Tastier Tacos

I have heard from several friends lately that tacos are one of their go-to meals.  Mine too!!  I love them and could probably eat them every day.  Well, I know I can actually because that is exactly what I have been doing while Aaron is on his cleanse.  Well, a taco salad actually.  But that is what is great about this meal…you make up a few basic ingredients and you end up with lots of options: tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, tostadas, yum!

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But if you eventually get sick of those tacos, here are a few great ways to spruce them up.

#1 – FRESH Pico de Gallo

I don’t think there is anything that adds a better flavor that homemade salsa.  At least that has so few calories and so many vegetables that is.  I had a pile of tomatoes from the garden that I needed to use up fast so I busted out my college roommate’s recipe and got to work.  You still make this recipe Erika Loveland??

7 large tomatoes
1 onion
1 bunch cilantro
2 green chilies (seeded, unless you are ready for some heat of course!)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp garlic salt
1 TBSP vinegar
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp dried red chili
1 tsp dried basil

Chop, Mix, Chill, and enjoy!  It also tastes good with eggs or a baked potato; what else do you put your salsa on??

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Peppers are another great add-in, and another healthy vegetable!  Instead of just frying them on the stove, try roasting them or grilling them for more ooomph.  And for an even deeper flavor, ditch your usual bell pepper and go for the poblano.  It is not spicy (unless you leave those seeds in!), but rich and smoky.  Just pop it in the oven at 400, using tongs to rotate it every 5 minutes until ll sides are slightly charred.

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My all-time favorite topping is the caramelized onion.  I could probably eat it on everything.  It and the peppers are a great way to jazz up burgers and homemade pizza.  Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a pile of butter or oil to get a tasty caramelized onion.  Just get a sweet onion (Walla Walla are the best, in my opinion, but maybe if you are in the south you would argue for the Vidalia)!

  • Set your frying pan on medium heat, spray it with olive oil, then add the onion.
  • Cook until it is starting to get pretty brown on one side.
  • Give it a good stir and then add enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Cook until it is starting to get pretty brown on the other side.
  • Give it a good stir and then add enough water to cover the bottom.
  • Are you getting the picture?  Keep doing this until the onions are as soft and sweet as your taste buds desire.

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For this week I just used ground turkey with the Costco Taco Seasoning.  I like the flavor of that and it doesn’t have any MSG like a lot of packaged seasonings.  Do any of you purists have a good recipe for Taco Seasoning that you like to use?

With all this deliciousness you don’t even need to add cheese or sour cream! My cheese loving family may disagree though.  Of course you may want to toss in some healthier fats like avocado or a dab of greek yogurt.  Yum!  What are your favorite ways to jazz up tacos?

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Zucchini Overload

Ever since we got married, we have talked about growing a garden.  The benefits of it go without saying, and I think the labor involved goes without saying as well.  So I don’t need to give you all our excuses for it taking five years to finally do it.  When we redid our backyard, my mom plotted out a little garden space, complete with really nice, fertilized soil, so we decided to finally get rid of our excuses and just do it.

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I shouldn’t really say we though.  This has been 95% Aaron and the kids.  Yes, I bought the seeds, and yes I harvest some lettuce when we are going to have salad for dinner, but otherwise they have been the ones putting in the work and doing an awesome job.

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Since we are such newbies, we didn’t know that one little packets of a few tiny seeds would produce so many zucchini.  This was just a couple of days worth.  We have had a few stacks like that on our counter over the last few weeks.  Not having enough mouths or enough stamina to eat it plain, of course I turned to Pinterest to find some other good ways to put it to use.

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With sliced zucchini, we grilled them up and made some yummy zucchini pizzas.  Keeping with the Italian theme, with shredded zucchini we made spaghetti.  Except I didn’t have one of those fancy tools, so I just did it in my food processor.  I think I am going to try this zucchini bread recipe tomorrow because so far, the sugarless ones I have tried haven’t been the tastiest.  I will let you know.

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My favorite trick of all actually didn’t come from Pinterest, but from an idea my sister in law gave me.  She said what she did last year with all her zucchini was puree it and use it in place of oil/butter for recipes.  So I took our favorite waffle recipe and tried it out…it was a little on the runny side so we turned them into pancakes and they were so yummy I made them again on Saturday and figured I needed to share the recipe with you.  And yes, my kids loved them too…they don’t turn out green or scary or anything.

Zucchini Puree

Zucchini Pancakes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup pureed zucchini
  • ½ cup VERY finely chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS

  1. Puree zucchini in a strong mixer like a Vitamix.  Set over a fine mesh strainer to drain most of the liquid while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl (I use my Kitchen Aid, but the batter would not be difficult to simply whisk).
  3. If you feel like mixing all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl like most recipes love you to do, feel free.  Personally I am lazy, especially in the morning, so I just dump all wet ingredients in at once, then mix.  Then add the pecans.
  4. A good trick to great pancakes or waffles is letting the batter rest for 5 minutes before cooking.  This helps the dry ingredients soak up the wet for a fluffier final result.
  5. I’m pretty sure you know what to do next.  Nutrition information is based on making 16 pancakes, 2 pancakes per serving size.

NUTRITION: Calories 199 / Fat 7 g / Carbs 25g / Protein 10 g / Sugar 2 g

Chicken Enchiladas

I am a huge fan of Mexican food.  Well I should probably say Tex-Mex since I have never been to Mexico and doubt the accuracy of our replications, but I love them anyway.  Growing up in Texas, we of course ate it a lot and just the smell of it feels like home.  When my dad makes chicken enchiladas, he usually makes them with a cream sauce that is delicious, but for times when you want less calories it is nice to have a delicious AND healthy option, which is definitely this one from Eating for Life.

Though my dad himself would probably lot like these because they feature cilantro, but I myself could eat them once a week and be happy.  Sometimes I can’t believe that my dad doesn’t like cilantro, but when he described the experience on his mission that made him hate it, I can’t fault him for it since I had my own that bred a strong hatred of mushrooms.

But if you love a good salsa verde and love cilantro like I do (and all you other Cafe Rio lovers out there), you’ll love these!!  Feel free to leave out the cheese for less calories or lactose intolerance like I did for Aaron’s half.  He says it tastes just as good, but I like those calories myself!

Mom’s Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

4 portions chicken breast (about 1 lb)
4 green onions, sliced
2T fresh cilantro chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (optional)
3 cans (10 oz. each) green enchilada sauce
8 corn tortillas
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 tomato, diced
1 can (2 oz) ripe olives, sliced

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Place chicken breasts in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until no longer pink in the center, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly. Shred chicken by pulling apart with 2 forks; set aside.

3. Lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Add green onion, cilantro and jalapeno; sauté for 2 minutes. Add shredded chicken and 1 can of enchilada sauce. Cook stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes.

4. Pour the 2 remaining cans of enchilada sauce in a medium bowl and microwave until warm, about 2 minutes. Dip each tortilla in the heated sauce and fill with about 1/8 of the chicken mixture. Roll up and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish.

5. Pour remaining heated sauce over enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until enchiladas are heated through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

6. Divide lettuce onto four plates and place a portion of enchiladas on top. Top with a spoonful of salsa, a dollop of sour cream, tomatoes and olives. Serve and enjoy.

NUTRITION: Calories 434 / Fat 13 g / Carbs 40 / Protein 39 g / Fiber 6 g

Happy Easter!!

Anyone overflowing with hard-boiled eggs today and need to put them to good use?  Personally I could just sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper and eat them like candy.  I am so glad we discovered Aaron doesn’t react to the cage-free eggs because life without eggs was so sad.  If you need a little more inspiration than salt and pepper, I saw this and thought I’d share:

8 Recipes for Hard-Boiled Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is of course too late for an official Easter Brunch, but the Smoked Salmon Fritattas that came up at the end of that list looked divine!  I have just the right amount of leftover smoked salmon to have those in the am with some leftover asparagus…yum!

I was also trying to find out how the tradition of Ham on Easter got started.  Pretty darn sure Jesus didn’t serve up any ham at the last supper, but my online searches have produced too many different answers.  Any of you know the real story?  I myself don’t feel too passionately about ham, so I’d love a good excuse to change the tradition. 🙂

Feeding my Soul

Last week Aaron found a great deal on Living Social that we couldn’t pass up.  So we decided to head to Mt. Hood for a little spring skiing.  I don’t know about you, but whenever going on a road trip, no matter how long, I always make sure to pack plenty of snacks.  I do not like to find myself hungry somewhere where the only thing in sight is a McDonald’s or Taco Bell.  However I think my sweet tooth was calling too strongly when I was shopping for snacks because all the things I bought just didn’t seem so satisfy.

So when you spend all day munching on things like this (though they are so delicious that I seriously inhaled them)…

all it let me craving was something that could satisfy true, real hunger, and not keep me looking for more to snack on.

CHILI.  Yum.  Soul filling, for sure.  Probably all that fiber that does the trick!!  Though technically the recipe below is NOT chili, so please do like Paula and call it Taco Soup around true Southerners like my father that have strict requirements on what constitutes real chili.  For me, it is simply taste and this one tastes GOOD!

And with chili, even the leftovers are good.  What I did with my leftovers this time was even better.  As it sat in the fridge, the beans slowly soak up the soup part, leaving it very thick and the PERFECT topping for nachos.  I like to make my own chips by cutting up my favorite tortillas and just dry roasting them in the oven at 400 for about 10 minutes or until you feel good about their crispness level.  So easy and so much healthier!

Then I add just a bit of cheese underneath (to keep the chips from getting too soggy from the juices) and on top of the chili.  And of course a little avocado is always welcome on my plate.  What is your favorite chili recipe?

Paula Deen’s Taco Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef (we always use turkey for a healthier option)
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
  • 1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
  • 1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
  • 2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles
  • 1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
  • 1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
  • 1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix
  • Corn chips, for serving (I always go with cornbread instead)
  • Sour cream, for garnish
  • Grated cheese, for garnish
  • Chopped green onions, for garnish
  • Pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Directions

Brown the ground beef and onions in a large skillet; drain the excess fat, then transfer the browned beef and onions to a large slow cooker or a stockpot. Add the beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, black olives, green olives, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing mix, and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6 to 8 hours or simmer over low heat for about 1 hour in a pot on the stove. To serve, place a few corn chips in each bowl and ladle soup over them. Top with sour cream, cheese, green onions and jalapenos.

NUTRITION: Calories 388 / Fat 14 g / Carbs 42 g / Protein 26 g / Fiber 11 g

Pineapple Ginger Meatballs

We’ve been fortunate for the past few days to enjoy some unseasonably beautiful weather here in the Pacific Northwest.  During yesterday’s exceptionally sunny day I happened past an intoxicating smell of fresh pineapple in the produce section.  I knew I had to take it home with me so I could keep alive the dream of me relaxing on a beach somewhere warm.

Unfortunately the dream came crashing down as I got home and realized now I had to chop it.  Am I the only one that HATES chopping pineapples?!?!  Such work to get to the fruit, and then even more to make sure you don’t get any of the core or the eyes (is that what they’re called?!) in your pieces.  Apparently I wasn’t successful because my daughter promptly spit her first bite back in the bowl.  Whoops!

Since I still have a pile of fresh ginger from all the Chinese New Year partying, I thought it would be good to make this recipe from a Comfort Food special edition of Clean Eating.  Somehow this yummy recipe is not on the internet so I have to post my own ghetto picture…

Pineapple Ginger Meatballs

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb extra lean ground beef (or pork, chicken, or turkey)
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP plus 1 tsp fresh grated ginger root, divided
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, divided
  • 1 TBSP safflower oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 3 TBSP dried unsweetened apricots
  • 1 ½ TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 3 packets stevia
  • 2 cups cooked whole-wheat couscous
  • 1 oz slivered unsalted almonds
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, combine meat, oats, jalapeno, 1 TBSP ginger, egg whites, black pepper, and 1/8 tsp salt. Shape into 24 meatballs. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add meatballs and cook until browned, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.
  2. Coat a slow cooker with cooking spray.  Add red onion to cover bottom, top with meatballs, cover and cook on high for 2 hours or until no longer pink in center.
  3. In a small bowl combine pineapple, apricots, vinegar, ¼ cup water, stevia, and remaining 1 tsp ginger. Pour over top of meatballs and cook for 15 more minutes.
  4. In a large bowl toss couscous with almonds and green onion. Divide couscous mixture among serving bowls. Gently stir meatball mixture and spoon over top of couscous. Sprinkle with remaining salt and cilantro.
  5. Serves 4 (1 cup meatball pineapple mixture and ½ cup couscous mixture)

NUTRITION: Calories 381 / Fat 12 g / Carbs 38g / Sugars 10 g / Protein 30 g / Fiber 4 g

Becca’s thoughts:

To make it healthier I used turkey, only 1/2 TBSP oil, and no salt and it still tasted great.  I also don’t own Stevia so I just used some cane sugar, but I wonder if it even needs that.  Next time I’ll try it without.  Also the meatballs were VERY soft and broke apart easily while browning.  I would suggest baking them instead or making them with just one egg white.