Zesty Taco Salad

Wednesday nights in our house have become taco salad night.  I’ve never been one to fix the same meal weekly, but for some reason it’s turned out this way.  Since the kiddos aren’t complaining about it, I take it as a sign that it’s a good thing and will keep it up as long as I can!

Time for cooking on Wednesday night is short.  I usually get home from work at 5:30 and we leave for mid-week Bible study at 6:35.  Putting together this flavorful taco salad is so easy and fast that it works perfectly in crunch time!

Fresh, Healthy and easy ... What more could you wnat in a meal for your family?

Fresh, Healthy and easy … What more could you want in a meal for your family?

 Ingredients:

For the Protein…

2 pounds ground turkey breast or extra-lean ground beef (I always overcook for my lunch the next day)

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon minced garlic

pinch of salt (optional)

For the Salad…

Chopped mixed romaine and butter lettuce

chopped tomatoes

cucumber

avocado

red onion

fresh limes

salsa

jalapeños (optional)

fresh cilantro (optional)

Making Supper in 30 Minutes:

In a large skillet brown your ground turkey or beef on medium high.  Season with the chili, onion and garlic powders, as well as the minced garlic and salt if you desire.

groundbeef

While the meat is browning take just a few minutes to chop your fresh veggies and the limes for your meal.  I try not to use more veggies than what I have time to prepare as the meat cooks.  This keeps you on schedule for having supper on the table in a 30 minute time frame.

Our favorite toppings for taco salad

Our favorite toppings for taco salad

Layer lettuce, fresh veggies, protein and salsa on your plate, then top with salsa.  I love to use deli salsa from Publix (if I don’t have any homemade on hand) because it tastes so much fresher than what is in a jar on the shelf.  Squeeze lime juice over your salad and sprinkle a little fresh cilantro over the top.

ZestyTacoSalad2_edited-1

Since I don’t eat cheese, the kids (even my son) will sometimes help in the kitchen by shredding a little cheese for their salads.  Also a dollop of greek yogurt really adds a dressing twist to the salad.

Keeping things simple!

Keeping things simple!

This meal is made even easier by taking a little time for meal prepping on Sunday afternoon.  There are many times I will chop Gladware containers of onion, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, limes, etc…. for use in meals all throughout the week.  It takes about an hour and its a real time saver when trying to have supper on the table in a timely manner after work each evening!  If I see that I won’t use everything those same fresh ingredient make great toppings for a fresh green salad to carry to work for lunch.

The beauty of having an easy meal like this for crazy, busy nights is that if I am running behind at the gym, my girls have had supper waiting on the table for us on more than one occasion.

If you would like to check out another one of our “fast food” at home options, you can try these fabulous Buffalo Chicken lettuce wraps.

Do you have a go-to meal for those busy nights?

9BC920CC6823471E78F010232F661C22

Derby Days

One of the sweetest and most elegant exhibitions of gracious Southern living at it’s finest is exemplified each May in the Kentucky Derby.  For 17 years now, Audley and I have spent the first Saturday in May caught up in the tradition and beauty of this amazing race.  From hats to horses, everything surrounding this fabulous race is a true taste of the South.

Horse racing in general is a real passion of ours and I look forward to the day when we can slip away to attend in person.  Until then we will settle for our own weekend celebration at home.  This year is the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby, so I wanted to mix up a little tradition with my own modern twist for our Derby fare.

On the menu? 
(I have included links to some recipes)

Bourbon & Peach glazed Pork Tenderloin
Stuffed Mushrooms
Asparagus w/ Lemon-Caper sauce
Dijon Deviled eggs — scroll down to find this recipe
Run for the Roses Salad w/ white balsamic vinaigrette
Parmesan-Herb biscuits
Derby Pie
non-alcoholic Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby is a colorful affair, so it felt only natural to set a colorful table.  I love this aqua and red toile tablecloth.  Not only does it make me feel happy, it also shows off bright color associated with the Derby.

I used basic white plates with red bread & butter plates, simple crystal goblets, and finished off the settings with white napkins.  Food is to be served in my silver pieces.  Since this is the “Run for the Roses”, I used fresh red roses in vases for accents.

When it came to making my menu for our Derby fare, I chose items that are fresh and currently in-season at the market, like asparagus, baby greens, strawberries, herbs from our garden and naturally the eggs since they were just laid over the weekend while I was at my parents house.

To make the Bourbon & Peach Glazed Pork tenderloin:

  • 3 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup good quality bourbon
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Smart Balance oil 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 cups peach jam, melted with 1 tablespoon butter 
  • Kosher salt
  • Rinse and pat dry the tenderloin. Combine soy sauce and next eight ingredients plus 1 cup of melted peach jam (reserving the rest for grilling… you will have to reheat) in a large shallow dish; cover, and chill at least 10-12 hours. Remove pork from marinade, discarding marinade. Sprinkle evenly with salt.
  • Grill, covered with grill lid, over high heat (400° to 500°) 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155°, turning occasionally & brushing with remainder of peach jam. Remove from heat; cover with aluminum foil, and let stand 10 minutes or until thermometer registers 160°. Garnish, if desired with fresh peach slices, Rosemary or Basil. 
  • For the “Run for the Roses” salad:
  • Baby greens, washed and well drained
  • 1 red rose, petals pulled, washed and gently dried
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup gorgonzola cheese
  • Arrange fresh greens, rose petals and strawberries in serving dish.  Top with walnuts and gorgonzola cheese.


Serve with a light white balsamic vinaigrette:

1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1-2 tsp. Kosher salt for taste
1 finely diced shallot
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
3/4 cup Olive or Smart Balance oil
 
Mix first five ingredients together well, then slowly drizzle the oil in, whisking well as you work it.

 

 
And for the Parmesan-Herb Biscuits:

 

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading dough
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh chives, basil, & rosemary
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • Preheat the oven to 425 and grease a baking sheet for use.  In a large bowl, stir together the 2 cups flour, the baking powder, salt, cheese and fresh herbs. Using a pastry blender or the paddle on a Kitchen Aid mixer, cut in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs about the size of peas. Add the milk to the dry ingredients and, using a rubber spatula, stir just until evenly moistened. 
    Using your hands, dusted in flour, shape biscuits and drop them onto your baking pan.  Bake until the biscuits are golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool slightly, then serve. Makes 12-15 biscuits. 

 

 


It’s not too late the be thinking of ideas for a Derby party this weekend!  

 
Linking up with Foodie Friday.  Race on over and see what else is cooking this weekend!
 
If you are interested, you can still enter my Lodge cast iron giveaway here.  I’ll be picking a winner Saturday night!
 
 

A Taste of Fall

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for summer to end and autumn to arrive!  Temperatures are still in the mid-90’s as August is ending, and we are on our sixth week without a drop of rain!  On the plus side, we haven’t had to mow lately, or pick the garden as it is all dried up!
Our supper hour has been pushed back with the arrival of high school volleyball season.  After evening practices or games we are all ready to sit down for a meal together.  With the days still so hot, I have tried to prepare filling meals that won’t weigh us down.

I love experimenting with flavors, and a salad is such an easy way to do so.  Who would’ve ever imagined vegetables and fruit would mesh so well together.  With my craving for autumn I came up with a fabulous chopped salad for supper earlier this week that takes some of my favorite fall ingredients and made a very satisfying supper for all of us.  It was also quick to prepare as I used a chicken from the local deli to help out.

 

For this autumnal salad you need  2 bags of romaine lettuce (chopped); 1/2 of a rotisserie chicken, diced; 1 large granny smith apple, washed and diced; 2 barlett pears, washed and chopped; 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 3/4 cup chopped crispy bacon; feta cheesecroutons if desired.

Mix together all of the ingredients, and serve with a light dressing like a white wine or champagne vinaigrette.  You definitely don’t want to overpower these flavors.

Here is my “go-to” vinaigrette recipe:
1/4 cup white wine vinaigrette
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot finely chopped
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Whisk together the first five ingredients, then slowly whisk in the olive oil to mix well.  Drizzle over your salad and enjoy!

There you have it: ease, flavor, and satisfaction all in one dish.





Now that makes for one happy mom!


I am linking up with A Musing Potpourri’s end of summer celebration today.

 

Back to School

“Back To School” fever has hit our house.  The kids have it because they didn’t want it to start, and I have it because I couldn’t wait for it to start!


“If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.”  
~Edgar W. Howe

The traditional first day of school shot

I love my kids, I really do, but seriously a clean house, fewer loads of laundry, and a schedule absolutely excites me!  I am most blessed to be a stay-at-home-mom, but I like order and schedule and summer brings nothing but chaos as bedtimes go out the window, I can barely keep up with who is coming or going, and I might wake up to one or four extra kids sleeping in my living room!

 

A little of my reality. =)

As I am anxiously planning for school to start, my grocery shopping changes.  I am a peculiar mom and would much rather the kids carry their lunches to school than to buy them.

Have you eaten school food in the last five years?  It is as gross now as when I was a kid in the 80’s!!  You would think after 20 years things might improve!

My mom always tried to make carrying our lunch special, whether it be little cars made from celery stuffed cream cheese and carrots or her famous homemade sugar cookies cut out to fit the season.  While my kids had outgrown the cars of celery, they still get a kick out of sandwiches cut into shapes and the special little touches of filling their lunch boxes with their most favorite treats.

First day of school means only one thing for lunch:  Chicken Salad!  I have never seen children eat it the way mine do;  I can fix one recipe or two and it is G.O.N.E. within 24 hours!  They eat it on sandwiches, with crackers, or straight from the bowl.  It doesn’t matter.

 

So in celebration honor of the First Day of School, here is my chicken salad recipe.

1 whole chicken, stewed or roasted (whichever you like best)
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped dill pickles ( more if you really like the pickle flavor like my kids )
3/4 cup chopped celery
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/3-2/3 cup light mayonnaise (depending on the creamy consistency you would like
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the chicken from the bones and combine all of the ingredients thoroughly using a fork and chill before serving.  Cut sandwich bread into desired shapes and spread chicken salad on them.

 

I love this recipe because it is so versatile.  Leave out the pickles and egg; add 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1/2 cup of freshly chopped cucumber, and 2 Cups grape halves for a fruity version.  Mix green and purple grapes for even more flavor.

Making my kids feel special is so much fun!  I love to drop two or three Hershey Kisses in their lunch for them to find when they open their bags, or even a note.  Most of mine are handwritten now, but for younger children, here are a few great holiday notes you can add to a child”s lunch.  I also have a book, “Love Notes in Lunchboxes” that is filled with fun ideas for making your kids feel special at any age.

Have you ever stepped up lunches from home?
So, now that everyone is off and sitting in their first day of school, I think I will take a little nap  clean the kitchen while listening to my favorite music for a change!