For the love of tacos
I love tacos. Well, to be fair, most tacos I eat are more “Tex-Mex” then truly authentic Mexican cuisine. But I’ll take what I can get. If I ever decided to open a kosher restaurant (and if I do, please send help ASAP), I would open an upscale taco bar. Jury is still out though if it would be a dairy or meat taco joint. But just image for a second – tacos with different mole sauces, pickled everything (jicama, onion, jalapeno, radish), homemade salsas with garlic confit and roasted tomato pico de gallo, and SUPER fresh fish tacos with crunchy slaw and a bright kick of lime. So the sky’s the limit when we’re talking tacos.
This week’s challenge!
And that brings me to this week’s #MYV challenge …TACOS, (duh), just in time for Cinco de Mayo! Clearly I could have gone in a thousand different directions with this one. Perhaps a personal favorite that I posted a while back, my raw walnut tacos, or maybe even a “fajita” taco! Since my husband loves chicken with grilled peppers and onions, if I can stuff that in a tortilla, he’ll eat it! And bonus, there are veggies in it too!
The perfect meal – a childhood favorite
While my brain searched for the perfect, not-overly-complicated taco, I kept coming back to my mom’s home-cooked “Tostitos” dinner. To this day I have no clue why we called it “Tostitos” (maybe because we would buy giant family-sized bags of the Tostitos tortilla chips for serious salsa-dunking), but this was basically a “make-your-own-(soft)taco” night. Probably the easiest meal my mom ever made for us (and she made amazing meals), but hands down, this was my favorite. Okay, maybe her pasta with homemade pesto and grilled salmon rivals the top spot. But Tostitos nights – those were and still are the meals I crave!
It couldn’t get any simpler. My mom would put out bowls of toppings. The table would be topped with our small white cereal bowls with navy blue trim – one bowl of salsa (from the GIANT jar we had in the fridge at all times), shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, homemade guac, a plate of (probably flour) tortillas and a huge frying pan of refried beans. That was literally all she had to cook – just those creamy, pinto beans.
I would put a tortilla on my plate, slather it with beans and cheese, pop it in the microwave and pile on all the toppings I could fit, and devour immediately. Meanwhile, mid-bite, I would inevitable always have hot cheese juice running down my arm. But boy don’t I know it – it’s worth the mess.
One thing I noticed as I got older is that we never had sour cream in our house. Like ever. I’m not sure if it was just one person who didn’t like it or we just never thought to buy any, but now it’s one of the new additions I’ve added to my version. You can’t really have a (possibly supremely spicy) taco without the rich sour cream added in to a crunchy cabbage slaw to cool down the heat.
And on top of the sour cream addition, in my opinion, cilantro is just the best herb to have ever graced this planet (alright basil, I can’t live without you either). Last but not least, a final topping of pickled jalapenos. And this meal is complete.
Updating a classic
So this is my version. A nod to my favorite childhood meal. Instead of the melty cheese, we have a crispy, cheesy taco “shell” (did you know that cheese can crisp up like that when you cook it?). Instead of canned refried beans, we have dried pinto beans, cooked low and slow with cumin, garlic and onion. And for the record, this recipe is not quite keto-friendly, but it’s close (you can definitely use soy beans to make it low-carb). And instead of jarred salsa (which I LOVE btw), homemade pico de gallo – fresh tomato, yellow onion, jalapeno, cilantro and fresh lime juice.
Hooray for shortcuts!
And even if you’re a crazy busy human, like most of us are, you can definitely make this quick and easy dish using store-bought salsa, some pre-bagged shredded cabbage or iceberg lettuce (I love shortcuts too), and even packaged tortillas (I won’t tell). Tacos are all about experimenting with levels of spice and heat, and this version features eating my favorite meal in a slightly deconstructed way.
Now THAT is something I can really sink my teeth into.
And, thanks mom. 🙂 Seriously, Tostitos night was the best – so simple, yet so freaking delicious. Just in time for mother’s day – a perfect tribute to my mom’s crazy-good homemade meals.
- 9 oz. Pre-shredded cheddar cheese Personally, I used a bag of pre-shredded cheddar and mozzarella mix
- 1/2 tsp Trader Joe's onion salt Totally optional but I love this onion mix and I flavor EVERYTHING with it practically! I like adding a little extra oomp to the shells
Pre-heat oven to 375F.
If you'd like your shells to be all the same size, trace about 3, 6-inch circles on the parchment paper
Measure about 1/3 cup of the cheese onto the circles and sprinkle with the onion salt
Bake for 5 minutes until the edges begin to brown
While the cheese is cooking, set up a taco shell drying station. Lay a wooden spoon across 2 soup cans and place a plate topped with a paper towel underneath. You might have to make a few taco crisping stations, or cook one shell at a time (you can do this also in a pan on medium heat, versus an oven too).
This is where you have to move fast, because as the cheese is cooling, it will harden quickly. Remove the cheese from the parchment paper using a spatula and place over the wooden spoon to crisp
Let the cheese cool and crisp up, about 5 minutes
Place on a plate and add your favorite taco fixings!
- 1 Yellow onion, peeled, halved and roughly chopped
- 3 cups Dried pinto beans, rinsed Or use black beans, or great northern beans! If you used canned beans, just make sure to rinse them 3 times to remove as much of the salty starchy liquid as possible
- 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 5 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin I like cumin, so if you're not a big fan, start with 1/8 tsp and you can always add more if you like
- 2 cups Vegetable stock Optional (or just add 9 cups of water)
- 7 cups Water
- 1 4 oz. can Diced green chiles
Place the onion, dried beans, green chiles, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, stock and water in a slow cooker. (Don't worry about the size of the chopped onion and garlic - you'll puree it when it's done cooking so I just roughly chopped the onions and cut the garlic cloves in half)
Cook on HIGH for 8 hours or on LOW for 12 hours (or 4 hours on HIGH if using canned beans)
Drain the bean mixture into a colander and strain out as much water remaining as possible
Using a potato masher or an immersion blender, blend or mash the beans until you get the desired consistency.
- 1/2 cup Mayo
- 1/2 cup Sour cream
- 1 14 oz. Bag of shredded coleslaw mix
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 4 Green onions, thinly sliced Optional
- 3 tbsp Fresh lime juice
Add all ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving with your tacos (can be made 1 day in advance, keep chilled)
- 3 Avocados, pitted, flesh scooped out
- 1 Lemon, halved and juiced
- 1 Garlic clove, peeled and minced
- 1/2 Yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
Add the avocado to a mixing bowl and mash well with a fork
Add in the garlic, onion, tomatoes, salt, pepper and lemon juice and mix well. If you're not eating it right away, take the avocado pit, press it in the middle of the guac mix, and cover it tightly with plastic wrap, to remove as much air as possible so it doesn't brown as quickly (you can also drizzle some more lemon juice on top to slow the browning process).
Dunk with crunchy tortilla chips or add a dollop to your tacos!
- 3 Yellow onions, diced You can use red onion if that's what you have on hand!
- 12 Roma tomatoes, diced If your tomatoes are extra juicy, squeeze out some of the pulp before adding to the bowl
- 3 Jalapenos, ribs and seeds removed, diced
- 2 cups Fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 Lime
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 tsp White pepper
Dice the onion, tomato, jalapeno and cilantro and add to a large mixing bowl
Slice the lime in half and squeeze both halves into the mixing bowl
Add the salt and white pepper and mix thoroughly
Make sure you taste it to adjust any heat levels, adding more salt or jalapeno if needed.
Don’t forget to check out Daniel’s latest taco recipe: Cinco De Mayo: Italian Beef Tacos On Poblano Tortillas Topped With Pickled Red Onions and Roasted Tomatillo Salsa