Better tasting, cheaper, easy, infinitely customizable, and fun. How can you argue with that? I’ve always wondered what was in the little packets of taco seasoning at the grocery store. The back label gives you some guesses, but you are never really sure. They work. Don’t get me wrong, I have no beef, so to speak, with packaged mixes. But when I figured out a formula to make it myself at home, it really became a moot point because I don’t think I’ll be using the packets ever again.
I have chosen to use ancho chile powder. Feel free to play around with the type of chiles you use. Just remember that “chili powder” (with an “i”) is a blend that typically already includes other spices. “Chile powder” (with an “e”) is pure ground chiles. Check the label to be sure. Both work, but with chil-i powder, you need to simply be aware that you have a head start on the other seasonings and you might need to adjust a little accordingly. There are any number of pure chil-e powders to play with. And they are usually not very costly. So buy a few and experiment with them. I chose ancho…you might like a milder pepper. Also, there is a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper on my list in addition to the ancho. So, should you be heat averse or you are serving small kiddos, you might choose to start with less.
If you have a good spice store nearby, you will be able to find interesting chile powders. Or, just go to Fiesta or another grocery store that specializes in Hispanic cuisine. You will find more packages of more chiles that you know what to do with.
4 tablespoons ancho chile powder
4 teaspoons corn starch
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon oregano flakes
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1. Combine all of the listed ingredients. This will keep in a sealed jar for several months. This is enough seasoning for approximately 4 uses (assuming 1½ pounds of beef per use).
For each 1½ pounds of ground beef, you will use approximately 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the spice mix. Brown the meat (preferably about 85% lean). Drain excess fat (but not all) and add the seasoning. Stir to combine and allow to cook for 1 minute over low to medium heat. Add about 7 ounces of diced tomatoes with the juice (half of a regular size can) and stir to combine. Allow to cook until most of the liquid has cooked off or thickened and serve. You can also make this without the tomatoes, simply make sure to stir in the seasoning well and cook for a minute or two after stirring in the seasoning. You can add more or less of the seasoning, depending on your preference. This is great for tacos, a tostada topping, nachos. It also just occurred to me that it might be great thrown into queso. I’ll be trying that one soon.
If you are in the mood for a different sort of taco, try my brisket tacos or these wonderful black bean tacos. Also, whatever kind of taco you make, consider making my tomatillo salsa, or this fantastic black bean and avocado dip.
I have to tell you about the wooden spice holder in the photo. I recently wrote to my friend Nancy Lou Webster and asked her to make for me a soup stirring spoon. I know the weather will get cooler soon and I’m ready to make soups. And, I tire of using disposable wooden spoons all of the time, because sometimes you want the process of cooking to be as special as the outcome. My collection of treen is growing because of this inclination. Treen refers to hand-carved wooden utensils and tools. Nancy Lou creates treen by hand and her work is beautiful.
Nancy sent me a set of photos from which I could choose my favorite spoon, one of which she made especially for me. But, she didn’t tell me which one it was. I chose a lovely spoon carved from peach wood. I couldn’t resist having a spoon carved from a peach tree branch. And then she revealed that the peach spoon was not the one that she had made especially for me…so I simply had to buy two. I’ll be darned if some stranger is going to make soup with MY spoon. I look at these spoons and feel like I’m adopting children. They are all completely unique and speak so clearly about the tree from which they came. Plus, Nancy makes it her job to “read” the branch and make it into what it wants to be. They are each little, utterly unique treasures.
Since I bought both, Nancy said she was going to send me a “little surprise.” Well, this big, beautiful spice plank was my “little” surprise. I had never heard of a spice plank. Spices were quite expensive in the pioneer days, and the lady of the house would dispense the spices to cooks on such a plank. I would assume it was a very lucky lady who had access to the spices in the first place, and who then had the means enough to have a cook to whom she could dispense them. But this is how a woman would do that. And, Nancy Lou, having seen an original spice plank in the archives of the Sam Houston Museum in Huntsville, Texas, set about making them in her own way. So this is my “new” gadget. I love it, and my two new spoons, as well. I will keep them forever.
And if I were you, and I had a cook for whom to buy a Christmas present, I would get an email to Nancy Lou Webster immediately to see what treasures she still has in stock.
For more information on Nancy Lou Webster, make sure to read this post I did about her work a while back.
Here is a little Instagram shot of my two new soup stirring spoons and my “surprise” spice plank.