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Beef Tacos

Makes about 16 tacos

I love authentic Mexican cooking. However, I enjoy an Americanized taco with ground beef now and then. It makes a quick, easy, fun and delicious main dish as long as I get to control the seasonings. Once you see how easy it is to flavor the meat with herbs and spices common to most home pantries, you will probably never purchase seasoning mixes again. The amounts of the spices in this recipe are approximate. You can add more or less to taste. See the variation for a slightly different cooking method. I have included my recipes for homemade taco sauce, tomato salsa and guacamole in the similar and related recipes but, if preferred, you can use store-bought.

   Optional Garnishes

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add just a little oil in the bottom. Add the beef and sauté until browned, adding the onion, salt and pepper when it just starts to brown. Add all the seasonings and a little water for moisture. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer about 15 minutes. Stir in additional water if it looks too dry. Taste for seasonings. Heat taco shells according to package directions. Serve, garnishing as desired.

Notes: I do not use a blended chili powder because, as with most other spice blends, it is usually very high in sodium and I prefer my own blend of spices. The most predominant flavor in chili powder is the ground cumin. I love the flavor of cumin and usually end up adding more. If you like more heat, substitute a hotter ground chile for the ancho, such as chipotle.

Variation: I discovered that some, if not many, packaged taco seasoning mixes have some sort of thickener in them. This is to bind the mixture so it stays in the taco and so it is not so wet that it soaks the bottom of the shell. With that in mind, I added 2 teaspoons of flour to the above recipe, sprinkling it on the browned beef and stirring well before adding the seasonings. I then added about 1/2 cup of water and 3 tablespoons unseasoned tomato sauce before simmering. It worked very well, but I prefer the version above. You might want to try both and decide for yourself.