Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Tacos

Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Tacos
tacos from a jar & tips on using corn tortillas

Tacos have been a staple of mine for a long time, but until recently I relied on McCormick's taco seasoning to make them. Although the mix isn't labeled gluten-free, the ingredients list seems safe, and it is much more convenient than trying to follow a taco recipe from scratch. It wasn't perfect, but it worked for us.

Since I started this blog, however, I have started paying more attention to what I eat and what I can do to improve it. I have noticed that I enjoy meals best when they include a "healthy" aspect, such as additional fruits and vegetables, and when I do something to make them my own, even if it is a simple as adding fresh tomatoes to a jar of store-bought pasta sauce. As I considered how I could improve our taco routine, I knew I needed to find a way to a) use a labeled gluten-free mix and b) add vegetables without a lot of work. 

My solution? I substituted a jar of gluten-free salsa in place of taco seasoning!

The ingredients:
  • 1 small jar of gluten-free salsa*
  • approximately 1 pound of ground beef
  • gluten-free corn tortillas or taco shells**
  • your choice of toppings
* Pace and La Victoria are both good options, but any gluten-free salsa will work.
**Mission corn products are labeled gluten-free and produced on dedicated lines. La Banderita corn tortillas are also labeled gluten-free.

The instructions:

Brown the ground beef in a large frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. If you are like me and hate clumpy taco filling, keep breaking up the meat to make sure it is nice and fine.

When the meat is thoroughly cooked and no pink remains, drain the fat and reduce the heat low or medium-low.

Slowly add salsa until all of the meat is well-coated, stirring as you go. I used about half of a standard-size jar, but I recommend adding a little at a time to make sure you don't overdo it...and wind up with soup.

Continue cooking and stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed. I forgot to time it (sorry!), but this should take about five to ten minutes.

Spoon into gluten-free tortillas or taco shells, top with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

A few final caveats and notes:
  1. I will be honest. My husband said the first go-round tasted kind of ketchup-ey (I used Pace mild salsa), so next time I will kick it up a notch and try medium salsa or a different brand.
  2. Feel free to be creative. If you like spicier tacos, use medium or hot salsa, or add chili powder, crushed red pepper, or a can of diced green chilies. If you like fresh vegetables, throw in diced tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers.
  3. Sorry if my instructions aren't very specific. I am not an experienced chef, and I prefer the try-it-and-see approach. I figure if I can make it, anyone who is allowed to operate a stove probably can too.
And some advice regarding soft corn tortillas:

If you have ever shied away from soft corn tortillas before, I am going to guess it is because they crumble and break as you try to eat them. Good news! You can alleviate that problem by warming the tortillas (a painfully simple trick I learn from my uncle in-law).

I prefer to steam them in the steamer basket that came with my pots and pans set because it has the best result, but you could also warm them in a skillet or frying pan or nuke them in the microwave. Whichever way you choose, warming your corn tortillas will render them much more soft, supple, and tasty!

  • Using a steamer basket Start boiling water in the appropriate pot after you drain the fat from the meat--an inch or two deep is plenty. Covering the basket with a lid will help the water boil faster, but it is not necessary. When the water is boiling, place the tortillas in the basket, one tortilla at a time. Cover the basket with a lid, and let the tortilla steam for 5-10 seconds. Remove the tortilla with tongs--it will be hot! NOTE: If you steam them too long, they will turn mushy and fall apart.
  • Using a skillet or frying pan If you go this route, make sure you use very low heat or maybe a non-stick pan if you need one. Heating an empty non-stick pan can damage the coating, so make sure the tortilla is in the pan before you turn it on. Heat the tortilla until it is warm to the touch.
  • Using the microwave Warming tortillas in the microwave is my second favorite option because it is quick, available at work, and still results in (more or less) steamed tortillas. If you are using the microwave, your best option is to spread the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate (warm tortillas tend to stick together), place a coffee mug full of water in the corner, and microwave the tortillas for about 10 seconds. If that is not long enough, heat them again for about 5 seconds, repeating until they are the desired warmth (again, they get mushy if they are heated for too long). Alternatively, you could place the tortillas between wet paper towels before microwaving them, again for about 10 seconds.

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