Jennifer Hill Booker is no stranger to coming up with fresh, wholesome, kid-friendly meals on the fly since the classically-trained chef and cookbook author is also a busy mom of two girls. On any given day, her schedule might including teaching cooking classes or traveling around the state as she serves as an executive chef for the Georgia Grown program for the Georgia Department of Agriculture and is the state’s Culinary Explorer for the Department of Tourism and Travel.
On a recent spring morning, she demonstrated her latest creation, street tacos, made with Laura’s Lean Beef. “I love big, bold flavors, and I’m sick and tired of cold weather. I wanted some sunshine [in my dish],” she said, smiling. “In my street tacos, you have big flavors and the bright colors of peppers, onions, cilantro, and jalapeños.
“For this recipe, I’m using the 92% lean version of Laura’s Lean Beef. It’s super-lean, which means that it has a really nice texture and mouthfeel,” she explained while chopping fresh bell peppers, onions, jalapeños, and garlic. By adding a hefty serving of vegetables to the mix, she sneaks in extra fiber and nutrients.
Booker heated a large skillet over her gas range and began browning the Laura’s Lean Beef with just a little bit of oil, chatting as she goes about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how it’s produced. “You need to know where your product comes from,” she noted. “You can really tell the difference in the flavor and quality of the beef.” With Laura’s Lean Beef, consumers can trust that they’re getting an all-natural, vegetarian-fed product, that never contains added hormones or antibiotics. Since discovering it, the two-time cookbook author has begun using it for all of her favorite beef recipes including chili, meatloaf, and hamburgers.
Once the ground beef begins to brown, Chef Booker adds her chopped veggies and a measured mix of chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and garlic powder. The produce she’s chosen to include in this recipe is particularly appropriate for spring and summer in Georgia, thanks to the state’s agricultural bounty. “You’re getting food at the peak of its flavor when it’s healthiest, most nutritious. and inexpensive,” said Booker, a vocal advocate of eating locally and seasonally. “Plus, you’re cutting down on the carbon footprint we create, and then you’re helping your local farmers. It’s a win-win.”
As the stovetop ingredients continue to brown, she whips up an easy pico di gallo, smiling while she chops fresh tomatoes. While made-from-scratch dishes and even condiments are a part of her job she often carries home to her family, Booker is quick to point out that there’s no shame in taking a shortcut here and there. Buying diced onions and bell peppers or good-quality salsa and freshening it up with lime juice and cilantro are easy ways to cut down on prep and cooking time. For her version of street tacos, she uses store-bought corn tortillas.
Booker serves her festive street tacos with queso asadero (mild Mexican cheese), sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, and fresh lime wedges. Part of what makes her dish so kid-friendly is that every member of the family can build their own taco, based on their unique preferences. She suggests turning it into a salad with extra lettuce or into a rice bowl. Regardless, the nutritional mix really works out to be a well-rounded meal, due in no small part to using Laura’s Lean Beef. “We benefit from the big burst of protein we get from eating beef without all the fat,” Booker added.
To turn this easy dish into more of an event for the adults, Chef Booker suggests serving her street tacos alongside a crisp glass of rosé or margaritas.
Chef Jennifer Booker Hill’s street tacos
Yields 6 servings
- 2 pounds Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced, about 1 tablespoon
- 1 small green bell pepper, chopped, about ½ cup
- 1 small onion, chopped, about ½ cup
- 1 large jalapeno, chopped fine, about 2 tablespoons
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups vegetable or beef stock
- 12, 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed in the oven
- 12 ounces queso asadero Mexican cheese
- 6 ounces sour cream
- 1 large tomato, diced, about 1 cup
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
- 12 small lime wedges
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the ground beef. Cook until the beef begins to brown, about 10 minutes, breaking the beef into small pieces with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Mix the minced garlic, bell pepper, onion, and jalapeño into the ground beef. Season with chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, and garlic powder. Continue to brown the beef for an additional 10 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until the liquid cooks out and the onions are soft, about 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and adjust to taste with chili powder and salt.
- Spoon 2 tablespoons of the seasoned beef on each tortilla.
- Garnish with the queso asadero, sour cream, diced tomato, lettuce, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.