This is the first in a series of three posts about my children’s most requested birthday meals. The above poem is one that I wrote for my daughter, Tricia. I have written poem’s for all three of my children on the premise of what I imagine they will be like when they are old and have a bit of dementia. I tried to capture each one’s personality and built the poems on their favorite activity.
As for Tricia’s favorite birthday meal, I have to tell you that this one is a little tricky because Tricia actually likes Thanksgiving dinner for her birthday. Yes, I have been known to make Thanksgiving dinner twice in a year. I’ve done it quite a few times and there is a story that goes with it.
Prior to 7th grade, Tricia always asked for soft shell tacos for her birthday dinner. They are still (I think) one of her favorite meals. I know that now she prefers to use the kind of flour tortillas that you buy raw and cook at home. I have to admit, those do taste the best of all the flour tortillas even though it is a little extra work.
So, what changed with 7th grade and Tricia making that enormous leap from requesting soft shell tacos to requesting Thanksgiving dinner? Braces on her teeth. Tricia had worn braces for about a year and a half. Things were going well with getting her teeth lined up and she was just a few months out from getting them off when my husband and I did the unthinkable…we announced that we were moving to Houston, Texas because my husband had gotten a new job there. At Tricia’s next orthodontist appointment, which was a couple of days before Thanksgiving, we told our orthodontist about the move and asked if he knew any orthodontists in Houston (which, of course, he did not). The orthodontist looked at Tricia’s mouth and then back at me and said that he thought he could crank the braces up and finish getting her teeth aligned and the braces off before we moved at the first of the year. He said that it was not ideal, but felt that her teeth were at the point where he could speed up the process. He warned Tricia that her mouth would be more sore than usual, but she agreed that it would be good to get her braces off before our move.
Well, the braces got cranked and Tricia’s mouth got sore. Very, very sore. So sore that she could not eat Thanksgiving dinner that year. I’m not sure that she has forgiven us or the orthodontist for that little bit of fun.
Fast forward several months…I was getting all set for Tricia’s birthday in our new home in Houston, thinking that she would ask for her usual soft shell tacos. Was I ever surprised when she announced that she wanted Thanksgiving dinner for her birthday. Seriously? Yep, the whole shootin’ match; turkey, sour dough dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied yams, Jell-O salad, and rolls. Why? “I didn’t get to eat Thanksgiving dinner at Thanksgiving, so I want to eat it for my birthday,” she said.
Oh. Some things really come back to bite you in the rump sometimes, ya know?
Although Tricia is married and has children of her own (MY grandchildren—oh yeah, life is good), I still have been known to make Thanksgiving dinner for her birthday. However, for this post I am going back to Tricia’s second most favorite birthday dinner, soft shell tacos.
Since the tacos are pretty basic — brown some ground beef and toss in a packet of our favorite store-bought taco seasoning, I decided instead to give you a homemade taco seasoning to try for your next taco night. You might also want to try simple Mexican style rice and refried beans.
Prep Time: 10 mins | Cook Time: 15 mins | Total Time: 25 mins | Yield: 5 servings
Family friendly homemade ground beef soft tacos. By making your own taco seasoning with the included recipe, you get to control the heat and the salt!
For the Beef:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium tomato, medium diced or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup water or unsalted beef broth
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
For the Taco Seasoning:
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (for smoky flavor and heat) or 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (for smoky flavor without the heat)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 5 taco-size flour tortillas
- suggested toppings: grated or crumbled cheese (cheddar, jack, pepper jack or cotija recommended), tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, sliced black olives, guacamole
- Heat a frying pan then add the ground beef and cook for 1 minute, breaking up ground beef well. Add the onion and garlic; continue cooking an additional 3 minutes.
- In a small bowl, stir together the spices. Add spices to the beef mixture and stir well. Stir in the tomato or tomato paste and the water or beef broth. Over medium heat, cook, stirring as needed, until beef has lost all of its pink color and the water or broth has mostly cooked off.
- Stir in cilantro.
- Serve immediately in warm tortillas of choice. Top as desired.
- If beef is very lean, a little olive oil or other fat of choice can be added to pan to keep beef from sticking to pan.
- To warm tortillas: Frying pan—in a hot frying pan, warm individual tortillas by heating tortilla on one side for 30-60 seconds, then flipping tortilla over to opposite side and warming for an additional few seconds. Keep warm by placing on a clean dish towel-lined plate and folding ends of dish towel over tortillas. Microwave—place a clean dish towel on a plate. Place the tortillas on top of the dish towel and cover with end(s) of dish towel. Heat for 1 minute at 50-60% power.
- Taco Seasoning: Triple or quadruple (or more) the taco seasoning recipe to keep on hand for future taco nights. Simply store in a securely covered glass jar. May be stored in or out of the refrigerator. Use about 2 1/2 tablespoons (2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons) per 1 pound of ground beef.
- Taco seasoning may also be used to flavor other Mexican-style dishes such as burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, refried beans and rice.
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