Taco Salad

Here we get to eat taco salad (without the fried basket) and use leftovers! This is great for using up whatever taco-seasoned meat you have leftover from your last taco night. As you have discovered our Tex-Mex loving ways already, I’m sure you have guessed that having taco/burrito leftovers in our fridge is like having leftover Mac-n-Cheese or that 1 random leftover hot dog. This salad works with chicken, steak (not that I have ever put steak in a taco at home, but if I did it would be fine here), or ground beef. You can completely leave off the meat and substitute out about 1/8 cup refried beans per salad if you prefer. You can use the chicken burrito filler from before, if you want, just leave out the duplicate ingredients. You can also use the plain baked chicken, for people who are less loving of all things Tex-Mex.

Topping for Taco Salad:

Heat 1/8 cup per person of taco ground beef leftovers, or 1/4 cup if using chicken or steak in large pot on stove. Add to pot the following (simmering on low heat):

1 can (drained and rinsed) black beans

About 2 1/2 cups frozen white corn

1 can (do not drain) diced tomatoes (low sodium)

1 cup chunky salsa (your fav brand or your homemade kind, either would work)

2 handfuls (mine are small) of jack or queso cheese shreds

Allow this mixture to simmer until it resembles a chunky sauce, then remove immediately from heat. Let it cool to a warm, but not hot temperature (sauce will thicken considerably).

Portion out Base Salad into bowls.

With serving spoon or ladle pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of mix on top of each base salad.

Top with diced cucumbers and fresh tomatoes. (If anyone will eat it you can also add cilantro, avocado, or raw diced onions here)

Sprinkle with Colby and Jack cheese shreds.

You can add ranch or Sour Cream on top of this for those who feel they need dressing, but this is actually quite good as is.

“Garnish” with 3 or 4 wheat tortilla chips in side of bowl. Tostidos makes really great ones now.

Serve & enjoy!

Depending on how many you have eating, you will probably have leftovers. If you keep plain brown rice in your fridge, you can mix a little with this topping to thicken it enough to put in a tortilla for lunch if you like. Another idea is as a snack/party food/whatever you can add this topping to chips spread on a plate for some pretty awesome nachos!

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Baked Chicken Salad

This is not a chicken salad recipe in the mayo salad way, I will get mine up for that later, sorry to disappoint. This is a Baked Chicken on Salad meal-type recipe. We have been spending the first week of summer break mostly at the pool (or sleeping off the pool) around here, so cooking (and blogging *shame face*) have takin’ a backseat. Maybe they have even been riding in the trunk? Anyways, we have been eating, but as I mentioned in Summer is Salad Season, it’s been salads most every day. This chicken one is great, because it’s super good for you, you can make it ahead of time and eat off of it for days. (Another excellent summer move, no one should cook at noon when it’s 95+ degrees outside, but we still gotta eat!) Also, with 2 kids at home alone while I’m at work and BoyChild II is at day camp I need to leave enough food for them to get through the day and there be enough for supper as well. (Restless, hungry natives turn on each other fast!) You can make however much of this chicken at a time as you want, it’s good cold (like in this recipe), and reheats well (think on a whole wheat bun with lettuce and tomato, or sliced and wrapped in a tortilla with salsa and cheese), it is just very versatile make ahead chicken.

 

To Prepare Chicken: (Cook this at night, after the sun goes down, or early in the morning to avoid over heating your kitchen)

Preheat oven to 475° F

Spray 9×13 glass baking pan with cooking spray (very lightly, this stuff will spread as it heats)

Place in pan (1 deep) as many as you want to prepare from a 5lb bag boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Sprinkle liberally each breast with both onion powder and seasoned salt, it will look like this:

Turn each breast with a metal fork (then wash the fork-Do Not reuse) then repeat seasoning on this side

Place pan in oven. Close oven door, then reduce heat to 350°F. Bake for 25 min.

Turn off heat, removed pan from oven. Chicken will be cooked through, but not browned or dry. Place pan on counter to cool.

Portion out Base Salad into bowls.

Top with shredded cheddar and grape tomatoes.

Dice about 2/3 to 1/2 breast (depending on size of breast & person eating) per salad.

Top with diced chicken.

Add dressing. (We usually add ranch, but any creamy dressing can work with this, try Chipotle Ranch!-Mmm)

Serve

 When completely cooled chicken should be stored in fridge, try not to dice more than needed, as diced chicken will dry out in a Tupperware faster than a whole breast will.

See? That was just silly-easy, huh? And now you can use this already baked chicken for a million different things, without turning on that oven again!

 

“Fancy” Shrimp Salad

No this is not actually a fancy or complicated salad, but my children are convinced that if we get to eat shrimp it must be a fancy occasion, and so they named this salad. This salad calls for precooked frozen salad shrimp, which are not cheap. As you know, I don’t have a large food budget, but we do eat this salad a few times per summer. Basically, like with any meat, I buy when things are on sale. I’m not talking “Oh, well, that’s cheaper than last week” type sale. Outside of special occasion shopping (and even then I try to avoid it) I buy meats when they are “Holly cow, that’s an incredibly great price” on sale. Then I freeze them. I probably should write a post about freezing sale foods for later… Wait. Focus. So a small bag of salad shrimp has enough to feed us two meals, but once you thaw those little things they do not keep long at all! You have about a week, tops. Make sure to thaw them as it instructs on the bag (this is a food safety issue, since you aren’t going to cook them, pay close attention). Basically put them in their bag still a clean colander in your empty sink, turn on the cold water to run over them until they are completely thawed. Then open the bag and rinse them one more time. After you rinse and drain them the final time put them on folded paper towels to absorb some of the water.

Assemble:

Portion Base Salad into bowls

Top with diced bell peppers, cucumbers and grape tomatoes.

Sprinkle (small) handful jack cheese shreds

Top with 1/4 cup salad shrimp

For adults (& braver kids) top with cocktail sauce.

For kids (& adults who won’t eat cocktail sauce) add dressing. I recommend a French or Catalina, but one of mine likes this with ranch and one likes it with ketchup *shudder*, so to each his own I suppose.

 Serve & Enjoy!

 *Make sure to put salad in a Tupperware and back in the fridge as quickly as possible. *

Summer is Salad Season!

I love a good alliteration, don’t you? Well, I guess I enjoy any alliteration, thanks OCD… So I try really hard year round to keep as many fresh fruits and veggies in the house and in our meals as I can. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to feed us balanced meals every meal if I bought all fruits and veggies fresh all year round. So I buy stuff in season, frozen, or canned.

*keep in mind when buying canned, look for “in its own juice”, “low/reduced sodium”, “no sugar added”, “packed in water” (as opposed to oil), and as a last resort “in light syrup”. These catch phrases can help you decide between the cans of peaches/tuna/peas or whatever.*

I think it’s completely ridiculous that fresh fruits and veggies are so expensive, but *shrugs shoulders* that’s the world we live in and I gotta feed my kids between now and when all the “reform” happens. (Don’t even get me started on school lunches or breakfasts– we don’t have time) I actually have a diagram and a cookbook Simply in Season (to find a diagram for your region check out your state’s EPA website, it’s there) that helped me learn (city dweller that I am) exactly what was in season (read cheaper, less greenhouse growing/truck traveling/etc) for my area when. In general, most of us have way more fruits and veggies coming into season this time of year, which is awesome cause I’ll eat raw broccoli all day long, but would rather never touch that stuff cooked. (remember, I’m the picky eater in my house) You probably noticed in a few other recipe posts we eat a lot of salad ’round here. In summer it gets more obvious. Because it’s the easiest, fastest, healthiest, don’t-heat-up-your-kitcheniest (go with it) meal for summer. I mean really, who wants to bake in the yard/at the pool/ on the commute home and then come home to stand at the hot stove? (or worse, the oven?) All you need to do is keep a base salad going (I’ll explain in a minute) and fixings and you can have salad several nights a week with no repeats. Here’s how:

Base Salad:

You are going to want a large bowl with a lid. I’m talking large mixing bowl size. The idea is you make/serve/store your base salad in it.

I use 1/2 head of iceberg, 1 heart of romaine and 1/3 bag of baby spinach. You can switch these around, add more adventurous lettuces if you like, these 3 offer a good green balance that is pretty damn kid friendly.

To this I add 1/3 bag of matchstick carrots (yes, more expensive, but makes up for it in ease, lasting crunchiness, and if you have kiddies with braces they can eat these raw carrots Bonus Mom Points-we will tally those later 😉  )

Toss all of this together, it is your base. When you are storing it fold a paper towel into quarters and place it in the bottom of the bowl, then salad, then lid. (this keeps things crunchy (read good) waaaay longer)

You will want to change the paper towel every 2 days or so. (when it feels damp to the touch)

When serving you pull base salad into individual plates/bowls and then top with the other ingredients to serve.  You can always just use this as a side dish to a main meal as well, in fact when I say “add a side salad” this is what I am referring to.  As a side salad I add whatever raw veggies are in season, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, etc.

Other great salad add-ons:

Tortilla strips (fun, colorful, less bread than croutons, which means you can have bread all buttered on the side, yum!)

Croutons (duh)

Raisins (any dried fruit really, I happen to love the cran-raisins)

Sunflower seeds

Chow mien noodles

Pecans/walnuts/peanuts (you get the idea)

Pineapple tidbits

Cottage cheese (try it instead of dressing)

Shredded cheese

Grated Parmesan

Alfalfa sprouts

Cooked & chilled green peas (surprisingly sweet)

Cooked & chilled white corn

Any canned bean (just THOROUGHLY rinse before adding)

What else can you think of? Stay tuned for meal time add-ons to this base salad recipe! (I might even remember to take pictures…)

*Below are links to Salad Meals. Feel free to share any suggestions you have/recipies that you like!*

Fancy Shrimp Salad

Baked Chicken Salad

Taco Salad