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.

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

GAAAAAH! Okay, it’s been a month since I’ve posted anything, and, it’s not that I don’t love you guys, honest I do, I’ve just been lazy in the kitchen department and haven’t made anything new or worth writing about.  However the past few days I’ve become motivated to get back in the kitchen and make something new, tasty and healthy, the latter likely having to do with the fact that I am going to be sitting on a beach in the Dominican in less than a week.  Let me tell you, I am shit at dieting. I suck.  I eat healthy most of the time, but I often overeat and drink on the weekends.  I’ve lost about 10 pounds, definitely not the 20 I had originally intended… but I just can’t help it, food is SO GOOD.  Nonetheless, my eating habits can be problematic, and my lack of physical activity.  But I’ve started running and it’s making me feel a little better.  Anyways, I’m sure you’re all like, “That’s a really sad story Kelsey Bakes, but lets get to the recipe part.”  Well okay then, I will! Because I’m avoiding carbs like it’s my freaking job right now (not actually, I’m just reducing them a little), I thought  I would test out a few new salads this week.  I started off with my Crunchy Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Sriracha Dressing and then moved on to the yummy recipe that I’m going to share with you today.  Trust me, you’ll love it, even my boyfriend Mr. Skeptical liked it.

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The first thing I like to ensure when I make a salad is that it is as colourful as possible.  Lots of colours not only means lots of healthy vitamins and nutrients, but it means lots of taste too.  For this salad I added corn, red onions, red cabbage, spinach, romain lettuce, green peppers and julienned carrots.  I really can’t stand a bland salad.  I mean, what’s the point?  I vowed to start a Salad Revolution and dammit I’m going to do it! I’ve been on a HUGE red cabbage kick lately, and so has my boyfriend.  After begging me to to put any cabbage in his salad, because it was “disgusting” I chopped it up and threw it in anyways, and now he’s begging me to put more in.  Win.

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I can be very weird about chicken.  It can’t be too moist or juicy because that makes me feel like it’s undercooked and then I get all nauseous and want to puke.  It also can’t taste too chewy – it just freaks me out. The chicken has to be perfect.  I’ve found that if I cook the chicken in my skillet, covered, until it’s nice and tender and then remove the lid and let the juices evaporate that the chicken gets a really great texture.  For this chicken, I sliced up some boneless skinless chicken breast and added about 1/4 cup of wing sauce (I used Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce) to a large skillet.  I cooked covered for about 7 minutes, flipping as needed, and then removed the lid for about another 2 to 3 minutes.

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For the Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing, I combined 1/2 an avocado, 6 tbsp. of Kraft Fat Free Ranch Dressing and 1 tsp of Sriracha Sauce.  You can add more Sriracha if you want more spice.  I simply used a whisk to mix it all together and then drizzled it over the chicken and vegetables.

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Buffalo Chicken Salad with Spicy Avocado Ranch Dressing

makes 2 dinner sized salads

Ingredients

FOR THE SALAD

  • 10 oz. of Chicken, cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup of red onion
  • 1 large julienned carrot
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup green peppers, sliced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 cups romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup red cabbage

FOR THE DRESSING*

  • 6 tbps. of fat free ranch dressing
  • 1/2 an avocado, mashed
  • 1 tsp. sriracha or hot sauce
    *note that this makes quite a bit of dressing, I jarred mine and saved it for my lunchtime salad the following day.

Cooking Directions

  1.  Pour wing sauce over chicken strips and cook in a skillet on medium heat, covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, flipping as needed.  Once the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear, uncover the chicken and continue to flip for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl and then divide between two plates.
  3. In a small bowl, combine avocado, ranch and sriracha until they are well mixed.
  4. Top your salad mix with half of the buffalo chicken and then drizzle the Avocado Ranch dressing on top.  I used about 2 tbsp of the dressing.

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And that’s it! Pretty easy right? I enjoy making salads during the week because they take barely anytime and very few dishes… and they make me feel a little skinnier in the morning.. hehe. Happy cooking!!!

Ground Chicken Feta Burgers

Annnnd it’s the first day of spring, and up here in the great white north we just got majorly dumped on by a pile of unwanted snow.  Thanks mother nature, but if you could cut the crap, that would be great.  Anyways, I am a HUGE burger lover.  I love burgers, they’re freaking amazing.  And I don’t discriminate – I like beef burgers, turkey burgers, chicken burgers and veggie burgers; I like beer burgers, cheddar burgers, jalapeno burgers or any combination thereof.  I like avocados, tomatoes, onions and peppers on my burgers; I like ketchup, barbecue sauce, ranch and mayo on my burgers.  Please keep mustard and relish away from my burgers.  I also of course, like all types of cheese on my burgers.  Last night I was in the mood for a burger, but not a beef burger, so I settled on a chicken burger, made with ground chicken, feta cheese, breadcrumbs, and some spices.  I topped it with Swiss cheese, mashed avocado, spinach and sautéed red peppers and served it on an Ezekial bun (English muffin to be exact).

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This recipe is SUPER simple.  It took about 20 minutes from start to finish.  I have to cook all my burgers stove top, since I’m not aloud to have a barbecue in my apartment building.  When I cook stove top burgers, I usually cook them in a little bit of olive oil (cooking spray if I’m making beef burgers), covered, and for about 6 minutes on each side over medium heat.  If i’m melting cheese on the burgers, I will turn down the heat to medium low, add the cheese, and cover for an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute.

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I love experimenting with all the different flavours you can pack into a burger – you can add so many things to the patty, sauces and toppings that it’s like you’re eating a different burger everytime!  If you LOVE spicy as much as I do, check out my Cheddar and Jalapeno Beef Burger here.  I topped it with turkey bacon and a ranch sauce, and served it on a whole wheat bun.  Although, these Ezekial buns are pretty great and I don’t think it’s going to be the last time I buy them.

 Ground Chicken Feta Burgers

Ingredients

makes 4 large patties

  • 1 pound of ground chicken
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • whole wheat buns (I use Ezekial)
  • Swiss cheese (1 slice per burger)
  • garnishes of your choice: spinach, avocado, onion, peppers, etc.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients to a large bowl. I usually use my hands when doing this, as I find it’s much easier than a spoon or spatula type utensil.  You may omit the egg.
  2. On a flat surface, form 4 large patties.  Place in a lightly oiled skillet on medium heat and cook for 6 minutes, covered.  Flip and cook for another 6 minutes.
  3. If you are planning on adding cheese, add it after the 12 minutes of cook time, reduce the heat to medium low, and cover for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the cheese has melted.

Ground chicken does not have a lot of fat, so it is necessary to add oil, butter or cooking spray to your pan.  I find it’s often difficult to cook homemade beef burgers stove top as much of the fat accumulates and I of course always get splattered with it.  Cooking these was nice because there was almost no fat whatsoever – it was a nice change.  I love avocado and sautéed veggies on my burgers – except beef where I prefer a cheese and bacon kind of approach.

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You can visit my burger lover board on Pinterest for more burger ideas and to see my burger making bucket list that I plan on taking on this summer.  I am a huge fan of big macs so I am dying to try a copycat version of it.  I hope you enjoyed the recipe – happy cooking!!

Parmesan Dijon Chicken With Fettuccine Alfredo and Sautéed Vegetables

I’m pretty in love with parmesan cheese.  I love it on my my pasta (all types of pasta) and sometimes on my meat, usually my chicken.  I love adding it to sauce, and have no objections to eating it by itself.  I like it in Caesar salad, and cold pasta salads.  I like it here and there and everywhere, I would eat it with a fox and I would eat it in a box. I would eat it on a train and on a plain, in a house or with a mouse.  Excuse my Dr. Seuss quotations… but I really do feel… passionate about parmesan cheese.  I’m THAT girl at the restaurant who, when the waiter says, “Parmesan Cheese or Fresh Cracked Pepper Miss?”  I say, “ABSOLUTELY!!” And then they say, “Okay, let me know when.”  And I don’t say when, and the Parmesan cheese just keeps piling up and piling up. But I just don’t say when.  And finally, I say it, but only because the people I’m dining with look at me like I’m a freak and the waiter is annoyed and I don’t want them to spit in my dessert.  SO I think we’ve determined that I love parmesan cheese and that I like using it in my recipes, which is what I did.  I made a Parmesan Dijon Chicken and served it with Fettuccine Alfredo and sautéed red onion and spinach.  It was fantastic.

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I first chopped up the chicken into strips. I brushed each strip front and back with Dijon mustard, and then pressed each piece into the shredded parmesan cheese, coating the entire surface of each chicken strip with the cheese.  Next I melted 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet with 1 tbsp of oil.  I laid each piece of chicken down in the pan and cooked them on medium heat.  After about 5 minutes I flipped the strips and let them cook for an additional 5 minutes and until the chicken was no longer pink inside.

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I made the Alfredo sauce during the last few minutes that the chicken was cooking.  I melted 2 tbsp of butter with 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream in a skillet over medium heat.  Once the mixture started to chicken (about 4 minutes) I added 2 cups of whole wheat fettuccine noodles and turned the heat to medium-low.  I added another 1/3 cup of heavy cream and 2/3 cup of parmesan cheese.  This is meant ot be served immediately so make sure you time it that this is the last step you must complete before serving your meal.  I laid the chicken strips on top and added some sautéed onion and spinach – mushrooms and asparagus are also a great addition to this dish.  I drizzled a little bit of the Alfredo sauce on top and sprinkled with yet, more parmesan cheese.

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Parmesan Dijon Chicken With Fettuccine Alfredo and Sautéed Vegetables

Serves 2

Ingredients

for the chicken

  • 10 oz chicken, cut into strips
  • Dijon mustard
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup to coat all the chicken)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oil

for the fettuccine Alfredo

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat fettuccine (you can use up to 4 cups if you are serving more people)

Cooking Directions

  1. Brush both sides of each chicken strip with Dijon mustard and then press into shredded parmesan cheese until entire piece is coated.
  2. In a skillet, melt butter and add olive oil.  Ensure pan is well coated.  Place the strips in the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
  3. Make the Alfredo sauce by combining the butter and 2/3 of the cream into a skillet on medium heat.  Warm for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mix starts to thicken.
  4. Add the noodles and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the parmesan cheese and the rest of the cream (1/3 cup).  Serve immediately.
  5. Top with the chicken and sautéed vegetables of your choice.

So there you have it! It’s super easy.  This took me about 20 minutes from prep time to eat time, and there’s nothing I like more than a tasty, quick and easy recipe on a weeknight.  I’ll be signing off for a bit… I have my final exam this Thursday and then I’m done school until the summer. Woohoo! Wish me like. Happy Baking!