Monday, January 25, 2010


So, that is the way Peggy pronounces t(ah)co.  We have decided it was those '70's she lived in the midwest, those first years as a flight attendent.  She picked up that midwest twang.  Hey, come to think of it, she traveled to Iowa?, Ohio? when her birthday twin Rene, and her family came to visit ours back in the late '60's.  Peg went home with them and flew back a couple of weeks later.  Rene and Peggy were born in the same hospital on the same day.  Our moms were in adjacent beds.  We have pictures of their birthdays together until Rene's family moved when the girls were about five.  They are still friends.

Tacos.  Taco was the name of Uncle Ed's and Aunt Jean's Boston Terrrier.  I remember him being black and white, friendly, and nothing like a cat.  Unitl we got Mitzi, a pom mix, we had only had cats.  
Had my first taco at age 12 at a Girl Scout event our Council sponsored.  The theme was Girl Scouts Around the World.  One of the Senior GS troops fixed tacos.  Just ground meat, taco shell, and cheese.  It was bland and the shell was soft.  I liked it.  Our troop did the Philippines traditional dance, the Tinikling.  I winnowed rice with my friend Sharon.  I was so uncoordinated, I was always getting my ankles smashed by the bamboo poles.  It was easier, and safer, for me to keep the beat with the rice.  swish, swish, toss. 
After that, the only tacos in town were to be found at the Arctic Circle.  I ate those.  I was introduced to Taco Bell and Taco Time. in my mid-20's.   Very good for chain foods.  Then we discovered Los Baez on Commercial in Salem.  Scott and his boyhood friend, Pat, found this little restaurant and come home raving!  So, Pat's wife, Kathi and I went to see what the commotion was about.  We were blown away by the food.  We have been frequenting the same location for nearly 35 years!  There was a Los Baez restaurant in Lincoln City about 15 years ago.  We ate there for our 25th anniversay.

At home, I first used taco seasoning packets.  They were so spicy, to our bland food diet, I added an 8 oz can of tomato sauce to calm the fire.  I fried my own taco shells.  Over time, I became more confidant in my cooking skills.  My mom gave me a Sunset Mexican cookbook,  (Selene has it now) and I explored more.  I started using my own seasoning and branched out to make burritos and enchiladas.


Taco Meat
1 lb ground meat
1 medium onion, chopped divided
1TBSP chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried mexican oregano
1 cup tomato sauce

Brown the meat and 1/2 the onion in a skillet.  Drain any fat in a colander.  Add the spices to the pan to toast for 30 seconds or so.  Add the tomato sauce.  Cook together until the sauce is very thick.  Set aside.

1 cup grated cheese
1/2 finely chopped onion
1/2 cup olives - I buy Napoleon brand, imported from Spain, sliced olives in a 6.5 oz can for $.99 at the BiMart.  I freeze the leftovers in 1/2 cup portions to be used later.
a jar of home made salsa
1 sliced tomato  or several grape or cherry tomatoes cut in half
reduced fat sour cream

My BIL Rob, fills his taco shells with the cheese first, meat then his other additions.  He likes his cheese melty.
After filling your taco shells, microwave a platefull for 30 seconds.  It softens hard shells just enough they don't shatter when you take a bite.

Homemade Salsa
courtesy of Shelley's neighbor from a long while back
1 22 oz can tomatoes
1 jalopeno pepper or any other hot or mild pepper  to reduce the heat remove the seeds and veins, wash your hands thoroughly and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
juice of one lime

Put everything into the food processor and whirl until you have small pieces.  Enjoy on chips or tacos or french fries.

Why not make a double batch of meat.  Cook once, eat twice or more.  Then you can fix an Enchilada Casserole to eat in a day or two.  I make it like a lasanga.  Hey, it even freezes!

Enchilada Casserole
One thing I leared from the Sunset Mexican Cookbook, was that not all enchiladas need to be rolled.  In some areas of Mexico the enchiladas are stacked flat.
Preheat oven 400F

1 recipe taco meat
2 cups homemade refried beans or 1 14 oz can refried beans
2 cups cheese
2 cups homemade salsa or 1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1/2 cup olives
1 cup frozen corn kernels (optional)
corn or flour totillas  (one of these days I will learn how to make fresh corn tortillas)  I use store bought

In a greased casserole, use what ever size or shape you have that will accomodate the filling:
Layer like a lasagna
Tortillas to cover the bottom, you may have to tear some to fit
Butter the tortillas with 1/2 the refried beans
Sprinkle on 1/2 the cheese
Layer of tortillas
1/2 the meat mixture
1/2 the corn kernels
1.2 the olives
1 cup salsa
Layer of tortillas

Bake 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Let sit for 10 before serving.  Serve with more salsa and sour cream

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