Monday, June 20, 2011


Edinburgh welcomed us back with grey skies and gale force winds, but a short train ride deposited us in picturesque Pitlochry, Scotland for a work retreat.  

Near to our lodging was the Atholl Castle Hotel - I know it's immature, but this name kills me every time.

I love this massive tree; it reminds me of the Keira Knightly "Pride and Prejudice" - anyone else?

And retreat it was except for the jet lag still holding onto us for dear life.

Train ride back from Pitlochry to Edinburgh

Once we were home again (Edinburgh), we jumped back into the swing of things.  Our friend, Heather, came over while we unpacked, we went to church, had Sunday lunch with new and dear friends, hung out in the garden, and after I put Seth down for bed, I sat down to do my online grocery order (I got a new stroller for Seth's 1st b-day from Taylor's side of the family - it's amazing, but has a significantly smaller basket:)).  Before I could start ordering, I had to plan out my menu for soup night to avoid having  to go to the grocery store multiple times.  (Taylor is laughing at this point because no matter how well I plan, this is unavoidable for me - can we say, Achilles Heel?)

Summer and soup doesn't really work in Texas unless you're making Gazpacho, so in honor of the idea of a hot summer, I chose that for my vegetarian/lactose intolerant option, and Chicken Taco Soup for my everybody else option.

I started systematically going through the ingredients for each recipe, adding items to my virtual shopping cart (or "trolley" as they say it here).  I was doing pretty well until I reached "1-16oz can of Ranch Style Beans".  I knew it was pointless, but I thought I'd see if just maybe Sainsbury's happened to them.  Just in case.

Not so much.

Still suffering from jet lag, I may have overreacted a bit at this point.  (But c'mon! How am I supposed to live in a place that has no Ranch Style Beans?  It's criminal!)  I wallowed a bit and complained to Taylor who proceeded to tell me to use different beans instead.  Different beans?  Ranch Style Beans makes this recipe.  It wasn't even worth making if I couldn't find the key ingredient!

All of a sudden it came to me.

Google it!

 I was sure that I could find the recipe to make the gravy of Ranch Style Beans myself.  And thanks to the "Homesick Texan Blog" I could.  I read through her blog post commiserating with her as I read but ecstatic that I had found such a great resource!  Before I could get too excited, I read the first ingredient: ancho chiles.


If I can't find Ranch Style Beans, I was probably going to have just as much trouble finding ancho chiles too.  Ever the optimist, I typed it in the Sainsbury's search box anyway.

Not so much.

I sighed to myself killing the dream of being able to properly make one of my favorite soups for my neighbors and listened to my husband.  Black beans it would be.

And, guess what?  Soup Night was still a success.  My gracious neighbors didn't seem to mind the lack of Ranch Style yumminess. And besides, they're from Cali, Rhode Island, Kansas, Croatia, Venezuela, and Iran - they have no idea about Ranch Style Beans in the first place.  Ignorance really is bliss I guess.

Some even asked for the recipe.

Thanks y'all!

Chicken Taco Soup:

Serves 4 to 6 people

I originally got this recipe from my friend, former social studies department colleague, and wonderful cook, Bobbie.  I think it originally comes from though I have adapted it some.

1/2 c diced onions
1/2 c diced green bell pepper
1 T minced garlic
vegetable oil
1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 package taco seasoning (I use Old El Paso low sodium)
8oz salsa (I make my own)
1-14oz can of corn (I use frozen, just make sure soup simmers long enough so that it's not cold from the corn!)
1-16oz can Ranch Style Beans (or black if you live in the UK:))
2-4oz cans of tomato paste (it's called tomato puree if you live in the UK)
2-14oz cans of chicken broth (I use vegetable too sometimes - I don't notice a difference in taste...use what you have on hand)
1-8oz package of cream cheese (I use 1/3 fat instead of full fat)

Saute onions, bell pepper and garlic in veg oil.  Add all ingredients but cream cheese.

Place cream cheese in a separate bowl and pour hot soup over to melt cheese.  Add to soup.  Simmer for at least 10 minutes.

Garnish with tortilla chips, cheese, and avocado if you like though it needs no garnish!  Yum!

I have no photos of this soup - but here are some cute ones of Ruby and Seth at Soup Night...

Don't miss Seth's shout out to Texas.
Even if we can't have Ranch Style Beans, we will still sport the pearl snaps.

I guess Ruby prefers Clif Bars over Chicken Taco Soup...

The first time I made this recipe was our first year of marriage back at the genesis of Soup Night. I fell in love with this soup, but Taylor wasn't too crazy about it.  I think his response was,

"Cold soup?  I don't get it."

Due to the fact that it is so time consuming, and Taylor didn't love it, I never made it again till now.  It was well worth the time put in. Taylor even loved it!  It's very fresh, healthy, and summery.  This recipe is adapted slightly from Ina Garten.   You can find the original recipe here on as well as in the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

Serves 4 to 6 people

1 cucumber, halved and seeded though not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves minced
3 c tomato juice
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 T salt
1t pepper

Roughly chop cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion into 1-in cubes.  Put each veg separately into food processor and pulse till coarsely chopped - don't over process!

After each veg is processed, combine them into a large bowl and add garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper.  Mix well and chill before serving.  The longer it sits, the better!

Here are all of my food processed veggies  before I added the rest of the ingredients and mixed.
I love all of the colors!
Oh yeah, and make sure you have a big enough bowl - it makes mixing it less tricky.  And believe me after laboriously chopping and processing all  of those veggies, you morn every piece that gets stirred out of the bowl and accidentally onto the floor.  Not that I did that.

Y'all enjoy!


Post a Comment

Anybody out there? Bueller...Bueller?