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Kitchen Mailbox Countdown to Dinner Dining
Countdown to Dinner: Mexican Soup a hearty mix

Thursday, June 22, 2000

Tested by Suzanne Martinson

Meg Barefoot says if only she had a stove in her car, she'd have it made.

The mother of Zach, 14, and Luke, 11, spends a lot of time at sporting events. Both boys play baseball, one plays soccer, and the other golf. "It's a hectic pace," she says. "And I work full time so you know how that is."

Meg's Countdown recipe plays well into the family's busy lifestyle. When she walks through the door at 5 o'clock, the boys can have this dinner ready. Mexican Stew is truly dinner in a pot. A hearty mix of ground turkey, garbanzo and black beans, mixed vegetables, all held together with V-8 juice, the dish is topped with shredded sharp Cheddar and crushed tortilla chips. (She uses baked Tostitos or Doritos.)

"My kids really like Mexican food, but most of it is so fattening that I don't make much of it at home," she says.

This is the healthful exception, and diners with high energy needs can pour on the cheese and chips, while others stick with the soup.

"This is Luke's favorite thing," she says of the recipe, which she developed herself from one of her sister's.

After 11 years working in a medical office, Meg has been a secretary in the Physical Plant at Duquesne University for a year. Husband Walt works for Robinson, where the family lives.

We loved the hearty texture of the soup, accented with the crunch of the tortillas and the smooth richness of the cheese. It is reminiscent of the Tortilla Soup one finds in the Southwest. A cumin lover, Meg uses two heaping teaspoons of the seasoning.

Mexican Soup lends itself to experimentation, though not every one works. "One time I used hot taco sauce and we couldn't stand it," she says.

The recipe couldn't be easier and came in five minutes under the deadline -- and that included grating the cheese and setting the table.

Mexican Soup

1 pound ground turkey
1 large can V-8 juice (we used 46 ounces)
1 (16-ounce) can of chick peas, drained
1 (15-ounce) can of black beans, drained
1/2 bottle of taco sauce (mild or hot depending on taste -- we used all of 8-ounce jar of Ortega)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (we used 1-pound bag of corn, green beans, peas, carrots and limas)
Pepper and cumin (we used 3/4 teaspoon) to taste

In a 6-quart soup pot, brown ground turkey (we used 1 1/4 pounds) until no longer pink. Drain any liquid. Add all other ingredients and let simmer until veggies are soft.

Serve in soup bowls with shredded sharp Cheddar and crushed taco chips on top. Meg says this provides two meals for her family of four, plus the soup goes to work to be reheated in the microwave.

Note: Meg says she adds two heaping teaspoons of ground cumin to this recipe but "some people don't like that flavor. There is no need for salt when using V-8."

Do you have an entree, salad or vegetable side dish recipe (no desserts, please!) that can be made in 30 minutes or less from six ingredients or fewer (not counting water, salt and pepper)? Share it with Countdown to Dinner.

The PG tests all recipes and if we select your recipe for publication, you'll receive a free selection from our cookbook grab bag of current releases.

Send your recipe to Countdown to Dinner, Post-Gazette Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or fax to 412-263-1313. Please include your name, neighborhood and daytime phone number. Or e-mail to: nanderson@post-gazette.com. Questions? Call 412-263-1760.

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