Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tacos “Americano”

I spend my workdays helping children communicate. That looks different depending on each kid’s needs: I may teach them how make an “s” sound (we call that the snake sound); I may teach them how to communicate nonverbally, through sign language, pictures, or speech generating devices; we focus on grammar, on the fact that “who” refers to a person, and “where” to a place.”  Basically, I teach kids things that most people don’t have to be taught; communication is basic human right, but some people have to fight for it.  To me, it is a serious job, and I have to find the bright spots, and the fun wherever I can. 

Naturally, with a focus on communication, I want to communicate with all my tikes about food.  In all seriousness, I ask at least half of my kids about food every day.  “What did you have for lunch?”  “What’s your favorite food?”  “I love mac and cheese, too.”  These things come out of my mouth on a daily basis, often directed towards 3 year olds.  To my delight, some of my kids get into it; others look at me like I’m crazy.  I tend to spend a good portion of time at the Boulder Public Library, searching for picture books to use in therapy.  The truth is: I’m not a very creative therapist, and I rely heavily on books as a crutch.  So, when I stumbled upon a book called “Dragons Love Tacos,” which happens to be a New York Times Best Seller, my heart skipped a beat.  Finally, a quasi-appropriate way to discuss food with my kids!  What kid doesn’t love tacos, and what kid doesn’t love dragons?  The book has been a huge success with every kid I have introduced it to, and I have been the most fun, engaging speech therapist I could possibly be when reading and discussing it with my clients because I am having just as much fun as they are. 

The first day I had it, I read it to four different kids; and all I have been able to think since is… I want tacos.  So I made tacos.  It was the only logical conclusion.   I wanted them to be traditional, American, Tex-Mex tacos.  The ones my mom would never make for us (largely because my oldest brother and my dad wouldn’t touch a taco with a 10 foot pole).  They needed to be completely inauthentic of true taco identity because those were the tacos the dragons ate in the book.  While I wanted the flavor to be traditional in an über-American way, I wanted the ingredients to be high quality.  So, I made my very own kitchen sink spice mixture, that was vaguely familiar of Old El Pasa Taco Seasoning, but with less preservatives and more flavor.  I stuffed it into hard taco shells, with shredded Colby-jack, salsa, shredded lettuce, and sour cream.  I fought all my will power in an attempt to photograph them, and then quickly devoured them, as taco juice dripped down my forearms. 

Tacos “Americano”

Taco Filling:
1 pound 90% lean ground beef
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 teaspoons chile powder
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot chile flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt, or to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons Tabasco Chipotle Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Taco Toppings (take your pick):
-       Shredded mild cheese, such as Colby Jack
-       Salsa
-       Chopped tomato
-       Shredded Lettuce
-       Sour cream
-       Taco shells

-       In a medium skillet, preheat oil over medium heat.  When hot, add ground beef, breaking it up with a spatula.
-       When broken up, add tomato paste, and all other ingredients (except broth, hot sauce, vinegar, and honey).  Sauté, stirring to evenly distribute spices.
-       Add broth and hot sauce.  Cook through, stirring frequently.  Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, if needed.
-       When meat is cooked through, turn off heat and add vinegar and honey.

-       Assemble tacos and enjoy.


  1. Wow... I love love love the intro on this one. I also love Tacos. Any taco and every taco. I once won a taco eating contest. You should do an article on how to make my tacos (they are the best). We can work on it next week when you are in town. By the way, your mom did make tex mex tacos. She made them because she loves tacos, and she made them more than just a couple times. Get your facts straight. I think everyone likes Tacos. In fact, I have contemplated opening a taco stand many times. Like I said, my tacos are the best.

  2. Thanks for the compliment followed by the "get your facts straight" comment! We really should do some sort of a joint post when I'm in town. Tacos could be a nice follow up...