Taco Salad

With summer officially beginning in a few days, swimsuit season is finally here.  Not that I wear swimsuits that often, it’s not a pretty sight (it’s not terrible either).  But the point is, it’s time to slim down for a few months, before autumn comes around and I fill up on stews and pies and soups and turkeys and cookies and…can it be autumn yet?

Anyway, when it’s hot, and you’re in a season full of fresh vegetables, the obvious choice is to have a salad. But with so many options, what kind of salad do you have?  The choice is always obvious for me: a taco salad!

I love a taco salad. It’s spicy, it’s flavorful, and when you use salsa as the dressing, it is practically guilt free (in my mind).

It’s also super easy to make, and an easy lunch to assemble if you need to take it to work. I’ve been eating them all week!

I use ground turkey meat, because it’s “healthier,” but you can use whatever meat you want.  You can also totally use packaged taco seasoning, and I won’t judge because it’s delicious.

I sauté some onions, and then added spices like cumin, coriander, chili, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and then let them warm up to really bring out the flavors.

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Add the meat in, brown it, add a little water to let the spices really get into the meat, and you’re halfway done!

For the salad, I chop up some mini-peppers, tomatoes, and radishes.

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Next, add some chopped avocado, black beans, olives, corn (I used canned because I’m lazy), and some pickled jalapeño peppers for a nice kick. Toss all that with some lettuce and a few tablespoons of whatever salsa you love, and crumble a taco shell over it for good measure.

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There you have it, a tasty, satisfying, delicious lunch salad!

To use it during the week, keep all the components in separate containers, and it makes assembling them a breeze, and keeps them from getting all mushy.

TACO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 lb ground turkey
1 small onion
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Lettuce
1 tomato, chopped
5 radishes, chopped
1 bell pepper (or a handful of mini peppers), chopped
1 avocado, cut into cubes
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 small can sliced olives
Pickled jalapeños
Salsa of your choice (I prefer green)
Taco shells or tortilla chips

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion to pan, saute for 3-4 minutes until soft.
3. Add cumin, coriander, chili, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. (*Add more or less of whatever spices you love/hate!)
4. Add 1/3 cup water, and stir.  Cook until water evaporates, and then season to taste.
5. In a bowl, combine lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, pepper, avocado, black beans, corn, and however many jalapeños you enjoy.  Toss all that together.
6. Put some salad on a plate, and top with 1/2 a cup(ish) of meat mixture.
7. Break a taco shell or some tortilla chips on top of the salad.
8. Top with a few tablespoons of salsa, and garnish with cilantro if you have any.

On the Lamb (Meatballs)

You know those times where you look at a recipe and think “oh that might be good!” and then you try it, and you have to stop yourself from eating all of it before your boyfriend gets home because it’s so good?  This is one of those.

I happen to love lamb. It’s meaty, and juicy, and full of delicious flavor.  There are so many herbs and spices that work well with it in a very different way than other meats. You can create unique dishes with it that add an unexpected flair and a richness you can’t get with other meats.

This recipe is buried in the April issue of Bon Appétit magazine, and when I saw it, it piqued my interest enough that it was worth a try.  In fact, the April issue of the magazine is one of its better ones, there were plenty of recipes in there I wanted to try.

I also love meatballs. They’re perfectly sized, can go with pastas, salads, in sandwiches, or just eaten by themselves and they’re always a winner. There are endless ways to make them and I almost want to open a restaurant that sells exclusively meatballs!  Wouldn’t that be nice? (Copyright The Eating Table, 2015).

The key to this recipe is the amazing chili sauce that coats the meatballs. Don’t be intimidated by how much chili is in it, because it’s actually quite mild. It’s more flavor than heat.

The sauce starts with seeded, chopped pasilla peppers, red chili flakes, and cumin seeds, which you toast for a few minutes to really get the flavors going.

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After blending them with vinegar, oil, garlic, and sweet paprika (more flavor!), you’re left with this magnificently red sauce which you put in a bowl.

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The meatballs involve onions, more garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, coriander, cumin, fennel, and I’m already salivating at all those amazing flavors. lamb-meatballs-5

Combine that with lamb and pulse it in a food processor until it gets nice and mixed.  This also helps with the texture of the lamb as well, really making it a fine grind.

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Then you just form them into balls.

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Fry them up in a pan.

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And then, the best part, you toss them in the chili sauce.

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At this point I wanted to eat the entire bowl, because they look so amazing, but I had to wait to make them look pretty.

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The recipe has them being served with a cucumber/yogurt mixture, but I just served them with a lightly dressed salad.  And then ate more than I should have.

Honestly, they were so good I almost had to ration them to make sure I didn’t eat them all in one sitting.  Even my boyfriend, who says he doesn’t like lamb, kept eating them and I had to make him stop.  They’re all gone now, and I immediately want to make more of them, but that feels so indulgent!

Then again, it’s my birthday week, so I can do whatever I want.  Off to the store for more ingredients, brb!

Recipe can be found here. And you really should try it.

Butternut Squash & Kale Tacos

The taco.

Is there anything more delicious and exciting than a taco?  It can be simple, it can be complex, it can be crunch, it can be soft, it can be sweet, it can be savory, it can be anything you want it to be.  I love making tacos because you can make them different every time if you want.

Back in my childhood taco night was a family favorite. It was a purely American-style taco: crunchy taco shells, ground beef with that packaged taco seasoning, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and onions.  And I loved every single one I ate.  I haven’t made those kind in a while, but I still love them.

These days though we all try to be a little more health-conscious and sustainable and grass-fed, and all that.  So while browsing recipes for tacos I figured why not combine a few of my favorite healthy ingredients into one, and put it in a tortilla?  Everything’s better in a tortilla.

Enter kale and butternut squash. Delicious and nutritious by themselves, and a real healthy combo when put together.  I know I’m not the first person to invent the kale and butternut squash taco, but I decided to wing it and see what I could do.

First I cooked up some onions and garlic in a pan, then added cubed butternut squash.  And I didn’t even cheat and buy it pre-cut!

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Let that cook for 10 minutes or until the squash is soft.  Then add some chili for spice. Not too much though, you don’t want to burn your mouth off.

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Then add a bunch of chopped kale and cook until it’s wilted.

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Salt and pepper that up, and your filling’s done!  Easy enough right?

Now for some sauce.  A good taco generally has a nice crema on it, but I actually like using greek yogurt to make a sauce because it’s thicker, and adds a nice tartness to it. The sauce is good enough to be used as a condiment for any sort of dish, if you ask me, though I’m biased.

Combine some plain greek yogurt with lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and…Tapatio! Or Cholula.  Or any other hot sauce you think is good.  I like the two of those because they’re smoky and rich in flavor.

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Stir, stir, stir, and you have a delicious condiment:

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So now, put some of that sauce on a warm tortilla and top with the filling.

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Sprinkle a little chopped cilantro and raw onion, for added flavor and texture.

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Then when you’re done taking a picture so you can impress all your friends, make two more to join that taco on the plate, because you’re going to want them.

INGREDIENTS:

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 cups butternut squash, cut in small cubes
1 bunch kale, chopped
chili powder
1 cup greek yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
1.5 teaspoons Tapatio or other hot sauce
Corn tortillas
chopped onion and cilantro, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large pan.

2. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.

3. Add in butternut squash, and cook for 8-10 minutes, until soft.

4. Salt and pepper to taste, and add 1 teaspoon chili powder.

5. Add chopped kale to pan, and stir together.  Cook a few minutes until kale is wilted.

6. To make the sauce, combine the greek yogurt, cumin, Tapatio, and some salt & pepper.  Stir to combine.

7. Assemble! On a tortilla put some of the sauce, and the filling. Top with onion and cilantro.

I Love Greek Salad!

 

As a week of healthy eating continues, it goes without saying that salads are a healthy option. But I have a love/hate relationship with salads.  I mean, I never say I CRAVE a salad, there are just times that I feel like I should have one, because we all need to eat more vegetables.

I do, however, love a good Greek salad, and this is a super simple one that takes only a few minutes to put together. In fact, so simple that I have no excuse not to eat one more often.

As with most salads, it is the dressing that can make it or break it.  A Greek dressing should be fresh and vibrant with a little tang that makes your mouth pucker.  You’re only five ingredients away from deliciousness.

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Four ingredients, plus olive oil.

Take the juice of half a lemon, crush a clove of garlic, chop up some mint and parsley, and put it all in a jar, for easy shaking.  Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and shakeshakeshake.  DONE!
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Now that the dressing is finished, time to put some veggies on a plate.  Lettuce, tomatoes, kalamata olives, thinly sliced red onions, cucumber, and some feta cheese.  Drizzle some of that delicious dressing, and maybe add some stuffed grape leaves for show, and you have a picture perfect salad.

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BRB, I have to go eat this now.

GREEK SALAD DRESSING

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic cloved, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients, whisk or shake together.

Spaghetti Squash and Make-It-Your-Own Sauce

Hello Tablers!  My apologies for being MIA this past week, between my day job, general life, and getting lasers shot in my eye, it’s been a pretty busy time around here.  All those time constraints have led to me eating pretty poorly, a lot of breads, a lot of meats, and not a lot of veggies.  For shame!

So this week I’m eating healthier, lighter, and getting back in the swing of things! It’s Springtime, isn’t that what we should all be doing anyway?

We’re going to start this week with a vegetable I get confused by: Spaghetti Squash.

People love it, and there is some that I’ve had that is delicious, but every time I have made it at home it turns out either undercooked or squishy, or not that tasty.  There was a big pile of them staring me in the face at the market though, and I will not be deterred. If it can replace pasta every now and then and still give me the satisfaction, I’m all in.

Now, let’s talk tomato sauce. Is there any sauce that is more forgiving than a tomato sauce? I call this Make-It-Your-Own tomato sauce, because you can pretty much put in anything you might think will work. You can use different meats, different vegetables, different spices, make it your own! Of course you can serve it with regular pasta too!

Let’s start with the squash.

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Look at that beauty. So yellow!  So…oval.  Ok well it’s a pretty yellow at least.

First thing you do is cut that baby in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.

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A blank canvas, ready for seasoning!

Spaghetti squash is pretty tasteless, which is bad if you want to eat it on its own, but great if you want to cover it with something delicious. Add some salt, pepper, and drizzle some olive oil on both halves, and then put them face down on a baking sheet. Cover with foil.

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Peek-a-boo

Throw it in the oven for 30 minutes to an hour, checking after 30 minutes. You know it’s done when a knife slides into it easily.

Now while that’s cooking let’s talk about the sauce. Looking in my fridge, I had some Italian turkey sausage, some onions, and sweet peppers, so that’s what I used. But hey, you have some ground beef? Ground turkey? Chicken Sausage? Spinach? Broccoli? Use it!  Whatever you feel like.

First cook the onions for a few minutes, then add your protein, in this case my delicious spicy turkey sausage.

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After the turkey sausage is browned, add in the rest of the veggies, in this case the chopped sweet peppers I had. (If you’re using spinach or some other leafy green, don’t add it now, add it near the end).

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Action shot!

Then add a can of whole tomatoes, crushing them with your hand as they go in, to really get all the juices out.

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This is the point where you open up your spice cabinet and see what’s happening in there. In my kitchen I had some dried oregano, dried basil, garlic salt, red chili flakes, and cumin (why not?), so I put some of each in there, gave it all a stir, put a lid on it and let it cook until the squash was done. Oh also add some salt and pepper of course.

Speaking of, here’s the squash when it’s done:

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Perfect. Now take a fork and carefully scrape the strands apart, basically moving from the skin side to the middle, like this:

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MAGIC.

Let’s check the sauce too.  Sometimes you’ll have to mash the tomatoes up a little more with your spoon.

 

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And when you add the two together, with a little parmesan, of course…

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A satisfying, and healthy meal, that’s full of flavor!  And it even looks like spaghetti! The miracle of nature.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH:

Ingredients:

1 2-3 pound spaghetti squash
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.

3. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place cut side down on a baking sheet, cover the sheet with foil.

5. Place in oven for 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Check after 30 minutes. It’s done when a knife can slide into it easily.

6. Remove from oven and let cook for 5 minutes.

7. With a fork, gently scrape the squash away from the skin into strings. Place into a bowl.

8. Add your favorite topping and enjoy!

MAKE-IT-YOUR-OWN TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 28oz can whole tomatoes

1/2 pound protein (sausage, ground beef, turkey, etc).

1 onion

Vegetables (peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zuchinni, whatever you like)

Spices.

Instructions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pot or deep pan over medium heat.

2. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until just starting to brown.

3. Add your protein, and cook until browned.

4. Add your sturdy vegetables and cook 3 minutes.

5. Add tomatoes and liquid to the pot, crushing with your hand as you go.

6. Add spices (basil, oregano, garlic, fennel, chili, whatever else you might have in your cabinet!) and seasoning.

7. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 20-30 minutes.

8. Crush tomatoes a little more with your spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste.

8*. If you have leafy greens, this is where you should put them in and cook a few minutes longer until they’re just wilted.

9. Serve over spaghetti squash, or regular pasta, with lots of parmesan cheese.