Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Cinco De Mayo: Taco Seasoning

I’m back! I have lots of stories to share about treacherous travel, my grandmother’s recipe boxes, snow crab mac & cheese, and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but first I want to share a recipe to celebrate Cinco de Mayo: Taco Seasoning.

As I’ve mentioned before, tacos are a weekly staple in our house. In fact, I think Taco Tuesday might be Murphy’s favorite day of the week. So I was very happy to find a recipe in the box that would become a part of our regular meal plan. I’ve always wondered how to make taco seasoning. I figured it couldn’t be too difficult, but it was so easy just to buy the pre-made packet for less than $1 at the store that I’ve never really looked into making my own.

Most of the spices already resided in the ever-growing collection in my pantry – I only needed to buy one new spice. And after preparing the mix (which took all of two minutes) I was curious to see how it would stack up to the store bought one I usually use. The first comparison was in the taste category. Ryan and I both agreed that we loved this mix as much, if not more, than the store-bought contender. It has a little more of a kick, but that’s easy to adjust.

The second comparison was nutrition. Since I prepared the mix, I knew everything that went into it and felt comfortable that each ingredient was a pure spice. Out of curiosity, I took a peek at the ingredient list on the packet for the mix we usually use. Here’s the list:

Maltodextrin, salt, chili pepper, monosodium glutamate, corn starch, yellow corn flour, spice, sugar. Contains less than 2% of: natural flavor, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, silicon dioxide (anticaking agent), yeast extract, and ethoxyquin (preservative).

Upon reading this list, I broke out in a cold sweat as I had flashbacks from organic chemistry. But once I shook it off, I really started to think about what I had been eating once a week for the past…well, for a long time. If taco seasoning is this easy to make and can be done with only a handful of spices, what were all these other things doing on the ingredient list? And what were they? I did a little research and here’s what I found: 

The first ingredient on the list, maltodextrin, is a white powder that can be made from corn, potatoes, or rice. It’s basically an artificial sweetener. The fourth ingredient, monosodium glutamate (or MSG), is a flavor enhancer that the FDA has labeled as “generally recognized as safe,” but a simple Google search resulted in a slew of articles debating the health effects of this ingredient. Under the list of “contains less than 2%” ingredients, three turned up an equally disturbing amount of articles debating their usefulness vs. negative effect on our health. These ingredients were: partially hydrogenated soybean oil (which qualifies as a trans-fat), silicon dioxide (a food additive), and ethoxyquin (a food preservative and controversial ingredient commonly used in pet food).

I’ll admit, I’m someone who, although is concerned about my health, doesn’t spend nearly enough time scrutinizing the labels of the food I eat. I’ve often wished I craved vegetables the way I crave chocolate and I’ve tried to foster a love for baby carrots, but it has just never worked. Trying to keep up on what is healthy and what isn’t can be overwhelming and confusing. It seems that every few months, researchers change their minds and issue new statements about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. Coffee is bad. Then it’s good. It’s the same story with red wine, chocolate, etc… It makes you want to bury your head in the sand to tune it all out. But, I do know enough to recognize that I’d like to limit my exposure to controversial food additives and preservatives when possible. And thanks to The Found Recipe Box, I can take one step in the right direction.

This recipe is easy to assemble and if you regularly make tacos like we do at our house, you can make a few batches, put them into snack-sized baggies, and pull them out when you’re ready to cook. Hopefully in my journey through the box, I’ll be able to find some more recipes that offer healthier replacements to the foods we typically eat. However, considering that the box is 60% desserts, I’m not too optimistic that will be the case. 

I also wanted to share our secret to building the famous double-decker taco. Every time we’ve introduced this version to friends or family, it has been a hit. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it too! 

Step 1: Start with a small flour tortilla and cover it with a thin layer of warm refried beans. 

Step 2: Place a hard taco shell on top of the refried beans. We have found that it works best to break the shell in half.

Step 3: Fill it with meat and your favorite toppings, then fold it up and enjoy!


  1. Thanks, I think I'll try making this mix - I can measure!

  2. YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM..okay done drooling.

    WELCOME HOME!!!! So glad you are back. How is your Grandmother? How are you? How was the trip?