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Tacos and Sparklers – A Perfect Texas Night

13 Aug

I love tacos – breakfast tacos, tacos from a trailer, tacos from a nice restaurant… whatever.

I also think that they’re easy to make, and generally turn out well.

Last night I had a few friends over for dinner and drinks. To make things easy, we served tacos and margaritas. I was able to make just about everything in advance and actually got to enjoy the party instead of spending the whole time in the kitchen.

As a side note, check out a video of Nellie from The Office learning how to eat a taco.  Unfortunately it’s not the best quality, but still fun to watch.

Here it goes – some easy, healthy, make-ahead recipes that were all a hit.

Chipotle Chicken Tacos – a favorite at my house. The salad on the side adds color and flavor.

Slow Cooker Chipotle Brown Sugar Chicken (from canyoustayfordinner.com)

I love this chipotle brown sugar chicken- it’s healthy, it’s a slow cooker recipe that takes about 10 minutes to prep, and requires very little prep once the chicken is done.

– 2- 3 Chicken Breasts

– 1/2 red onion

– 2-4 cloves garlic

– one can of roasted diced tomatoes

– 1- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – chop a little before placing in blender

– 3 tablespoons brown sugar

– juice of 1 lime

– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, plus some extra for serving

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

– a little queso fresco or cotija cheese

– corn tortillas

– 2 limes, cut into wedges

Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Blend onion, tomatoes, garlic, pepper, sugar, limes and cilantro in a blender. Puree until the ingredients are liquefied. Pour the liquid over the chicken. Turn the slow cooker on low for 8- 10 hours (or high for 4 – 5).

Shred the chicken using two forks and serve on warm corn tortillas topped with a little cheese and fresh cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice on each taco.

Ground Turkey Tacos (from smells-like-home.com)

Ground turkey tacos were a huge hit and only take a few minutes to make.

– 1 tbsp cooking oil

– 1 white onion, minced

– 2 tbsp chili powder

– 4 garlic cloves, minced

– 1 tbsp dried oregano

– 2 tsp tomato paste

– 1 package ground turkey (1.25 lbs), use turkey that has some fat in it, not the extra lean kind

– 1 small can tomato sauce

– 1/4 cup water

– 1 boullion cube

– 2 tsp cider vinegar

– 1 tsp brown sugar

– salt and pepper to taste

– corn tortillas or taco shells for serving

Heat oil in a large pan over medium/high heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to look transparent.

Add the chili powder, garlic, oregano, and tomato paste. Mix in thoroughly and cook for about a minute before adding turkey. Cook turkey for about 5 minutes- stirring frequently and ensuring that the turkey is broken up as it cooks.

Once the turkey looks mostly cooked, add in the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 5 – 10 minutes (until the meat doesn’t look like it has too much liquid).

Serve in taco shells or on tortillas. I use lettuce and cheese as a topping, but you could use any standard taco toppings.

Fresh Corn, Black Bean and Pepper Salad (adapted from sugarlaws.com)

Last but not least, a side item or a taco topper – Corn, black bean and pepper salad. Fresh tasting, seasonal and healthy. You can see a picture of this salad at the top of the post.

– 3 ears of corn, cut off the cob

– 1 regular size can of black beans, drained

– 1 green bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

– 1 red bell pepper, chopped into small pieces

– juice of one lime

– 1 tbsp olive oil

– 1 tsp red wine vinegar

– fresh cilantro for garnish

– salt and pepper to taste

Cut fresh corn off the cob – I like using fresh corn much better than canned, but in a pinch, drained canned corn could work.

Combine corn kernels, black beans, and peppers in a large bowl. Pour lime juice, olive oil, vinegar over the salad. Toss with salt and pepper and fresh cilantro.

I serve this as either a side item or a topping for tacos. It works well for either.

At the end of the evening we decided to use up the leftover sparklers from my wedding – made for good iphone pics. enjoy!

A few of the sparklers leftover from our wedding. Fun end to a fun evening.

Kale and Roasted Root Vegetable Salad

21 Mar

I just returned from a week long vacation to discover that, of course, there was little to no fresh food in my house. Naturally, I have some non-perishable items in the pantry, but absolutely zip in terms of fresh vegetables.

The kale plants in my garden have been a little funny looking since the freezes this January, but they're still producing lots of kale.

Having been on a week long vacation, where I ate mostly burgers and other not-so-healthy items, I was anxious to eat something fresh and somewhat healthy, but had little energy for grocery shopping – so I went into the garden to see what was available.

Right now is not the most abundant time for the garden- the winter freezes killed several plants, and we’re somewhat “between” harvest seasons. Fortunately, though, my kale plants have been pretty consistent about providing plenty of Kale to eat, so that was a start. I also had some beets and carrots that had yet to be harvested. The combo of carrots, beets, and kale seemed like a good start for a healthy lunch.

As it turns out, I came up with a pretty tasty salad that I wanted to share.

2 – 3 cups fresh Kale, torn up into salad-size pieces

1 – 2 beets, including the greens

3 – 4 large carrots

1 large shallot

2 cloves garlic

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lemon

Thyme, sage, oregano, pepper, and sea salt to taste (a pinch each)

Here are the carrots and beets before roasting. Note, I used some white and some orange carrots because they were available in my garden, but they also added color to the salad.

  • Wash everything and peel carrots and beets
  • Preheat oven to 400
  • Chop carrots and beets into bite-sized pieces. I like making them round, fairly thin slices. Put beet greens aside
  • Place carrots and beets in a baking dish – preferably in a single layer
  • Chop up the shallots and garlic, in fairly large pieces, and sprinkle over the carrots and beets
  • Pour about 1.5 tbsp of olive oil over the vegetables
  • Add thyme, sage, oregano, pepper and salt to the vegetables – just a little pinch of each
  • Toss or stir vegetables so that they are all evenly coated with olive oil and spices
  • Roast the vegetable mixture in the oven for about 40 – 45 minutes or until tender – test with a fork from time to time
  • When veggies are finished cooking, set aside and allow them to cool a little. You’ll want them to be warm, but not hot when you put them on the salad
  • In a large salad bowl, place the torn up kale and the beet greens (tear up the beet greens if they’re too big to serve as salad leaves)
  • Squeeze 1/2 lemon’s worth of juice over the salad
  • Add about 1 – 1.5 tbsp olive oil to the salad
  • At this point, ensure that the carrots and beets are not too hot, and add them to the top of the salad. It should make for a very colorful presentation.
  • Be sure to toss the beets, carrots, kale and beet greens thoroughly before serving
  • Add fresh ground black pepper to taste

    Finished salad with kale, beets & carrots

This salad turned out to be very tasty and, based on what I’ve read – especially about kale and beets – it’s full of vitamins, anti-oxidants and assorted “good things.” I hope you enjoy it.