Homemade: Taco Seasoning

Have you ever looked on the back of your favorite packet of taco seasoning and read the ingredients?  I don’t have any to reference right now, but I do have a packet of Taco Bell fajita seasoning.  First ingredient: corn syrup (dried).  Yep, first ingredient in FAJITA SEASONING.  What the heck?  Next is garlic, cornstarch, salt, sugar, chili peppers, onions, then the dreaded MSG, spice (what the heck is spice anyway? I think I read its a way for companies to generically label their products so others can’t copy the exact recipe.  Sheesh.), citric acid, soybean oil, calcium silicate (as an anticaking agent).

Sounds appetizing, eh?

Yeah, not so much.

After realizing all the crap they put in these packets and that the majority of it is sugar/corn syrup and salt/MSG, I thought “Why can’t I make my own taco seasoning?  Surely it can’t be that hard?”  And I was right.  It’s not that hard.  In fact, it’s so easy you’re going to smack yourself right on the forehead and say to yourself “Self, why didn’t I start doing this years ago?”

And as all seasoning combinations, adjust it to your own taste.  Like garlic?  Add more!  Like it spicy?  Add more red pepper flakes or add in some cayenne!

Just mix up a batch, keep it in a resealable container (I use an old sour cream container) and use it as needed.  Two to three tablespoons is the equivalent of one packet.  You can also use it in place of the chili powder/cumin combination you see in many Mexican/Southwest/Tex-Mex recipes.

Like any of the Midwest Mexican recipes from, *ahem*, yours truly.  🙂

Taco Seasoning

Ingredients:

  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 TBSP cumin
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 1/2 TBSP ground black pepper
  • 1  1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together.  Store in an airtight container.  Two to three tablespoons is the equivalent of one packet of storebought seasoning.

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Midwest Mexican Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Chili

Mexican is (most of) my family’s favorite style of cuisine.  We eat it a LOT.  I want to share some of my favorite recipes with you as well as try some new ones.  Now let me clarify — I am NOT Mexican.  I am no where near Mexican.  The closest I am to Mexican is I’ve been to Mexico twice.  And it was only Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so I’m not sure that counts.  Anyway, my recipes are not necessarily authentic Mexican.  These are recipes using basic ingredients like meat, cheese, canned tomatoes, beans, chilis, sour cream, tortillas, chips, chili powder, cumin, etc.  What I like to call “Midwest Mexican”.  Ahhh, it all falls into place, doesn’t it?

I have a confession.  This isn’t a new recipe for me.  I made this last year.  And it was very good.  So when we had that turn of cold weather here last week I knew I had to break it out again.

Picture courtesy of Veronica’s Cornucopia.

I forgot to take a picture until it was all gone.  Oops.  So I borrowed one.  From a random blog.  Yep, I totally just did that.

The recipe actually comes from Momma Cooks who got it from A Year of Slow Cooking.  I changed up a few things.  The recipe below is how I made it.  Oh wait, I actually left out the chili powder.  Since my homemade enchilada sauce can often be a bit spicy, I left it out to avoid making it too spicy.  Not for me, for my weenie kids who can’t handle the spice.  (Are you picturing Jack Nicholson right now?  “You can’t handle the spice!”  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go watch A Few Good Men.  Now.)  But I think next time I’ll add it back in.

This is a great, easy go-to recipe for the chilly days we have ahead.  (Get it, chili, chilly?  Ha!)  I’m on a roll today, huh?

Okay, enough of my antics, here is the recipe.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups prepared enchilada sauce
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (any kind of “flavor” you want)
  • 4 cups pinto beans (either 2 cans, drained and rinsed or prepared and cooked from dried)
  • 1 TBSP dried minced onion
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese and tortilla chips for toppings

Directions:

Place chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Pour enchilada sauce and beans on top.  Add in onion, chili powder and cumin and mix together.  Cook on low for at least 6 hours.  Pull chicken out and shred then return to slow cooker before serving.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, chips, or any of your favorite toppings!

Tip of the week:  Use dried beans (fully cooked, of course) in place of canned.  Prepared dried beans cost about half the price of canned, volume for volume.  And they don’t contain any of the additional preservatives that you may find in canned beans.  And in my opinion, they taste better and have a better texture.  They do take some extra time, but you can easily make them a day or two before and store them in the refrigerator before adding them to the slow cooker.  And it’s well worth it!

Midwest Mexican Recipe: Black Bean and Rice Mexican Lasagna

Mexican is (most of) my family’s favorite style of cuisine.  We eat it a LOT.  I want to share some of my favorite recipes with you as well as try some new ones.  Now let me clarify — I am NOT Mexican.  I am no where near Mexican.  The closest I am to Mexican is I’ve been to Mexico twice.  And it was only Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so I’m not sure that counts.  Anyway, my recipes are not necessarily authentic Mexican.  These are recipes using basic ingredients like meat, cheese, canned tomatoes, beans, chilis, sour cream, tortillas, chips, chili powder, cumin, etc.  What I like to call “Midwest Mexican”.  Ahhh, it all falls into place, doesn’t it?

This week’s Midwest Mexican goes healthy and vegetarian.  I know, who knew Mexican could be either of those?  Quite a difference from last week’s recipe.

This quick and easy recipe is a bit altered from the original state.  It was intended to be Black Bean Enchiladas from Can You Stay for Dinner?

However I made homemade tortillas and they came out a bit too crispy to roll the filling into, so I ended up layering it like a lasagna.  Plus I realized there was not actually any enchilada sauce in the recipe, so I didn’t want to rename it Black Bean Enchilada Casserole, because I think that would be misleading.  Hence, Black Bean & Rice Mexican Lasagna.

Catchy, eh?

My variation was still very good, and if you’re looking for something a little healthier to add into your rotation, I would recommend it.

And for those not sure about meatless, you can very easily add cooked chicken or beef to this.

And if you like something a little, hmmm, creamier, you can certainly add cheese to the layers in addition to the top.

Chad and I both liked it, Maddie said she did although she only ate about two bites (again, typical for her), and Carlie of course threw a fit because it had tomatoes in it (the salsa) and wouldn’t eat it.  Yes, she won’t eat anything with tomatoes.  If this keeps up the kid is screwed for life, because we eat a LOT of dishes with tomatoes around here.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Black Bean & Rice Mexican Lasagna

  • 6 to 9 tortillas, depending on their size
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice (could sub quinoa if you prefer)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 2 red bell peppers, julienned (cooked too, if desired)
  • 2 – 3 tsp taco seasoning
  • 1 and 3/4 to 2 cups salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican style cheese

Directions:

Mix together rice, 3/4 cup salsa, beans, peppers and taco seasoning.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Pour 1/2 cup salsa into the bottom of the pan and spread around to cover.  Layer 2 to 3 tortillas on the bottom, tearing to cover somewhat evenly.  Spread half the rice and bean mixture over the tortillas.  Repeat with 2 to 3 more tortillas and remaining rice and bean mixture.  Top with rest of the tortillas , then spread remaining 1/2 to 3/4 cup salsa over tortillas.  Sprinkle cheese on top.   Bake at 350 for about 18 to 20 minutes or until heated through.

Tip of the week:  Add salsa to any Mexican dish to up the nutritional content.  Most salsas are just tomatoes, onion, pepper and spices and can add a serving of veggies to your daily intake just by adding it to your dish.  Many salsas can have a bit of sodium, and always read the ingredient label to check for nutritional value.

Midwest Mexican Recipe: Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Mexican is (most of) my family’s favorite style of cuisine.  We eat it a LOT.  I want to share some of my favorite recipes with you as well as try some new ones.  Now let me clarify — I am NOT Mexican.  I am no where near Mexican.  The closest I am to Mexican is I’ve been to Mexico twice.  And it was only Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so I’m not sure that counts.  Anyway, my recipes are not necessarily authentic Mexican.  These are recipes using basic ingredients like meat, cheese, canned tomatoes, beans, chilis, sour cream, tortillas, chips, chili powder, cumin, etc.  What I like to call “Midwest Mexican”.  Ahhh, it all falls into place, doesn’t it?

Ahhh, Pinterest.  How I love you so.  You give me so many good recipe ideas, and you do not disappoint.

Chicken.  Cheese.  Sour Cream.  I mean really, what’s not to love?

This recipe was fan. tas. tic.  I repeat, chicken, cheese and sour cream.  How could one go wrong?

Chad and I loved it.  Carlie even ate most of it (she’s the one who doesn’t usually like Mexican).  Maddie didn’t eat any, but lately she never eats dinner.  Lizzie made up for it by eating one and half plates full.  Seriously?  Where do babies put all this food?

It wasn’t very spicy, although it had the potential to be if you want it spicy.  But I used mild green enchilada sauce, and didn’t add in the extra chili powder since the red enchilda sauce I used is my own homemade kind, and it tends to be a bit spicy.  Also I used rotini (spiral) noodles, but you can use any noodle really.  I do recommend something chunky like rotini, penne, shell, or macaroni.

This is another recipe where using bone-in, skin-on chicken and baking it ahead of time in the oven or crock pot is very helpful.

Oh, and it tastes great as leftovers too.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta:

  • ~ 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 2 TBSP oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 – 4oz. can chopped chilis
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 – 10 oz. cans green enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup red enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 pound pasta

Directions:

Cook pasta according to directions.

Meanwhile, heat oil in large pan, saute onion and pepper until soft.  Add garlic for just about 30 seconds, stirring frequently.  Add chilis, enchilada sauces, chili powder, cumin, and chicken.  Stir to combine, then let simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.

Just before serving add in cheese and stir to melt.  Turn off heat, then add sour cream and combine well.  Pour over cooked pasta and serve!

Tip of the week:  Cheese that you shred yourself melts much better than the pre-shredded kind.  The coating they put on pre-shredded cheese to help prevent it from caking also seems to interfere with proper melting.  So whenever you’re melting shredded cheese into a dish I highly recommend buying a brick of cheese and shredding it yourself.

This recipe is based on one found on Pinterest from Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour.

Midwest Mexican Recipe: Chili Salsa Verde Bake

Mexican is (most of) my family’s favorite style of cuisine.  We eat it a LOT.  I want to share some of my favorite recipes with you as well as try some new ones.  Now let me clarify — I am NOT Mexican.  I am no where near Mexican.  The closest I am to Mexican is I’ve been to Mexico twice.  And it was only Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, so I’m not sure that counts.  Anyway, my recipes are not necessarily authentic Mexican.  These are recipes using basic ingredients like meat, cheese, canned tomatoes, beans, chilis, sour cream, tortillas, chips, chili powder, cumin, etc.  What I like to call “Midwest Mexican”.  Ahhh, it all falls into place, doesn’t it?

I was browsing through my friend Nina’s blog Momma Cooks last week searching for some ideas for dinner and came across this one.  Let me tell you, I was so pleased!

It was so easy to put together.  I made a few modificiations, like leaving out the onion, and I used chili beans, drained and slightly rinsed, in place of kidney beans.  The recipe below is written using my modifications.

Chad and I loved it.  Our oldest, Carlie, didn’t love it too much, she thought it was too spicy, but Mexican is really not her favorite.  Maddie loved it.  Lizzie ate her whole plate.  Then again, she always eats her whole plate.

As for the spicy factor, I’m not sure how much is from the chili beans vs. the salsa verde.  So if your family doesn’t like spicy you may want to find a mild version of both, or use plain kidney or pinto beans instead of chili beans.

But as I said, I loved it.  I served it with brown rice, but that’s probably not even necessary, it’s a meal in and of itself.

Chile Salsa Verde Bake

Ingredients:

  • ~ 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
  • 16 oz jar salsa verde (green tomatillo salsa)
  • 1 can chili beans, drained and slightly rinsed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 c. crushed tortilla chips
  • 8 oz. shredded Mexican style cheese

Directions:

Combine chicken, salsa verde, chili beans and sour cream.  Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Spread half of the chips over the bottom.  Top with half chicken mixture, then sprinkle half the cheese on top.  Repeat the layers.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Tip of the week:  Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are often on sale for $.99/lb or less.  Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning (or cumin or taco seasoning if you know you’re going to use it all up in a Mexican dish), throw them in the oven at 400 for 25-30 minutes (drizzle with EVOO if you do this) or in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  Let cool and pull meat from bone and skin.  Use the meat in dishes that call for pre-cooked chicken breasts.  You can also freeze the cooked meat for later use.

Thanks Nina for a great find!  Nina found the recipe on Tarah’s Food Reviews who got it from Rachael Ray.