After making a batch recipe of taco meat and seasoning, Rose McAvoy seals up one of the three taco meals to go into a freezer for later use. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Freezing taco meat ahead of time makes preparation a snap

If your family loves taco night as much as mine does, you are going to love this quick and easy recipe for preparing three batches of taco meat at the same time. When finished, you will have three bags of seasoned taco meat ready to cook. Freezing it uncooked means the meal your cook later will taste freshly made rather than freezer burnt.

I am always looking for ways to increase the amount of healthy vegetables in our meals as well as add a few extra servings to create some leftovers. This taco meat recipe does both. Finely grated carrots and onions blend right into the meat and sauce when it cooks so there is nothing for the kids to pick out at the table.

For our taco meat, I like to use grass fed beef or lean ground turkey. Since both are low in fat they do not need to be drained on a paper towel after cooking. However, this also means they can turn out a bit dry. The grated vegetables provide moisture as well as a boost of flavor to the taco meat.

Keeping a few batches of seasoned ready-to-cook taco meat in the freezer means even on busy days I can have a healthy meal on the table in under 30 minutes. While the meat browns I can set the table with our favorite taco fixings and a simple salad. We all get to assemble our tacos the way we like them. This is not just dinner; this is a meal my kids will happily eat. I may even hear a few words of praise for the “yummy tacos”.

Hallelujah!

Freezer friendly taco meat

Freezer meals make healthy eating a breeze. Prepare this healthy taco meat once then freeze to use in three favorite family recipes later.

Prep: 20 minutes. Serves: 3 meals with 6 servings each

3 pounds very lean ground meat (beef, turkey or chicken)

3 cups finely grated carrot

2 cups grated onion

3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce, no added salt

6 tablespoons taco seasoning (packaged or from recipe below)

Place the meat, carrot, and onion in a large bowl, mix gently just enough to evenly combine.

Set out 3 1-gallon size zip top freezer bags. Into each bag, pour 1 8-ounce can of sauce and 2 tablespoons seasoning with 1⁄3 of the meat and vegetable mixture. Gently push out as much air as possible then zip the bags closed.

Label with the date and freeze until 1-2 days before ready to use. Allow the meat to thaw completely in the refrigerator before cooking.

Cook the taco meat:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the taco meat mixture and sauce then cook about 15 minutes until the sauce thickens and the meat has browned. Stir frequently. Add additional salt or taco seasoning to taste if needed.

Serve with your favorite taco fixings, on top of a salad, or use in any recipe you would make with taco meat.

Homemade taco seasoning

Once you discover how simple it is to make your own taco seasoning you will never buy it in a package again. Modify this recipe as needed to suit your taste preferences. Adjust the amount of heat in your seasoning blend by using more, or less, black pepper.

Prep: 10 minutes, Yield: about ½ a cup of seasoning

3 tablespoons ground chili powder

4 ½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes

In a small bowl, use a fork to stir all the ingredients together. Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool dry place.

Rose McAvoy is an Everett freelance food writer who focuses on healthy eating for families. Her website is www.halfhersize.com.

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