My Taco Evolution

When I was younger, I didn’t eat tacos at all. My wife and kids all like them so I had to learn to eat them. At first, I would brown up the ground beef and pull out enough to make my tacos. Then I’d add the Old El Paso taco seasoning to the rest of the meat. We tend to use the soft tortilla shells rather than the hard shells. I would just add cheddar cheese to mine and they would add onions, salsa, sour cream, or whatever else they wanted to theirs.

Preparing things separately gets old fast. Especially since I do most of the day to day cooking at out house. I decided that I needed to find a way to eat the same seasoned meat that they all did. At first, I would still keep some ground beef unseasoned, but I would mix it with some of their seasoned beef. That wasn’t bad, so I kept increasing the ratio of seasoned to unseasoned ground beef. Pretty soon I was able to use the taco seasoning on all of it. Better still – I really liked them.

My wife I and both decided we needed to make our tacos a little healthier. One of the kids (who was out of the house by then) suggested that we try ground turkey instead of beef. It’s a much more lean meat and better for you. We were a bit hesitant and first thinking it would radically change the way they tasted. We picked up some Shady Brook 93% lean ground turkey and gave it a try. We were a bit surprised that it does brown up a little more than we thought it would. The plain ground turkey certainly didn’t taste like beef, but we added the seasoning anyway. It wasn’t exactly the same as with the ground beef, but it was really good.

After changing the meat, we figured the seasoning would be the next best thing to improve. We switched from Original to Low Sodium and hardly knew the difference. I once accidentally bought a cheesy taco seasoning by mistake. We didn’t care for that.

Next we decided to change up our cheese. We started making our turkey tacos with low fat cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. They don’t quite melt the same, but they taste pretty close. We tried fat free cheddar but it really wasn’t the same. We decided to stick with the low fat cheese instead.

I noticed that the stores also carry a 97% lean ground turkey so I decided to try that. It doesn’t brown up like the 93% lean stuff does. I still thought it was pretty good, but my wife prefers the 93% lean so we tend to stick with that most of the time. She often kids around that we are Jack Sprat and his wife – “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean”.

Finally, we had to do something about the tortilla shells. My wife had already switched us all over to wheat bread so it seemed like a reasonable change. We started using whole wheat tortillas instead of the white four ones. They aren’t quite as tasty, but they are still good enough.

Had I tried making the jump right to turkey tacos with low sodium seasoning on a wheat tortilla with low fat cheese, I probably wouldn’t have liked them. By making gradual changes to something I like, I was able to eat something I wouldn’t have thought possible when I was younger.

When trying to broaden the horizons of a fussy eater always try to work with things they do like and make gradual changes. A series of small changes can go a long way. Don’t expect too much of your fussy eaters at one time. Changing their eating habits requires a lot of patience.

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Bacon Makes It Better

I mentioned a couple of times how I like my burgers plain. I just got back from dinner out at a place called Legends and realized I don’t always order my burger plain with nothing but cheese. Sometimes I will get it with bacon.

I don’t know how I could have forgotten that “Bacon makes it better” is practically a motto in my family. Well, some of them would argue that it’s “Butter makes it better”. Either one will do in the right situation. For burgers, bacon makes them better.

Anyway, I stand corrected. I don’t always order a plain cheeseburger. I also like a plain bacon cheeseburger.

Tostones Update

I tried Tostones the other day and found them a bit bland (considering I won’t use garlic). I was talking to my daughter down in Nashville for her birthday and mentioned how I tried them. She suggested some kind of citrus to go with it.
My wife made pork chops tonight and tostones to go with them. I grabbed one without garlic and looked thru the fridge. I found one of those little green bottles of lime juice so I decided to give it a try on the tostone. It did add to the flavor but it was perhaps a little overpowering. I think I may try lemon next time.
Has anyone got any other suggestions for how I can kick up a plain plantain?

Memorial Day Burgers

I spent most of the long weekend fighting with our pool. It needed a new pump and one of the inlet valves. I got a bit of a sunburn and I was worn out by Monday so we took it a little easy.

We started the day with a great walk in the park with our dog Mugsy. She’s a Pitt Bull and doesn’t always get along with other dogs, but we actually managed to walk her with another Pitt named Frankie.

When it came time for dinner, I had just one thing in mind – a nice juicy cheeseburger! Naturally, I make mine with no seasoning or marinade. For my wife, I add a rub and garlic. I make a mean burger. We have them on wheat rolls with some American cheese. She makes some sautéed onions to go with hers. I want no part of any onion on mine. I eat a plain cheeseburger – sometimes I’ll add ketchup. It was a great way to end the holiday weekend.

So do you grill on Memorial Day or do you have some other special meal you break out for the occasion? Let me know.

My Famous Chicken Nuggets

My wife and I decided to start our Memorial Day weekend with some serious comfort food. That means mixing up a batch of my famous chicken nuggets. I’ve come a long way when it comes to chicken.

Soon after I met Linda she discovered that my freezer was stocked with nothing but several varieties of Weaver microwavable chicken and Quaker Steak-ums. She put and end to that and showed me how to prepare fresh chicken several ways including nuggets. I took what she showed me and ran with it. Now she prefers mine to hers. So do our 3 kids. So do many of their friends. They are always a hit at our Superbowl parties.

  • Cut the chicken into strips or small bite sized pieces. There’s really no wrong way to cut them.
  • Grab a gallon Ziplock bag and add around a half cup of flour (I don’t measure).
  • Add around and half cup bread crumbs (again I don’t measure).
  • Now add around half a cup of panko chips (if you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t measure this either).
  • Add a bunch of ground pepper – maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons if I had to guess.
  • Add Mortons Nature’s Seasons – maybe another 3 tablespoons.
  • Add a dash or two of cinnamon. It’s one of my favorite ingredients.
  • Add a dash or two of chili powder to give it some kick.
  • Shake the bag until the mix is even. Add more pepper if you can’t make it out in the mix.
  • Sprinkle a little Nature’s Seasons over the chicken and then add one piece at a time to the bag.
  • Shake well and keep adding chicken.
  • Heat the oil
  • Add chicken and cook until a nice golden brown.

I’ve found that you can use wheat bread crumbs instead, but the chicken comes out a little darker color. You’ll have to play around with the amounts of each ingredient until you find something that works for you. I do it all by eye. When the mix looks right, I toss the chicken in. Don’t be afraid to try adding something else to the mix. That’ show I came up with the cinnamon and chili powder.

Let me know how your chicken came out and if you found any other ingredients that work well in the mix.

Tostones Recipe

My wife is half Irish and half Puerto Rican. She learned a few island dishes from her mother. One dish that she loves to make to go with either steak or pork chops is Tostones (fried plantains for the rest of us). They are very easy to make.

  1. Peel the plantain(s) and cut them into sections about an inch tall using slanted cuts.
  2. Fill a bowl with water and put the cut plantains in it.
  3. Add Morton’s Natures Seasons to the bowl – she adds a lot, but season to taste
  4. Let them sit for a while – we usually wait at least 15 minutes
  5. Heat cooking oil
  6. Add plantains to oil and fry till them just start to get a little golden
  7. Remove the plantains and squash with a plantain squasher (not sure what it’s really called, but it is in the picture).
    You can use a paper bag or other items to squash them if necessary.
  8. Place the flattened plantains back in the oil
  9. Fry until golden
  10. Cut up several cloves of garlic and smash them with a mortar and pestle.
    You can use minced garlic for a less authentic dish.
  11. Add olive oil, a splash or two of red wine vinegar and Nature’s Seasons and mix.
  12. Serve plantains with a spoonful of garlic mix

I’ve never been bold enough to try these before and I still wasn’t going to try them with the garlic. I grabbed one after it came out of the oil the second time. It wasn’t bad. In fact, I find it odd to say this, but it actually was a little bland for my taste. I didn’t try adding anything to it. Perhaps the next time we make them I will find something besides garlic that goes with them.

Do you have an ideas on what might go well with fried plantains? Let me know and I’ll try it out next time.

This recipe is featured on A’lil Country Sugar and Linky Party.

My Kale Tale

OK, so I went ahead and made the kale chips last night. I used a ziplock bag to mix the ingredients and parchment paper to keep them from sticking to the pan. I didn’t measure the salt – I rarely do when seasoning. Apparently, I went a little heavy on the salt.

My wife loved them. I’m still a little mixed. They weren’t awful but I didn’t finish all the ones I put on my plate either. They had kind of a strange after-taste.

I might try them again, but with some other seasonings. I’m not going to call this Kale Fail, but it wasn’t a complete success either.

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