September 22, 2012 7:22:43 PM
As much as I love summertime in the South, with its bikinis, tanlines and quality river time, I cannot lie: I'm pretty giddy over the early crispness in the air. As the humidity fades away and the days begin to get shorter and a tad cooler, our trees are full of black crows passing through headed south, bright coral spider lilies are popping up all over the yard faster than Ryan can mow, and the sweet olive tree by our front door is in full bloom and smells of the oncoming fall.
I relish the changing of seasons, especially that time in between the hot sticky dog days of summer and that first frost that brings in the hard cold winter. With that first cool breeze my mind goes straight into autumn decorating mode -- fresh pumpkins for the front porch, mums for the flower beds, and a pumpkin spice candle to burn in the kitchen.
The first chilly night of fall always brings back good childhood memories. When Ryan and I were kids (we grew up in the same neighborhood, sometimes fighting like brother and sister but great friends for the most part), all of us kids would dress from head to toe in black sweatpants, leggings and turtlenecks and run around the neighborhood playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark. Fun times.
I tend to feel a little sluggish during those last days of the summer heat. The welcomed reprieve of fall approaching always lifts my spirits and gives me a bit of extra energy. It's a good time to take advantage of the beautiful weather by taking workouts outdoors. I've already enjoyed several morning walk/runs before the day heats up, evening bike rides as the temperature drops, and I hope to kayak around the island a few more times before the water gets too chilly.
There's something about the smell of burning leaves in the cool night air on my evening walk with the dogs that makes me want to curl up with a blanket and a good thick novel, with a pot of soup simmering away on the stove. Stews, chilis and soups are all part of the coziness for me and there's nothing better than a good easy taco soup.
Every gal from the South has some sort of taco soup recipe in her repertoire. My taco chili is nutritious and lean yet hearty and filling and full of fresh spicy flavor.
Start by browning one pound of extra lean ground beef. (I like Laura's Lean Beef brand.) Drain and season to taste with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a squeeze of Gourmet Garden Garlic. Now dice up one red onion and add it to the ground beef. Cook until the onion is transparent but still crunchy.
Now add three cans of Rotel tomatoes, one bag of frozen corn, two cans rinsed and drained black beans, two packets of taco seasoning, one can of light Mexican beer such as Dos Equis, one cup of fat free chicken broth, and the juice of one lime.
Mix everything well and simmer on low for 30 minutes to an hour. Serve over steamed brown rice or a bed of fresh baby spinach (the way I like it), with an array of toppings. Shredded 2 percent sharp cheddar, avocado slices, crumbled baked tortilla chips and fresh cilantro are all excellent. Curl up with a cozy throw, the season premiere of Dexter and enjoy!