Tag: main dishes

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili uses pantry ingredients, can be on your table in 30 minutes, and has a great vegetarian option.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Frozen Broccoli

Broccoli Cheddar Soup with Frozen Broccoli

Broccoli cheddar soup uses frozen broccoli as the perfect shortcut to a comforting, cozy weeknight dinner.

How to Make Taco Soup

How to Make Taco Soup

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission for items bought through some of the links in this post, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Gracious Cooking.

Welcome to Soup Month 2022! Every Friday in October will feature a new, luscious soup recipe. First up is Taco Soup! I was not introduced to taco soup until my 20s. While I was serving as a missionary in Austria, we had a conference with all of the Sister missionaries. At dinner time, out came a pot full of beans, ground beef, and vegetables in a tomato-y broth awash with spices. As we dug in, I felt the warm feeling of nostalgia wash over me, even though this was an unfamiliar dish. It’s funny how you can taste your home culture. A good, old-fashioned slice of Americana was most welcome after almost 18 months away.

taco soup

Origins of Taco Soup

Where did taco soup come from? It’s kind of a mystery! Taco soup doesn’t seem to have any origin stories that I can find. If you have heard one, please leave it in the comments. I love food origin myths. We only truly know where a limited number of dishes come from, the rest of the tales are handed down through tradition and we all swear we know the true version of the story. All I could find about taco soup is that originated in the Southwest United States sometime in the 1950’s.

What is Taco Soup?

Taco soup is a tomato-based soup with ground beef and vegetables seasoned with aromatic Southwestern seasonings. What’s the difference between chili and taco soup, you ask? That depends on your definition of “chili.” For me, taco soup includes more vegetables than chili, such as carrots and corn. Chili also tends to be at least somewhat spicy, where my taco soup is mild and rich. You can certainly pump up the heat with some hot peppers sauteed with the onions if you wish.

At least half of the joy of this soup comes from the toppings. The soup is very good without them, but really shines when accessories such as sour cream, Fritos, cheese, and avocado slices are generously added. The toppings add texture, creaminess, and happiness. Especially don’t skip the Fritos.

Special Ingredients

This recipe uses mostly pantry ingredients. The only specialty ingredient may be smoked paprika, which you can find at most grocery stores.

Can I Use Pre-Made Taco Seasoning?

You could use a pre-made taco seasoning instead of the spice blend listed in the recipe in a pinch. I don’t recommend it, however, as that will totally change the flavor profile of this meal. The spices have been chosen on purpose and tested for balance of flavor.

taco soup

Special Techniques

This easy recipe comes together in about 30 minutes. The only special technique is blooming the spices. All that means is that you will add your spices to the meat and vegetable mixture right before you add the tomatoes. Stirring the spices through the beef and cooking oil will release oil soluble compounds in the spices, unleashing their full flavors. Only bloom the spices for about 10 to 20 seconds before you add the tomatoes though. You don’t want your spice mix to burn.


Only very basic equipment is needed for this delicious soup. The only specialty piece of equipment is a 6 quart enameled Dutch oven. I love enameled cast iron for soup because of its great heat retention and easy to clean surface. You can, however, use any heavy-bottomed pot.

Storing Your Soup

Taco soup can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. I imagine it can also be frozen once cooked, but I have not tested this. It has never survived my ravenous family long enough to make it into the freezer.

I can’t wait for you to make this recipe! Please tag me on social media @at_home_test_cook and leave a comment telling me about your creation!

taco soup

Taco Soup

Gracious Cooking
This hearty taco soup is full of delicious beef and vegetables, and comes together in about 45 minutes.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6


  • 1 6 quart pot or larger preferably an enameled Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot.


Spice Mix

  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder not garlic salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

For the Soup

  • 3 whole carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/8 slices on the bias (diagonal). about 1 cup
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced Any color works. Use your favorite!
  • 1 lb ground beef I use 85% lean
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups beef stock Any stock, or even water, would work.


  • sour cream
  • Fritos
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • avocado slices optional


  • Combine all of the ingredients for the spice mix in a small bowl. Stir together.
  • Preheat a fairly large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  • Add sliced carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until they start to soften.
  • Add the diced onion and bell pepper, cook until the onion is translucent.
  • Add 1 pound ground beef, and cook until browned, breaking it into crumbles with a spoon or spatula.
  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Have your tomatoes at the ready, and add the spice mix. Stir until fragrant, about 20 seconds. This blooms the spices, resulting in deeper flavor.
  • Add the can of tomatoes and beef stock and stir.
  • Add the drained black beans and the corn kernels.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Serve with sour cream, Fritos, cheese, and any other garnishes.
Keyword Ground Beef, homemade, Quick & Easy, Soup, Tacos, vegetables
Homemade Cheez-It Tostadas

Homemade Cheez-It Tostadas

I made Joshua Weissman’s recipe for Taco Bell’s Big Cheez-It Tostadas. It was adventure in cheese, crackers, and fast food fun.

Sheet Pan Steamed Salmon

Sheet Pan Steamed Salmon

This simple, elegant salmon dinner comes together in 40 minutes!

Creamy Mushroom Soup With Chicken And Brown Rice

Creamy Mushroom Soup With Chicken And Brown Rice

Soon after we got married, Mark and I were talking about food, and Mark told me that he “doesn’t like soup.” What? Who doesn’t like soup? Soup is so great! Warm and comforting, it’s perfect during cold weather. What’s not to like? Turns out, what he meant is that he doesn’t like thin soups. Ok, I can kind of get that. Unless it’s a first course or a snack, I want a full bodied soup with lots of stuff in it. That, friends, is exactly what creamy mushroom soup with chicken and brown rice delivers.

mushroom soup

Make Ahead

There are two ingredients that need to be prepped ahead of time for this recipe.

First, you need some leftover cooked chicken. I used a rotisserie chicken. Second, you’ll need to cook some brown rice. I love brown rice in this dish because it adds a really nice chewy texture and a nutty flavor to the soup. I put the brown rice in my rice cooker about an hour before I’m ready to start making the rest of the mushroom soup. I make two cups of cooked rice. I add one cup to the soup directly and then put rice on the table so that people can add more if they wish.

Mushrooms for Mushroom Soup

“Carli, does it really matter what variety of mushrooms I use for this mushroom soup?” Good question. No. The recipe calls for cremini mushrooms because I like them and they are easy to get in my area. You can absolutely use a button mushroom, or anything that looks good at the store. No problem. Also, hot tip, if your grocery store has loose, bulk mushrooms, they are usually half the price per pound as their pre-packaged counterparts.

How to Clean Mushrooms

Don’t submerge in or rinse mushrooms with water. They are little sponges and will get waterlogged. This will make them steam during cooking instead of browning. Instead, take a damp cloth or paper towel and wipe your mushrooms clean.

chopped mushrooms

Tips and Tricks

Soup is fun to make, and here are some tips to make it go as smoothly as possible.

  1. Chop your mushrooms small, and cook them until browned. This will give you maximum flavor and a pleasing texture.
  2. Layer your seasoning. Salt lightly after every layer. This will build a better flavor at the end of cooking. Also, I know it’s counterintuitive, but you will use less salt if you do this instead of doing all of the seasoning at the end. Also, taste often. When you add the cream, the fat will dull your seasoning, so definitely taste and re-season after this step.
  3. Acid is your friend. This is the secret sauce in a great mushroom soup, and really in a lot of cooking. The white wine vinegar and the lemon juice will brighten up the soup and make the seasoning pop. Just taste often so you don’t add too much.
Mushroom soup

I’m pleased to say that over the course of our marriage, Mark has learned to like soup. In fact, when he came up from work yesterday and saw me making this one, his reaction was “yessssssss!” Also, I should mention that we are not mushroom lovers normally. We’ve been building our relationship with the little fungi over the last year, but they are not normally our go-to. However, we love this soup. If you too are building your relationship with mushrooms, creamy mushroom soup with chicken and brown rice is a great place to start.

Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Chicken and Brown Rice

Gracious Cooking
This soup can be on your table in about 30 minutes. It's warm, comforting, and it has vegetables!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, French
Servings 4 servings


  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped You can use any mushroom you'd like.
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 cups unsalted chicken stock 1 box
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt You will need more to taste, but this is a good starting point. Be sure to taste for salt after you add the cream.
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Plus more to taste.
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere's No Salt seasoning Or your favorite seasoning blend with a kick.
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream Again, you can add more if you'd like, but start here. Half and half would also work.
  • 1 cup brown rice, previously cooked
  • 1 and 1/2 cup cooked chicken, chopped Rotisserie chicken is great here.
  • fresh lemon juice To taste, about 1 to 2 teaspoons.
  • freshly chopped Italian parsley, to garnish Optional.


  • Heat a 6 quart enameled Dutch oven, or other large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
  • Add the olive oil and the chopped mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are browned. They will cook down a lot. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Add the diced onion. Cook until the onions are translucent. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  • Add the minced garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding the white wine vinegar and scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a spatula or whisk.
  • Stir 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) of unsalted butter into the veggies, just until it melts.
  • Add 1/4 cup of flour, and stir for about 1 minute. This forms the roux, which will thicken the soup slightly.
  • Add a little bit of chicken stock and whisk the pot, scraping brown bits off the bottom. This will thicken quickly. Add more stock, whisk, and then add the rest of the stock and whisk until combined.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tony Chachere's. You will need to season this soup several times, because the cream will mute this first full seasoning. The flavors are more rich and complex if you season as you go instead of just trying to season at the end. Also, you'll use less salt, I promise.
  • After the soup comes to a low boil, turn down the heat to medium low and add the cream. How much to use is up to you, but I would start with 3/4 of a cup. That was about right for me.
  • Add the brown rice and the chicken.
  • Bring the soup back to a simmer. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary.
  • Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice if you'd like.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley.
  • Serve with toast and salted butter.


The chicken in this dish is completely optional. It would be very delicious without it, too.
Keyword Brown Rice, Chicken, Cream Cheese, Mushroom, Soup
Butter Basted Steak: Bring the Steakhouse Home

Butter Basted Steak: Bring the Steakhouse Home

Leave the steakhouse in the dust and make your own satisfying butter basted steak in the comfort of your own home.

Veggie Tacos Make Eating Vegetables Easy

Veggie Tacos Make Eating Vegetables Easy

Veggie tacos make eating your vegetables super delicious! Bursting with flavor, these tacos will please everyone at the table.

Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce: An Upgraded College Favorite

Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce: An Upgraded College Favorite

This post contains affiliate links. This means that I receive a small commission for items bought through some of the links in this post, at no cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting Gracious Cooking.

Shepherd’s pie originated in Ireland sometime in the 18th century, probably. There’s no single person or event to trace its history to, but we know it came about in Ireland under British control. Traditionally, shepherd’s pie was leftover roast lamb or mutton repurposed with a top and bottom crust of mashed potatoes. This helped stretch the family’s food supply when times were lean, which was pretty much the entire 18th, and 19th centuries if you were an Irish Catholic.

Shepherd’s Pie vs Cottage Pie – A Little History

In the 15th century, England officially conquered Ireland and brought it into the United Kingdom. Ireland was a predominately Catholic country. England was Protestant at the time. This was a huge point of contention, and as the conquering nation, England installed English Protestants and Irish converts as landowners. The Irish Catholics worked the land and lived in extreme poverty most of the time. This is obviously not all there is to that story. I’ll list some articles for further reading at the bottom of this post.

Beef is more expensive to produce than lamb or mutton. Ireland raised quite a bit of cattle for the English, but consumed very little beef. Technically, shepherd’s pie comes form Ireland and is made with lamb or mutton and cottage pie is English and is made with beef. We are making our shepherd’s pie with beef. Sorry, I guess? Ground lamb is not easy to get where I live, whereas ground beef is readily available. My how the tables have turned!

shepherd's pie

This Shepherd’s Pie Is A Little Different

This is one of the very few meals that either of us ate in college that Mark and I still make (chicken dip is another). Mark adapted this recipe from a roommate, and I adapted it from him. You’ll notice two very non-traditional ingredients as soon as you read the recipe- tomato soup and ketchup.

Tomatoes usually play no part in shepherd’s pie, but stay with me! It’s really delicious. The tomato soup and ketchup add sweetness, umami, and tanginess to the sauce. It just really works. You’ll also notice a little bit of brown sugar. This helps round out the flavor. Just trust me.

How to Make Shepherd’s Pie

The Mashed Potatoes

If you live in a house where leftover mashed potatoes are a thing, lucky you! Use those! The mashed potatoes never survive long enough to be leftovers around here, so I always just make fresh mashed potatoes for shepherd’s pie. I use a basic recipe with milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. And russet potatoes, of course.

mashed potato ingredients for shepherds pie

Cook the peeled and sliced potatoes for about 15 minutes once the water is boiling. Start in a cold pot though. This helps the potatoes cook evenly as the water warms up. After they’re done, drain and mash them with your other ingredients.

You can use whichever mashing method you please. I like to just use a potato masher. Set the mashed spuds aside while you make the filling.

The Filling

Start by sauteing your diced carrots for a few minutes. Next add the onion, and cook until translucent. Then add your ground beef and brown that. After the beef is cooked through, add your can of tomato soup and the ketchup, along with 1/4 cup of water. Stir that together. Now for the seasoning. Use the brown sugar, salt and pepper amounts in the recipe as guidelines. Taste the filling a few times and season it to your liking. After you get the seasoning where you’d like, add the frozen peas and corn.

Assembling the Shepherd’s Pie

When the filling is done, spread it into a glass 9″x13″ baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the filling, and carefully spread them out. Drag a fork across the top of the potatoes to create some texture. Brush a little melted butter on top, and your shepherd’s pie is ready for the oven!

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes to warm through, then turn the broiler on for a few minutes to brown the potatoes on top a little bit. Watch that broiler though! After it comes out of the oven, let the shepherd’s pie cool for a few minutes before digging in.

This shepherd’s pie is savory, full of vegetables, and makes incredible leftovers! Please share this post if you like it! It helps me out a lot. Also, pretty please share your pictures with me when you make it! Until next time!

Further reading



Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce

Gracious Cooking
This untraditional take on Shepherd's Pie combines mashed potatoes, ground beef, veggies, and a tomato sauce made of tomato soup and ketchup for a savory dinner the whole family will love. It sounds weird, but it's delicious!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine United Kingdom
Servings 12 servings


For the Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 and 1/2 pounds russet potatoes see notes
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Filling

  • 1/2 large onion, diced or 1 small onion
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels


For the Mashed Potatoes

  • Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches. Don't turn on the heat yet.
  • Peel the potatoes, rinse them, cut them in half the long way, and cut them into 1/2 inch half-moon slices.
  • Place the sliced potatoes in the pot, and turn the heat on to high.
  • Once the pot comes to a full boil, cook the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  • Drain the potatoes into a colander, then put them back into the hot pot for a minute to dry out a little.
  • Pour the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 Tablespoons of butter and begin mashing with a potato masher.
  • Add the milk, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Continue mashing until your desired consistency is achieved. Set aside.

For the Filling

  • Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little bit of olive oil (or a neutral oil). Add the carrots and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the diced onion to the pan, and sauté until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Drain fat if desired.
  • Add the tomato soup and ketchup to the pan. Stir to combine. Thin the sauce out with the water.
  • Add the brown sugar, sea salt, black pepper, and red wine vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine and let the filling come to a simmer.
  • Stir in the frozen peas and corn, and taste for seasoning.

Assemble the Shepherd's Pie

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lightly spray a glass 9×13 inch baking dish with baking spray. If you don't have any, don't worry about it. It helps with sticking a little, but isn't strictly necessary.
  • Pour the beef and vegetable filling into the baking dish. Smooth the filling into an even layer.
  • Dollop large spoonfulls of mashed potatoes all over the filling. Carefully spread the potatoes into an even layer with a rubber spatula, being careful not to disturb the filling.
  • Lightly scrape the surface of the potatoes with a fork to create texture.
  • Lightly brush the top of your Shepherd's Pie with 2 Tablespoons of melted butter.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler at 500 degrees for 5-7 minutes, or until you have some browned spots on top.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy!


Shepherd’s Pie makes great leftovers! Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I like a lot of mashed potatoes in this recipe, but feel free to use fewer potatoes if you want a thinner layer of mashed potatoes on top. Just reduce the other ingredients in the mashed potatoes accordingly.
Keyword Carrots, Corn, Ground Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Tomato Sauce
Wienerschnitzel Is Not A Hotdog

Wienerschnitzel Is Not A Hotdog

Chicken Wienerschnitzel is crispy, delicious, and perfect when paired with Austrian potato salad and lemon wedges.

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