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Tex Mex Sloppy Joes
10


I feel lucky enough, with my aging and increasingly cluttered brain, to have distinct memories of many nights at the dinner table with my family.  Family dinner (at the kitchen table) was a basic requirement to living in my parents house.  I’m sure my adolescent years were filled with dread about that required family time but today I couldn’t be more thankful for the memories I have about those nights.

On one such night when I was maybe 11 or 12, we had taco salad for the first time.  It was nothing fancy, as tacos don’t need to be – taco meat with all the fixings over crunchy tortilla chips – but it felt like a revolutionary dinner.  Tortilla chips with dinner?! Score!! I don’t remember tacos being in my mom’s rotation previous to that (she may tell you otherwise in the comments here) so this was quite possibly a seminal moment happening.  It was also likely that we didn’t eat much Mexican or Tex Mex food aside from tacos or taco salad after that since it turns out that my mom loathes cilantro.  I died a little inside when I learned that recently.

So these Tex Mex sloppy joes combine an American staple food that epitomized my childhood dinners with my utter love for Tex Mex food today.  Set between two halves of a soft homemade bun with a hefty serving of guacamole, these sloppy joes are a little spicy but totally homey and familiar at the same time.  Get your napkins ready and belly up to the table for this dinner – it’s a favorite we’ll keep coming back to, even if *cough* we eat ours in front of the T.V.

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

    For the sloppy joes:
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle chile en adobo (or ¼ tsp chipotle powder)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 ¼ lbs ground chicken, turkey, or beef
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz beer, such as a light ale or lager
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For serving:
  • 6 warm hamburger buns (like these jalapeno cheddar buns)
  • Guacamole
  • Sliced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, diced onion, grated cheddar or Monterey jack or crumbled queso fresco (all optional)

Instructions

  1. Add the tomato sauce, chipotle chile (or powder), oregano, ground cumin, smoked paprika, allspice, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Brown the ground meat in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until browned, about 10 minutes. Drain off the fat. Warm the canola oil in the pan with the browned meat then add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the tomato mixture into the skillet along with the beer, ketchup and cilantro. Stir until well combined.
  3. Bring to a low simmer over medium heat then reduce the heat to medium-low heat and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on warm buns with suggested toppings, if desired.

Source

source: adapted from Homesick Texan

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/12/tex-mex-sloppy-joes/

Sweet Corn Cakes with Tomato-Avocado Relish
2

We’re having a blast in the kitchen this summer, thanks to having such great luck in the garden so far.  Our beefsteak tomato plants really surprised us in actually producing edible fruit as opposed to the rotted, blighted tomatoes we were expecting after the first couple that ripened went bad.  So with these beefsteaks and the insane amount of cherry tomatoes we’ve picked so far, at least 75% of our meals over the last few weeks have included something from our garden.

And that goes for these corn cakes too.  The tomato-avocado relish isn’t just a condiment here – it’s really part of a wholly fabulous (and quick!) meal.  Inside of 30 minutes, we had these fresh sweet corn cakes topped with the refreshing relish on the table – my kind of meal for a weeknight!  The corn toasts and sweetens even further when cooked making the light and fluffy cakes virtually irresistible.  It’s kind of like the awesomeness that grilled corn is but there is frying involved (who’s complaining?). Then they’re piled high with the type of topping that’s good enough to eat with tortilla chips or as a Tex-Mex bruschetta on crunchy bread.  In other words, this is an all-around winner of a meal and if I can get my hands on some more of that local sweet corn, we’ll be having it again soon!

Sweet Corn Cakes with Tomato-Avocado Relish

Yield: 10-12 corn cakes

To keep the finished corn cakes from getting cold while cooking the others, keep them on a wire rack in a 250° F oven. These corn cakes can almost be made a little ahead of time as an appetizer for company - just keep them warm in the oven and serve with the cold tomato-avocado relish. If you're making this dish in the winter, you can use frozen corn - just thaw it in a colander first.

Ingredients

    For the tomato-avocado relish:
  • 1 large tomato, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 scallion or a small handful of chives, minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced
  • For the corn cakes:
  • 3 large ears of corn, shucked, and the corn cut off (this should yield about 3 cups of corn)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Canola or vegetable oil, for frying
  • For serving:
  • Ranch dressing (optional but strongly suggested)

Instructions

  1. To make the relish: Mix all of the ingredients except the avocado together in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 2 days. Just before serving, stir in the avocado.
  2. To make the corn cakes: Place the corn kernels in a large bowl. Place 2 cups of the corn kernels in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times, until the corn is slightly pureed but still chunky. Scrape the mixture into the bowl with the remaining corn kernels. Add the flour, cornmeal, onion, cilantro, baking powder, and baking soda to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and butter, and stir with a fork just to combine - the batter will be lumpy and that's fine.
  3. Place a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add just enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan and heat until sizzling hot. Scoop the batter into the skillet about a 1/3 cup (for main course corn cakes) or a heaping tablespoon (for appetizer-size) at a time, cooking the cakes in batches so that they are not touching while they cook. Fry 3-4 minutes per side (or 1-2 minutes per side for the smaller cakes), until golden brown. These cakes will cook a little like pancakes do so you'll know the insides are cooked through when the top of the cake is slightly firm (not hard or crisp) when gently pressed with your finger. Transfer the cooked cakes to a wire rack and keep them warm in the oven (see note above); repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hot topped with the relish and drizzled with ranch dressing, if desired.

Source

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/08/sweet-corn-cakes-with-tomato-avocado-relish/

Queso Fundido with Chorizo
25

Before seeing queso fundido posted here and there around the interwebs in the past few months, I don’t ever remember previously coming across it.  Not on a restaurant menu or in a cookbook, in magazines, or on blogs.  And even though the recipe was completely new to me, I knew I’d love it.  I mean…it starts with queso and damn, I know that means cheese.  I have no idea what fundido means but doesn’t it sound like a happy word??  (Actually, according to my Google search – go figure – it means molten or melted.)

And omgosh, this is a happy cheese dip.  Smoky chorizo (thanks for the suggestion, Annie!) is mixed in with handfuls of cheese and more of the usual Tex-Mex suspects: onion, tomato, jalapeño, and cilantro.  The chorizo actually cuts through all the cheese and adds a bit of needed “heft” to the dip.  It’s a glorious combination of ingredients and takes less than 10 minutes to pull together.  And it was gone almost as quickly.  Along with nearly an entire bag of chips.  Salads really do pay off when dinner looks like this one.  Our dip did turn out just a little runny and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the excess liquid from chorizo so make sure you drain it off before adding the tomatoes, onion, and jalapeño.  But honestly, this didn’t detract from the cheesy goodness at all.  The recipe calls for “Mexican melting cheese” (see the recipe below) of which I could not find during my change-of-dinner-plans-on-whim grocery store trip, though I’m sure stores like Whole Foods or ethnic food marts definitely carry one of them.  If you’re still planning out a menu for Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, add this one to it…otherwise, it works just as perfectly with a beer for dinner in front of the baseball game on a random weeknight.

Queso Fundido with Chorizo

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 2 chorizo links (about 6 oz total), ½-inch diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large jalapeño or 2 large serranos, seeded and diced
  • 3 tbsp tequila (optional – we forgot to add it)
  • 8 oz Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero (or a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp cheddar)
  • ½ cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in an 8- or 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes; drain off most of the liquid. Add the tomato, onion, and jalapeño and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the tequila (if using) and cook, stirring, until reduced to a glaze.
  2. Sprinkle in the cheese. Stir slowly and constantly until just melted then stir in the cilantro. Serve immediately in a warm dish with chips for dipping.

Source

source: adapted from Rick Bayless in Fine Cooking and Fiesta at Rick’s via Annie’s Eats

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2012/05/queso-fundido-with-chorizo/

Baked Chicken Burritos with Sour Cream-Poblano Sauce
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I start off most of my mornings with a cup of coffee.  Sometimes I make it at home.  Sometimes it’s on the run on the way to work or on the way home from the gym, which happens before work and usually involves a LOT of rushing around.  But it’s part of my routine and even though I look like a whirling dervish most mornings on my way out the door (like this morning when I dropped my laptop in an effort to muscle my way through the door at 6:30am with my purse, work bag, gym bag, and laptop bag strung over my arms), I’m happy with my little routine.

My afternoon routine is much more serene.  Come home, make dinner, relax…except on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I meet with my trainer at 4:00.  By the time I pull myself into the house, it’s all I can do to move.  She’s insane.  So it’s those nights where throwing a simple meal together or reheating leftovers works best.  These baked burritos serve both purposes.  On the table in about half and hour and filled to the brim with Tex-Mex-y ground chicken and black beans, this meal rejuvenates my weary body.  The sour cream-poblano sauce is spicy and cool at the same time and it’s a genius sauce since it reheats perfectly for leftovers.  And speaking of leftovers, these burritos reheat like champs.  The recipe yields 4-5 large burritos so you can bake all of them then reheat leftovers quickly in the microwave and throw them in the oven to crisp up the tortillas.  It’s pretty much my favorite meal from over the past few weeks and  I may even make a big batch this weekend to have in the freezer at the ready on those crazy kinds of days.

Healthy Turkey Tacos
9

Tacos were pretty much an every-week staple at my elementary school growing up.  And I remember this being a crazy popular lunch day but I don’t remember eating them at school.  In hindsight, my brother and I were lucky kids; our mom was a work-at-home mom (almost unheard of in the 80s) and she had the ability to be there every morning to make our lunches.  Once a week, she gave us money to buy lunch at school and I picked carefully: either deli day (Thursdays) or pizza day (Fridays, naturally).  I don’t think my mom was ever exposed to tacos and refried beans until we were at a Girl Scout jamboree camping trip circa 1988 so until then, we never ate them at home either.  I couldn’t tell you if that was weird for the time but I can tell you tacos soon became a revolutionary meal in our house.

In our house now, you’ll see tacos show up on our menu at least twice a month and while Kyle and I love to make them traditionally with my homemade taco seasoning, we’re not against trying other varieties either.  These turkey tacos are a little different from the norm.  There’s a little brown sugar and cider vinegar added, both of which add a tiny hint of sweetness to the turkey and boost the flavor of the tacos exponentially, especially with the contrast of a little heat from the chili powder.  I’ve been heating up the leftovers for lunches this week along with the leftover refried beans I made to go with the tacos and either for lunch or dinner, these tacos are already a mainstay on our menu – we’ve made them 3 times in the past 6 weeks!

Healthy Turkey Tacos

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • ¼ ½
  • For the tacos:
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 ¼ lbs (20 oz) ground turkey (not 99% fat-free)
  • ½ cup canned tomato sauce
  • ½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving:
  • 8 corn tortilla shells
  • Shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced avocado
  • Chopped red onion
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges

Instructions

  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, garlic, oregano, and tomato paste and stir for 30 to 60 seconds, until the tomato paste is evenly distributed.
  2. Add the turkey and cook for 3-5 minutes, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon into smaller pieces as it cooks; the turkey should be cooked through but still slightly pink.
  3. Stir in the tomato sauce, chicken broth, vinegar, and brown sugar and bring the mixture to a simmer; simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper before serving hot in taco shells. Stuff your tacos as desired.

Source

source: adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated

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Tomatillo Chicken Fajitas
7

Last summer, I fell head over heals in love with salsa verde.  Like, so in love that tomato salsa could never again compare.  I was relatively new to using tomatillos and I was floored by how pan roasting them imparted such a smoky sweetness to the salsa.  Add some garlic and a big handful of cilantro…perfection.

So let’s just say that not eating all of this salsa with a bag of blue corn chips was nearly impossible when I made it for these tomatillo chicken fajitas.  And let’s also say that making chicken fajitas with salsa verde was close to genius.  You’ll brown up some onions and red peppers, sauté thinly sliced chicken with some of the salsa, and then use some extra salsa as part of the fajita fixins.  It’s an awesome 15 minute dinner and I strongly recommend taking a few extra minutes before making the fajitas (or even a day or two in advance) to make your own salsa verde – it totally makes this meal!

Spicy Bean Burritos
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IMG_0447

For the past couple of months, we’ve been eating more vegetarian meals each week than I ever expected to see on my menus.  And coincidentally, in the spirit of saving money on groceries when the new house budget is our first priority, these vegetarian meals oftentimes come in comparatively less expensive than non-veggie meals.  I think this has helped get Kyle on board with eating less meat but honestly, he’s been really impressed with the meals I’ve been making, these spicy bean burritos being one of them.

We all know that beans are cheap but these burritos weren’t completely about eating on the cheap.  They were about amping up the flavor of canned beans (pantry staples) with garlic, cumin, chile powder, and pickled jalapeños (more pantry staples) in a healthy way.  I liken the bean mixture in these burritos to a cross between two of my favorite Tex-Mex side dishes, refried beans and Elly’s world famous black beans (but without the bacon)…which means that I totally loved these burritos.  Actually, we both did and there was so much leftover filling that we each had lunches for the next few days covered.  I certainly didn’t hear any complaints about this vegetarian meal, and in fact, Kyle commented how these burritos were almost exactly like the ones he orders from the Mexican food truck for lunch on Fridays.  Sounds like a winner to me!

Frito Gorditas
1

Frito Gorditas

It seems like this past week has just slipped by in the blink of an eye.  This time last week, Kyle and I were jamming to Sirius XM’s Hair Nation (Kyle’s choice) on our road trip up to Lake George, NY as a stopover before meeting up with Annie of Annie’s Eats on Monday in Vermont (pictures to come tomorrow!).  The bourbon pumpkin tart I made last week was a big hit around here and leftovers lasted until mid-week (even the whipped cream stayed nice and fluffy!).  This week’s Project Pastry Queen recipe brings us back to the savory side of the cookbook, traditionally one of my favorite parts of this book.

Frito Gorditas

And by traditionally, I mean I’ve loved every single recipe I’ve made from this part of the book…except this one.  This recipe for Beef Gorditas sounded excellent in theory but neither one of us was blown away by the filling.  As you can see, I opted out of making the actual gordita buns since I’ve been fighting a nasty head cold since Wednesday and decided to put the filling, which is much like Tex-Mex sloppy joes, over Fritos because…well, hello…it’s Fritos!  I found the filling a little on the bland side as written and I added an extra 1/2 tsp salt, an 1/2 tsp of cumin, and drizzled the final dish with extra hot sauce (Frank’s).  The Fritos and the hot sauce definitely helped to give the meal a boost but I can’t really see us making this recipe again.  In any event, Amanda of Fake Ginger has the full recipe posted if you’re interested.  Next week we’re doing apple pie!!

Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans
17

red chile chicken with rice and black beans 1

I’m sorry I’ve been holding out on you for so long.  I’ve been making this Red Chile Chicken with Rice and Black Beans for well over a year and I’ve not once had the opportunity to take a photo.  Actually, I’ve probably had many opportunities but I can’t say that I’ve had the desire to have to wait to eat this meal while I take photos.  It’s just too good.  You see, it’s a simple one-pot meal of rice, black beans, chicken, chicken broth, and some spices.  And somehow, these very basic ingredients are magically transformed into this amazingly comforting meal as they simmer together.  A little smoky undercurrent of heat from the ancho chile powder (my favorite chile powder) sears into the chicken then infuses the chicken broth and rice and leaves you with an unforgettable meal.  We sometimes serve this with some sour cream and a little shredded cheese on top but toppings certainly aren’t necessary.  Mix-ins are good too – I had an ear of corn hanging out in the fridge and I sliced the corn off the cob and threw it in at the end – lovely!  And if you consider serving this to company, which it would be perfect for on a crisp fall weekend night or for a game day Saturday or Sunday, I think some jalapeño cheddar cornbread or chile cheese bread would be great accompaniments.  Regardless of how you decide to serve it, make this soon and thank me later.

Restaurant Style Queso Dip
28

I’m sure I’m not the only person out there who is always looking for the ever elusive queso dip that we all love from our local Mexican restaurants.  As far as the easy options go in order to make it at home, there are two typical options: the jarred stuff and the block stuff to mix with salsa or Rotel.  But you know what?  This homemade version isn’t any more difficult than making queso dip with block cheese and in my opinion (and not just my opinion), it’s 100x better than either the block cheese version or the quick and dirty jarred stuff.  A quick sauté of some diced onions and fresh pepper, melt in some shredded cheese then add some cream, tomato, and cilantro and you’ve got homemade restaurant style queso dip!

Restaurant Style Queso Dip

The key to this recipe is the addition of deli-sliced American cheese (don’t judge!).  I also threw in some pepper Jack and provolone partly because they both melt really well but mostly because I didn’t have enough American in the house when I made this on a whim last weekend – my modifications to the original recipe are below.  Once heated through (and thoroughly stirred while it’s being heated), this recipe yields a nice, creamy queso dip.  As you can see, it’s also the perfect topping for some chili nachos (game time, anyone??) and we also topped a couple of steamed hot dogs with the queso for dinner one night this week as well.  And wouldn’t this queso be an awesome way to make homemade cheese fries as well?  You bet!  Overall, this is a definite winner and you certainly won’t find any other queso dip in my house from here on out.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
7

I would venture a bet that you’re reading this post as I sit here post-Irene.  No electricity, no water in spite of the deluge of rain we’ve received during the first hurricane the Northeast has experienced in 20 years.  My potted herbs and stringy cherry tomato plants have taken over my kitchen floor.  The patio table stands awkwardly in my living room.  I can only hope that as you read this, that no major damage to our home [that technically isn't even our home anymore] has been sustained, that we are safe, that my family on the south shore of Long Island have weathered this storm in a similar fashion.  That you and your families are safe.  Mother Nature works in such mystifying ways, doesn’t she?  An earthquake and a hurricane in one week.  A winter that us New Englanders will never forget.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa [Salsa Verde]

And through all this, we hunker down and we cook.  We cook to prepare, we cook to pass the time.  Isn’t it in our nature to turn to food and family in times of trouble?  Or is that just the Italian in me?  Either way, I made a big batch of this salsa verde before the hurricane hit this weekend after having made it (and fell in love with it) for the first time for a Tex-Mex-inspired dinner with friends last weekend.  If you’re unfamiliar with salsa verde as I was, put simply, it’s roasted tomatillos and roasted garlic whirred up in the food processor with a bit of heat from the hot pepper of your choice (either a jalapeño or a serrano) added in.  For this recipe, you’ll dry roast the tomatillos and garlic in a hot pan, similar to the method for this rustic roasted salsa.  I can’t say enough about how much we adore this salsa.  Unlike tomato-based salsa which leans towards the acidic side, the roasted tomatillos yield a sweet undertone that blends with a perfect amount of heat from a jalapeño and the addictive flavor of fresh cilantro.  Along with a bag of blue corn tortilla chips on the hurricane preparedness list, this salsa will go a long way to helping you forget about the 80 mile per hour winds howling outside.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4-5 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1-2 jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • about 1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 small white onion, chopped
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the garlic and tomatillos (cut-side down) in the skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until the tomatillos are well-browned. Turn everything over and brown the other side (the tomatillos should be very soft). Remove the tomatillos and garlic and add to a food processor or blender. Allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the jalapeño, 1/4 cup of water, onions, cilantro, and lime juice to the food processor, and blend to a coarse purée. Add Kosher salt to taste. Pour into a dish and add more water if necessary, to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.

Source

source: Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, as seen on Pink Parsley

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DIY: Taco Seasoning
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Taco Seasoning

After posting about my taco night dinner plans on Facebook this week, I guess I had forgotten how much people love tacos.  Of the 9 people who responded to my question, 4 of them were also having tacos that night.  Is it safe to assume that an exponential number of people in the U.S. eat tacos on any given night for dinner?  Are you eating tacos?  OK so because I’m writing this post, I’m going to assume that you are eating tacos at some point so my bigger question should be, how are you making them?

There are of course, enough versions of tacos to come out of my ears but our most basic and favorite are the traditional American tacos grew up on…except now we use ground turkey breast instead of ground beef. (I won that battle.)  Browned meat with taco seasoning (formerly from a packet), diced up fresh tomatoes, a mound of leafy green lettuce, shredded Monterrey jack and/or sharp cheddar cheese, a powerful hit of red onions, and a few dollops of cool heaven…errhmm…sour cream are what you’ll find in our house on taco night.  As far as the vessel goes, we’re split – Kyle loves crunchy corn taco shells while I lean more towards high-fiber flour tortillas.

Taco Seasoning

But what really makes tacos tacos is the seasoning and up until 2 or 3 years ago, we were using the packets from the spice aisle at the grocery store when I actually looked at the sodium content on the package and almost had a figurative stroke.  We immediately switched over to a salt-free mix from Penzeys which was ok but it was missing something – ummm, salt – and I found that I was just adding too much to achieve the right taste.  This taco seasoning recipe was conveniently attached to the creamy taco mac that we adore and it was only natural for us to use the seasoning on regular tacos since the taco mac is such a big hit around here.  The recipe below yields enough for four batches of tacos (using 1lb ground meat per batch) but you can easily double or triple the amounts to save yourself some time in the future.  You can find all of the ingredients in your local grocery store but I highly recommend checking out places like Penzeys or The Spice House to arm yourself with larger quantities at much lower prices than you’ll find in the grocery store.

DIY: Taco Seasoning

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: about ½ cup (enough for approx. 20 servings of tacos)

A homemade taco seasoning without packaged preservatives and artificial ingredients. Make your own in just 5 minutes with regular pantry ingredients and keep it on hand for when Taco Tuesdays roll around!

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small jar or airtight container.
  2. To use: Use 2 to 2 ½ tablespoons of taco seasoning in place of a packet of store-bought taco seasoning. Combine 2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 cup cold water and stir to dissolve cornstarch. In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, brown 1lb ground beef, turkey or chicken, add seasoning and cornstarch-water mixture, and simmer over low heat until liquid has thickened.

Source

adapted from Delish and Allrecipes

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http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/06/diy-taco-seasoning/

Shrimp Tacos/Quesadillas with Mango Salsa
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Shrimp Tacos

After posting 3 different bar recipes in the past week, it’s definitely time to lighten things up a little around here.  These tacos and salsa are definitely a better indicators of how we’ve actually been eating recently and the meal such a great way to balance out some of the sweet stuff.   These shrimp tacos are light, super quick, and mucho healthy.   Shawnda actually chose them for her PPQ choice a few weeks ago but I wasn’t really “feeling” them back then.  And I’m not sure why because I knew they would be awesome…which, of course, they were.  I changed things up just a little, using ancho chile powder on the shrimp instead of cayenne and omitting the peppers, onions, and Worcestershire sauce. After an easy sauté, the shrimp are left with a hint of spice but combine perfectly with the cool mango salsa.  Top the tacos with a little lime sour cream (a little lime zest and juice mixed with sour cream) and you’ve got yourself a great meal!

In case you’re wondering about WW PointsPlus (as some of you have asked about), each taco consisted of 3 shrimp on a regular 6″ flour tortilla with about 1 tsp of shredded cheddar (not including sour cream) and was 5 Pts – the mango salsa is free.  Not too shabby!  I actually had quite a bit of salsa left over after only using 1/2lb of shrimp so I made another batch of shrimp yesterday morning while I was running around getting ready for work (roasted them at 425 degrees F for 8 minutes) and ate just the shrimp (9 shrimp) and salsa as a 2 Pt lunch yesterday – score!!

Shrimp Tacos/Quesadillas with Mango Salsa

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    For the salsa:
  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • ½ small red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup Thai-style sweet chile sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • For the tacos:
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 8 small (6-inch) tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Instructions

  1. To make the salsa: Combine the mango, jalapeno, onion, lime juice, salt, chili sauce, garlic, and cilantro in a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or until ready to serve.
  2. To make the tacos: Rub the shrimp with chile powder and salt. In a large saute pan set over medium-high heat, heat oil and saute the shrimp 3 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they curl and turn pink. Remove the shrimp from the heat and serve the shrimp hot in warmed tortillas with mango salsa and cheese.

Source

source: adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Recbecca Rather

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Elly’s World Famous Black Beans
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Elly's World Famous Black Beans

World Famous Black Beans? Really?  Well, why not?  My friend Elly at Elly Says Opa! created this black bean recipe ages ago and before making it, I had only heard rave reviews about it.  And folks, those reviews are justified.  These black beans really are quite fabulous and they are super easy to put together.  They’ll cook in about 15 minutes on the stove top and I was able to throw them together while I was waiting for my favorite chicken enchiladas to bake up in the oven.  Unlike the black beans served in Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurants, you’ll have control over the texture of the beans.  I prefer my beans to be more on the mashed side like these refried beans with bacon but you can definitely mash them less and leave more whole beans – it’s up to you.  As far as the flavor goes, shall I venture to say they were world-famous worthy?  All of my favorite flavors of cumin, chili powder, and cilantro combine with my favorite Mexican food add-in (the black beans) to make the this a star side dish that I’ll continue to make over and over.  And with Cinco de Mayo now just over two weeks away, you can bet that these beans will be on my menu that night!

Stovetop Chicken Fajitas
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I’m not the type of blogger who makes a recipe and runs to my computer to blog about it.  I usually have a list of 10 or so things backed up to be blogged about over the course of a few weeks…new items get added to said list (I keep it as a Stickie so it’s always quickly accessible) almost as quickly as they drop off when I blog about them.  But folks, today, I’m breaking my own “rules.”  Kyle and I made these chicken fajitas last night for dinner and we loved them so much that I couldn’t bear to keep them a secret from you.  I seriously gushed about them all night long, got sad when I packed them up for our lunches today, and got giddy again when I remembered there were still leftovers for lunch today.

The technique to making these fajitas isn’t really any different from my usual fajitas: sauté peppers and onions, remove from the pan, cook the protein, slice and serve.  What puts them completely over the top is the sauce the chicken is cooked in.  It’s a unlikely combination of orange juice, Worcestershire sauce, cilantro, and garlic but the flavors combine and cook down into this amazing sauce that you’ll drizzle over the chicken, peppers, and onions before serving.  I had been dying to make grilled chicken fajitas this week but since our grill is still out of commission since it took a nose-dive when our deck collapsed this winter, I opted for this recipe instead and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to try the other recipe.  This one is just too much of a good thing to pass on next time I’m craving fajitas!