Five months back (holy crap, has it really been five months? Eeeep!) when I quit sugar, I did a bit of a pantry inventory. This involved me pulling everything out of the white Fantastic Furniture cupboard we’ve repurposed as a pantry and taking a good, hard look at the labels.
It’s pretty shocking stuff to tell you the truth. I had always considered our pantry a fairly nutritious place to be, what with the basmati rice nestled up against the salt reduced, organic baked beans and the wholemeal pasta spirals happily sharing shelf space with the tomato paste.
Turns out, a whole load of my canned and packaged goods ranked pretty highly in the sugar stakes. And so they had to go. I donated a bunch to the local Church and took the rest down to my mums, where my 25 year old brother who wouldn’t know what fructose was if it danced naked in front of him wearing a flamenco head dress, was only too happy to take them off our hands.
Quitting sugar taught me to look at the labels on the foods I was buying, regardless of whether they were plastered with the ‘healthy’ label. I started out just checking the nutrition panel for the total sugar content and percentage but slowly, as I became more familiar with what I was looking for (sneaky ol’ sugar has a shed load of different names, I swear to God, it’s like a master spy), would glance at the ingredients as well. This is when I first started to really notice just how many ingredients feature in the foods we buy everyday.
I’m still astounded that something seemingly as simple as a can of soup, requires an ingredient list as long as your arm. It’s not only sugar, in one of its many guises, that features, there’s also a whole load of letters and numbers, lots of words that end with ‘ose’, stupid amounts of starch, and weird stuff like onion powder and granulated everything.
I’ve slowly been working towards eliminating as many packaged foods with more than the usual number of ingredients as possible. Clearly, things like rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, passata, beans and legumes and the like have stayed but gone are the pasta and stir fry sauces, stock and anything else that requires more than three lines worth of ingredients. I’m not going to lie, there’s a packet of Birds Eye Fish Fingers in the freezer and bog standard rye bread in the bread bin, I’m not perfect, but by making the little changes, I’m hoping for a greater impact on the important stuff.
Which brings me to taco seasoning. We love Mexican food in this house. Show me someone who doesn’t like a burrito and I will show you someone who will never be invited to my house for dinner (kidding, I am willing to overlook the lack of love for Tex-Mex for friendship). We used to worship at the altar of Old El Paso, but after cutting sugar and trying to be more conscious of the additives in food, quit kneeling to that particular deity awhile ago.
The basics of Mexican food aren’t hard to make from scratch but the seasoning side has always worried me a little. I decided to bite the bullet through last night and try and make up a batch. And i’m so glad I did. It was straight forward, cost effective and I felt really good knowing that I wasn’t getting my seasoning out of a foil lined packet.
There’s a bunch of recipes online, I checked out a few, tweaked them a little, then added a few bits and bobs of my own. I’m sure you could modify this to your own taste if you wanted to. A warning; I added 2 tbsp of the seasoning to the Mexi-Bake recipe I’ll be sharing below the seasoning recipe. This was SPICY. It didn’t knock us out completely but el husbando needed a big drink of water after trying the mince sans rice and sour cream. I’d go with 1tbsp per 500g of meat (unless you’re a spice fiend, in which case, knock yourself out!)
Homemade Taco/Mexi Seasoning
- 4 tbsp ground chilli/chilli powder
- 3 tbsp sweet paprika
- 3 tbsp ground cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp onion granules or powder (I could only find granules)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Mix it all together (you can use a mortar and pestle to grind down the granules and really release the flavours but I was lazy and didn’t bother).
Transfer to an airtight container.
I used the taco seasoning as part of the Mexi-Bake I made last night. This was a recipe I found on Planning With Kids and tweaked a bit for our family. It was DELISH and I’ve had the leftovers today for lunch. That’s a win in this house!
- 500g mince (I only ever use organic meat, I got my mince from Woolies)
- 1 cup basmati or brown rice
- 1 brown onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 capsicum (red or green)
- 1 carrot
- 500g tomatoes (I used Vine Ripened)
- 1 tbsp taco seasoning
- 500ml Organic Passata
- 500g sour cream
- Grated cheese
- Olive oil
- Prepare rice according to packet instructions
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Chop up the onion into chunks, peel the garlic and chuck into a food processor/mixing bowl
- Blitz for a couple of seconds or until finely chopped
- Remove and set aside in a bowl
- Chop capsicum and carrot into chunks, add to the food processor and blitz till finely chopped. Set aside
- Halve the tomatoes, chuck them into the food processor and blitz
- In a large frypan, heat olive oil over medium heat
- Add the onion and garlic mixture
- Allow to warm through and start sizzling
- Add the mince to the pan
- Use a wooden spoon to break up any chunks and allow to brown
- When mince is brown, add the carrot and capsicum mix
- Stir through till everything is well combined
- Add the tomatoes and stir well again
- Pour in the passata
- Sprinkle in the taco seasoning
- Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer
- Simmer for 10 minutes or so or until mixture thicks
- Layer rice onto the bottom of a large casserole dish
- Top with the mince mixture
- Smooth sour cream over the top of the mince
- Sprinkle the whole thing with grated cheese
- Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes
- Heat the grill and move the casserole dish from oven to grill and allow to grill for 10 or so minutes or until cheese starts to brown.