Monday, December 30, 2013

CHOPPED TACO SALAD



A recipe for salad?  Yes, a recipe for salad.  I love love love Mexican food, but I'm not sure my pants would fit if I gave into my daily cravings.  When I'm in the mood for delicious tacos, burritos or enchiladas I whip up this "healthier" taco salad.  Now, I have a version that is not healthy at all, and another that is a bit more health conscious.

I always start with a big bunch of chopped romaine.  Brown a pound of extra lean ground turkey, then add a can of black beans and a packet of taco seasoning.  Let simmer until most liquid has evaporated. 

Brown ground turkey, add beans and taco seasoning




Now it's time for toppings!  Chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and avocado are delicious in taco salad.


Now for the dressing: when in piggy mode, I use (coat the salad in) thousand island dressing.  It gives the meal such an unexpected tangy flavor.  It is SO good.  If you're going all the way with full fat thousand island, you may as well throw in some crushed up nacho cheese Doritos.  Totally makes the salad.  For the healthier version, I mix about a tablespoon of ranch dressing with a lot of salsa and hot sauce.  You still get that creamy ranch flavor, but without the calories of a bigger pour.  The salsa will coat your salad nicely, but with minimal calories.  If you still need the Doritos, get the baked kind!

"Healthier" dressing ingredients
Flavor!


Ingredients

Chopped romaine
1 lb extra lean ground turkey
1 can black beans, 15 oz
1 packet taco seasoning (I used Old El Paso)
tomatoes
avocado
green peppers
cucumber
Thousand Island salad dressing
OR
Ranch + Salsa + Hot sauce
OR
Nonfat greek yogurt + Salsa + Hot sauce

Brown ground turkey, add taco seasoning and undrained black beans.  Simmer until most liquid evaporates.  Plate lettuce and top with meat mixture.  Top with chopped veggies, dressing, and chips.  Enjoy!



Truth time: I always eat my salads out of a huge mixing bowl while hunkered down on the couch. Don't judge.
What my salad actually looks like.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

SPANISH RICE



Confession time.  I don't know how to make rice, so I usually buy the Uncle Ben's microwaveable pouch.  It only takes 90 seconds and it comes out perfect every time!  So when my Uncle Dave asked me to bring the rice for our Mexican Christmas, I had a mild panic attack.  How many pouches would I have to purchase to be able to feed over 20 people?  Would they be able to tell it was microwaved rice? 

I then told myself to get it together.  People make rice all the time, so why can't I be one of them?  My main problem with cooking rice is that it always sticks/burns to the bottom of the pan.  Simple solution: use a nonstick pan.  Duh.  Not sure why I didn't think of that a long time ago.  I also prefer the microwave rice because the grains stay separate, rather than sticking together in mushy globs, like the carton of rice you get with Chinese delivery.  I googled and found this recipe, which had tons of positive reviews.  A key step is sauteing the rice first, so it doesn't get sticky.  I about tripled the amount of the original recipe, and it made more than enough for the 20+ crowd at Christmas.  I used mild Pace picante sauce to avoid any spicy issues with the kiddos.  I was a bit hesitant to make rice using salsa; I didn't want salsa flavored rice.  Turns out, nobody believed that the "vegetables" in the rice were salsa!  Amazing.  I tweaked the original recipe slightly.



Ingredients

2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Pace picante sauce

Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir about one minute.  Do not burn!  Add rice, constantly stirring until translucent (without browning), about 5 minutes.  Pour in broth and salsa.  Bring mixture to a rolling boil then cover with a tight fitting lid.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until rice is tender, stirring once during cooking.  Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes with lid on.  Fluff with fork and serve. 


Thursday, December 26, 2013

LASAGNA SOUP



Another amazingly easy one pot dish!  Lasagna is a classic, but full of heavy ricotta and very labor intensive.  This soup is a lot healthier and is ready in about 45 minutes.  It's filling, comforting and uses affordable ingredients.  I adapted this recipe from here.  My version has more broth and pasta, and includes the addictive Texas Toast brand croutons.  They give the soup more flavor and a satisfying crunch.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
48 ounces chicken broth
15 ounces tomato sauce
15 ounces petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 heaping cups rotini pasta
grated parmesan, shredded mozzarella and croutons for topping

Heat olive oil in large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, then add onions.  Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add ground turkey, cook and crumble.  When meat is fully cooked, pour in broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salt and cayenne pepper.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, then add pasta.   Bring back to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until pasta is done.  Top each bowl with parmesan, mozzarella and croutons.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

THE BEST 7 LAYER BEAN DIP



When I was a child, my genius family had the ultimate epiphany: Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner are the SAME MEAL.  Eating the same holiday meal only a month apart didn't bring much excitement to our lives, so we had to come up with a solution.  Embracing our Mexican heritage, we decided to start the tradition of Mexican Christmas.  Did I mention that in addition to being geniuses, we are also trailblazers?  Anyway, my very non-Mexican mother’s contribution every year is the incredibly authentic cornerstone of Mexican cuisine, 7 layer dip!  I’ve tweaked her classic recipe over the years and have taken over her Christmas appetizer duty, so she can focus on her true love, BAKING CHRISTMAS COOKIES!  Seriously, this dip is so good that I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law married my brother just so she could enjoy it annually.  Hi, Lindsay, xoxo!

Doesn't this just scream Christmas?!

Now listen, I know there are a lot of 7 layer dips out there, but this one is just slightly more delicious.   Most people don’t realize there IS a solution to those thick bean dips that always break your chips.  COOK THE BEANS!  Trust me on this one.  I made the dip for my friend Tara’s baby shower and she could not stop commenting that there was just something about it that made it slightly better than when she makes it.  We went through our methods/recipes step by step and finally figured out that when she makes it, she just opens the cans of beans and plops them in the dish.  Nope, gotta cook em!  Better texture AND color.  Trust.

The secret ingredient.  Sour cream mixed with taco seasoning.  I could just eat this with a spoon and be happy.



Ingredients:
2 cans refried beans, 16 oz each.  (use regular, fat free, vegetarian, with green chiles, etc.)
1 container sour cream, 16 oz (don't use light or fat free; it won't taste the same)
1 packet taco seasoning (Old El Paso is delicious)
Guacamole, about 12 oz (Wholly Guacamole is such a great brand)
1 jar Chi Chis thick and chunky salsa, medium heat
2-3 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
Shredded lettuce (iceberg is best)
Chopped tomatoes
Extra salsa, if desired

Heat your two cans of beans in a saucepot on the stove, or even in a bowl in the microwave.  Stir constantly and you will notice your beans become a lovely, velvety smooth consistency in no time. Let your beans cool on the counter, giving them a stir from time to time to let that heat escape.  Or, if you’re impatient like me, you can stick them in the fridge for a quicker cool down.

Once beans are room temp, evenly spread them in the bottom of an 8x8 dish. You may want to use about a can and a half, depending on what size dish you use.  If you're going bigger than 8x8, you'll probably have enough room for both cans.  Pour on the salsa and spread it evenly.  Sprinkle on your first layer of cheese.  Layer on the guacamole, smoothing very carefully with a butter knife or the back of a spoon so you don’t disturb the cheese.  In a small bowl, mix the taco seasoning and sour cream.  Spoon this over the guac, spreading evenly as you go.  Now add another layer of cheese.  Top with lettuce, chopped tomatoes and a little extra salsa if you’re feeling wild.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for about an hour first.

A few notes: use a very chunky salsa, or use a slotted spoon when adding the salsa layer.  You don't want it to get watery.  Also, I did not use fresh tomatoes in this batch because it's December and the tomatoes at the grocery store looked sad.  That's usually the top layer.  My friend, Krysta, is GF so I used Old El Paso taco seasoning and their original refried beans, Daisy sour cream, and Chi Chis salsa.  Just read labels and this can easily be GF or even vegetarian.  Just gotta get vegetarian refried beans.

Layer 1: beans
Layer 2: salsa
Layer 3: cheese
Layer 4: guac.  I'd just used my inhaler, so my shaky hands made this blurry!  Nerd alert.
Layer 5: taco seasoned sour cream
cheese (repeat layer, doesn't count!)
Layer 6: shredded lettuce

Layer 7: salsa/tomatoes







Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI



It's now December, which means it is officially chili weather.  Yes, it was 60 degrees outside today, and the high tomorrow is 67.  Whatevs, I made chili, and it was GOOD.

My sister stopped by for dinner, and after finishing her meal commented, "Wow.  That had a lot of great flavor.  I was expecting it to taste really boring!"  I guess her prior experiences with white chicken chili were not so great.  Sister, you are WELCOME!

Now, white bean chicken chili can be broth based, or it can be a thicker, stew like chili.  I went for the latter with this recipe.  If you'd like it to be more brothy, read the detailed instructions.  Here we go!

First, cook chicken and break into smaller pieces.  Add diced onions and seasonings.


Next, pour in stock, chiles and drained beans, then cover.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 25 minutes.  If you'd like a less liquidy chili, simmer uncovered.

After 25 minutes of simmering, your chili may look like this:
That was a bit too brothy for my taste, so I added refried beans.  It sounds weird but it really binds it up, and both people I served this meal to tonight didn't believe there were refried beans in it!  I've added anywhere from 1/4 a can to the entire thing, depending on how much I wanted the chili to thicken up.  I used the entire can this time.

 
Perfect.  Thank you, refried beans!

These rolls were SO GOOD with some melted butter brushed on top before baking.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (less or more, depending on your spice preference)
2 cans chopped green chiles, 4 ounces, undrained
26 ounces chicken stock
4 cans white cannellini beans, 15.5 ounces each, drained and rinsed
1 can refried beans

Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add chicken and diced onion.  Break chicken into smaller pieces as it cooks, until it is no longer pink.  Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne.  Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.  Pour in chiles, chicken stock and white beans.  Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes.  For a less brothy chili, simmer uncovered.  To thicken chili, add refried beans by the spoonful, stirring constantly as it simmers.  Top with shredded cheese, sour cream and/or hot sauce.