Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Extra good taco salad!

We love taco salad!  It is one of my stand-by meals for nights when I don't have much time because I usually make taco meat in bulk and then freeze it in portions perfect for one dinner.  So all I have to do it warm it up, toss the salad together, and serve!  I will admit that my girls do not like salad so I just fix them a quick fried taco instead.  THIS recipe caught my eye because it included cilantro and sweet peppers which I LOVE but have never included in my taco salad.  We liked this recipe so much that I have decided to replace my normal recipe with this one.  A couple of changes I made this time: I always buy green-leaf lettuce for salads; we just like it better than the other types.  My husband does not like cold beans, chicken, and corn, so I mixed them together, topped them with a bit of salsa and warmed them in my toaster oven before adding to the rest of the veggies.  And he does not like avocados so I reserved those for myself.  And we don't like raw onions.  I also made up my own version of the dressing because we don't like mayonnaise and I make my own taco and ranch seasonings.  I'd tell you what I did, but I never measure :)

  • Ingredients for salad:
  • 2 cups shredded chicken or taco meat
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced (I prefer a bit of each of the stoplight peppers because they are sweeter and add color!)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed (I used my own soaked and cooked beans)
  • 1 can sweet yellow corn (or 1 cup frozen corn, thawed)
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced (I skipped this because I added a bit of salsa)
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 head ice berg lettuce, washed and chopped (I prefer green-leaf lettuce)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • for the dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ranch seasoning
  • 1 tbsp taco seasoning
  1. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients together, excluding the tortilla chips.
  2. In a small bowl stir all dressing ingredients together.
  3. Pour dressing over salad, starting with about half of the dressing.
  4. Toss to combine, then gradually add more dressing until it is dressed to your liking.
  5. Top with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Simple Caramelized Chicken

When I found THIS recipe, it looked like such an easy recipe that I prayed it would work for a quick dinner for my family :)  And it did!  I don't like refined sugars or store-bought mixes that contain msg, so I switched the brown sugar with sucanat and used my own Italian seasoning mix instead.  And I added a few pats of butter on the top just to make it really good and in case the sucanat did not caramelize as well.  I was pleased with the results.  So here is the deal with this recipe: it is super easy to prepare but you do really have to let it cook for the full hour if you want the caramelization to occur.  So plan ahead.  I also found that my home-made fresh Italian seasoning was stronger than the store-bought kind with bigger pieces of parsley, etc, and I did not need quite as much as the recipe called for.  I am going to type the original ratio, but just keep that in mind if your Italian seasoning is as strong as mine :)  Also, my girls don't like to see all that "green" seasoning on their chicken, so I just sprinkled a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and sucanat on theirs instead of the mix.  They really liked it.

3 1/2 pounds boneless chicken
1 (7 oz.) pkg. Italian seasoning mix
1/2 cup brown  sugar, packed  (or sucanat)

Preheat oven to 350; grease a pan or put down aluminum foil as it tends to stick.  (I used stoneware and it worked well.)  Rinse chicken; pat dry.  Mix sugar and seasonings.  Coat chicken with mixture and sprinkle any leftovers on top.  Bake for about an hour, turning the chicken several times to coat and you can also dribble the sauce on top to make sure it is covered well.

Pasta with Chicken, Bacon, and Ranch

My husband loves bacon and ranch so when I saw THIS recipe on Pinterest, I knew I should try it.  It was very simple and good and I will be adding it to my list of favorite dinners.  I changed it slightly... I don't use store-bought Ranch because I try to avoid anything containing soy, so I used my own homemade version.  I always use brown rice pasta for my gluten-free daughter.  I also reserved the bacon to cover the top of the casserole to ensure that it got really crispy and because my husband likes any recipe that is covered with bacon on top :)  I actually did not have any cheddar cheese, and I'm sure it would have been delicious, but we just sprinkled some Parmesan on top and it was also delicious.

10 oz cooked pasta
2 cups cooked chicken
cooked bacon (I used about 3/4 a package and saved the rest for some mashed potatoes the next day)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups cream or milk
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/3 cup Ranch dressing ( I mixed together some Ranch seasoning, softened cream cheese, yogurt, and olive oil)
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we sprinkled parmesan on top since we were out of cheddar and it was quite good!)

Directions: Melt butter in saucepan, add flour and stir to combine. Once roux is ready, add cream and stir constantly until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in garlic salt, onion powder and ranch dressing until well combined.  Mix together in a casserole dish with cooked pasta, chicken, bacon, and cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.