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 Food.com 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.

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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.

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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.

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The “Sort of” Skinny Taco Salad

makes 2 dinner sized salads

Ingredients

  • 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.

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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 EatingWell.com.

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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.

Crunchy Thai Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing

photo 4I’m not much of a salad person.  I never have been.  Well perhaps that’s not true, let me rephrase that.  I’m not a meat salad person.  Give me a salad with beans and chickpeas and lentils, mixed with fresh veggies, or a spinach and fruit salad mixed with crisp spinach leaves, juicy strawberries and some kind of nuts, like almonds or walnuts, and then top it with a vinaigrette, and i’m S O L D sold. But for some reason, when you add meat to the mix, weather it be chicken or beef or fish, i just can’t do it.  It almost makes me nauseous. I have been on a quest to find the right Chicken salad.  I HATE fruit and meat combos (most of the time) so that was definitely out.  I made a mango barbecue chicken salad a few months back and I almost threw up trying to digest it.  Meat just freaks me out sometimes. I’m always concerned that i will get salmonella, or mad cow disease, or die from all the hormones and antibiotics hiding in there.  Sometimes meat just isn’t appetizing to me. But I like the taste of meat, and I’ve tried the vegetarian thing – just not my thing.

So what is a girl to do? Do I force down yet another boring unappetizing salad? Do I settle for a less than tasty dinner just because I’m trying to eat healthy and lose a few pounds? NO. I REFUSE to continue to eat less than tasty things just because they’re “healthy”.  NO. I will NOT sacrifice taste for fewer calories. NO. I WILL find a chicken salad that I love and can digest without wanting to eat an entire pizza to wash down the awful taste and cleanse my palette from the bland taste that is chicken salad.  I have challenged that bland chicken salad to become something more.  Something more than unseasoned chicken on a bed of greens. I REFUSE to settle for something less than extraordinary.  I want to be inspired by my salad. I want some SERIOUS salad Swag and some UNBELIEVABLE dressing. I want my salad to blow my mind.  To blow my tastebuds’ mind. I daresay, I have started a salad revolution.  Welcome to the uprising of the not-so-boring, unbelievable tasty, salad of awesomeness.

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I decided to go for a Thai themed salad.  I love Thai sauce.  It’s so damn good.  I used the President’s Choice Memories of Thailand Fiery Chili Pepper Sauce as the coating for my chicken.  I diced up 10 oz. of Chicken into strips, placed it in a skillet with about 1 – 2 tbsp. of the Chili Pepper Sauce, and cooked on medium, covered, until the chicken was no longer pink inside.  Flip the chicken every few minutes.  The sauce is thick and will begin to caramelize.  Once the chicken is cooked to your liking, remove the cover and allow any remaining juiced to evaporate.  This will also give your chicken time to brown slightly, and gives it a nice “from the grill” taste.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare the rest of your salad.  I used sliced cabbage, julienned carrots, romaine lettuce and thawed frozen corn.  I also prepared my own spicy Sriracha dressing using olive oil, soy sauce, Sriracha Sauce and the juice of one lime.  To top off the salad, I added some crunch and sliced up one of my homemade flour tortilla wraps  into skinny strips and toasted them in the oven.

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Crunchy Thai Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing

makes two dinner sized salads

Ingredients

For the salad

  • 10 oz. of Chicken, cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp. of your favourite cooking sauce
  • 1 6-inch tortilla, cut into strips
  • 1 romain heart, slices
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 large carrot, julienned

For the dressing

  • 1-2 tbsp. Sriracha Sauce (depending on your desired level of spice)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp.  reduced sodium soy sauce
  • the juice of one lime

Cooking Directions

  1. Place chicken strips in a skillet on medium heat.  Add 1 – 2 tbsp of your favourite cooking sauce, like President’s Choice Memories of Thailand Fiery Chili Pepper Sauce.  Cover and cook until chicken is no longer pink inside.  Once chicken is cooked through, cook for an additional 1 – 3 minutes to brown the chicken and allow the sauce to caramelize.
  2. Prepare the rest of the salad while the chicken is cooking.  In a large bowl, add sliced cabbage, romain lettuce, julienned carrot and the thawed corn.
  3. Make the dressing by whisking all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.  Pour about 1/2 the dressing over the vegetable mixture and toss until evenly coated.
  4. Place the sliced tortilla wrap on a baking sheet and broil until crisp, about 2 minutes.
  5. Divide the cabbage mixture between two places and top each with one half of the cooked chicken and half the toasted tortilla wrap slices. Pour the remaining dressing over each plate and enjoy!

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My boyfriend found the sauce to be a little too spicy for his liking – I used 2 tbsp of Sriracha in the dressing I made.  So i agreed to tone it down the next time I make this.  This salad was so good, that I actually made more and took some for lunch the next day.  I’m very happy about how well this turned out.  It was not gross, or bland, or boring.  It was full of flavour and the crunchy tortilla added a great texture to the salad.

So.  People. I urge you to get some salad inspiration.  Join the revolution against plain, unsavory salads! Happy Cooking!

Oven Baked Chicken Chimichangas

I need to share a new recipe that I discovered a few weeks ago.  It quickly became a household favourite – meaning my boyfriend begs me to make these at least twice a week.  Chimichangas.  So good I could die.  Chimichangas are essentially deep fried burritos and can be filled with anything from beef and beans to chicken and veggies – anything you can think of really.  For these tiny tubes of tastyness, I stuffed my homemade flour tortillas with salsa, spinach, a few spices, cheese, and a whole lot of chicken.  I top them with some homemade guac and some Sriracha sauce and voila – a quick and easy Mexican dish that everyone will absolutely love – and to top it off, these are baked, not deep friend.

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I made these using my smaller tortilla wraps, where I divide my regular tortilla recipe into 16 rather than 12.  But you can easily buy a pack of tortilla wraps at the grocery store if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own.  The first step is to cook your chicken.  I do this by cutting my chicken into small cubes and placing it in a skillet with a little bit of water.  Cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.  Next, I mix together the salsa, spices, spinach and cheese.  Mix in the chicken and stir until all ingredients are combined.  For the spice, I use Oregano and Garlic Powder, as well as a little Cumin so that it has that “Taco” taste to it.  I like using medium salsa over mild as it adds a little kick to it.

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Once you have your mix, lay out your tortillas and place a few dollups of the mixture in the centre of the wrap.  About a third to half cup of the mixture depending on how large your wraps are.  This mixture usually lets me make 7 to 8 chimichangas.  Fold in two of the edges and then roll up the wrap.  Place seam side down on a parchment paper lined pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Brush each chimichanga with a little bit of melted butter, and then toss in the oven at 425 F Degrees for 25 minutes or until golden.

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Oven Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. chicken, cooked and cubed
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 jar of salsa or picante sauce
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 8 tortilla wraps

Cooking Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F Degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine salsa, spinach,oregano, garlic cumin and cheese.  Add chicken and mix well to incorporate.
  3. Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the chicken salsa mixture to the centre of each wrap.  Fold in two edges and then roll up the wraps.  Place on the baking sheet stem side down.
  4. Brush each chimichanga with melted butter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Serve with guacamole, hot sauce, sour cream or more salsa.

I find that if I put too much cheese in these it has a tendency of seeping out of the wraps while cooking and this can make the bottoms a little soggy.  Letting these sit for a few minutes after taking them out of the over, while difficult because they smell so darn good, is a good idea – these are extremely hot inside and I’ve burned my tongue on more than one occasion, so be careful!!  These are a little over 300 calories each depending on what you serve them with.  They’re pretty filling, so I like to have 2 as a meal.  This recipe is a must try – yummy! Happy Baking!