Monday, June 4, 2012

May in Review and Taco Soup Recipe

May 2012 was quite a strange month. So much has happened and life has changed so much, that it’s hard to believe that it’s only been one measly month. While April flew by, May drug on and on, but in a totally awesome way. I think that the long summer days in Scotland have helped me to feel more energetic and productive, especially when the sun is shining.
The weather lately has been sunshine interspersed with days of non-stop drizzle and a sky blanketed in gray clouds. It’s some powerful stuff that has the ability to sap the energy right out of your body. It’s a constant fight, but what’s been working for me is to exercise in the mornings, fight the temptation of putting on my pajamas after my shower, and making a scheduled list of tasks to complete for the day. Also, caffeine helps. Thank you Lord, for Green Tea and Dr. Pepper Zero. Honestly, I’m not sure I could function without it.
It’s also been a great help that I’ve met a few ex-pats in the area who have been welcoming and gracious enough to invite me to several upcoming events which also motivates me to get out of my pajamas and out of the house. Currently on my calendar I have Bachelorette viewings, Book Club, hikes, and Italian dinner reservations. Apparently, Aberdeen is very similar to how I imagine pure heaven. Thank you Lord, for a kind and generous ex-pat community who have welcomed us with open arms.

So looking back and taking stock of May, I’ve not only been productive around the house, but with my personal goals as well.
Reading: I read 4.5 books last month, which more than doubled my usual ‘2 books a month’ goal. I think it might be time to step it up a notch and read one book a week. We shall see. Once I finish Pat Conroy’s Beach Music, I will move on to the first two Game of Thrones books (George R. R. Martin) and also On Black Sister’s Street by Chika Unigwe for June’s Book Club. My first ever book club book! Eek! I am so excited and feel so adult.
Writing: I didn’t quite reach my goal of 20,000 words this month, but I came much closer than I ever have before by writing a little over 17,000. I guess when I’m cut off from phone dates with friends and family, my wordiness gets displaced into my writing. Now I’ll admit, it hasn’t been my best work, but quantity over quality, right?

Cooking: Though I haven’t technically attempted any new recipes this month, I give myself credit in this arena for having to adapt my regular dishes to Scottish ingredient availability. This month I have attempted four of my back pocket recipes: Lasagna, Quinoa Stuffed BellpeppersChicken Parmesan, and Taco Soup.

I have to say that the most disappointing one was the Quinoa, which I never would have expected since the recipe calls mainly for fresh veggies, all of which are readily available here. It turns out that the problem was in substituting mozzarella cheese for pepper jack. Much to my dismay, pepper jack cheese doesn’t exist in Aberdeen, so my choices were limited to mozzarella or cheddar. The mozzarella was too light and delicate and made the dish taste watered down. I think that Cheddar might actually be the better substitution since it’s got a punch of flavor.

The most pleasant surprise was Taco Soup. Now, we technically “cheated” and brought Rotel Tomatoes, Pinto beans, and Ranch mix with us, but we still couldn’t find any cream style corn or golden hominy at the store. We used regular sweet corn in place of cream style and it gave a nice surprising flavor to the soup. Chickpeas actually made a wonderful substitution for hominy, so all in all, Taco Soup was a success, much to Jonathan’s relief. I’m not sure the boy could survive without Taco Soup once a month.

Below you’ll find the recipe, and I promise you it will change your life. Everyone seems to have their own variations of a Taco Soup recipe, but this one was handed down from my mother-in-law and I find it the most delicious and also the easiest version that I’ve tried. Again, you'll find the necessary UK substitutions in orange. The stars indicate which items I have yet to find in Scotland, though I have heard that they're available sporadically.
It's more appetizing than it looks, I promise!
Taco Soup
1 LB lean ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 onion, chopped
1 16 oz can pinto beans (undrained)**
1 “ “ “ “ “ kidney beans
1 “            golden hominy(Chick peas make good substitution)
1 19 oz  “ cream style corn (regular sweet corn works in UK)
1 14 oz diced stewed tomatoes (Chopped Tomatoes in Tomato Juice)
1 10 oz can rotel ** can be found at skyco
1 envelope ranch style dressing mix **
1 cup shredded Mexican cheese Cheddar???
1 bag of chips of your choosing. Fritos are our personal favorites. Tortilla chips can be found at Costco; Doritos are available at other stores.
Brown ground beef and chopped onion; drain.
Add taco seasoning, mix thoroughly.
Add cans of beans, hominy, corn, and tomatoes.
Stir in ranch seasoning mix.
Simmer over low heat until bubbly.
Add cheese and serve with chips.


  1. I'm pretty sure you can find Monterey Jack cheese or "Mexican Cheese" at Tesco or Sainsbury's. It's the closest you'll get! We're too car from the border! ;)

    I'm so glad that you've met some other expat's. It truly does make all the difference. I hope you'll be so busy in June with your new friends!

    I'm totally making this Taco Soup. My mouth is watering! I miss Mexican food the most. Oh, and Dr Pepper is the nectar of the god's!

  2. Making this recipe tonight! We got a crazy cold front, making it 65 degrees outside :) That's a crazy warm front for your these days, but great soup weather for us!! XO

  3. Never even thought about using chickpeas. My taco soup recipe doesn't call for it but I will certainly be adding some in when I make it tonight!