The “Sort of” Skinni Taco Salad

photo 1I freaking LOVE tacos.  The taco seasoning, the soft shells, the cheese, everything.  Tacos are amazing, especially when they’re loaded with salsa, hot sauce, and jalapenos.  Since I’m sort of on a salad kick this week, I thought I would make a sort of skinny taco salad.  I used to make taco salads all the time, but in all honesty they were NEVER as good as the one I’m about to share today.  The first thing I want to stress about tacos, is the importance of making your own taco seasoning. Why? Because a. when you make it yourself, you can choose to eliminate the salt if you want; and b. because when you make it yourself, you don’t add any unwanted ingredients, additives or preservatives, such as Maltodextrin.  Taco seasoning is SUPER easy to make, and requires very few ingredients.  I’ve found quite a few versions of it, but I find this one tastes REALLY close to the Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix.  I got this receipe a while back from while searching for a recipe for ground chicken tacos, and simply omitted the salt.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Mix all spices together, add to warm water, and stir until the mixture is completely combined.  And there you have it! Four ingredients and water.  It’s that simple! Neat right?  I’ve you don’t fear salt, add 1 tsp. of it to the mixture, it gives it that extra little something.

photo 4

I like a lot of different things on my tacos, but I’d have to say that my basic taco staples are usually lettuce, jalapenos, onion, green or red peppers, cheese (duh), salsa, hot sauce, and sometimes sour cream and guacamole.  For this recipe, I decided to omit the guacamole and I also decided to omit the hot sauce since I was using fresh jalapenos rather than the jarred, pickled kind.  Fresh is much spicier, especially if you keep the seeds in there.

photo 5

Making this salad is incredibly simple.  It’s takes very little prep time and very little cook time.  First you brown your beef.  I add the jalapenos and sliced onion in with the beef and fry everything up together.  Drain your beef mixture with a strainer and then add it back into your skillet.  Pour the taco seasoning and water mixture into the skillet and mix until everything is coated.  Continue to cook until you reach your desired consistency, about 5 minutes.  I don’t like the mixture to be very runny to begin with, but as a salad I want it to be especially thick.  When your beef is close to being done, set your oven to broil and pop two pitas in the oven.  I use this as the base of my salad.  broil for about 3 minutes or until the top of you pita has browned.  Place your pita on a plate and top with beef and all your favourite taco ingredients. And BAM! That’s it.

photo 2

The “Sort of” Skinny Taco Salad

makes 2 dinner sized salads


  • 1/2 pound of beef
  • homemade taco seasoning
  • 2 cups lettuce
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 large red or green pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 oz cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. salsa
  • 1 tbsp. fat free sour cream
  • 2 small whole wheat pitas

Cooking Directions

  1. Add beef, onion and jalapeno to a skillet on medium heat and cook until beef is browned.  Drain the beef mixture and then return it to the skillet.  Pour the taco seasoning and water mixture over the beef and stir, ensuring all the beef is well covered.  Continue to cook until the water and juices have almost all gone and the taco beef mixture is thick.
  2. Set your oven to broil and bake pitas for about 3 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  3. Place pitas on a plate and top with beef and all other ingredients.

photo 3

It’s easy right? If you want to get more creative take a few homemade or store bought flour tortillas and place them in an upside down muffin tin to make taco bowls.  I haven’t tried this exactly yet, but I have done something similar when I’ve made homemade hard taco shells by hanging the tortillas over the racks in my oven and baking them for 10 minutes.  Click the picture below for a quick how to from



I’m sure you’re wondering why i called this the “sort of” skinny taco salad…. well, it’s pretty calorie dense for a SALAD… any salad that’s over 400 calories seems to be a little… less skinny than others.. but no matter. This salad was frigging good. Try it. Right now. Seriously.

Apple Pie Muffins

010I am so excited that I have holidays coming up. After today, I will officially only have 9 full days left of work until I can enjoy a full week off, away from work, housework, and my cellphone.  I am planning on spending my week at camp with Ken, but not before spending a night or two at Summerfest to watch The Sheepdogs perform.  It’s just getting harder and harder to wake up in the morning. I’m in serious need of a vacation.  

I am still on my quest to find some great healthy dinner ideas, and was forwarded a few blog addresses yesterday that will surely help this pursuit.  One of my favourite summer salads in the whole world is my Summer Spinach Salad.  It has loads of fresh strawberries and blueberries, dried cranberries and chopped walnut halves, and is topped with Kraft Raspberry Vinaigrette salad dressing and goats’ cheese.  Last night I had it with my go-to salmon recipe, that has a balsamic marinade and is seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes.  Pretty tasty, and I promise I’ll share the recipe once I’ve perfected it.


So let’s talk muffins.  Miss Sally strikes again!  I totally fell in love with her Sky High Apple Pie Muffins.  They are so good! You know the kind of muffin that you buy in a bakery? or a coffee shop? They’re super tall and round and fantastic.  Well these are pretty much it. Except for one HUGE difference. They’re around 200 calories, compared to your average muffin, which are generally around 350 to 500 calories. Yikes! What the heck do they put in those things???  The original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction says that this recipe yields 12 muffins, however, I overdid the amount 011of diced apples that I put in the batter so I actually got 16 out of the mix. Always exciting.  This time when I attempted to make these “sky high domed muffins” I think I did it right, compared to my Skinny Double Chocolate Chip Muffins where I overmixed the batter. I skipped the stand mixer on this one and did it all by hand.  I was careful to get out all the flour pockets, but once it was all mixed together, I stopped,  and once in the oven, the muffin tops soared creating fantastically fluffy, high domed muffins.  The trick with the high domed muffins is the initial high baking temperature of 425F degrees.  After the muffins bake in this temperature for 5 minutes, the heat is decreased to 375F degrees (keeping them in the  oven while the temp is reduced) and then they are cooked for an additional 15-18 minutes.  It’s also important to have a thick batter (spoonable, not pourable) and that the muffin tins be filled to the top.  I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t over mix the batter as this has been one of my major faults with baking.  016

So what’s over mixing? Most recipes in terms of baked goods like cakes, muffins, and cookies involve stirring your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, etc.) in to your wet ingredients.  When the flour is mixed around and exposed to the wet ingredients it start to develop gluten, a protein that helps bind your ingredients together, but can also give baked goods a firm and elastic structure – not always great in cakes, muffins or any type of pastry.  So, do the minimum amount of mixing necessary.  Get all the flour pockets out by ensuring that there are no streaks coming out in your batter.  Or, if you’re mixing in things like fruit, chocolate chips, or other add-ins, mix until there are only a few streaks left to ensure the minimum amount of mixing – you’re going to have to fold in your add-ins so the batter will still get mixed up.

The healthy good for you ingredients in this recipe include fat free, apple flavoured greek yogurt and unsweetened applesauce (in lieu of oil), white whole wheat flour, and rolled oats in the streusal topping.  So yummy!! These is both brown and white granulated sugar in this recipe.  I was super close to trying it with brown sugar from Splenda (I think it’s essentially the same, but sweeter so you can use less), but I figured I’d best stick to Sally’s recipe for the first go so that’s I’d have a recipe to rave about the next day.  

In terms of the type of apple I chose for this recipe, I decided to go with a Cripps Pink apple.  These apples are juicy and sweet, and I found these apples really kept their shape while baking.  I’ve used other apples in the past and I’ve found once in the oven, that they lose their shape and essentially, “become one with the better”.  I don’t know about you, but I want apple chunks in my muffins. So I chose an apple that would likely not break down too much once cooked.


Sky High Apple Pie Muffins

makes 12-16 muffins. 196 calories per serving.  muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  I found the muffins tasted better the second day once the flavours had settled.  


to make the muffin

  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour (or white all-purpose flour)
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup almond milk (or soy or regular)
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp fat free apple yogurt (or vanilla or plain)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 2 heaping cups chopped apple (cored + peeled, if you prefer peeled chunks – I did not peel mine)

to make the Oat Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Baking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Prepare oat streusel topping by mixing everything together until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Set  aside.
  3. Prepare the muffins: in a large bowl combine the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Set aside.
  4. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugars, yogurt, apple sauce, eggs, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Gently fold wet mixture into the flour, stirring until *just combined* – do NOT overmix. Gently fold in the apples.
  5. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins, making sure each one is filled to the very top.  Sprinkle reserved oat streusel topping over each muffin. (bake any additional muffins separately, adding water to the empty muffin spots to ensure even baking)
  6. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 *note that I was able to divide the batter itself over 16 muffin tins, but I had to make more of the Oat Streusel topping (I halved the recipe) for the additional 4 muffins. That additional topping is included in my calorie estimation.


T hanks to these muffins, I totally broke my “only one muffin a day” rule.  But in all seriousness I didn’t mean to eat it.  I was going to save it fro breakfast the next day…. but it just smelled so great.  For some reason the smell of baked apples and cinnamon reminds me of Christmas. I was feeling a little nostalgic so I broke down and ate one…in my defense I ate the smallest one I could find, or what looked like the smallest anyway.  I urge you to try this it is fantastic and very easy (like most of Sally’s recipes).  Like I said, I have found some pretty fantastic blogs over the past few days, and a lot of them focus on healthy eating (which I think we could all use every now and then).  Be sure to visit Sally’s Baking Addiction for more healthy recipes! Happy Baking!!