Of Tacos and Nieces….
Oh so long ago… this meal has many happy memories associated with it. When Eric and I were dating and were shuffling around the supermarket after a long shift at the residential program we were both working for at the time, he got the bright idea that he would like to make some tacos. As I had only had “Taco Bell” at this point, I really couldn’t fathom why on earth he, of all people, would want to make such a thing – not to mention that I couldn’t picture him eating iceberg lettuce or ground beef, to boot. But, he prevailed, and we found a taco dinner in the health food section of the market. I think they were called “Bearitos” and it came with 10 shells and a packet of all natural meat seasoning. Truthfully, I am not even sure that they make this brand anymore. (If anyone has seen it, let me know…)He suggested we use ground chicken, and maybe cook up some onions and peppers to have with it instead of the ‘dreaded iceberg lettuce’ which, according to him, had no nutritional value. Never one to opt out of something new, I agreed to it.
As it so happens, they turned out really great and we have been making them ever since. They have evolved a great deal, I’ll admit, but they always turn up every few months and we remember how much we enjoy them.
Especially fun when three of our four nieces – Krista, Celeste and Renee (Michelle missed out, unfortunately) – were graciously volunteered from their parents during the summer from time to time to spend a weekend with us. There are stories that float around about how Celeste ate Uncle Eric under the table (she had 9 or 10, I believe) and Krista, after being warned by Renee, put an enormous amount of raw jalapeno peppers on hers and turned several shades of purplish/red after taking a big bite. I give Renee credit that was kind enough to refrain from saying “I told you so” (at least, that is how I remember it happening. She actually may have said it – but hopefully they will grant their old aunt a bit of poetic license). We usually followed it up with a caramelized cinnamon banana sundae, which had vanilla ice cream, cocoanut, whipped cream and either caramel or chocolate sauce. More on that at a later date.
How time flies, doesn’t it? Now all four of our nieces have grown into really remarkable and wonderful young women. We love them all very much. So, as promised, (don’t be thrown by the number of ingredients – I’ve whittled them down quite a bit from my elaborate first one – or honestly, try to find a good packaged one if this seems to be too much) recipe:
Griswold’s Taco Recipe
You can put anything you like on them: shredded cheese, sautéed onion and peppers, tomatoes, green onion, lettuce, purple cabbage, chopped cilantro, lime, olives, sour cream and salsa are usually in our rotation. Use what you like, if it is just lettuce and tomato, so be it.
Taco Meat Filling
1 pkg. of ground chicken
2-3 tblsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of chopped garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped *optional
6-8 oz. chicken stock
1 to 2 tsp. of flour
Spice Mixture – 2 bay leaves, 1 1/2 tblsp. cumin, 1 tblsp. ground oregano, 1 tblsp. ground coriander, 2 tblsp. paprika (smoked is nice if you have it, if not, bump up the chili powder), 1 teas. chili powder,1/2 teas. cayenne pepper (*optional), 1 teas. celery seed, 1 teas. sugar, 1 teas. onion powder, 1 teas. garlic powder, 1 package of “Goya Sazon con Culantro Y Achiote” (you can find at any supermarket in the Latin section – orange box), salt and pepper to taste. Please note ALL MEASUREMENTS ARE APPROXIMATE – YOU MAY NEED MORE. You can also use about a 1 teas. of tomato paste, too.
Saute onion, garlic and jalapeno in a frying pan with olive oil adding salt and pepper to taste. Add meat and seasonings ( use your judgment here – if you don’t like something omit, reduce it, or add more if it doesn’t seem right to you. I think I use WAY more of each of these things because I don’t measure – I just follow my nose – so don’t be shy). When cooked fully, sprinkle flour over, mix and cook for a few more minutes. Add just enough stock to thicken slightly. Take off of burner to cool a little.
Meanwhile prepare toppings. I am thinking I pretty much don’t need to tell you how to cook peppers and onions, right? When you are ready, heat the oven to 350 degrees, fill the bottom half of the shells with the meat mixture and shredded cheese and bake for a few minutes until the cheese melts. Put it all on the table and go to town!
Talk to you soon….