Kicked Up Ground Beef Tacos

I love tacos and there is something comforting about plain ground beef with a little sprinkle of cumin and then lots of yummy toppings. Sometimes, though, I want to kick things up a notch in the meat department but I want something better than just sprinkling a seasoning packet over ground meat. Here is a version that comes together quickly and tastes like you spent hours on it.

Kicked Up Ground Beef Tacos

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon chipolte powder (or cayenne pepper)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth (or beef broth)

Preheat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sauté the diced onion for 5 minutes, stirring as necessary.

Meanwhile measure out and combine all the dried spices. When onions are translucent, put garlic  into the skillet and add spice mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute to bloom flavors.

Add ground beef to skillet. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to prevent scorching.

Once the beef is no longer pink, siphon off fat. Then, stir in tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then turn heat down to medium-low. Continue to simmer until liquid has thickened, but not completely dry, about 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary.

Place in serving bowl and serve with taco shells, refried beans, pepper jack cheese, sour cream, guacamole and other toppings of your choice.

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Turmeric Brine and Rub for Chicken

I’m doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again this year and thought I could use some brain boosting to help get me started on writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Turmeric, with its curcumin content, has a number of health benefits (especially when paired with black pepper to assist your body in absorbing it), including helping fuel your brain. It also tastes good and adds a pretty golden color to food, so what’s not to like?

Turmeric Buttermilk Brine

1 quart buttermilk
1 quart water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
10 lbs chicken leg quarters

Combine buttermilk and seasonings in a large container. Add chicken. Place in the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours and as long as overnight. Remove chicken and discard brine.

Drain chicken and pat dry. Place in a single layer in a large pan. Place in the refrigerator until ready to build your fire.

Turmeric Rub

4 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup brown sugar

Combine all ingredients and mix with your fingers to break up any lumps. I needed to double the recipe for 10 lbs of chicken. Sprinkle over both sides of the chicken at least 1 hour before grilling.

Grill over indirect heat until the internal temperature registers 165 F. I usually put it skin side down for the first 20 minutes and then flip it over for the next 40 or so minutes, placing the drumstick closest to the heat.

Lemon Lavender Roast Chicken

I was in a general store last month and they had dried lavender amongst other things. I picked up some on a whim, not knowing if I wanted to cook with it or be crafty with it. As the grocery store had chicken thighs on sale, I decided to go ahead and cook with a portion of it.

This roast chicken recipe is very fragrant and flavorful. I think I will cook this again for a romantic occasion. I served it with roasted potatoes tonight that I dunked into the pan juices before serving. Next time, I might use the time while the chicken rests to make a sauce to pour over the chicken and jasmine rice.

Lemon Lavender Roast Chicken

Juice and zest of two lemons (approx 1/3 cup juice)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoons dried lavender
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 3lb whole chicken or 3 lbs of chicken thighs
1 lemon cut into slices

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and place into a zip top bag with the chicken. Rub well to coat completely and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place chicken in a roasting pan on a rack, skin side up. Squeeze out any remaining marinade from the bag and smear it over the skin. Roast until the internal temperature of the thighs is 165 degrees, about 40 minutes to an hour. After 30 minutes of roasting, place slices of lemon on the chicken.

Pickle Juice Brined Chicken

Daisy waits for the chicken to be done

I don’t know about you but when I eat the last pickle in the jar, it hurts me to let all that juice go down the drain. I’ve taken to saving it and using it as a brine on chicken. It is great as a base for fried chicken (especially if you’re like me and a fan of Chick-fil-a’s chicken but not their politics). It doesn’t make pickle chicken, though. There is a nice tang, like what you get from a buttermilk soak. I wanted to see if I could translate it to grilled or roasted chicken as well.

I used one of my favorite meat rubs (Emeril’s Rustic Rub) but any kind you have that includes salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper would be delicious.

Pickle Brined Roast Chicken

4 lb whole chicken
2 cups pickle juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry rub, plus additional

Stir together the pickle juice, sugar and rub. Whisk until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Place the chicken and liquid in a zip top bag and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

For grilling: Heat up a chimney full of coals and pour them in a half circle around the edge of your grill.

For the oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat an ovenproof skillet (I use cast iron) over medium high heat.

Remove chicken from the brine. Dry off the chicken and then coat with olive oil. Lightly sprinkle with your dry rub.

For grilling: Place the chicken breast side up on the grill and and cook over indirect heat for about an hour or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

For the oven: Place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet. Set the chicken breast side down the hot pan and allow it cook for 10 minutes to brown. Flip the chicken over and transfer it right into the oven. Cook for 60 minutes in the oven or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Quesadillas con Huevos

Wanting something different for breakfast, I decided to try to make a breakfast quesadilla. I’ve done breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs but I wanted my eggs soft cooked this time. I love black beans, so I knew those were going on it and I could use them to corral the egg. I used part of a drained can of Ro-Tel tomatoes and green chilis instead of salsa, so the final result had the added benefit of helping my girlfriend, who woke up with a congested head, open up her sinuses.

Quesadillas con Huevos

4 flour tortillas
1 can black beans
1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
1/4 cup salsa, drained
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly toast tortillas over the stove burner. Warm the black beans in a saucepan.

Place two tortillas down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle on a layer of pepper jack cheese. Make a ring with some drained black beans. Sprinkle over the ring the salsa. Carefully break one egg in each of the rings. Sprinkle on a little more cheese.

Put the baking sheet in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove long enough to sprinkle on more cheese and place the remaining tortillas on top of the filled side. Bake for 3-5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for up to two minutes more to make the top tortilla crunchy. If you want your eggs runny, instead of just soft, reduce the second bake time to 3 minutes.

Place onto large plates and cut into quarters. Serve with sour cream and additional salsa, if desired.

Quick Creamy Lemon Salt Pasta

I’m all for taking my time in cooking but sometimes you just want to eat. The cream sauce comes together in the time it takes to bring the pasta water to a boil and cook it, so you have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes.

I typically make double the amount of lemon salt I need (for recipes like these) and keep it in an airtight container. Also, when I grill chicken, I usually do more than just what is needed for dinner and pick the some of the meat off the bone and store it in the freezer in 1 cup measurements in zip top bags. This recipe used 1 cup of precooked chicken.

1 cup pasta (I used Farfalle – bowtie)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon salt
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup already cooked chicken (about 1 breast)

Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente.

In a heavy skillet combine the cream, butter and salt. Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to low. Simmer for five to ten minutes or until sauce has thickened. Add in parsley. Pour over cooked pasta and add cheese and chicken and stir well. Serve once cheese is melted.

Simple Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those comfort meals. It comes together pretty quickly, so is perfect for a weeknight meal and has just enough good stuff in it to make your body happy as well as your soul.

1 pound ground beef
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
8 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup bread crumbs or crushed saltines

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix all meatloaf ingredients well. Shape into a loaf and place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake one hour.

Some people like a glaze on top of their meatloaf (I use the leftovers to make sandwiches and cover those with ketchup so I generally don’t glaze it). Here is a basic recipe for a glaze:

1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot pepper sauce
1 tablespoon honey

Combine the ketchup, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce and honey. Brush the glaze onto the meatloaf after it has been cooking for about 10 minutes.