Friday, May 4, 2012

Easy Dinner: Chicken Taco Salad

The rain is pouring down outside.  We got home late after going to see Young Frankenstein last night, and my rear end is dragging this morning.

It's one of those "not enough coffee in the whole world to wake me up" sorts of mornings.

Despite the running around like crazy people frenzy in which we've been living our lives these days, we've managed to stay on the healthy eating train for the most part for the last three weeks.  I can feel it, and not just in the loosening of my waistbands on my jeans.

On a day like this when I'm tired, though?  Eating healthy can be a challenge.  Who has the energy to plan something super healthy or cook everything from scratch to serve up for dinner?

What I do is keep a few easier to prepare meal ideas on hand for just such an occasion, so there are no excuses when dinner time rolls around to call for a fatty, processed food pizza or nasty drive-thru crapola.  Thinking some of you may be trying to make healthier choices as well, I'm going to share my new favorite quickie dinner idea.

Chicken Taco Salad

Follow the chicken portion of the recipe for Crockpot Chicken Tacos.   This makes for some exceptionally moist and tender seasoned chicken that is perfect for tacos, enchilada casserole filling, quesadilla filling, or salads.  Yummy, yum, yummmmm.

Once the chicken has warmed and seasoned in the crockpot, I do the following:

For each plate, layer a healthy serving of chopped romaine lettuce as the bed of your salad.

Provide bowls of different toppings for your picky eaters to choose from, that way you don't have to spend dinner listening to someone whine about getting too many tomatoes or not enough cheese.  Some suggestions:

-- diced fresh avocado, squirted with quite a bit of fresh lime juice to keep it from browning

-- freshly made pico di gallo, which is just diced onion, fresh tomatoes, a little cilantro, lime juice, and sea salt, plus a little diced jalapenos for some kick (I just pull a few pickled jalapeno slices out of the jar in our fridge and dice it really small so The Peanut doesn't grouse about it being too spicy, but you can use fresh if you like or easier still, buy some at the grocery store pre-made in the fresh deli or produce area.)

-- shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar

-- lime wedges to squeeze over the salad

-- sliced black olives

-- warmed black beans or pinto beans, seasoned a little with some adobo seasoning

-- corn kernels, lightly steamed in the microwave

-- diced bell peppers and onions (or make it fajita style by sauteeing or grilling a bit to get that browned flavor)

-- jalapeno slices

-- and my favorite idea for dressing:  mix together reduced-fat sour cream and some picante sauce or your favorite salsa to make a creamy dressing to drizzle on top.  Easiest, tastiest dressing ever.

This sort of salad bar works great with the crockpot taco chicken, but is equally good with browned ground beef or turkey cooked with some diced onions and a little taco or adobo spice.  And leftovers are great for a salad to take to work the next day, too -- or for tacos the next night if you don't want another salad, just shred the lettuce a bit more to make it easier for taco filling -- and for fun, you can blend in some fresh angel hair cabbage (look in the prebagged produce area for this -- it is awesome!) mixed with a little cilantro and lime juice for a fresh salad or taco with a little crunch.

You can also make this like a "burrito bowl" at Chipotle by adding some steamed brown rice mixed with a little cilantro and lime juice.  Yummy!  The possibilities really are endless in terms of variations, especially because you can switch up your salsa or meat easily -- shrimp and mango, citrus and avocado salsa; beef and a smoky chipotle salsa; even tilapia and some seriously fresh pico di gallo and a lime and olive oil vinaigrette instead of a creamy dressing would be yummy.

Also really easy to make this a veg meal by just subbing more beans for the meat component or maybe adding some sauteed mushrooms as well.  The possibilities really are huge, and you can tailor this to suit your family's faves.

I know what we'll be having for dinner at our house this evening...

(Photo via michellelynngoodfellow.  Love this shot!)

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