I love tacos. As a kid, I was so excited when my mom told me it was taco night. I remember the taco shells nested together in the oven, the little bowls of shredded cheese and salsa, and of course the yummy taco meat. As delicious as this meal was, it was made using the packaged taco kits, which included huge amounts of sodium, partially hydrogenated oils, msg, and a host of other scary chemicals and preservatives. As you can probably guess, I just can’t bring myself to eat this kind of food anymore. Which means I had to find a replacement – a way to enjoy tacos without compromising my standards for what I will put into my family’s bodies. I tried improvising by just seasoning ground beef with chili powder and cumin, but it never tasted very good. I looked for recipes, and was having a hard time finding something simple enough and with the same flavor profile as the taco seasoning packets of my youth (and even my early 20′s!).
I finally came across this recipe on MyRecipes.com, originally from the magazine Southern Living. It has a simple enough ingredient list, is made all in one pan, and, as a bonus, includes beans. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of beans, but appreciate how healthy they are and am trying to find ways to incorporate them into my diet. Plus, in a recipe like this, they help the meat to go further, helping us to be less dependent on animal sources of protein – a good thing for our health and the environment.
I made a few modifications from the original recipe to make a simple recipe even easier, but I’ll note where I took shortcuts so that you can be more diligent if you choose
adapted from Southern Living
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (grass-fed if possible)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup salsa
In a large skillet, sautee onions in olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. Add ground beef, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Break up meat and cook until no longer pink and onions are soft. (This is one area where I cut corners – this method does not allow for draining the beef, but my grass-fed beef is so lean I don’t worry about that. If you’d like to be able to drain the fat, first brown the meat, drain on paper towels, then sautee the onions in oil, adding beef and spices back in after a few minutes.)
Add beans, tomato sauce, water, and salsa to the pan. Use a fork to mash the pinto beans, leaving some of them whole. Once the mixture comes to a boil, simmer over low heat until thick. (At this point you can melt some cheese over the meat mixture by sprinkling with shredded cheese, turning off the heat, and waiting a few minutes for it to melt. I chose to just use cheese as a topping).
Serve in whole grain tortillas/wraps, taco shells, or over salad greens (like in my photo) with whatever toppings you like. We used additional salsa, cheddar cheese, and avocado with some whole grain blue corn chips on the side. Other ideas are lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sour cream – whatever makes you happy!
Makes approximately 6 servings.