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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Taco" Tuesday...Experiments in the Muse Cottage Kitchen

Been Playing in the kitchen again!Pioneer Women Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance March 31 1952

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about how the hubby and myself only go grocery shopping every two weeks and then about once a month we have a prep day where we pre- make many of our components to our weekly meals; we follow the same meal plan each week and that makes it easy. I titled the blog post "One and Done". We made home made red wine and vegi pasta sauce, mini meat loaf muffins and our vegi infused taco meat... recently, but not shared on that post we also took the meat loaf recipe and made meatballs as well. Everything is in the freezer and is easy to pull out, do some minor prep once defrosted ( or not as some can be baked from frozen), and make dinner with. I like to take the taco meat and do different dishes with it. Some weeks we do indeed have tacos, some weeks it's enchiladas, and recently I have done several casseroles using different add ins such as macaroni and cheese, brown rice and today Stove Top stuffing!! I cook them all in the early part of the day and then chill in the fridge ( or the ice box as my Grandma used to call it) and then just before it is meal time I either microwave it, or throw it in the oven for 15-20 minutes with extra sauce and cheese on top. I tend to serve them with salad and all of them make great box lunches the next day for our middle daughter who often eats with us. Today I thought I would first share the basic taco meat recipe and then show you what I did with it... two of the variations are from the latest Kraft Food and Family magazine, but really I just graze the recipe and then do my own thing. 

Basic Taco Meat...
1 pound of lean ground meat...
we use ground turkey
1 small to medium jar of  chunky salsa 
1 zucchini shredded 
1 carrot  shredded 
1 can of  diced black olives.. 
size depends on how much you want
1 each chopped red, orange and yellow baby bell peppers
( you can adjust any of these to expand the meat mixture)
1/4-1/2 diced red onion
1-2 cloves of minced garlic 
1 pat of margarine
salt, pepper and cumin to taste.
 added water or broth if mix becomes too dry

Brown meat and drain, set aside.
In pan put pat of margarine, saute onions and garlic till nearly clear and slightly brown on the garlic. Then add your meat back in, your vegies, and pour the salsa over the top, mix well...add in any seasons you are adding to boost the flavor. If it gets too dry you can add a little broth or water to help it out. Once it is all cooked, if you are doing this to freeze, let cool and portion out into containers or freezer bags the amount that you and your family will use ...from one pound we manage 3-5 bags of meat mix depending on what dishes I have on the menu.... we gage it mainly on enough to fill 4-5 taco shells. 

Should look a little like this
when you are done

So now onto all the nifty dishes I have made with this meat as of late. I mentioned one with mac and cheese... well that was one I saw in the Kraft magazine, and it sounded tasty. I basically just as I said grazed the recipe and then did my own thing. I pre-made some mac and cheese... I use Trader Joes Organic version, and only add a little margarine, and no milk with the powdered cheese, I then added about a handful of shredded cheese in and about a 1/4 cup of sour cream and mixed it together. I then added my defrosted meat mixture ( I would say each bag is about a quarter to half a pound...not the pound the recipe calls for, but I am only feeding three people) and a little bit of jarred salsa and a few extra chopped olives I had in the fridge.  I piled it into a disposable baking pan sprayed with cooking spray... they make good to go containers for my daughter.... anyway I pressed it down, then baked it with some extra salsa and cheese on top at till cheese melted and dish was bubbly... I think it was about 20-25 minutes, remember all the food is already cooked and you can microwave the meat a bit too before adding it in. Once the cheese was melted I let it sit for a while to set up and then served with a side salad. Mine is not as pretty and I just mixed everything all together so why would it be? But it was super easy to make that way LOL

The next one, also based on a recipe from Kraft, was one with rice. I took my pre-made meat mix, again our packs come out to about 1/2 pound if that... not the amount the original recipe calls for, they call for 1 pound of meat... I then added a handful of cheese, 1 cup of long cook, uncooked, brown rice, a cup of frozen corn ( I like roasted corn from Trader Joes) 1 can of diced tomatoes ( fire roasted) , 1 cup of salsa and 1 cup fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth. I mix it all together, and pile it into a pan sprayed with cooking spray I then baked about 45-50 minutes...or until rice is tender, and it does take longer with brown rice, so total time was really near 60 minutes at 350 degrees...once rice was cooked I added some cheese on top....once again once the cheese was melted, I let the dish cool a bit before serving. I served the dish with home made oven baked flour tortilla chips that I sprayed with cooking spray, sprinkled with salt, and cumin as well as paprika. A Family can do with corn tortillas a well.  

  Now to what's for dinner tonight. Tomorrow is grocery day. I am not in the mood for tacos, enchiladas, and I am missing ingredients for the above recipes, but I do have avocado salsa, Stove Top Stuffing and the meat mixture. I go out on a limb and decide I will do a mix of what I got and see how it turns out. I take my meat, the stuffing mix, the container of Trader Joes Avocado salsa ( any salsa would work) a handful of cheese, some of my frozen corn, some extra onion, and peppers and then just enough water to help mix everything. Piled it into the baking dish, baked it for about 30 minutes at 350... till heated and later I will reheat it with cheese on top while I am making the salad to go with it and some more chips. 

The Taste Test....

Ok, fresh out of the oven...a tiny bite from the corner....
all crispy edged and yet soft and creamy...

Well, I licked the spoon!

YUM! It's actually pretty good! 

Moral of the story... don't be afraid to experiment in the kitchen!

original cheesy macaroni taco bake recipe 
original Mexican beef and rice casserole recipe 

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