Thursday, January 19, 2012

Veggie Packed Taco Meat

The best part about home cooking is that you can control what goes into the meals you make, therefore making them more nutritious. I try to maximize the amount of veggies I can sneak into every meal. Gotta get the bf to eat green stuff somehow. Surprisingly, I've found that taco meat is one of the best vehicles to get vegetables into my boyfriends diet.  This is probably the best revelation since sliced whole wheat bread because taco meat is delicious, versatile (tacos, burritos, salads, egg scrambles), and easy! And comes with the added bonus of freezing well so I always make a double batch.

It's easy to get veggies into taco meat. Obviously you want onion in there anyway so why not add a finely diced green pepper, a couple shredded carrots, and zucchini? The texture of chopped and shredded vegetables blends nicely with the crumbly meat and if you don't think the taste of the green and orange goodies make the meat better, at least it's pretty unnoticeable.

My other secret to good taco meat is to keep it moist. If you are following the instructions on the back of a seasoning packet they are most likely going to tell you to use meat, maybe an onion, and the seasoning with some water. BORING. Why not add some fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles? How about some tomato paste for good measure? This creates a saucy, moist, flavorful taco meat that you won't want to stop eating. Think of it this way - do you like how Taco Bell's taco meat is juicy and saucy (mainly from all the fat and who knows what else), well, you can get that same flavor, but without the fat by using tomatoes and tomato paste. You can make your own blend of taco seasoning to further up the homemade feel, but lately I've been using Trader Joe's seasoning which is potent and spicy, just the way I like it.

Word to the wise about Trader Joe's Taco Seasoning - this one packet is enough for 2 pounds of meat. And trust me, it is MORE than enough. So if you are doing less meat, half the packet. Also this seasoning has quite a kick to it, so if you are wary of spice you might want to use less or try a different seasoning packet, or make your own seasoning.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it works great with ground chicken breast and turkey as well as ground beef. The veggies and tomato paste give the meat enough moisture that the ground chicken breast or turkey won't dry out. My favorite is ground chicken breast which I pick up at Sprouts when they have it on sale. This time around I used 93% lean ground beef.

Veggie Packed Taco Meat
makes 12 or more tacos

- 2lbs 93% lean ground beef, lean ground turkey, or ground chicken breast
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 carrots, shredded
- 1 - 2 zucchinis, shredded 
- 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes and green chiles
- 1 packet Trader Joe's taco seasoning OR 2 packets your favorite seasoning OR make your own seasoning
- 1/2  (6 oz) can tomato paste (you may use less depending on your taste)*
- 1/4 cup water (if needed)

- Heat up a large pan on the stove. Prep your veggies. Dice your onion and bell pepper. Using a fine grate, shred your carrots and zucchinis. 
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and allow to heat up. Add the onions, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions sweat and become translucent.
- Add ground meat to the pan, using a spatula to break up the meat as you go.
- Once the meat is browned, drain the fat off the meat if needed. Add the shredded zucchini. Stir. Add the can of fire roasted tomatoes and green chiles and your seasoning mix. Stir.
- Add the tomato paste and water if needed. I often just add the tomato paste and stir well and find that the juices from the fire roasted tomatoes are enough to mix the paste in. But if you are having trouble mixing in your tomato paste, add 1/4 cup water. You may want to start with a spoonful of tomato paste, taste, and add more as you like.  
- Let simmer for 3-5 minutes to get the flavors to mingle. Serve however you like and freeze the leftovers.

*This website has a great method for freezing tomato paste and using as you need.

Peace, love, sneaky veggies, and happiness!

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