Easy and fun: Tacos ala the Geek Girl

Everyone loves Mexican food, right?  Well, I know that I do.   I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, and was fed Taco Bell’s beans and cheese, sans the sauce and onions, before I even had teeth.  So I don’t know what my life would be like if I had to give up Mexican food.  Ugh.  I don’t even like the thought.

Now, I’m sure that everyone has their own way of making homemade tacos, and each way is just as tasty as the next.  Some people, I’m sure, use the taco seasoning packets by McCormick or Lawry’s, and that’s totally fine because I’ll admit to using those seasoning packets right now to make my enchilada casserole (which I have just realized that I have pictures of and have not posted them and the recipe here; my apologies, my loyal followers.  I will get on that right away!), but sometime this summer, I will be attempting to make actual enchiladas (rolled and everything) with a from-scratch sauce instead.

Anyhoo, TACOS.  Now, you get your basic taco shells that you stick in an oven at 350° for 5 minutes.  It doesn’t matter what brand you get, though I’ll admit to being partial to HEB’s brand because they seem to come out crunchier and have a better flavor.  But that’s me.  And honestly, you can use whatever seasoning you like for the meat itself.  My ex used to use a lot of chili powder, garlic powder and fajita seasoning, and that was always very tasty, though sometimes it was either too bland or too salty depending.

Since embarking on my own kitchen adventures, I’ve found that this is my favorite way to make tacos.

INGREDIENTS

1-2 lbs ground beef, preferably the 80/20 or better

1-2 tomatoes, diced small

1/4 to 1/2 onion, diced

1 medium-sized jalapeño, diced (I leave in the seeds and membrane for spiciness)

Garlic salt (to taste; or two cloves, minced and salt to taste)

Cilantro, either fresh or dried, to taste

2-3 tsp lime juice

2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Mild cheddar cheese, grated

Lettuce, cut up/shredded

1 box of crunchy taco shells (or several soft corn tortillas, heated in a skillet with oil until soft then set in a tortilla warmer where the oil can be patted off)

DIRECTIONS

Ahead of time, dice up the tomatoes, onion, lettuce and jalapeño, putting each into small dishes.  Set the lettuce and grated cheese in the fridge until the taco meat and shells are ready.   Set the onion, tomatoes and jalapeño and limes/lime juice on the counter by the skillet so that they’re close and ready.

Now put the oil into the skillet and heat it up on medium-high to high.  Add in the diced onion, stirring frequently to keep them from burning.  You want them to soften and become a little translucent but not too brown.

Now is is where you could add in the jalapeño if you want the flavor but not the heat.  You’d sauté them, actually, at the same time you begin with the onions, and watch out!  The seeds jump as they cook!  But usually, my roommate and I prefer the heat, so I hold off on the peppers until later.   Instead, this is where I put in the hamburger.  There’s a kitchen gadget that I intend to buy soon from Kitchen Collections that is for the express purpose of making sure that ground beef (or whatever ground meat you’re working with) gets really ground up.  I thought it was unnecessary, and it probably is, but I have other ideas for it in the future as well.

Basically, put the ground beef into the pan and make sure that it’s broken up really well.  I prefer small chunks to really ground, but you might rather have larger chunks.  It’s all good.  Add in the garlic salt and cilantro.  The one thing you really want to do once the hamburger is completely cooked through is take a moment to drain off all of the grease.  This is why you keep empty coffee cans or spaghetti sauce (or pickle) jars around.  You don’t want to pour the grease down the sink if you can help it or else you run the risk of clogging up your drain.

Next add in the jalapeño and stir several times, giving the pepper a chance to really work into the meat.  After that, add in the diced tomato and again continue to stir.  The last thing you’ll add is the lime juice.  Stir and lower the heat to low-medium or low.  Heat up the taco shells and get out the lettuce and cheese.

Finally, fix your tacos and enjoy!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Katy says:

    Tacos I do usually use a taco seasoning packet… but a bunch are so high in sodium that just… ugh. (That’s one of the things that we’ve tried to minimize lately. I think McCormicks was the only one that wasn’t full of MSG or odd chemicals.) I love the idea of adding lime juice! I love lime with a lot of Mexican food, but for some reason I don’t think I ever considered flavoring the meat with it. I may have to try that part at least sometime!

  2. Yeah, that is the problem with some of those packets. The MSG and salt content is usually way too much. McCormick doesn’t seem to bad, but I usually only use those or the Lawry’s for the enchilada stuff. I don’t even use that for brown gravy mix anymore since I can make brown gravy from scratch (and cream gravy). Now I do use the store brand packet mix for sloppy joe’s, but we don’t eat those all that often.

    Lime on meat for Mexican food is -awesome-. Though I also marinate chicken in lime a lot for salads and chipotle lime chicken (which I’ll make and post sometime). It’s a fantastic marinade. But OMG, on the hamburger for tacos…so fucking good. On and the one thing I forgot to add on here is cilantro. I’ll add it up in the ingredients. It goes in when the garlic salt does.

    1. Katy says:

      Yeah… in addition to being just so high in sodium (which is awful for you in such high levels) it’s silly to pay for a mix when you’re mostly paying for salt. There are a few mixes we do use… the taco one, there’s a spices only (no salt) chile mix we got in the “ethnic foods” aisle that we use for a lot of stuff… but using stuff like fresh onions and bell peppers or chile peppers plus our own spices tends to turn out better anyway. Or we’ll only use partial packets of the seasoning to get some of the flavor but less of the salt.

      I love lime with chicken, but I don’t think I ever thought to try it with beef for some reason. I’ll definitely stick that on my list of things to try. I’ll skip the cilantro, though. It’s overpowering and kind of unpleasant tasting to me.

  3. My friend Becca doesn’t like cilantro much either. If at all. I love it, esp when it’s fresh, but it’s hard for us to keep it around and fresh because we don’t use it up fast enough. And lime with beef is -really- good. I like to use a lot of citrus with meat. The acidity helps to tenderize the meat, which is a bonus to the flavor. Unless you just really overcook it, the lemon/lime/orange juice (and I’m sure grapefruit, too, but I haven’t tried it yet) keeps the meat tender and juice.

    As far as the packets go, I think halving them would work easily enough. I mean, I can’t say anything about salt content. I still like certain ramen packets, and those things are usually crazy with salt. The ones that Kass and I prefer don’t seem to be as nasty salty though.

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