Category Archives: Tacos

Carne Asada

I’m hosting a dinner later this month for two of my favorite friends and their significant others.  I have agonized over what to serve since I knew that March was my month to host.  I thought about doing corned beef, but it’s really not my favorite food and if I’m going to cook for other people, I really want to like what I’m cooking.  I thought about fodue, but I ALWAYS mess up cheese sauce (unless it is velveeta, then I’m good).  I thought about a three-course Italian meal, but I didn’t want to spend all my visiting time prepping the next course.  So, I went simple.  Taco Bar.  I mean, who doesn’t love tacos?  I’ll be serving my Chicken Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa.  I’ll also be serving pork Barbacoa tacos and I’ll whip up this Carne Asada recipe.  All of these can be prepared before and just warmed before serving, except the Asada.  It needs to be grilled right before serving – of course allowing the meat time to rest before slicing.  But cooking this meat is the easy part.  All the real work is in the marinade, and it is done the day before.

To prepare the marinade, juice 2 limes, smash 3 cloves of garlic and add cilantro, onion, salt pepper, beer, cumin and chile flake.  Mix together in a zip top bag, add your meat and refrigerate overnight.  Pull it out a half hour before you are ready to cook.  If it’s warm enough (or you’re brave enough), fire up your outdoor grill.  If not, heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat until it is smoking hot.  Cook the meat for 5-7 minutes per side or until desired doneness. Don’t mess with it too much.  You want it to develop some nice browning.

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Let this rest for 5 minutes.  Then, slice thinly and across the grain.  Serve on grilled corn tortillas with cheese, cilantro and salsa or whatever else you like to top your tacos with.

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Recipe:

2 limes

1/2 cup beer

3 cloves garlic, smashed

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/4 onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin

pinch chile flake

2 pounds flank steak

Juice limes into a gallon sized zip top bag.  Add beer, smashed garlic, cilantro, onion, salt, pepper, cumin and chile flake.  Add flank steak to bag and seal, removing as much air as possible.  Refrigerate overnight.

Remove meat from refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Heat grill or cast iron on high until very hot.  Cook meat for 5-7 minutes per side, until desired doneness.  Let rest for 5 minutes.  Slice thinly across the grain.

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Taco Seasoning

I have been inexcusably absent the last couple of weeks.  But, I’m back today – and, it’s Taco Tuesday!  I reference taco seasoning in a lot of my recipes.  Sometimes, I’ll be honest, I grab a packet at the store – especially if I don’t have any mixed up and the brand with a box top coupon is on sale.  Really though, I prefer to mix up my own.  It’s simple and stores well and you can use it to liven up just about any southwestern dish.  What I like best is that it allows me to control the amount of salt and eliminate the sugar (yes, commercial mixes typically have sugar in them, who knew?).  It couldn’t be easier to mix this up.  Just measure out your dried spices, toss them in a container and stir to combine.  Then use as little or as much as you want to season up a pan full of meat for tacos. I like to add my seasoning as the meat is cooking.  Serve with a tortilla shell (these are crispy corn tortilla bowls), some lettuce and cheese and whatever else your family likes on tacos..

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Recipe:

1 Tablespoon chile powder

1 Tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Place all spices in a container and stir to combing.  Store, tightly sealed, for up to 6 months.

More Than Microwaving – Roasted Acorn Squash Puree

Halloween and fall Box Tops submissions kept me way busier than I planned last week.  Postings this week will be much more consistent.  Thanks for your patience.

Remember when we roasted that Acorn Squash and I promised to share how I use the leftovers? Well, it took longer than a week.  In fact, it’s been almost 2 weeks since I shared that recipe.  Better late than never.

Take your leftover squash, remove the skins and put it in the blender with some cumin, chile powder, cinnamon, salt and water. Puree until smooth and creamy.

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Now, I’m sure you could eat this puree just like this, but why do that when you can make it even more delicious.  If you’ve got some leftover roasted meat (pork, beef or chicken will all work just fine), shred it up and put it in a skillet with hot oil.  Fry until the edges are crispy and golden (this is beef, in case you’re wondering).

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Then, layer some meat, sauce and cheese (or cheese stuffed green chile) on a steamed corn tortilla and enjoy a fantastic fall taco.

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Recipe:

1 roasted acorn squash

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chile powder

pinch cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

Remove skin from acorn squash and discard.

Place squash, cumin, chile powder, cinnamon, salt and water in blender. Puree until smooth.

Use as a side dish, a sauce, a thickener in soups or as a topping for tacos.

Taco Soup

The weather has been getting progressively cooler here.  And that means soup season is upon us.  Also, somehow, my schedule seems to be filling up, which means that I use my crock pot more often.  This recipe is adapted from my grandma’s taco soup.  It’s easy, feeds a crowd inexpensively, and just plain tastes good.  If chicken isn’t your thing, feel free to use hamburger.  No crock pot? You can easily make this recipe on the stove top, but in that case I’d definitely used canned beans instead of dry.

To start, add a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and a can of corn kernels into your crock.

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Then add dry or canned pinto beans and chicken breasts (I used whole, frozen).  Also stir in a package of low sodium taco seasoning (or a tablespoon of your favorite homemade taco seasoning) and enough water to cover everything well.  Turn your crock pot on low and walk away for 6-8 hours.  Just before serving, remove the chicken and shred or dice it.  Put it back in the soup, give it a stir and serve with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese.  Yes, it really is that simple and so delicious.

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Recipe:

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

1 can whole kernel corn

1 cup dried pinto beans (or one can pinto beans)

1 package low-sodium taco seasoning

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

water to cover

tortilla chips for serving

shredded cheese for serving

Place first 5 ingredients in a crock pot.  Stir.  Add enough water to cover.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.

Before serving, remove chicken from crock pot and dice or shred.  Return to crock.  Stir.

Serve with crumbled tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

Chicken Fajitas

It’s Taco Tuesday, and, really, what are fajitas if not tacos with attitude! I love fajitas.  When we eat out, I order fajitas just so I can have them brought to me sizzling on the hot plate and assemble them myself.  I’m always disappointed after that though.  I mean, so much opportunity for flavor and most often it’s just wasted.  Most fajitas I order out come to me barely even dusted with salt and pepper.  So, I make them at home.  They sizzle on my stovetop in my cast iron skillet and always pack way more flavor that the bland food that passes for fajitas at the restaurant.

I start by finely slicing an onion and a bell pepper.  I like my bell pepper strips smaller, so I cut my pepper into quarters and then cut strips across the short width.

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Also, if you leave the root end on your onion, it is way easier to slice it.  You don’t have to worry about the layers slipping around as you get closer and closer to the end.

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You could use any color bell pepper, I just like the way the red looks.  Aren’t they pretty?  Don’t forget to keep those trimmings in a freezer bag for the next time you make stock!

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Next I mix up my spices and paste my garlic.  Take your garlic and mince it.  Then, sprinkle your salt over the minced garlic and use the flat part of your knife to smash it.  Press down on the garlic and salt then, while still applying pressure, drag the knife toward you.  Keep doing this a few times until you’ve got a paste like this.

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Slice up your meat.  Toss your meat, onion/peppers and spices (including garlic paste) together and add all the juice from one lime (2 if you don’t get much juice).  Heat up some oil in a cast iron skillet until it is smoking hot (seriously, you definitely want your oil to be rippling).  Carefully add in your fajita mixture.

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Sizzle until the chicken is done and the peppers and onions are tender.  Serve on warm flour tortillas with your favorite toppings.

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Recipe:

1 bell pepper

1 medium onion

3 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chile powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

juice of 1 lime

1 pound chicken or beef

1 Tablespoon oil

Flour Tortillas

Remove the seeds and ribs from bell pepper and slice into thin strips.  Remove the skin from the onion and slice into thin strips.  Peel garlic and mince.  Paste garlic and salt together using the flat part of your knife blade.  Add garlic paste, paprika, chile powder ,cumin, black pepper, ground coriander oregano and lime juice to a bowl with your peppers and onions.  Slice meat into thin strips and add to peppers, onions and spices. Toss to coat

Heat oil in cast iron skillet over high heat until ripples appear.  Carefully add meat mixture to hot skillet.  Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and peppers and onions are tender.  Serve on warm flour tortillas with your choice of toppings.

More Than Microwaving – Taco Cupcakes

Yeah, I said it.  Taco Cupcakes.  They only resemble a cupcake in shape and size, so don’t gross yourself out thinking about sugary sweet tacos with frosting (ick!).My kids LOVE these.  First, they’re called cupcakes.  Second, they’re just the right size for little hands.  Third, you don’t have to worry about the shells snapping in half or having your filling leak out the back.  Also, they travel well in lunch boxes.  Sometimes, I mix up fresh taco filling just for these, but more often I use whatever taco filling we have left and make these for lunch.

Spray your muffin pan if it’s not the silicone variety.   Press a won ton wrapper into each hole.  Spoon a spoonful of refried beans onto the won ton.

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Top beans with cheese and a second won ton skin.  Top that won ton skin with taco meat (I used leftover chicken) and more cheese.  You’ll see some in the picture with only one layer.  My picky kiddo doesn’t like cheese on his meat.  Those are his.  Just won ton skin, beans and taco meat.

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Pop these in a 350* oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden.  Let them cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

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Recipe:

12 won ton skins

1/2 cup refried beans

1/2 cup shredded cheese

1 cup taco meat

Preheat oven to 350*.  Spray muffin pan with cooking spray.  Line 6 muffin cups with a won ton skin.  Place a heaping tablespoon of refried beans on top of each won ton skin.  Top beans with half the cheese.  Place a second won ton skin in each muffin cup and press down gently to spread beans and cheese evenly over the bottom of the muffin cup.  Top this second skin with taco meat (about 2 Tablespoons).  Top meat with remaining cheese.  Bake at 350* for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and won ton edges are brown and crispy.  Let stand for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Grilled Pork Tacos with Peach and Corn Relish

What could be better than pork tacos? Pork tacos topped with grilled peaches, corn and roasted peppers.  I swear this taco tastes like summer.  And for the record, I totally ate the peach and corn relish for lunch today, by itself, with a spoon.  Yup, it is that good.  I only managed to snap one picture on Tuesday, but it’s enough to whet your appetite.  The recipe takes a little more time than some of my others, but there is nothing particularly difficult and it is oh so worth the effort.

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Recipe:

1-2 dried ancho chiles

2-3 dried guajillo chiles

1 cup hot water

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 2lb pork loin

1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno

2 ears corn, husks and silks removed

1 large or 2 small peach(es)

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

salt and pepper

corn tortillas

oil

Remove stems and seeds from dried chiles. Break chiles in half and soak in hot water until rehydrated (I think I left mine for an hour or so, but you could probably do less).  Pour liquid, chiles, garlic cloves, cumin and salt in blender and blend until smooth.  Pour chile paste over pork loin in a shallow dish or ziplock bag and marinate for 2-3 hours. 

Preheat your grill.  Remove pork loin from marinade, but don’t scrape off the paste that sticks.  Place loin on grill and sear over direct heat for 5 minutes on each side. Move loin off of direct heat and continue cooking until desired doneness (I cooked mine for about an hour and a half).

 Toward the end of the cooking time, Place corn, bell pepper and jalapeno over direct heat.  Cut peach(es) in half and remove pit.  Add the peach, flesh side down, when you flip the vegetables. 

Remove everything from the grill when the peppers are charred and the corn and peach are roasted.  Set pork loin to rest while you prepare the relish.  Peel, seed and dice the peppers (I like to mince my jalapeno).  Cut corn off the cob.  Dice peach.  Place diced vegetables and peach in a bowl and add garlic powder, onion powder and salt to taste.

Brush both sides of corn tortillas with oil and heat over the grill until soften and slightly charred, flipping once. 

Slice pork loin into strips.  Pile tortilla with pork strips and relish and dig in. 

Chicken Tacos with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

My daughter has a new obsession with Taco Tuesday.  I assume this comes from a combination of watching the Lego movie more times than I can count and the influence of her step-siblings at dad’s.  Ground beef tacos get boring to me after about one meal, so, this summer, I’ve put together some taco recipes that combine different ingredients and flavors while staying true to the spirit of a taco.  This chicken taco recipe is simple and delicious – both high priorities when considering a meal in our house. This recipe combines tender chicken, your favorite salsa, sweet summer corn and flavorful black beans into a taco that even my picky middle child will sit down and eat. 

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Recipe

Chicken:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 4 breasts or a combination)

1 cup of your favorite salsa (I use 505 Southwestern All Natural Salsa in medium)

1 Tablespoon taco seasoning

Salsa:

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 ear of sweet corn, husk and silks removed (you can use 1/2-1 cup frozen kernels or one 15 ounce can corn drained)

1/4 cup salsa

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Procedure:. 

Place chicken, salsa and taco seasoning in a crockpot set on low.  Cook for 5-6 hours.  Use forks to shred meat.  Keep warm until ready to use. (The longer you hold the chicken in the crock pot, the more the sauce will dry out.  If you are planning to keep it for a while, check periodically and add water if needed).

For the salsa, place a grill pan over high heat (a cast iron pan or griddle will also work, or you could just do this on your grill).  Place the corn on the hot grill pan and cook, turning occasionally, until some kernels develop a toasted brown color.  Remove corn from pan and allow to cool (If you are using canned or frozen corn, you can toast them a little in a hot skillet or you can skip this step all together) While the corn is cooling, combine beans, salsa and cumin in a sauce pan.  Slice corn kernels off the cob and add to the saucepan with the beans.  Stir and heat until warm.

This is my personal favorite step – assemble and garnish.  My husband and the boys prefer flour tortillas and my daughter and I prefer crisp corn tortilla shells. Cheese, lettuce (or shredded cabbage), tomatoes, onions, guacamole and sour cream would all be fabulous.  I like to set the garnishes up in a line and let everyone (or at least the three of us old enough to fix our own plates) make their own taco creations. This one is mine. 

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