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MEXICAN STARTER 
1 lb. ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
2 large onions, chopped
1 6 oz. can tomato paste (plus 3 cans water)
1 jar salsa, mild or hot, as you like it
1 or 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped coarsely
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 green bell peppers, cored and chopped
1 1/2 - 2 teaspoons Ortega Taco Seasoning*
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Brown the ground beef in olive oil with chopped onions, adding the peppers and garlic half way through. When the beef has brown and the vegetables have softened, add the tomato paste with water to thin it out (or thin it with vegetable broth). Stir in the jar of salsa, taco seasoning, oregano and sugar. Simmer for 30-45 minutes on low heat.

This may also be prepared in the slow cooker. As a variation, ground pork may be added. The recipe may be doubled, tripled, etc. to any proportion, either to feed a crowd or to fill the freezer with serving sized portions.

There are many ways to serve this versatile starter; some suggestions follow.

1. Mexican Buffet: Fill a serving bowl and surround it, buffet style, with side dishes of favorite toppings, such as sour cream, chopped tomatoes, chopped avocados, shredded lettuce, minced onions, salsa, shredded cheese, etc. Give each guest a taco shell, burrito wrapper or even a pita bread and allow them to build their own serving.

2. Serve on sub rolls, topped with shredded cheese. Broil on high heat for several minutes until cheese melts. Serve with a side of chopped jalapenos for optional topping.

2. Serve over rice, pasta, or noodles.

3. Use as a topping for nachos. In a buttered casserole or baking pan, place tortilla chips or wedges of tortilla wrappers, top with the meat mixture and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with jalapeno rings. Bake at 375°F until cheese melts.

4. Mexican Stuffed Peppers: Combine with an equal portion of cooked rice. Fill large red or green bell peppers and bake at 350°F until peppers are tender.

5. Chili: Add 2 cans red kidney beans (or 1 lb dry pinto beans, cooked). Taste and adjust seasonings.

6. Mexican Sloppy Joe: Serve in a hamburger bun with a side of ketchup or barbecue sauce. Top with onion slices browned in butter.

7. Mexican Shepherd's Pie: Pre-bake a pie shell for 10 minutes, fill with meat mixture and top with mashed potatoes. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are lightly golden but not brown.

8. Quesadillas: Sandwich a few tablespoons meat mixture between 2 tortillas and mark or press into wedges. Heat in a covered skillet, or bake on a foil lined pan in a 450°F oven for 3-5 minutes. Slice wedges into individual servings.

9. Burrito Lasagna: Fill 10 inch tortillas with meat mixture and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Roll up and fill a buttered casserole dish with burrito rolls. Spoon taco sauce and/or salsa over burritos and sprinkle with jalapeno jack, crumbled queso quesadilla cheese or mozzarella. Cover lightly with foil and bake at 375°F, uncovering during the last 5 minutes. Slice into servings; serve over lettuce with sour cream.

10. Spicy Mole Poblano: Combine meat mixture with 1 8 oz jar mole sauce. Broil whole Poblano peppers in olive oil or place over open flame of gas burner until lightly charred and blistered; turn occasionally to char evenly. Coarsely chop the peppers. Serve peppers and mole meat mixture over rice.

11. Mexican Squash Boats: Scoop out squash or zucchini centers and fill with meat mixture. Top with any kind of cheese or buttered bread crumbs and bake at 350°F until zucchini is tender and cheese is bubbly.

12. Bean Dip: Combine 1 part meat mixture, 1 part canned black beans, 1 part sour cream onion dip, and a few tablespoons chopped jalapenos (optional). Season to taste and serve with tortilla chips.

Cooks Note: If no taco seasoning is available, you can make your own mixture.

Taco Seasoning:

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients. Measure out 1 1/2 teaspoons to use for above recipe; taste meat mixture and add more taco seasoning to desired level of spiciness.

Save any remaining Taco Seasoning in a tightly covered jar or bag for another meal.

Submitted by: CM
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 Rating: 5 / 5 - Reviews: 5
Oct 27, 11:26 AM
veronica says:
Jan 21, 7:53 AM
Phyllis Chittum (Virginia) says:
Oct 20, 3:15 PM
Dodie (New York) says:
Jun 11, 10:18 AM
Bianca (Georgia) says:
4 weeks ago
LJ (Oklahoma) says:

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