Hello! The Big Event (aka our daughter's Open House) happened this past Sunday. All kinds of cooking and cleaning occurred leading up to the day, and then there were the inevitable last-minute issues like worrying about the weather and late-notice no-shows. But the weather held and while the no-shows were missed, we were glad to welcome those who could come.
The food turned out pretty good, if I say so myself. For the main course, we set up a taco bar with plenty of fixings, anchored by ground beef and chicken fillings. I'll share the recipes for these below:
Taco Seasoning Mix (from Make-A-Mix, Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward and Madeline Westover, authors)
2 teaspoons instant minced dried onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes (reduce for a milder
1/2 teaspoon minced dried garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Mix together in small bowl. Makes about 2 tablespoons seasoning.
To make tacos:
Brown 1 1/2 pounds ground beef in skillet; drain grease. Add 1/2 cup water and entire amount of taco seasoning mix. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Notes: I used less salt than what is called for. I didn't have minced dried garlic on hand, but did have a garlic-herb blend, so I used that instead of the specified amounts of minced dried garlic and oregano. I found that I needed to add a bit more water from time to time so that the meat mixture wouldn't stick.
Since I was cooking for a crowd, I multiplied the seasoning mix amounts to cook up several pounds of ground beef at a time. I cooked up the filling in advance, when the weather was cooler, and froze it. (at times like this I am very glad we have a freezer in our basement). As it was hot and humid the weekend of the open house, this was a smart move!
Since there are those who like to limit the amount of red meat they eat, I also made:
Smokey Roasted Chicken Tacos (adapted from the blog How Sweet It Is)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
Preheat oven to 425. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and place the sliced onion all over the bottom. Place the chicken in a large bowl. Mix the smoked paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and garlic powder in a small bowl, then add to chicken. Pour in the olive oil and toss all to mix well.
Place in baking sheet, sprinkle with lemon or lime juice, and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until chicken is tender. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then shred.
Notes: the recipe author used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts - cooking method is the same, but she said to cook the thighs for 45-60 minutes. I don't like dark meat, so I used breasts.
I searched her recipe over and over and couldn't find any mention of when to add the olive oil, but to me it made sense to mix it in with the chicken and seasonings. This step would help would help the seasonings adhere better to the chicken, I reasoned.
The recipe author had used fresh lime wedges, which she tucked in between the chicken pieces. (she doesn't mention them again after that step, so presumably they aren't included in the shredding step). I know that fresh citrus fruits have nicer flavors than their bottled equivalents, but bottled juice is what I had on hand, so that's what I used.
What if you don't have smoked paprika though? I did, and it added a nice flavor to the chicken. However, if I hadn't had this ingredient already on hand, I still would have made the recipe; I just would have added more chili powder and cumin. It still would have tasted good, I'm sure!
As with the ground beef filling, I made this recipe in batches and froze it in advance.
Come the day of the Open House, I thawed out the fillings and kept them warm in a couple of slow cookers. Both fillings held up very well all day. But being mindful of vegetarians, I also heated up cans of refried beans.
That's the nice thing about a taco bar (or any fix-it-yourself entree): something for everyone! And everyone seemed to enjoy their tacos, so I was happy!