Have At It: Tacos and Salsa

One of the first things I ever tried cooking on my own was tacos. I think once I realized that all I really had to do was brown and season some meat and chop a few things, I decided tacos were something I could probably pull off. My dad has always made the BEST tacos I've ever eaten, and for the longest time I was convinced it was because he fries the tortillas before serving them.

I had my dad coach me through frying tortillas over the phone one time, shortly after college, and once I got the hang of it I felt like a total badass. I think I invited everyone I knew over for tacos because I thought I was just as good as my dad at making them.

And yet.

The meat I cook for tacos has never been quite as good as my dad's, and I never questioned why. I sort of just assumed he was better at cooking it than me, and that one day after years and years of experience, my taco meat would magically start tasting as good as his.

Then my sister told me he adds not only taco seasoning, but also SOY SAUCE AND KETCHUP to his taco meat, and it nearly made my head explode. Why had he never mentioned this? Why had I never asked? Where on earth do you get such a wacky idea? And good Lord, how does that combination make the stuff taste so damn good?

When I went to my mom and dad's house last week to help my dad cook tacos and take these photos, my dad notified me that he had confirmed a reservation at Far Niente for all of us on the day we arrive in San Francisco to celebrate his 60th birthday. He's been telling me such good stories about growing up in the Bay Area since I was there a year ago and started asking, and I'm so glad we're going to get to hear even more of them when we're there next month. It's likely that at the end of that trip, Dann and I will fly to Seattle, where we'll settle in to a new home in a new city. Luckily I'll have my dad's taco recipe with me so, on a day when I really need it, I can eat something that tastes like home.

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I'm sharing my dad's salsa recipe today too. I didn't have a chance to post one of his recipes in April, so I'm playing a little catch up. Enjoy!



2 lbs ground beef

1 packet Lawry's taco seasoning

2/3 cup ketchup

2.5 tablespoons soy sauce (Note: my dad measured the ketchup and soy sauce for the first time when I was there to document this recipe last week. Until then, he always decided he'd added enough of each based on how the meat SMELLED.)

Yellow corn tortillas

Chopped iceberg lettuce

Diced tomato

Black olives

Shredded cheddar cheese

Sliced avocado


Sour cream


1) Cook the meat according to the directions on the seasoning package, knowing that you have twice as much meat as it calls for. The key is twice as much meat as the seasoning package calls for.

2) Add soy sauce and ketchup, then let the meat cook for another 20 minutes.

3) Fry tortillas one at a time in very hot oil.

4) Fill tortillas with meat, cheese, and whatever other toppings your heart desires.



1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 14 oz can of diced green chiles

3 green onions, sliced, including tops

1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon of salt, plus added salt to taste


1) Combine ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate overnight.

2) Get a bag of tortilla chips and a Corona and call it dinner. 

One of my goals for 2014 is to write one “Have At It” post per month, to include a story from my dad’s life with one of his recipes. I figure if nothing else, it will give me some motivation to get serious about getting my dad’s stories down, even if I have to write them myself. 

Previous Have At It Posts:


Bean Dip Poppers

Goldrush Cookies