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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tacos for Karen

My sister Karen was in town earlier this week, which is always fun. When I found out she didn't like ground beef or avocados, I was a little scared that this dinner would be a flop. But I made it anyway because I figured if any tacos would convert her, these would. The key to success is great taco seasoning and homemade tortillas. We used Penzeys bold taco seasoning, which I highly highly recommend. You can use a good supermarket brand too, or make your own.

We never buy whole wheat tortillas anymore, since we've discovered this recipe. It's super easy and tastes so much better than store bought tortillas (it also costs way less too). I was a little intimidated at first by making my own tortillas, so I was surprised at how easy it is. The longest part is letting the dough rest for 20 minutes twice, but we've cheated that down to 10 minutes before and they still turn out fine. You can pump out this dinner in an hour if you follow the correct times, or 30 minutes if you're in a rush and cheat.


Blend together 2 cups of whole wheat flour and a teaspoon of salt. Then mix in 3 tablespoons of canola oil and 1/2 cup warm water. If you can knead the dough into a slightly sticky ball, you're good. If not, you can add a few more tablespoons water. You then stick the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl (think sprayed with pam), cover and let rest for 20 minutes. After kneading the dough a few times, you shape smaller balls out of it. I like mine about double golf ball size. Cover those little balls and let the dough rest for 20 more minutes.

We doubled the recipe here for extra big tortillas

After resting,  you roll them out on a floured surface (parchment or a silpat also work) and then cook them in a non-oiled nonstick or cast iron skillet on medium heat. We didn't trust the recipe the first time we made it and used oil anyway. Our first tortilla turned into a weirdly fried but undercooked concoction. Don't use oil to first cook them, but you could probably pan fry them like taco shells if you so desire after they're cooked. Anyway, back to the recipe. They should take about a minute on each side. I've found that heat-wise it's a trade off between more even cooking on low heat and faster cooking on high heat, so you can decide what you want your compromise to be. If you have extras these survive in the fridge for a few days, or you can freeze them for later use.

My lovely assistant/sister rolling the tortillas out

This is when you want to flip them

While the tortilla dough is resting, you can prepare the rest of the tacos. I always make my taco meat by browning ground beef with chopped onion in a skillet. After the meat is cooked, you add 4 tablespoons of taco seasoning per pound and cook for a minute. Then you add some water (~3/4 cup) and let it simmer down to your desired thickness. If  you want to go meatless, we've loved black beans with these! Or do meat and beans- also good.

The other toppings we had that night were chopped red onion, mango, avocado, grated cheddar cheese, and diced fresh tomatoes. You can use whatever your favorite taco toppings are. These were nowhere near authentic mexican, but they were pretty darn good.

Ignore the ghetto power strip, our kitchen needs more plugs.

Karen loved them! She couldn't get enough.

"Don't you not like ground beef and avocados?" I asked.

"Yeah, but this tastes so good! It's better than any Mexican restaurant I've been to lately." she replied.

Mission accomplished.

My sister admitted to me that her friend was surprised when Karen told her we were making tacos for dinner because she thought I'd make something special to celebrate my sister being in town. After having dinner, Karen said she understood why I chose this meal.

One other funny thing: Once upon a time Kyle left a barbeque to come home and eat these. All his friends thought he was nuts, but he told me that he knew he made the right decision.

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