I Just Want to be Better at Cooking! | The Mexican Beef Week

July 19, 2011

Because it has been five months since I shared my Whole Chicken Week with you, I will remind you of my heart behind making a Healthy Menu Plan:

Whole foods, fresh produce, meal plans, whole wheat, raw dairy, soaking grains, homemade . . . everything . . . it’s overwhelming, really.  I want so badly to be a better cook.  I want to cook faster and smarter and cheaper.  I want the food I cook to be healthy for my family.  I want to get rid of processed foods and preservatives.  I want to learn the traditional ways of cooking–things women did up until 50 years ago.  Only I want to be able to do them in an efficient way that fits into today’s lifestyle.

Well, that may be a tall order, but I think I might actually be on my way to achieving this.  I’ve learned (during the past year of trying to be more natural) that baby steps are the best way to go.  There’s no point in me throwing myself into a way of life that I don’t really know how to live in!  I started a year ago learning just about natural beauty products, then house-hold cleaning products, then I very slowly began switching things like my all-purpose enriched flour to things like whole wheat flour, and now I think I’m finally ready to continue adding more natural ways to my cooking by making even bigger steps than just switching to purchasing bottom or top shelf items (because that’s where they tend to store the “good-for-you” products).

Step Number One: Create a Healthy Menu Plan.  This will be a 6 week schedule of meals where each week the meals I make will include some of the same ingredients so I can re-use fresh produce without it going bad.  My goal is to create these 6 weeks worth of meals using healthy ingredients and homemade items whenever I can.  Then I can start over with week one and run through the 6 weeks again without my husband getting bored with the same old meals every week. 

Today I will share with you my Mexican Beef Week.

Meal #1: Crockpot Nachos

  • 1 lb. ground beef, uncooked
  • 16 oz. black beans, canned or fresh and soaked (if using fresh beans, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can)
  • 10 oz. corn, canned, frozen, or fresh (again, if using fresh, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can or would melt from the frozen corn)
  • 10 oz. (or about a cup of the homemade) Rotel*
  • 1 packet (or ¾ oz. homemade) taco seasoning**
  • cheese (we use mozzarella, however, you may want to use cheddar since that’s what Enchiladas Fantasticas calls for)
  • chips
  1. Put beef, beans, corn, Rotel, and taco seasoning in crockpot.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.
  2. Serve with cheese and chips. No really, it’s that easy!  And it is so yummy!

*Homemade Rotel

Makes about 5 cups

  • 1 ½ qts. peeled chopped tomatoes (seeded) (about 4 lbs.)
  • 12 jalepeno or hot chili peppers, sliced (7 for medium, 4 for mild)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  1. Place it all in a 4 quart saucepan and simmer until reduced to 1 quart. (Before you do any cooking, fill the pan with 1 quart water and mark with a dry erase pen–on the outside of the pan–where the 1 quart mark is.  Dump the water and then cook the tomatoes and peppers all up.  That way you’ll know when it’s reduced to 1 quart!)
  2. Freeze in 1 cup portions.  This will be equal to one small can of Rotel!

**Homemade Taco Seasoning

This makes enough for Crockpot Nachos, plus some.  I usually multiply the following amounts by 4 to make a bunch of taco seasoning.  This way I don’t have to re-make it all the time!

  • 6 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 5 tsp. paprika
  • 3 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
  2. This is twice as strong as store-bought seasoning, so only use half as much.  That means ¾ oz. would be the equivalent to the 1.25 oz. packets in the store.  Of course, you may want to use a little more or a little less depending on your tastes.

Meal #2: Enchiladas Fantasticas

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 c. picante sauce***
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach (or 3 oz. fresh chopped spinach)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • 14.5 oz. Rotel* (for homemade Rotel, use the above recipe.  This calls for 1 1/2 cups, though)
  • 12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Brown beef.  Add 1 cup picante sauce, spinach, 1 ½ tsp. cumin, and salt.
  2. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add cream cheese, stirring just until melted.  Remove from heat.
  4. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla, roll up, and place seam-side down into 9 x 13 inch dish.
  5. Combine the Rotel, remaining picante sauce, and remaining cumin.  Smooth this mixture over enchilads.  Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 min.  Enjoy!

***Homemade Picante Sauce

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1 Serrano chili (or Jalapeno), seeds removed, chopped fine
  • 6 medium (or about 8 Roma) fresh tomatoes, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin with green tops included
  • 1/8 cup loosely-packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, crushed between your palms
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild green chilis (or 4 oz. fresh chopped green chilis)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine Serrano chili (or jalapeno), tomatoes, red onion, green onions, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, tomato sauce, green chilis, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Let sit overnight to let flavors blend.
  3. Store any leftover salsa in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Grocery List

This list is if you’re going to make all three homemade recipes (Rotel, taco seasoning, and picante sauce).  The asterisks let you know what you don’t  need to buy if you’re not going to make these from scratch!

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • bag of shredded Cheddar cheese
  • bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese (unless using cheddar for both recipes)
  • tortilla chips
  • bag (or 16 oz. can) black beans
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce***
  • red wine vinegar***
  • frozen or canned corn (10 oz. either way), I’m not sure how many cobs this would be :\
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • spinach (10 oz. frozen or 3 oz. fresh)
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped mild green chilis*** (or 4 oz. fresh chilis)
  • 4 lbs.* + 8 Roma tomatoes*** (I would weigh 4 pounds and then add 8 to the bag.  We use our garden Roma tomatoes, though, so I’m not sure how many pounds 8 tomatoes is, sorry!)
  • 7 jalapeno peppers* (12 for hot, 4 for mild) + 1 jalapeno pepper***
  • 1 medium red onion***
  • 3 green onions***
  • cilantro***

Items you probably already have

  • cumin
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • paprika**
  • onion powder**
  • cayenne pepper**
  • chili powder** & ***
  • garlic powder** & ***
  • oregano***

*can substitute 2 cans (24.5 oz.) of Rotel for these ingredients

**may substitute 1 packet of taco seasoning for these ingredients

***can substitute 1 ½ jars of picante sauce for these ingredients

And there you have it.  It might sound boring to have Mexican dishes with beef in them all week long, but it’s not!  These two dishes are so different that we don’t even notice we’re eating basically the same ingredients!  Also, it saves money!

A final tip

You’re not going to use all of the cilantro or green onions you have to buy.  You may buy too much corn.  You may decide one red onion is just too much.  Don’t throw the left overs away!  Chop ’em up, put ’em in freezer bags or Tupperware and throw ’em in your freezer.  Then the next time you need one of these ingredients you may have so much frozen that you don’t need to buy any at all!

Was any of that confusing? Are you trying one of these recipes and running into a problem?  Do you have a question?  A comment?  A suggestion?  Leave a comment!

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