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?

If you think you don’t like beets…

I used to think that myself.  But remember when I was reading this book and I learned about all the “superstar” foods??  Well that book reminded me of a recipe from a cookbook of my dads that I first made last summer and we absolutely loved it.  When we made it again this summer, I was reminded I never shared it with you.  If I shared all the reasons it was good for you, we would be here all day, so let’s just focus on the beets.

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Here are a few reasons to love them:

  1. They lower cholesterol
  2. Increase exercise endurance
  3. Anti-imflammatory
  4. Anti-cancer Effects
  5. Immunity Booster
  6. Reduce the risk of birth defects
  7. Rich in essential minerals
  8. Oh yeah, and they taste delicious!!!

So try this salad while the beets and kale are still fresh and your farmer’s market.  Or share with us YOUR favorite way to eat beets.

Beet Kale Walnut Salad

Ingredients

Salad
3 to 4 beets, peeled and cubed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, lightly roasted
½ cup organic feta cheese (optional)

Dressing
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or coconut oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil, optional
1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari or ¼ teaspoon sea salt


Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the cubed beets into a steamer basket. Steam for about 15 to 20 minutes or until tender*, place into a bowl to cool. Place chopped kale into the steamer basket and steam for 5 to 10 minutes until tender but still bright green. Place into bowl with beets.

Place walnuts into a small glass baking dish and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely. Place into the bowl with beets and kale.

In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Pour** over beets, kale, walnuts, and toss. Top with feta cheese and freshly ground black pepper if desired.

*Don’t know if it’s me, my beets, or my steamer basket, but usually this takes twice as long for them to get tender.

**I didn’t need to use all of the dressing on this one, so start sparingly and get it to the consistency you like!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

It has been awhile since I have posted.  I have pretty much been on vacation for the past two weeks.  Try not to be jealous.  That includes a lot of road trip time with a toddler and an infant, if that makes you feel any better about it!  For part of my “things-to-do bag” as we called them in road trips of youth, I picked up a book at the library, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.

This was a terrible and fabulous decision at the same time.  On the one hand, it made me very conscious of what I was eating in a time when I had to eat out a lot more than usual.  On the other hand, it made me very conscious of what I was eating.  It is hard to eat healthy while on vacation!!!!   Do you have any tricks for doing so?

It did give me a good idea though to highlight the foods in the book in the recipes that I choose to share so that we can talk about what the foods we eat are doing for us instead of just the number nutritional value.  Though I am still in vacation, I thought I’d share something I made just before I left that features three foods from the book that are all “superstars”, which means they are the best of the best.

I am sure we have all heard spinach is good for us, but why?  The calcium content in spinach and the other dark leafy greens strengthens bones.  The flavonoids in spinach help protect against age related memory loss.

The A and C vitamins in spinach plus the fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients help control cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancers. Folate also lowers the blood levels of something called homocysteine, a protein that damages arteries. So spinach also helps protect against heart disease.

The lutein in spinach makes it one of the best foods in the world to prevent cataracts, as well as age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the elderly. Foods rich in lutein are also thought to help prevent cancer.

Strawberries contain a range of nutrients, with vitamin C heading the group. They also contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants, which fight free radicals. These antioxidant properties are believed to be linked to what makes the strawberry bright red. Free radicals are elements that can damage cells, and they are thought to contribute to the formation of many kinds of cancer.

In addition to vitamin C, strawberries also provide an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

More on those to come!  I feel like you may be falling asleep at your computer reading all this info so far!  Let’s just get on to the yummy salad recipe.  I only put half the dressing on to lower the calories and fat even more.  If you are feeling hungry, you can easily make this into a meal salad by adding some smoked salmon and avocado…two more of the star performers in the book!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients

2 TBSP sesame seeds
1 TBSP Poppy seeds
1/2 C sugar substitute
1/4 C Olive oil
1/4 C water
1/4 C balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 tsp Worcesestershire Sauce
1 TBSP minced onion
10 oz fresh spinach
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/4 C almonds blanched and slivered

Directions

In a medium glass or plastic bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, water, vinegar, paprika, Worcesesershire sauce and onion.Cover and chill for 1 hour

in a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries, and almonds.

pour dressing over salad and toss

refigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving

 
NUTRITION: 117 Cal / 10 g fat / 7 g Carbs / 3 g Fiber / 3 g Protein

Eat Your Veggies

Yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted.   I could give you my excuses, but I doubt you care so let’s just get on with it.  As mentioned in my last post, my husband has been trying to figure out his food allergies.  As part of that we talked about doing a 28-day detox and elimination diet.  For many reasons (of course none of them being that we are afraid of the green smoothie fast), we decided to postpone that, but not until after I had bought 3 Costco-sized clamshells of leafy greens.

So though it is still winter, I may be posting a lot of recipes heavy on the green veggies over the next little while as I attempt to eat them all before they spoil.  If you don’t get excited about vegetables, I apologize, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one out there who could stand to eat more!

This recipe, from Tosca Reno’s Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook 2, reminded me of my favorite salad at the Cheesecake Factory, so it was the first thing I made from the book that my sweet brother got me for Christmas.

What are your favorite salad recipes?

BBQ Chicken Chop Chop Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup Spicy Clean BBQ Sauce***
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TBSP red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 oz chicken breasts
  • 2 ears corn, husked (I just used frozen corn, since again, it’s winter!)
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 head romaine, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • ¼ red onion
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite sized pieces
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together BBQ sauce, garlic, mustard, lime juice, vinegar and black pepper.  Whisk in olive oil and set aside.
  2. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.  Lightly season chicken breasts, corn, peppers, and zucchini with seat salt and black pepper.  Cook chicken and vieggies on grill, turning once, until marks appear and veggies are slightly softened but not cooked through, about 2 minutes each side.  Continue cooking chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes each side.  Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. In a very large bowl, add romaine, black beans, and onion.  Cut cork from cops and add to bown. Cut peppers, zucchini and chicken into bite sized pieces, and add to bowl.  Pour reserved BBG dressing over top and toss to combine.  Add avocado and cilantro, and very gently toss to combine.

NUTRITION: Calories 367 / Fat 11 g / Carbs 36g / Protein 30 g / Fiber 11 g

***Clean BBQ Sauce

(feel free to use premade BBQ sauce if pressed for time, but be sure to check the label because those things are usually full of High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, and Preservatives)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tsp safflower oil
  • ½ large sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 TBSP deli mustard
  • 1 TBSP cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 TBSP unsulfured blackstrap molasses
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and sauté until soft and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.  Add rest of ingredients, stir to combine, and simmer for 15 minutes until slightly thickened.
  2. Pour into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Can be stored in a sealed container in fridge for up to two weeks.