Old El Paso’s Tortilla Stuffers were new to me in the grocery store. They may have been plastered all over the television and magazines, but somehow, I’d never heard of them. I was in the grocery store, hoping to come up with some lower cost alternatives to the expensive freeze dried food intended for a bicycling trip. That meant it had to be easy, compact, relatively light weight and somewhat nutritious. It would help if it was filling, because we have all heard about what the great outdoors does to appetites.
My eyes landed on something new in the Mexican/Hispanic food section–Old El Paso’s Tortilla Stuffers, and on a whim, I bought a pouch. It was the “Carne Asada Steak” which was to feature seasoned rice, beef and black beans in the 9.5 oz package. Granted, it was packaged for microwave use, but in a pinch, submerging the bag in hot water looked like a do-able alternative, even though it wasn’t listed as an option on the package. Off we went on our bicycling adventure, but low and behold…the tortilla stuffers never got used.
That meant it lurked on the shelf, mocking me and my fear of pouches of food containing rice, all nicely precooked and tasting like something from Hollywood. I wasn’t sure if it was sci-fi or horror, but either way, my past experiences had me dubious about the chances that this was beyond “emergency food” level cuisine. After weeks of it’s mocking yellow package with the appetizing looking stuffed tortillas on the front, even though I know that the package picture NEVER looks like what reality looks like…I got brave.
The package is torn to vent steam, it’s put in the microwave, and shortly afterwards, I stuffed it into four tortillas. I added cheese and a dab of sour cream, sent three to my other half, and reserved one for my own taste test.
I closed my eyes, sighed, and lifted the tortilla to my mouth, bravely going where this woman had no intentions of going again…
I took that first bite, and started to chew. It wasn’t mushy, it didn’t have a weird off taste, and the meat didn’t feel like bits of foam either–it felt and tasted like real meat. The beans were a tad “tough”, which was odd, because it wasn’t like they were undercooked. They were just…tough.
The spice wasn’t too intense, nor was it so understated that it was negligible. It stuffed four of the medium sized tortillas very full, and could easily be stretched to stuff six of them. The container claims five servings, which would be probably about right.
Our determination? I’m a skilled cook with a good sized Mexican-American repertoire from my years in the Southwest (not Tex-Mex, each region has their own style). I’d not serve this normally, but…it’s something that’s good to have on the shelf for emergencies, quick meals, or camping/road trips. (I bet it would heat up quite nicely laid on the dash in the sun while out of the car!) It can be eaten on its own, or in tortillas. It can be dressed up with some cheese and salsa…or just eaten. I can easily see this as road trip food, heated on the dash along with a can of refried beans for some cheap on-the-road food too. I wouldn’t be adverse to putting it in my pack for a long bicycle ride either.
I can also see this as a favored meal with the younger set–it’s really easy to heat up in the microwave and serve. It’s pretty tasty, and made more so if you are not quite so skilled at cooking. It’s a great item to stash in that “good luck” box for a young person getting their first apartment or heading off to college too–it’s shelf stable, uncomplicated, and filling. It’s also a great addition to that hurricane kit and beats potted meat or vienna sausages in texture, taste, and satisfying nature too. It’s something adolescents would greatly appreciate in the cupboard for do-it-yourself dinners too.