CASA GRANDE -- It’s been years since I’ve been to a Taco Bell restaurant, but when someone asked me recently to experiment with a few Taco Bell-style recipes that mimic some of the fast food favorites, it was a challenge I was happy to accept.

I spent an afternoon making some foods styled after some of the restaurant chain’s top-sellers, including a Frito and beef burrito, a chalupa-style taco, regular taco, bean burrito and a frozen concoction that mimics the Baja Blast.

They were easy to make and tasted quite good. Not only did the foods disappear fast in our family, I’ve already had requests to remake them several times and we’ve added them to our regular repertoire of Taco Tuesday recipes.

The recipes start with a spice mixture that brings the unique flavor to the beef and beans. It can also be used with chicken, pork or beef-like meat substitutes.

Spice mixture

Make double the recipe if also making the beans. Since discovering this recipe mixture, we’ve started making it in big batches so that it’s always handy.

1 teaspoon flour

1 tablespoon dried onion

1 teaspoon powdered beef bouillon

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until well combined.

Beef mixture

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey, chicken, pork or meat substitute).

¼ cup flour

¼ cup water

Spice mixture

Combine flour, ground meat and spice mixture in a bowl and mix until spices and flour are well incorporated into the beef. Transfer to a stove top pan and fry with 1/4 cup of water until well done.

Use with flour tortilla, taco shells or with the fried bread. Garnish with shredded lettuce and diced tomato.

Chalupa-style fried bread

This recipe seems like a lot of steps, but it’s easy to do and worth the effort.

2½ cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1 cup milk

Vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour and baking powder, then using a fork (or fingers) cut shortening into the flour, making sure all the shortening is well incorporated into the flour.

Add milk and salt and mix until well combined.

Shape dough into a log then section into eight equal parts.

Roll each piece until desired size, about 6 inches.

Make sure oil is hot, then fry each piece until golden brown.

Refried beans

1 small onion

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 can pinto beans, drained

1 tablespoon spice mixture

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sautee onions and garlic in a pan with olive oil until translucent, about five minutes. Add spices, then beans and cook until soft, about five minutes.

Using a hand blender or a masher, mash the beans until desired consistency.

Roll in flour tortillas with a little bit of cheese for a yummy bean burrito.

Beefy Frito burrito

For each burrito, roll beef mixture, rice and a handful of Frito-style corn chips together in a flour tortilla

Frozen Baja Blast-style beverage

16 ounces soda — we used Mountain Dew but any flavor can be used

16 ounces blue sports drink — we used Gatorade

Pour each beverage into a plastic zipper-style freezer bag and freeze for about two hours.

Blend the contents of both bags in a blender until smooth.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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