Taco Salad

When I was pregnant with my son, my food aversions were awful.  The sight, smell, and taste of things I ate every day made me so sick.  Which meant just looking at chicken and salmon totally made me want to hurl.  The only things I could tolerate were red meat, macaroni & cheese, pasta, and peanut butter and jelly.  And donuts, especially the chocolate covered Entemann’s ones.  But I could also tolerate ground turkey.

The cafeteria in my office building had a build your own burrito bar or something one day while I was still struggling with the food aversions (the chicken one eventually passed after about six months, but it had to be chicken thighs and they had to be smothered in honey mustard or barbeque sauce.  For someone who loved to cook, I didn’t go near the kitchen except to make pasta for eight months.  It was hellish).  They were serving the burrito fixings over salad, if you wanted a healthier option.  I pretty much ate that meal every day for a week at lunch because it was protein, it was mildly spicy, and it was smothered in three of my favorite things: cheese, salsa, and sour cream.  Of course, it gave me the nastiest heartburn known to man, but that was pretty standard with everything I ate back then.

Anyway, because it was something I could eat, I started looking for healthier ways to serve it at home.  My husband really missed eating healthier because of what I couldn’t eat so he suggested we substitute the ground beef I’d been eating for ground turkey.  Voila.  A family tradition was born.  Not that this is super healthy once you douse it with sour cream and cheese, but if you skip those it’s probably not too terrible for you.

I used to make this using packaged taco seasoning, but why spend money on what I can sort of recreate on my own with stuff I already have?  Granted, it doesn’t taste exactly the taco seasoning you buy in a packet (much less salty), but it’s still good.  This is one of those recipes I don’t measure much on, but you know your own palate.  If you like spicy, use cayenne or ground chipotle powder.  If you like more smoky, use more cumin and cut back the spicy.

I started this story about being pregnant, not just because it’s how this meal became a staple in our house, but also because my little guy turns two and a half today.  He won’t touch this because it comes with vegetables (the horror!), but someday he will and I can share this story with him (along with all the other stories about how being pregnant with him turned me into a crazy person who had heartburn twenty four hours a day and cried because I couldn’t see my feet from July on).  So happy two and half birthday, Thomas.  And thanks for inspiring more than just good meal ideas.

Taco Salad

  • 1 package ground turkey (about 1 1/3 lbs)
  • 2-3 tbsp (couple palmfuls) chili powder
  • 2-3 tbsp cumin
  • 2-3 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne or chipotle chili powder (depending on your spice preference)
  • 2 tsp salt (about; salt it to taste)
  • chicken broth or stock
  • lettuce (I prefer iceberg for this, but we use romaine for salads every day so that’s what I currently have in the house), chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 white or sweet onion, chopped
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • black olives
  • canned corn (optional)
  • salsa or taco sauce (I like salsa, Stephen likes taco sauce)
  • sour cream or ranch dressing (Stephen likes ranch because he’s not a sour cream fan)

Brown turkey in skillet until no longer pink, breaking up the turkey with the back of a wooden spoon so it’s in crumbles.

When turkey is no longer pink, add spices and stir.

Add chicken broth to pan (about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup) and let simmer until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally.  Don’t skip that step, because it thickens the mixture up and gives it a little bit more flavor.  It’s like adding water when you add the taco seasoning packet.

Pile your plate high with lettuce, peppers and onions, add turkey mixture, then your taco toppings (I should note here: I loathe raw tomatoes and wouldn’t touch them with a ten foot pole, but some people actually put those on salads and tacos, so go ahead and do that if you enjoy it; just don’t tell me about it).

This is a nice dinner for a Friday night when you want a homecooked meal, but don’t want to be bothered with actual cooking.  The turkey’s great as a leftover to throw in a frittata or actual tacos or even in macaroni and cheese.

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About Kristin

I never thought I would love to cook. I did everything I could to avoid learning to cook. But somewhere along the line, cooking became less of a chore and more of a way to relax and be creative. Not everything I make is a smashing success, but I've had more successes than failures. After months of trading recipes with my friends through Facebook and email, I've decided to collect all my favorites here and also document my attempts at new adventures in cooking, too.
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