Angela's Ground Beef Tacos

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Welcome to another #TacoTuesday in my kitchen!  As much of a mini-foodie my son Jaden has become over the past year, every now and then he asks for something age appropriate. "Mom, can't we just do 'normal' tacos for a change?" By normal he meant what most of us grew up on - regular old ground beef tacos. I have to admit, a return to a childhood staple wasn't a bad idea for a new recipe either. Of course, I've found a few ways over the years to make these healthier than what we grew up on, and replaced that Old El Paso box kit with more wholesome ingredients.  One of the problems with ground beef tacos can be the salt content which usually stems from using a seasoning packet.  Enter real spices. Seriously - why even bother with those packets when you can get better, fresher flavor simply by mixing your own blends? I also added chipotle peppers for a nice smoky, spicy kick. The next issue with ground beef tacos can be the fat content. A few ways to lower that - use better quality and leaner ground beef, go easy on the cheese, replace sour cream with Greek yogurt, and bake fresh corn tortillas instead of frying or using the boxed shells.  Finally, you can always work some veggies into your system so I used chopped kale & spinach instead of lettuce, as well as fresh tomatoes.  Same great taste you grew up with (better actually), with a whole lot less guilt. These changes are so minor they won't even take you that much longer than it would have taken to make the processed version, but you'll definitely notice the difference in flavor.  I hope you enjoy this one - I know Jaden definitely did!

Angela's Ground Beef Tacos

1 lb ground sirloin
1 large onion, diced
2 chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz. tomato sauce (or 1 can diced tomatoes w/ liquid)
2 tbsp Mexican chile powder
3 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
Juice of 1 lime
8 corn tortillas
1 tbsp olive oil

Suggested garnishes:
Chopped kale & spinach leaves (or lettuce)
Chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. Greek Yogurt mixed w/ a tsp lime juice & pinch of salt
8 oz. Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro
Additional lime wedges

Servings: 8 tacos
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Equipment Needed: Large skillet

Preheat oven to 350°.  In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the diced onions in olive oil until translucent.

Add the ground sirloin to the skillet and brown the meat.  

Cook the meat until it is no longer pink, breaking up any large chunks. When selecting ground beef, look for lean ground, ground sirloin or ground round. I don't usually get the 93% lean as it tends to dry out faster. You still need to be vigilant about draining excess grease after cooking your beef.

Back in the day, I remember trying to drain grease using a turkey baster.  It never really seemed to work that well now that I think about it. It's much easier just to transfer everything from the skillet into a mesh strainer and drain the grease into a bowl.

Return the ground beef to the skillet.  Add the chopped garlic, chipotle peppers, Mexican spices, and salt and pepper. Saute the meat for a couple minutes to let the seasonings meld.

Add tomato sauce and/or chopped tomatoes. You'll want about a cup, give or take. What you add here really just depends on the consistency you are looking for.  I think tomato sauce is a slightly richer flavor and less runny, whereas chopped tomatoes will be a slightly wetter taco mix with the additional texture from the tomato chunks.  Just use what's in your pantry and don't stress the small stuff.

Reduce heat to low and let the taco mix simmer for 5-10 minutes while preparing the remaining ingredients and garnishes.  Check your seasonings and adjust if needed.  Finish with the juice of one lime.

To prepare the baked shells, arrange the corn tortillas on your oven rack so that the sides fall down between the grates. I use two grates for each taco so that they have a base to stand up once baked, and plenty of room to fill!  If your tortillas are really thick, you may find that this step is easier to do if you gently warm the tortillas first, either in the microwave or in an ungreased skillet.  Bake the taco shells until they are crisp, this should take 5 minutes or so depending on your oven.

Once the shells are baked, it's time to go! To make things easier for serving, I fill up my shells with taco meat and let Jaden dress up his own tacos. Cheese isn't something we eat often anymore so he was ridiculously happy to see it on the counter. One of the ways I've trained myself to cut back when we do eat cheese is by buying blocks of cheese and only grating what I need, in this case one cup. Believe me, if I put out an entire bag of shredded cheese on the counter, it will all be gone. Besides, freshly grated cheese is so much better than the pre-grated stuff.

Don't these look delicious? Yum! So fresh. The chipotle and pinch of cinnamon really added an unexpected edge to these that you don't normally get. 

Can't get any easier than this. And Jaden was right...sometimes we do need to just keep it simple around here!

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  1. Do you think the ground beef can be made a day in advance and reheated up?