Beef Tacos #MexicanRecipes

Today kicks off a weeks worth of #MexicanRecipes. Below is a handful of recipes to help inspire you for next weekend’s Cinco de Mayo festivities, followed by what’s currently my favorite recipe for Beef Tacos – easy to make, easy to scale for entertaining.

#MexicanRecipes
Happy #MexicanRecipes
Let’s have a fiesta of Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes all week long!

Check back each and every day for new recipes by following along with the hashtag #MexicanRecipes on social media.

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Over the past couple of years, my husband has gotten really into dorky board games. The kind that take a while to set up, a long time to read and learn the rules, and sometimes a long time to play. I enjoy some of the games (I love playing Pandemic Legacy with friends, and am really into the collaborative version of Orleans) but I don’t play often enough to want to learn a lot of new games. My hubby is the opposite and would play a different game every night if he could.

My hubby has been getting his fill of board games with twice monthly board game nights. We host about half of the time, and the group that is coming seems to get larger every time. It’s made entertaining a bit of a challenge – a large group on a work night. I need something that can either be made a day before and reheated or is crazy quick to prepare in large quantities. With the warmer weather, chili no longer seems like the best choice. We’ve been grilling some, but these beef tacos are great for the spring rainy nights. The meat mixture is easy to make, easy to scale, can be made ahead and reheated the day of on the stove or in the slow cooker, and can be frozen or reused in other Mexican recipes (burritos, burrito bowls, and quesadillas) during the week if we have leftovers. We love the flavor (not spicy at all) and I love the hidden bell pepper for a little extra veggie.

Beef Tacos

Adapted from SkinnyTaste Fast and Slow (p. 139)

Serves 4

Ingredients for the Taco Meat:

  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

Tacos:

  • Hard or soft taco shells
  • Choice of toppings: shredded lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa (we like homemade salsa), sour cream, guacamole

Make the Taco Meat: In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces. When mostly browned, drain out extra fat at the bottom of the pan. Return to stove and add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cooking until remaining beef is browned and vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients – herbs, spices, and tomato sauce. Stir well. Lower heat and cook, stirring occasionally, on low for 15-20 minutes, until warmed throughout.

Serve hot with desired taco shells and toppings. Or, use in burritos, burrito bowls, or quesadillas.

Recipe Notes: Taco meat may be frozen for use later. It can also cook throughout the day in a slow cooker (6-8 hours on low, or 3 on high) if prepared in the morning, or is being reheated.

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Slow Cooker Beef Stew

We’re having unseasonably warm weather this year, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not craving your typical winter comfort foods, like pastas and stews. A very busy month has had me looking towards recipes that require little extra work from me and meals that make large quantities so that we’re set for leftovers for a couple days (or in this case, almost the entire week). This stew recipe, heavily adapted from my uncle’s recipe, fits that bill. It makes 14 HUGE, filling servings and with the exception of a few minutes chopping of some veggies, the dish can be set and forget to cook all day long.

I know I’ll be making this recipe a couple times over the next two months. Not just because we enjoy it, but because this week, both my hubby and I got hit with some craziness at work. Over the next 6 weeks, we each have a week of training, which tends to equate to long days with the other parent doing the majority of the kid-duties. Add that to a looming deadline for me on a huge project at work… life is going to be busy and a bit rough until mid-March.

I plan to do my best and continue posting as much as possible, but please forgive me if there’s a lack of posts on here or on social media. Please send positive thoughts that everything goes smoothly!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

By Books n’ Cooks

Makes 14 2-Cup Servings

Add the following to a 7-quart (or larger) slow cooker and whisk to combine.

  • 32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
  • 32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 6 Tbs. homemade stew seasoning (or 2 packets, if purchasing store-bought)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Then add the meat, potatoes, and vegetables:

  • 8 oz. sliced white button mushrooms
  • 7-8 oz. frozen peas
  • 1/2 an onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 lbs. lean stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (trimmed of fat, if needed)
  • 6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces

Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, until potatoes are soft and meat is tender.

A couple tablespoons at a time, whisk in:

  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour

and allow stew to cook and thicken with the lid cracked another 15-30 minutes.

Serve hot, with a side salad and/or dinner roll.

Beef & Sausage Lasagna

November was supposed to be a quiet month for me. October was crazy but November was completely open. It was supposed to be a chance for me to relax and recharge before the Christmas holiday season kicked into gear.

As hard as I tried to keep the month open, my plan didn’t really work out. I’m not even completely sure how the month got so busy, or what, exactly, we did. We had a houseguest for a couple days, that we didn’t previously plan, but I think that other than that, it was just very busy with some long days (including weekends) at work, a week of sick kiddos, and struggling to keep up with housework. As the month ended, I ended up feeling more exhausted than refreshed.

beef-sausage-lasaga

The crazy month is why this recipe has taken a bit longer than I wanted to post. This lasagna is a go-to recipe for me, particularly for cooler weather and large-scale entertaining. While it is a good bit of work (it probably takes an hour or so to put together), it has 3 qualities that make it a favorite.

1) It can be made in advance and refrigerated or frozen.
2) It makes a huge dish and can easily serve 8-12 people. Or, it makes a lot of leftovers for weekday lunches or busy weeks when leftovers are all that we have for dinner.
3) Everyone loves it.

Unlike a lot of other lasagnas, it’s light on the cheese and full of meat. Also a little different from other recipes, I added a few extra layers – for a total of 4 layers of noodles – as we like a nice, thick slice.

This recipe has been heavily adapted from my mom’s old Good Housekeeping cookbook, Step by Step.

Make Ahead: This recipe can be made in advance, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and frozen for at least a couple of months. Lasagna should be allowed to defrost completely (about 2 days in the fridge) before baking according the the instructions below. If lasagna isn’t completely thawed, keep covered and bake until lasagna is hot throughout, before removing foil and cooking uncovered for the last 15 minutes.

beef-sausage-lasaga

Beef & Sausage Lasagna

Makes one large (9×13) lasagna

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 1-16 oz. package lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 lb. spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 1 Tbs. minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbs. dried basil
  • 1-15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 c. fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 c. (8 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375F.

Make the Meat Sauce: In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and both sausages, using a wooden spoon to break up any large chunks. Add onion and garlic, and continue to cook until translucent. Discard any excess fat, and add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, kosher salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and basil. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and lower heat, simmering for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package. When done, use tongs to remove noodles from water and lay noodles flat on a clean dishtowel on the counter. Allow to cool until you’re able to handle them with your hands.

Make the Ricotta Layer: In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, egg and parsley.

Assemble the Lasagna: On a clean countertop, line up meat sauce, lasagna noodles on the towel, ricotta, a small bowl filled with the shredded mozzarella, and a large (9×13 at least) baking dish. It will make assembly easier and cleaner if everything is in one single work area.

First, spread a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce (I like to avoid the meat chunks for the bottom later) across the bottom of the baking dish, so that lasagna noodles don’t stick. Next, add a layer of lasagna noodles, followed by one-third of the ricotta, about 1/2 c. of the mozzarella, and about a quarter of the meat sauce. Do this two more times, so that you have 3 complete layers.

Add the final layer of lasagna noodles. If you have extra ricotta, you can add it here. Otherwise, top with remaining meat sauce, remaining mozzarella, and the grated Parmesan cheese. Feel free to add a little extra of either or both cheeses, if lasagna is not sufficiently covered.

Bake in preheated oven covered with aluminum foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted and starting to brown. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve hot with a side salad and your favorite fresh bread or garlic bread.

beef-sausage-lasagna-from-books-n-cooks

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Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Grilled Steak

After three weeks of rain and abnormally chilly weather, it looks like some semblance of spring or early summer is finally here, and I’m thrilled. I’m done with heavy meals, the stove and oven heating up the kitchen. I’ve been longing for lighter fare – grilled meats and veggies, lots of fresh fruit and herbs… everything cooked outside with the windows and doors open. And FINALLY! That time is here!

Bourbon Brown Sugar Steak

Due to our busy schedules, we’re frequently grilling with premade marinades or a quick rub of spices or even just kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. But on the weekends, I have a little extra time for those few extra steps that turn a simple grilled steak into something a little extra special. This recipe is one I’ve made several times. The  marinade loans a great flavor to the meat, and later gets heated to a boiling point to create a sweet syrup to drizzle on the grilled steak.

Bourbon Brown Sugar Steak

Bourbon & Brown Sugar Marinated Grilled Steak

Adapted from Fine Cooking Grilling, 2008 (p. 33)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 c. bourbon
  • 1/2 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. hot sauce
  • 2 lbs. steak (I used flank steak)

Marinade: Combine soy sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, mustard and hot sauce in a large ziplock bag. Add steak and marinate at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.

Cook: Meanwhile, preheat grill, with settings on medium.

Remove steak from marinade (save marinade) and grill to desired doneness – about 5-6 minutes per side for medium-rare.While steaks cook, place leftover marinade in a small pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes until thick and syrupy.

Allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes before slicing thinly, across the grain.

Serve with a drizzle of sauce and your favorite summer sides.

Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington

I feel like Beef Wellington is one of those dishes you indulge in. It’s expensive and while not difficult to make, it does take a little bit of time. However, this recipe has become of of my favorite beef recipes and my go-to entree for special occasions, particularly for Easter. The beef is incredibly tender and the stuffing is full of flavor. I usually pair it with a simple potato dish, a roasted vegetable, and a salad – the beef is the star of the show and there’s no need to detract from it with fancy sides.

I’ve used this recipe (scaled accordingly) to make both individual Beef Wellingtons as well as one large Beef Wellington, which we then sliced. While I like the idea of everyone having their own individual serving, the larger one was easier to put together and honestly easier to accommodate appetites of varying sizes.

Beef Wellington 

Heavily adapted (simplified) from Tyler Florence

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for the Mushroom Duxelles: 

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pints (1 1/2 lbs.) white button mushrooms
  • 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Ingredients for the Beef:

  • 3 lbs. center-cut beef tenderloin, trimmed
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • all-purpose flour
  • 1 lb. puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • cooking spray
  • coarse sea salt

Make the Duxelles: On the stove, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add butter and olive oil.

Meanwhile, in a large food processor, pulse the mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme until finely chopped. Add to skillet with melted butter and olive oil. Sautee for about 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.

I’ve made this step several hours ahead of time, and simply refrigerated it until ready to prepare the beef.

Prep the Beef: In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil.

While the oil is heating, season all sides of the beef tenderloin with salt and pepper. Sear meat on all sides for only a few minutes, to seal in juices.

Beef Wellington

Assemble the Beef Wellington:  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F and lightly flour the counter. Roll out puff pastry to 1/4-inch thickness, overlapping the two sheets of puff pastry as necessary. Spread duxelles in the center, to the approximate length and width of the puff pastry. Set seared beef tenderloin on top.

Combine beaten egg with a little bit of water to create an egg wash. Brush long sides of puff pastry with egg wash and then fold over, sealing in meat. Trim ends, if necessary. Brush with egg wash and fold over.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Gently place beef on prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cut slits into top to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the beef comes out at 125F. Allow to rest for 15 minutes, which will allow the meat to continue to cool until it reaches medium, about 140 degrees.