Better and Cheaper than Food Trucks

The Food Truck phenomenon has exploded across America, mostly in large urban areas of Los Angeles, Denver and Austin, Tex., but quickly making its way to the suburbs as well.

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I am not a food truck aficionado. Until just recently, my one and only food truck experience was in Austin where I ordered a donut that cost $7.95. It was crazy—the biggest donut I have ever seen, cut open and filled with bananas, maple cream and bacon then re-deep fried and for its final glory, dunked into a vat of frosting. Three friends and I split it four ways. I choked down one bite and tossed the rest. It was just too decadent—as if that’s even possible with a donut.

Several weeks ago, hubs and I decided to patronize our new community’s semi-monthly Food Truck Night. My high hopes of a better experience the second time around were quickly dashed.

First it was the wait. I’m talking really long lines because, understandably, a food truck has a tiny kitchen and even tinier staff. Once we got to the front and placed our order, the wait was only half over. We had to wait (and wait some more) to get our food.

Next, the prices were ridiculously expensive. Then to top it off, the food was not good. All I could think was that I could have made this 10 times tastier for 1/10th the cost.

Today, I want to prove that to you with three different slow cooker recipes for taco meat—all of which are made in a slow cooker. I don’t know why I’m calling this “taco” meat because while certainly delicious in tacos, all three are equally wonderful in burritos, salads and tostadas. In fact, I use these meats for my own versions of enchilada and taquitos, too.

All of these recipes keep well, so if you have leftovers, Hooray! That means you’ll be able to enjoy another delicious lunch or dinner later in the week. 

SLOW COOKER TACO CHICKEN

  • 2  pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup bottled Italian salad dressing
  • 1 packet Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 to 8 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion flakes
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Tabasco sauce to taste (optional)

Place all the ingredients except for the lime, salt, and Tabasco sauce in your slow cooker and cook for 5-6 hours on LOW or until the chicken shreds easily with a fork. When done, shred the chicken with two forks and sprinkle with lime juice. Taste and season with salt and Tabasco sauce (try Chipotle Tabasco … it’s smokey and a little milder than the original) to taste. Servings 8-10.

SLOW COOKER SHREDDED BEEF

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds beef (boneless chuck roast is great)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (if you want extra flavor/heat, add an extra pepper)
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  1. Whisk together the chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub the spice mix into the beef, covering each side evenly.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully place the beef in the skillet and sear on each side until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the beef from the skillet and place in the bottom of a slow cooker.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and diced onion to the sauté pan. Sauté for an additional 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the beef stock and stir the pan to deglaze it, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add tomato paste and minced chipotle, and whisk into the pan sauce until combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for a 3 to 5 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Pour the pan sauce down over the beef in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours, until the beef shreds easily.
  4. Shred the beef with two forks, and toss to coat with any remaining juices. Serve with taco fixings. Servings: 8-10

SLOW COOKER TACO CARNITAS (PORK)

  • 3 1/2 to 4 pound boneless pork roast (butt or shoulder)
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Place pork in large slow cooker. Cover with chicken stock. Add onion, garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano, bay leaves and orange juice. Sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (or high for 4 to 5 hours).
  2. Once pork is cooked and tender, remove from crock pot to a cutting board. Shred and stir in the desired amount of strained cooking liquids. Serve hot with taco fixings. Servings: 8.
  3. Optional: If you want to enjoy fuller flavor as enhanced by caramelization, once you remove the pork from the slow cooker to the cutting board, discard onion quarters and bay leaves. Strain any other solids from cooking liquid. Pour strained liquid into a medium pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until total amount is reduced to about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.
  4. In the meantime, adjust the oven rack to the center position and preheat broiler. While broiler is heating, trim fat from pork and discard, then cut pork into 1-inch chunks (it’s okay if it somewhat shreds while you do this).
  5. Once cooking liquid is reduced, season it generously with salt and pepper, and gently stir liquid into pork chunks. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper as desired. Spread pork in an even layer onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil in center position of oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until pork begins to brown and the edges turn dark and crispy. Remove pan from oven and use a wide spatula to flip pork, then return to oven for 5 to 10 more minutes to crisp up the other side as well. Serves: A lot … like 10 to 12.
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6 replies
  1. NF
    NF says:

    Great article. We shy away from what we call “hipster” food. That includes trendy restaurants and food trucks. A lot of money for very little food. These recipes look awesome and I love slo-cooker recipes. So easy and inexpensive. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Betty Thomas
      Betty Thomas says:

      It’s anywhere spices are sold anymore Patricia. I get mine at my local Albertson’s grocery store but you can also find it in Import Markets. And btw it is YUM!!

      Reply
    • Me
      Me says:

      I’m pretty sure I got mine at WalMart, because the only two places I ever shop for groceries are WalMart and my local grocery store, and I don’t think my little grocery would have it.

      Reply

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