First the $$, because I know these are tough times. CaveBoy and are trying to maintain a less-than-extravagant-middle-middle-class lifestyle while simultaneously busting our butts to get out of student loan debt. So we get it. We don't have cable, we pack our lunches, we eat dinner at home, we consider $30 worth of thai food a "date." But we're both also extremely impatient. So we've been working on ways to improve our balance sheet. In addition to his police work, CaveBoy coaches CrossFit at our neighborhood box, and I've added personal defense readiness coaching to my otherwise cube-stuck routine.
As the primary grocery-getter, I've been searching for ways to cut costs while maintaining high quality nutrition ($1 pasta and $2 sauce doesn't cut it here). For instance, I switched from chicken breasts to chicken thighs; I cook with a lot of inexpensive but nutritious produce like greens, cabbage, onions, and celery; and I rely on organic cage-free eggs for about 40% of our daily protein. All awesome moves.
Then, yesterday, I made a breakthrough that I am sure will revolutionize our grocery budget. I bought a normal week of groceries at Trader Joe's. I had been in there a few times and was deceived by the small size and limited selection. I wrongly (I know that now) thought I needed to go to Whole Foods to get what I would need for a whole week. What can I say? Marketing works on me!! But my friend Tiff kept recommending that I give TJ's a try. Yesterday I bought our standard weekly grocery list: 3.5lbs of ground meet, 3.5lbs of chicken thighs, organic apples, organic bananas, organic sweet potatoes, six dozen organic cage free eggs, etc, etc, etc. I spent about $50 less than I had the week before at Whole Foods. Multiply that by 52 weeks, and we will be debt free so much faster. So, yea. I'm pretty-much hooked.
I'm also hooked on this taco recipe. Maybe I'm weird, but I could eat Tex-Mex food every single day. I love it. I never get tired of it. I dream about it sometimes. When I was a kid, my mom made an amazing taco casserole with a crunched-up Doritos crust. She brought it to church potlucks, and picnics, and made it for dinner upon special request. Needless to say, for me, taco casserole is comfort-food-to-the-max. So, developing a Doritos-free version was a top priority. And now I have it. You're welcome.
Paleo Taco Casserole
|Seriously. Who doesn't love tacos?|
3.5lbs (lean or grassfed) ground beef
2 yellow onions, diced
6 vine ripe tomatoes, diced
3 packets McCormick Taco Seasoning (there are no shady ingredients in there!)
2 bags sweet potato chips (or just one bag if you get the Trader Joe's brand - it's bigger and cheaper)
2 tbsp olive oil
Brown the ground meat in a large pan. While the meat is browning, crunch up the sweet potato chips into crumbs. Spread the sweet potato crumbs evenly on the bottom of a large baking dish. When the meat is brown, add the taco seasoning and mix well, so that the seasoning coats all of the meat. Remove from heat. In a saute pan, cook the onion in olive oil, just until it starts to become translucent. You want to keep a little crunch but take some of the edge off the onion flavor (these are work-day lunches after all and onion breath is bad for business).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the taco meat onto the sweet potato crumb crust, trying to leave most of the juice in the pan. Spread evenly. Spread the cooked onion in an even layer on top of the meat. Spread the diced tomatoes on top of the onions.* Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are warmed through. Tah Dah!
*Note: If you tolerate dairy, 16 Oz of shredded cheddar cheese can be sprinkled on top of the tomatoes before baking. In that case, bake until the cheese is bubbly and starts to brown. This is how CaveBoy likes it, despite my best efforts to break his dairy addiction.