Where’s the Beef? January Recipe #1

I mentioned to my kids that I was thinking of having tacos for dinner this week and my son asked me why we never make them homemade.  Usually we buy the taco shell/seasoning-mix kits.  I hadn’t yet mentioned that I was already thinking of making my own seasoning mix, but then he elaborated, “You know, grow it ourselves, like the farmers do?”  Well, honey, because that would be homegrown and it’s really not the right time of the year for that.

I surfed on over to allrecipes.com and searched ‘taco mix.’  Here is the recipe I used.  (Look at that list of spices!  Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, sea salt, and black pepper.)  It has a 5-star rating with over 2,300 reviews.  I read through some of the reviews and comments first and took note of whether they recommended cutting back on a particular spice, substitutions, and various other tricks.  I checked my cabinets for the necessary ingredients and made a shopping list.  The kids and I took off for the grocery store after school.  Normally, shopping with my kids is a huge chore.  They fight with each other about who is going to push the cart, whose turn it is to get something off the shelf, what side of the cart they’re going to walk on, who’s walking in front, who gets to swipe the items at the self-checkout…and on and on until I want to scream.  I knew this would be a quick trip if they could just cooperate.  I used an app on my phone (Out of Milk) for the list.  I handed the phone to my son and put him in charge of marking things off the list.  My daughter was given the task of finding the spices.  It worked beautifully; we were in and out of the store in about 10 minutes.  As we were leaving our parking space, it hit me…I forgot the ground beef!  The Keeper of the List said, “It wasn’t on the list!”  Apparently I assumed I didn’t need it on the list, that I wouldn’t forget something as important to the meal as the main indgredient!  Since we hadn’t yet left the parking lot, we returned and retrieved the meat.

Here’s how I tweaked the recipe according to some of the advice in the reviews:  I reduced the cumin to 1 tsp.  I added about 1 tsp. of ground beef boullion (and reduced the amount of salt) to the meat when adding the seasoning and water.  I substituted kosher salt for the sea salt because I already had a big box of it, and reduced the amount to 1/2 tsp.  I added the entire spice mixture and a cup of water to a little over 1 1/2 pounds (pre-cooked weight) 80% lean ground beef.

The recipe was a big success.  My daughter thought they were fabulous, wonderful, a definite keeper.  (She’s a bit of a drama queen, but she did eat 3 [!] tacos.)  My son’s feelings were more mixed.  He thought it was good, but too spicy.  I agreed.  I felt the ‘hot’ of the spices more than the flavor.  I’ll continue to experiment with the amounts of different spices, but like my daughter said, it’s a keeper!

**The next day:  I ate some of the leftovers for lunch today, and while it was still pretty hot, more of the flavor came through.

***Two weeks later:  After being frozen, the “hot” has mellowed even more.  Very good!

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