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Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"The best sauce in the world is hunger."

On my old blog, I posted this recipe to much success. Success in the form of people telling me this was their favorite Taco Night recipe...and success in how much my husband LOVES this meal.

So do I. It truly rocks.

The posting was originally entitled 'Hunger'. We all have secret, unfulfilled dreams. Alone, in our childhood bedrooms, we all dreamed of what our future would be. All those possibilities! All those places we would see! The things we would do!

Time passed, we became adults and our lives became busy, busy, busy. Our dreams faded and eventually forgotten.

But not completely.

Many of us wonder 'What if...'. Why isn't our life the life we dreamed of as children?

For me, cooking and baking are ways to satisfy part of my hunger. For you, it may be doing what it takes to make your dreams come true, thus satisfying your 'hunger', or doing nothing at all...because it's probably right in front of you.

Each of us must be willing to acknowledge what our hunger is and live our life as fearlessly as possible trying to fulfill that hunger. I know life can be a rough, but sometimes getting through the rough patches is simply about choosing to see things in a more positive light.

Feel grateful for what you have, but never stop reaching for the stars.

Cheesy, I know, but it's real (and aren't we all sick of cynical people?).

One thing I know for sure...this Taco Night will satisfy even the most starving need in all of us. It's a great meal. Cheap, easy to make. healthy and full of the kinds of foods which fill out stomachs and fuel our brains.


Food snobs can roll their eyes all they want - go buy your organic salmon and Truffle oil and baste and broil your fattening Mario Batali meals all you want...

As a Seattle boy who has lived in New York 22 years, I'm part country and part city. I find the pompous and elitist New York food culture exhausting (almost as exhausting as Paula Deen's endless smile).

I was born and raised with very simple meals. We didn't have money, we didn't have a fancy supermarket nearby. We had one store, one meat guy, one produce guy...that was it.

This meal reminds me of my childhood. Don't get me wrong...I like sophisticated food -- I just hate the attitude that seems to come with it.

So come with me as we make one of the the healthiest and tastiest taco meals you will ever eat. This is for the sophisticated city snobs and the down-to-earth country folk.

Before we cook, let's talk about potential pitfalls of Taco Night, shall we?

* Huge amounts of sodium
* Fat, fat, fat
* Time intensive (all of those sides!)
* Tasteless (unless you pour a million gallons of sodium into the meal)
* White trashy food (which isn't bad, but it's uninspired)

There is one way to avoid all of these pitfalls: stop using packaged taco seasoning!

Get this -- three tacos with the Old El Paso Low Sodium Seasoning rocks out at roughly 1500 to 1800 mgs of friggin' sodium.

That' 3/4 of the daily recommendation for sodium. High blood pressure is one of the top three preventable killers in this country. Exercise, meditation and yoga is vital for high blood pressure, but to avoid taking medication you MUST lower your sodium.

Three tacos with my recipe (including all of the fixing's including cheese) comes to approximately 200 - 150 mgs of sodium, minimal fat and few calories.

See? You can have your Mexican taco and eat it too (and not get fat(ter) in the process)!

Let's cook!


* 1 tablespoon corn oil
* 2 large white or yellow onions, chopped fine and divided
* 5 large garlic cloves, diced or pressed through a garlic press
* 3 heaping tablespoons extra-hot chili powder, decrease to 2 tablespoons if you like it mild
* 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
* 1 heaping teaspoon coriander
* 1 heaping teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
* 1/2 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, NO MORE
* 1 1/2 pound 90-95% extra-lean ground chuck or sirloin, avoid 85% fat as it can be greasy
* 3/4 cup no-salt chicken broth
* 3/4 cup no-salt tomato sauce
* 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, white cider vinegar is fine as well
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


* Low-fat sour cream
* Roma tomatoes
* Avocado, no more than 1/2 per person, per meal
* Iceberg lettuce
* Diced red onion
* Low-fat, low-moisture cheddar cheese with jalapeno or Monterey Jack cheese
* Taco shells, no more than 2 per person per meal
* Cilantro (ew)


Before we start, you must become familiar with the Holy Five Spices for all Mexican food:
  • Cayenne
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Coriander
I love Penzey's Spices (on the Internet), but you can buy these in any supermarket anywhere. Try to avoid blends which add salt. Mexican Oregano is a tiny bit tough, so regular Oregano is cool.

The only thing you must do before you cook Tacos is prep. If you prep in correct order, cooking them is easy as pie.

Follow me now...

Make sure you have your tomato sauce and chicken broth measured out and nearby.

For no-salt chicken broth, you can't beat Health Valley. Sure, it's not as silky or creamy at Organic Swanson, but have you read the amount of sodium in those?

For tomato sauce, I've only found one which is truly no-salt and it's made by my favorite all-time canned tomato product company, Muri Glen. Always rich, tasty, fresh and yes, a bit expensive. But there is NO salt in these versus other tomato sauces which have an average of 700 mgs of sodium PER CAN!


Chop ONE onion up now, put aside; chop the garlic up and set aside SEPARATELY...seed and dice up two tomatoes.

Put all of these aside in separate bowls.

And it is ESSENTIAL you put all of your pre-measured spices in in a bowl before you cook! I love very spicy food, so if you do not like spicy food, use a bit less chili powder and Cayenne pepper.

You want to grate your cheese now. I love Cabot. They're an excellent brand. They have a wax-encased Special Reserve I love, but it's pricey so I buy it for special occasions.

I shredded one cup of this for four tacos last night (which is, I feel, a lot of cheese - it's 50% less fat but in an 8 ounce serving of these cheese there is still 70 calories, 4.5g of fat and 170mg (!) of sodium - and quite a bit of protein - 8g).

You must use cheese sparingly, and a little of good cheese goes a long way. This cheese was fine last night, but Andy says he prefers the Kraft Mexican Mix cheese which is made with 2.5% milk fat and does have a creamier and tangier taste to it. Can take the boy out of the white trash neighborhood on Long Island...

I grated it on my super-duper Microplane grater. Andy hates this thing. He says it's terrible to clean and big and bulky, but let me tell does the job!

There are always two sides to a large, box-sized grater. You want the one with the larger holes.

Be VERY CAREFUL using the Microplane grater. It is very very sharp and seems to never dull.

Turn on your oven to 350 degrees. This is for the taco shells. Get out your rimmed baking sheet and line them with the taco shells.

I use Old El Paso...good shells, but very caloric. The serving size for tacos is 3 shells - 150 calories per serving, with 7g fat and 135mg of sodium.

Heat up a large, 12-inch non-stick skillet with the one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat for one minute. Throw in ONE onion chopped. Cook, stirring a few times, making sure they do not brown. If they brown, lower the flame.

Now throw in the spices and the garlic. Cook 1 minute. WARNING. The oils of the spices will be released when you cook and while it smells amazing, you will cough!

One of the tricks to great cooking with spices is to always toast them for one minute before putting the main ingredients in. This makes for a tasty base to your meats and/or vegetables.

Now throw in the 1 1/2 pound of ground meat:

Cook this for 10 minutes until the sharp red is done. Keep dicing it up with a wooden spoon, breaking up the meat so it's in tiny, tiny pieces.

We're cooking now!

Don't overcook the meat - just get the red out of the center, and then throw in the chicken stock, the tomato sauce, the brown sugar, vinegar and a few grinds of pepper and let it simmer at a brisk boil until the meat has absorbed the fluid.

It ends up like a fast bologonese sauce - meaty and rich because the meat has absorbed all of the broth and seasons and tomato sauce. Without ANY ADDED SALT! Woo hoo!

When the sauce is done (it needs to be saucy), pop the shells into the oven and let them heat while you get everything done. All you want to do is get the shells warm, not cook them.

Now lay out all of your goodies, take the shells out, and assemble to your little hearts content.

As I finished editing this tonight I listened to Barry Manilow belting out "Daybreak." I love Barry Manilow. My mom and I used to listen to him as we cooked. We had the best time. Corny, I know, but corny is good now and then.

So pop in your favorite corny music, make this great family meal and feel the love you feel for everyone in your life.

Damnit! It's DAYBREAK!


Your Food Therapist

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