November 9, 2011

Tacos, two ways

We now have three cats! Percy and Lula were just joined by a seven-week old kitten, who we named Taco. I must say, the process to name this kitten gave me a little sigh of relief about my concerns with child naming. We were dead set on Dr. Huxtable for a name, because it was funny, because we love the Cosby show, because there are lots of nickname potentials, and because we like weird cat names. (Although, Ry wasn't all that weird when naming Percy and Lula ten years ago). But...he just wasn't a Dr. And he just didn't scream "I'm a fuzzy, little Bill Cosby!"

But he did scream "Taco!"

Taco is indeed a character on one of our new favorite shows, The League. But our love for tacos goes WAY back. Since we have been together, there has been only one meal that has made an appearance into the menu each and every week. Tacos.

Ry grew up eating tacos a lot, and it was his idea to buy that first Old El Paso taco kit. I always loved tacos, but never thought to buy a kit or to make them at home. I always went with burritos when craving Mexican food. You might think they're the same, but they are very very different. It only took one crunchy, cheesy, sour-creamy bite to buy into "Taco Tuesday" which quickly evolved into "Taco Tuesday on Wednesday," purely based on the scheduling of our TV show culinary indulgence, Top Chef. It stuck long after the last contestant packed their knives and went.

Our taco intake evolved in a few other ways as well. Ry does not do much conventionally, and eating his tacos is no exception. He does not use the shell as a vessel for the taco innards. Instead, he mixes all the inside ingredients in a bowl, then places them on a plate full of crushed, warm taco shells. So, the first taco night, Ry dined with a fork while I enjoyed my tacos with my head tilted dramatically to the side, with juices dripping down my face, my elbows out to prevent more fluids from flowing up my arms. Delicious, but not pretty. The next week I tried Ry's method, and I have not looked back. Ry said smugly that every time he eats tacos in front of someone, he changes their taco-eating ways.

This new-fangled taco method even converted my father, who is notorious for hating tacos (or any food, really) because of their messiness. I was nervous when we put tacos on the menu in the week leading up to our wedding, knowing he would quietly eat them, but swearing a blue streak on the inside for every drop of grease that smeared into his hands. So I was thrilled when he copied Ry's "mix and crush" tacos, and almost fainted when he told my mom "we should make these at home."

The Evolution of Healthy: After a few weeks of delicious tacos, I almost vetoed the whole thing when I read the back of the taco kit box. First shocker was the amount of sodium. It was hard to believe that the tiny seasoning packet could pack that much anti-nutrition into it. And the second surprise was what was in the seasoning packet. If you took away all the unpronounceables, I had all those things on my spice rack. If we were going to eat Tacos every Tuesday (read: Wednesday) for the rest of our lives, I was going to devise a way for us to make them healthier.

I had to be careful, as not to scare Ry away from the tradition of the kit. So I weaned Ry off the kit, off the seasoning packet, off the bagged "salsa" using the recipe below. He barely even noticed the switch, and we haven't bought a kit in years.

Mix and Crush Tacos

The Meat
-1 glug of olive oil
-1/2 large onion, minced
-2 cloves garlic (more if you like it)
-optional: 1 green pepper, diced
-3/4 of a pound (or thereabouts) of a protein of your choice (we rotate between ground beef, fajita-style beef and chicken)
-optional: 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (not optional in our house)
-1 1/2 tsp chili powder
-1 1/2 tsp paprika
-1 1/2 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp turmeric (to achieve that taco kit orange)
-salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a deep cast iron pan, and add 1/2 of the chopped onions, garlic, crushed red pepper and green pepper. Cook til onion and peppers are just tender. Add the protein and all the spices. When the meat is a few minutes away from being done, add the rest of the onions (for crunch). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

The Assembly
-1 c shredded cheddar
-sour cream
-salsa - we like homemade, or Herdez Medium, available in the international aisle of the supermarket
-shredded lettuce or cabbage
-diced tomatoes
-if we have it, minced cilantro, avocado, lime juice, jalapenos or full on guacamole
-the meat
-taco shells or tortilla chips, warmed in the oven at 325 for 5 minutes

Crush the shells or chips between your hands, and put on a plate. Mound all the fixin's want on top of the shells and mix on the plate -- OR -- get a medium sized mixing bowl, put all the fixin's in there and pour out over the crushed shells. Eat, enjoy, get seconds.


  1. Um, are we sisters? I love the Cosby show too, and Evan and I talked about naming our dog Theo Huxtable. Taco won though. We don't exactly have a dog yet, but when we do, Taco will be his name and doggin will be his game. Yes, this is Kristen that used to work at VYCC. Your blog is adorable. I am glad I know about. I am learning and catching up with all kinds of people because of mine, which was the point. I love when things work out. If I find another taco ornament, I will mail you one. You need one on your tree with this much love for tacos.

  2. Yes, I didn't realize we were separated at birth! I can relate 100% to every one of your blog posts (because I read all of them). I love this whole blog thing. It's replaced FaceBook for me, and I love getting lost in all the other blogs out there. I love Dinner: A Love Story - check it out if you haven't already. I hope you have a great holiday, and here's to being linked through blogs and tacos! Cheers to you and Evan!