‘Ugly’ Steak n Cheese Tacos

I’ve been making this recipe for a few years now and I’m always encouraging friends to try it. But I’ve never posted the recipe because the photo of the steak… eh not so pretty. I finally decided to suck it up and just post it because I make this meal on the regular. It’s one of our favorite go-to weeknight meals that’s fairly healthy, inexpensive and easy to throw together. And in the end it really doesn’t matter the photos are ugly because the tacos are deeeelicious. (By the way I challenge anyone who makes this recipe to send me a not ugly photo 😊)
These tacos are really a lighter alternative to a Philly cheese steak grinder but they don’t lack in flavor. If you can eat just two it’s a great meal. The key is Trader Joe’s thinly shaved beef steak.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Shaved beef steak
  • Red or white onion, sliced
  • Sliced portobello mushrooms (optional
  • Sliced peppers (bell and jalapeños)
  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Seasonings: salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin and coriander
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, avocado, fresh cilantro, hot sauce, salsa verde, cilantro (I can keep going…)

Directions:

Slice your peppers and sauté. I seasoned them with all the seasonings listed above in a little oil. 

When I have the time, I like to caremalize onions on their own and then add the mushrooms to them at the end.

If time is not in your side, throw the onions in the pan, wait a few minutes and then add the peppers. Mushrooms are totally optional but are an easy addition.


While your veggies are cooking, prep your steak by placing on paper towels to absorb some of the moisture- this will help your beef sear a nice brown instead of steam the meat.

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne pepper for heat. You can use chili powder instead for more flavor without the spice. Whatever floats your boat!

The trick to the steak is getting your pan very hot. A cast iron skillet is a great option for this meal but any pan will work. Spray with some oil and sear the steak on both sides. Sometimes I use my tongs or a fork to tenderize the meat while it’s cooking by gently tapping it. I cook it in small batches because if you crowd the pan the steak will steam.


When all is ready to go, I like to melt the cheese on a small portion of the steak by adding it right into the pan and then assemble the taco with veggies because when is melty gooey cheese not better?

I heat my taco shells right on the flame of my stove for a little char.

Plate your ugly but delicious food. Top with hot sauce, fresh cilantro, avocado and/or sour cream. I’ve tried it every which way and it all works.


 

This night I went straight up sour cream with peppers mushrooms and onions​

This night I had peppers and onions and topped it with some homemade spicy enchilada sauce I had on hand.


Another great topping: throw avocado, cilantro, jalapeño and lime juice in a blender. Purée and use in lieu of sour cream. It never disappoints.
And my funny meme for the day because I can’t get enough tacos.

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Pork Carnitas

Initially I was weirded out by the technique of cooking pork carnitas…so much so that I almost scratched the idea. But I didn’t have 8-12 hours to slow cook the pork all day so I was really forced into the decision. And I’m so glad. This pork was so delicious and so tender and unlike anything I have ever made. You can put it on a sandwich with sauce, over nachos covered in toppings and cheese or in a taco, which is what we did.

I couldn’t imagine how boiling the meat could ever get it to look like this…

Ingredients:

For the Carnitas-

  • 4lb boston pork butt
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Cold Water
  • Organic blueberry juice
  • Zest of one orange
  • Seasoned Rub mixture  (see below)

For the Tacos-

  • Corn taco shells
  • Coleslaw: Cabbage & dressing (I made my own using mayo, sour cream, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, a little sugar, salt, lots of pepper, and celery salt).
  • Avocado cream sauce (put an avocado, sour cream, cilantro, a jalapeno and lime juice in a blender-if it’s too tart, add some agave nectar)

Instructions:

Cut the pork in to 1-2 inch cubes and smother in a rub of your choosing.

I used a rub given to me by my neighbor, whose brother owns a BBQ joint in New York. So I can’t exactly tell you what’s in it but I can guess/give you a suggestion.

A combination of salt, pepper, chili powder, coffee grinds, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and maybe some brown sugar. This rub isn’t spicy but very flavorful. Pile it on and don’t be shy. Rub it in to the meat.

Get a heavy pot/pan and put your cut up and seasoned pork in it. Pour water until you reach more than half way up the pork. Then add blueberry juice–I think I used 1/4 cup or so. I also added a splash of orange juice and the zest of one orange.

Add the chopped onion, garlic and salt & pepper. Turn the heat on high and bring it to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce to a roaring simmer. (You can use a nice beer or another citrus/whatever you like. I saw the blueberry juice in the grocery store and thought it would pair nicely with the pork).

 


After 45 minutes…

Stir it occasionally so all the meat gets cooked under the broth. The goal is to get the liquid to reduce all the way down.

After about 2 hours, I took my pork out and turned the heat up a bit, stirring the sauce until it reduced down further.

Put the pork back in. I used two forks to shred the meat a part a bit so they all weren’t big chunks. This is an optional step. At this point you can turn the heat off if you aren’t ready to proceed. I had an errand to run so I left it off for 45 minutes.

Set your oven to 400 degrees about a half hour before you are ready to eat. Put your pork in the oven, uncovered. This will caramelize the meat and reduce down the rest of the liquid, if any. All the fat left in the pan will fry the meat on the high temperature. When it’s done to your liking, take it out and I removed some of the big fatty pieces. They taste good but I’m not a fan! I left mine in probably 40 minutes.

Here’s your meat! Ready to enjoy however you would like.

Can’t ever go wrong with tacos.

Here is my snap chat video from the day –

 

 

Crock Pot Flank Steak Tacos

We all have busy days when we don’t have time to cook dinner so the crock pot is a wonderful tool for the working….any person. I was very skeptical about putting flank steak in a crock pot but I would never post anything I didn’t think was awesome. 10 minutes in the morning allows you to come home to a ready made meal. Try it for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lb flank steak
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • Hot sauce to taste (I recommend Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce)
  • Spice rub of your choice. I used the following: salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and coriander
  • White corn tacos (or whatever you like)
  • Toppings of your choice: mexican cheese, sour cream, fresh cilantro, etc but it honestly doesn’t need it

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Directions:

  • Rub your steak with the spices and place in the refrigerator overnight. You can do this the morning of but I was trying to save time. 
  • The next morning put your steak in the crock pot on the bottom.
  • Slice your pepper and onion and put on top of the steak.

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  • Pour the soy sauce and hot sauce around the steak.
  • Cook on low for 9 hours.
  • Shred and serve.

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If you divide by 4 servings and use 2 corn tacos per serving you can see below this is a very healthy dinner option.

Oven Fried Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In an effort to keep things healthy post January 1, last weekend I decided to try a healthy spin on buffalo chicken wraps–one of my favorites. Whats better than a soft flour tortilla, crunchy fried chicken smothered in buffalo sauce, some mayo or ranch and crunchy lettuce…. amazing. So, how can we make this better? Avoid frying and the calorie ridden flour tortilla. This recipe satisfied my craving. The crunchy bread crumbs and avo purée make this healthy dinner feel indulgent but it’s much more friendly to your waistline.


Ingredients:

  • Package of chicken breasts, washed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup or so of Franks Buffalo Sauce
  • 1 cup or so 2% Greek yogurt 
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped for topping 
  • Bibb lettuce, washed and separated
  • Avocado 
  • Fresh parsley 
  • 1 tbsp White balsamic vinegar 

Directions:

  • For this recipe I cut my chicken into nugget shapes. You can cut them into tenders or anything you want. 
  • In a large mixing bowl add your chicken and sprinkle with salt. Add 3/4 of the Greek yogurt and some Franks red hot. Stir everything to combine and then cover with saran wrap and stick in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. (A few hours is fine if you want to get prep out of the way early).

    • Pre heat the oven to 375.
    • Pour panko bread crumbs into a shallow dish and wet with some oil. Coat each piece of chicken with the bread crumbs but pressing them firmly into the chicken, and place on a cookie sheet topped with a drying rack. This will help crisp up the chicken. 

    • Bake for about 30 minutes or until they get golden. If necessary broil them at the end to finish browning. 

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    • You have the option of spraying the chicken with a light olive oil towards the end to ensure the breadcrumbs get nice and crispy.
    • Meanwhile put avocado, the rest of the Greek yogurt, fresh parsley, vinegar and salt and pepper in blender and purée until smooth. I also added a few celery leaves. 

     

    • When the chicken is done, assemble a lettuce wrap with the purée, chicken, celery,  and a drizzle of hot sacue and a dollop of ranch.  Enjoy!

    These also make great chicken nuggets for kids without the hot sauce on top! My neighbors 2 year old ate them right up! 


    Updated 3/26/17

    Ancho Chicken Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Avocado Crema

    It’s taco night!! Kyle and I LOVE tacos. We have multiple restaurants nearby that serve fantastic tacos: Bodega in Darien, Molcajetes and Tacos Mexico in Norwalk and in Hartford, my coworkers and I love (almost) weekly trips to the Lucky Taco truck parked on Bushnell Park. Tacos are versatile, incredibly flavorful and the best part, are really not bad for you. (Okay, well if you stuff it with fried fish and lots of cheese, that’s another story).

    I’ve made countless kinds of tacos: shrimp, steak, black bean & veggie…I could go on. But this week I was looking for a high protein and low-fat taco to compliment the T25 workout program Kyle and I are doing. So I used a skin less and boneless white meat chicken breast, red cabbage and an avocado crema topping.

    I had to leave the house for a meeting before Kyle got home. I left the tacos out for him to eat and he texted me to say, “I ate 3, is that really bad??” I responded “Haha no; I also had 3”. And his response was “I feel like I was really bad…” meaning no way eating 3 tacos was a healthy choice! So, this proves to you they are delicious and don’t compromise on flavor. Now, let me prove to you that they are good for you.

    For 3 of these tacos you are looking at roughly 450 calories, good fat from the avocado and a fresh vegetable. And you will be full. Kyle may have went on to eat 4 but who’s counting, and he’s allowed more calories. Dig in and enjoy 🙂

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    Ingredients:

    • 2 boneless and skin less chicken breasts
    • 2 jalapenos (add one more if you like it hot!)
    • Fresh cilantro (maybe 1 cup? – just eyeball it people!)
    • 2 limes
    • 1 avocado
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1 tbsp reduced fat sour cream (optional ingredient)
    • 1/3 of a head of red cabbage
    • 2 tbsp red or white vinegar
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 1 tbsp or so of ancho chili powder
    • 1/2 tbsp lawrys seasoning
    • White corn tacos

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    Avocado Crema:

    Cut the jalapenos in half, lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems.

    Place jalapenos, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.

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    Cabbage:

    Slice the red cabbage into coleslaw-style strips. Add vinegar and salt and mix.

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    Ancho Chicken:

    I marinated my chicken overnight with ancho chili powder, lawry’s, pepper and a bit of extra virgin olive oil just to moisten the ingredients. If you use lawry’s you do not need to add more salt. The overnight marinade is an optional step. If you don’t have time, simply season the chicken before you cook it.

    Sear the chicken on both sides of a hot pan to get a nice crust. Then add chicken broth or a squeeze of lime juice, place a lid over the pan and let cook on low heat.

    When the chicken is close to being finished, remove from the pan and dice in tiny pieces on your cutting board. Then place back in the pan to be sure everything is cooked through.

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    Build your tacos with each of the ingredients and enjoy them guilt-free!

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    Tacos de Barbacoa

    For some reason I have always been intimidated by large roasts and the braising process. I guess it’s fear of the unknown. But after making barbacoa I’m not sure why I was so scared; it was one of the easiest dinners I have made. And the flavor was extraordinary.

    If you have been to Chipotle you are familiar with barbacoa. It’s tender, juicy and packs a spicy kick of flavor. After some googling I decided to use a recipe from a fellow blogger as I was too intimidated by the process to start from scratch as I normally do. If you know me, then you know I did vary the recipe a little. After tasting the final product, I can’t wait to try it again with my own twist.

    P.S. This is a great recipe to make if you are having a large group of people over. You can start it in the morning, it won’t over cook, and when everyone arrives you just put out the toppings bar and heat up the tortillas! It’s easy, not a big mess, and not too expensive either!

    See the original recipe here.

    INGREDIENTS

    • 3-4 pounds boneless chuck roast, excess fat removed
    • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
    • The juice from one lime
    • 3-4 canned chipotle chiles with the adobo sauce
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • A few teaspoons ground cumin
    • A few teaspoons dried oregano (I couldn’t find Mexican oregano in the grocery store)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 teaspoons Kosher salt
    • Few dashes of ancho chili powder
    • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup chicken broth, plus more as needed
    • 3 bay leaves
    • Corn tortillas
    • Diced white onion, chopped cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

    INSTRUCTIONS

    • Optional: Buy the beef the night before and put a rub on it (salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, maybe some brown sugar) and place in the fridge over night.

    • Preheat the oven to 275°.
    • Combine the cider vinegar, lime juice, chipotle chiles, garlic cloves, cumin, oregano, clove, chili powder, black pepper and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree until completely smooth — about a minute or so.
    • Dry the roast all over with paper towels, cut away any excess fat.
    • Heat oil in a very large pot that is oven safe (I recommend le crueset) set over high heat until it begins to simmer. Sear the beef on all sides until deeply browned, about 10 minutes.

    • Add the chile puree to the pot and stir until the beef is well-coated. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

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    • Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the lid with tin foil and add the lid to create a very tight seal. Place the pot in the oven.
    • You want the meat to braise for 5-6 hours, removing the lid during the last hour or so to allow the simmering liquid to reduce slightly.
    • Allow the beef to cool slightly, spoon off any easily removable fat from the braising liquid and then use two forks to pull/shred the beef into bite size pieces. (You may want to check a few hours in that there is still enough liquid in the pot, if not, add more chicken broth.)
    • We took ours out after 4.5 hours and I don’t know how it could have been any better. The meat just fell apart.
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    • Taste and adjust as necessary for seasonings–usually I add salt after I pull the meat apart.
    • Serve spooned onto warm corn tortillas topped with diced white onion, fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice. A cold beer doesn’t hurt either! 🙂

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    What to do with leftovers? Instead of having tacos again I heated up a can of black beans with cilantro, white onion and fresh lime juice. I also made some brown rice and topped with the barbacoa. Simple and delicious. Top with some Mexican cheese and you won’t consider these “leftovers”, nope, it will be another fantastic meal.

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    Flank Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri Sauce

    Flank steak is delicious, inexpensive and relatively easy to prepare. Pair it with some chimichurri sauce and you’ve got yourself a fresh and tasty fajita night with very little prep and cooking time. Use whole wheat tortillas to keep it healthy.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 Flank steak
    • Soy Sauce
    • Beer (preferably a lager)
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Garlic, smashed
    • Onion
    • Red Bell Pepper
    • Whole Wheat Tortilla


    For the Chimichurri: (the star of this meal!)

    • Fresh flat leaf parsley
    • Fresh cilantro
    • 2-3 garlic cloves
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • Kosher salt
    • Fresh cracked black pepper
    • Red wine vinegar

    Directions:

    Pat the flank steak dry with paper towels and place in a baking dish. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Put a layer of sliced onions and smashed garlic on the flank steak. Pour the beer and soy sauce over the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge. Make sure the meat is room temperature before you cook it. You can opt to just do a dry rub on you flank steak which is what I normally do. You get a lot of flavor especially with a Cajun rub or something with a spicy flavor. With this recipe, I was trying something different inspired by Marcella from Mexican Made Easy (if you haven’t seen this show, watch it!!).

    To make the chimichurri, use a small chopper or food processor. Add the parsley, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pulse it lightly as you don’t want the mixture to heat up too much.

    Chop up slices of one onion and one bell pepper, saute with extra virgin olive oil and s&p.

    Prepare a grill, grill pan or heat up your broiler. I had to use a broiler because my grill pan wasn’t large enough. Cook the steak, without moving it, for about 5 minutes on each side, depending how thick your meat is. You want the outside nice and brown but the inside red to pink.

    Transfer the steak to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Cut diagonally across the grain into slices 1/4 inch thick. This can be tricky but will come with practice.

    Heat up your tortilla, place a few strips of beef, peppers & onions, and top with chimichurri. Enjoy!

    Shrimp Tacos with a corn, poblano pepper and black bean salsa

    Anyone who knows me, knows I’m obsessed with tacos.  At work, we make weekly Friday visits to the taco truck.  Thinking about the endless possibilities of what you can put in a taco makes my mouth water.  I’ve made quite a few versions of tacos over the last year but Kyle and I agree, tonight’s tacos were incredible.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

    Ingredients:

    • Shrimp (I always keep frozen uncooked shrimp in the freezer which is a great protein to have on hand)
    • Corn Tacos (I highly recommend the yellow corn and whole wheat tortillas I found at Whole Foods. They made this dish! See photo at the end.)
    • Grilled poblano pepper (I used a grill pan because I sadly don’t have a grill)
    • Fresh Chopped Cilantro
    • 1 can Yellow Corn
    • 1/2 Red Onion
    • 1/2 can Black Beans
    • Salt & Pepper
    • Red Wine Vinegar (I would recommend lime juice and lime zest but didn’t have any tonight)
    • Mexican cheese blend

    Instructions

    1. Grill the poblano pepper, red onion and yellow corn.  (I put the pepper on first, and then added the onion and corn to the grill pan with salt and pepper to give it a nice flavor).
    2. While that is cooking, chop up a large amount of fresh cilantro and tomatoes.  Put it in a mixing bowl with the black beans.  When the pepper, onion and corn are done cooking (about 5-7 minutes), let cool and then add to the bowl.  Add salt and pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar (or fresh lime juice).
    3. Put a flat pan on the stove on medium to high heat. Lightly rub the end of a stick of butter on the pan to slightly coat it.  Add shrimp with salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Cook on each side for roughly 2 minutes. Don’t over cook the shrimp or it will get chewy.
    4. When the shrimp is done, heat up the tacos on the same flat pan.  Plate with a bit of Mexican cheese, shrimp and salsa.

    Tacos!!!

    Tacos can be made with any kind of meat, fish or vegetables. I happen to love pulled chicken in this delicious fresh sauce. I never make them the same but try these delicious Mexican treats I made the other night! I wish I had a photo to share!

    Ingredients

    • Chicken breast
    • Small corn soft tacos
    • Any toppings you may like. We like to keep it simple: lettuce, fresh chopped tomatos, cut up avocado and fresh cilantro
    • For the Sauce:
    • Jalapeno
    • Cilantro
    • Cucumber
    • Roasted Garlic (or regular is fine)
    • Roasted poblano or cubanelle pepper (skin peeled)
    • Fat free sour cream and/or avocado
    • Salt & Pepper

    Instructions

    1. Boil chicken breast until cooked through. Let cool. Pull apart with two forks and set aside in bowl. I do recommend throwing some garlic, onion, other vegetables and/or seasoning into the water for a tastier chicken.
    2. Roast garlic in toaster oven for as long as you can. Spray with some olive oil for added flavor. I just cut the top off the garlic bulb, wrap it in tin foil, spray with olive oil and stick it in!
    3. In a blender add jalapeno, cucumber, cilantro, roasted garlic, roasted pepper, s&p. Add some of the broth your chicken cooked in to loosen it up.
    4. Pour sauce over chicken and add a spoonful of fat free sour cream to thicken sauce. You can also consider adding freshly pured avocado for desired texture.
    5. Mix chicken and sauce together and heat up corn taco shells. Have a taco bar and let everyone make their own!
    6. Delicioso!