in a recipe? Make this soup just one time, and it will become your favorite ground beef recipe to make this fall.