Skinny Nachos

Other than cheeseburgers, I’m pretty obsessed with nachos. I mean, how can you beat a plate of really good nachos? The chips, the melted cheese, the chicken (or other meat), sour cream and guacamole. Beans? Yes please. It’s got it all.

My absolute favorite nachos are from Yardhouse. I could eat them at least once a week. I tell everyone about these nachos. Unfortunately, they clock in at a whopping 2,460 calories.  

Yes, I know you are supposed to share them, but even when it’s just my husband and I, that’s still 1230 calories each. Also, I’m not a huge fan of sharing food. I like my food to be my food. You can have some when I’m done. Plus, it messes up the check at the end of the night.


Anyway, I had to come up with something to get my nacho fix. The other day I was looking in my fridge planning lunch. The kids had their turkey and cheese sandwiches and I was *thisclose* to making that for the hubby and myself as well. Then I saw we had leftover turkey taco meat and the lightbulb went off.
SKINNY(ISH) NACHOS!!! They were delish. There’s not a real recipe here because that’s the beauty of nachos: Freedom. Make as much as you want, put whatever toppings you want. Just keep in mind that the ingredients I use are why I can call them skinny. Make all the substitutions you want, but be wary of whether or not you start to lose the “skinny” in the title.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out a layer of Blue Corn Tortilla Chips (I used the Trader Joe’s brand that includes quinoa, chia seeds, and sprouted amaranth). 


Top that with a layer of taco meat. I used leftover turkey taco meat, you can really use any taco/tex-mex flavored meat you like here. Top that with a layer of cheese (I used low fat three cheese blend from Trader Joe’s). 


If you wanted to add beans, you can do that at this point as well.

Bake the chips/cheese/meat mixture at 375 for about 8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the meat is warmed through.

Top with whatever you want to top it with. I cut up some cherry tomatoes and added a heaping scoop of guacamole. I also used plain nonfat greek yogurt in place of sour cream.

Grilled Salmon Tacos

I love salmon. It is sooooo good for you. And I love tacos. I really love tacos. So when the idea to put them together came up in a clean eating challenge I was doing, I was 100% ON BOARD! And I was not at all disappointed.  

Salmon is really easy to prepare, but until recently, I’d been doing wrong, so wrong, for a long time. I always tried to get the skin off the back before I cooked it. It worked ok, I guess, but I always lost some meat to the cause and it was just a pain in the ass. So, the last time I made salmon, I just threw it right on the grill, skin and all. And you know what happened? I’m sure you do because I’m guessing I’m the only one who didn’t know this would happen. The skin just peeled right off when it was done cooking. Easy peasy. I felt like such an idiot for doing it the hard way this whole time. Well, never again, I tell you. NEVER again. Which is good because I make salmon a lot.

Grilled Salmon Tacos

1/3 cup olive oil

juice of one lime

1 teaspoon chili powder

¾ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Dash of salt and pepper

1ish pounds salmon

Corn tortillas

Guacamole for serving

Cheese for serving

Coleslaw for serving

In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and s&p. Rub on salmon and grill for about 5-7 minutes per side (depending on thickness). You can let this be a marinade if you want, but don’t let it sit too long or the citrus and the salt will start to “cook” the fish and that won’t be good.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the grill and take off the skin. I scrape off most of that grey stuff under the skin as well. I think it’s ok to eat, but since I don’t even know what it is, I take it off. Roughly chop up the salmon.

Serve in a warm corn tortilla with some guacamole and this AMAZING mango jicama slaw I found at Trader Joe’s. 


Or whatever other taco toppings you like.

 

That’s not all! I had lots of leftover salmon, so I reheated it and mixed it in with some brown rice and pesto with that slaw on the side. SO GOOD! I’m going to start making that as the main meal, not just leftovers!

Chicken Fajita Bowls with Mexican Cauliflower Rice

So I’m pretty active on Instagram. I’m not the best at taking pictures of my food, so I really love scrolling through people’s Instagram feeds with beautiful food pictures. I try. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but still. Taking lovely food shots is not my forte.
 

One of my favorite types of pictures are when people do food bowls. I don’t know if this is a new trend or if it just photographs well, but they are so beautiful. The food is organized so cleanly and is usually very colorful. I can’t get enough of them!

All that was said to introduce this Chicken Fajita bowl I recently made. I’ve made similar things before and I swear I posted them on here, but I guess not. Which just means I need to make them again so I can post them again and practice taking better pictures of them! See, it all works out.

This is a super easy weeknight meal that is totally family friendly and can be customized to your tastes.

Chicken Fajita Bowl

Makes enough for 2-4 bowls, depending on how much you put in them

 

Mexican Cauliflower Rice:

– 2 tablespoons Olive oil

– ½ onion diced small

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 bag riced cauliflower (I used the 12 oz bag from Trader Joe’s)

– 1 ½ tablespoons (or so) of tomato paste

– ½ tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder

– Salt to taste     

Bowls:

Mexican cauliflower rice (you can use regular rice or Mexican rice if you want)

Shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

½ purple onion, sliced

½ each red, orange, and green bell pepper, sliced

Shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Plain non-fat greek yogurt for topping

Guacamole or avocado slices for topping

Place the onion and bell pepper slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Mexican cauliflower rice:

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until just starting to soften. Then add the cauliflower rice and cook for about 7 minutes until cooked through. Add the seasonings and tomato paste and stir together until well mixed.

 


Once the rice and veggies are ready (either the cauliflower rice or whatever rice you want to use), you can assemble your bowls.

 

You can be fancy and do layers and sections and organize the whole thing by color or whatever. Or, if you are not planning on taking a photo and you couldn’t care less what your bowl looks like before you eat it because you are just going to mix it all up anyway, you can just throw everything together and have at it.

As long as it tastes good, who care? You do you, love.

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

I’m always looking for ways to eat Mexican food in a healthier way. The flavors of Mexican cuisine are so yummy but eating out at Mexican restaurants usually isn’t the best for you. I find making it at home is a lot easier to control what ingredients you are using so you can still get the delicious flavors but without any unnecessary fat and extra calories. Plus, you can be sure that the ingredients you are using are less processed and much cleaner.

When I set out to make these enchiladas, I wanted to make chicken, but I was out. I, mean, who runs out of chicken?! Me, I guess. I always try to have frozen chicken breasts on hand in the freezer so I can always make something for dinner, even if it is just a pantry meal (chicken with whatever veggies we have on hand). Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out without realizing it.

I almost just threw in the towel, but then I saw that we had some frozen veggie patties on hand. I’ve really been enjoying the Morning Star Farms Chipotle Black Bean Veggie Burgers. I wondered if I could chop those up and throw them in? I warmed them up so they were thawed enough to break apart and added the “burger” crumbles to the corn and black bean mix. 


Most of the ingredients in the patties were pretty much the same as what I had going on anyway, so it totally worked! They made for some really delicious enchiladas. You would never realize they were vegetarian. I will say, though, that because the patties had some of the flavors I was going for already in them, I did NOT include the can of diced green chiles mentioned in the recipe below. If I had just used regular chicken, I would have included that ingredient.

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Enchiladas

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

½ bag of frozen corn

½ onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded

½ tablespoon cumin

1 small can diced green chiles

Salt to taste

1 bottle enchilada sauce (or homemade)

6 corn tortillas (I used a corn/wheat blend tortilla I found at Trader Joe’s. low fat, low cal, and high in whole grains per serving. 

Low-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese

In a skillet with a little olive oil, sauté onions and garlic until soft. Add the corn and black beans and cook until the corn is softened.


Add the chicken, cumin, green chiles, and some salt. Continue cooking until warmed through. Sprinkle in about ½ cup of the shredded cheese and stir to combine.

 

Pour a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Fill each tortilla and roll up carefully (corn tends to break easily. You can heat them up in a microwave with a wet paper towel to help with this.). Place each enchilada seam side down in the baking dish. Top with more enchilada sauce and cheese (however much or little you want).



Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


Steak Quesadilla 

Steak Quesadillas? But, Abby, aren’t you eating healthy now?

Why yes, yes I am. However, sometimes your body just wants something super tasty that maybe isn’t so good for you and you just give in. I mean, I’m not made of stone, people. 

I figure if you eat healthy the majority of the time and work out, then its ok to have a cheeseburger or a steak quesadilla when the mood strikes, right? I’m not about elimination diets. Eat well rounded from the good parts of the food pyramid and when you feel like dipping into the top of the pyramid every now and then, do so with glee. And moderation. You’ll be fine and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


Anyway, back to this delicious cheesy goodness. The other day I was at Target getting some last minute stuff for our trip. I was really hungry and I got a text from my hubby telling me he was also really hungry. That’s when it hit me. I really wanted a steak quesadilla. I worked and then went to Target, so I was tired and I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. I figured it would be easy enough to make my own quesadillas, so I headed over to the grocery section and got what I needed.

You guys, these were really delicious and totally hit the spot. You could probably even add more veggies like peppers if you wanted to, but I just wanted to keep them simple. I made two quesadillas (well, a whole one for the hubby and a half one for me). They were pretty filling. My husband said he could have gone with just a half and been fine.

All you need…

Steak (you can use whatever cut you like. I used Top Sirloin because it was on sale. The package came with two pieces of steak and I had meat leftover.)

Your favorite taco seasoning (either packaged or homemade)

Vegetable oil

½ yellow onion, sliced thin

1 package of shredded Mexican cheese blend

Butter

Salt

Burrito-size tortillas

In a medium skillet, add a couple tablespoons of butter and your onion. Sprinkle with a little salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until the onions start to brown and caramelize. This can take a little while, but just be patient. It’ll be worth it.

Meanwhile, sprinkle some the taco seasoning on both sides of the steak and let it sit for a few minutes while you bring a separate skillet up to temperature over medium heat. Add some vegetable oil and the steaks. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or more or less depending on how done you like it. Remove from the skillet and let it rest.
When the onions are done, remove them from the heat. Slice the steak and assemble the quesadillas.

Put some cheese on the bottom, then some of the caramelized onions, then some steak. Top with more cheese and the other tortilla. (if making half a quesadilla, just put the filling on half the tortilla and fold it over.)

 Add some butter to a skillet over medium heat and let it melt. Add the assembled quesadilla and cook for a couple minutes on each side, until the tortilla is crispy and golden brown and the cheese is melted and gooey inside.

Serve with avocado or whatever you like with your quesadillas.

Mexican Lasagna 

A while back, I posted a recipe for Ropas Viejas which came from one of my favorite actresses Eva Longoria’s cookbook Eva’s Kitchen. (PS: Eva, I know you are busy being amazing, but when are you going to crank out another cookbook??) 

I actually met Eva once back in 2011 when she first published this book. She was doing a book signing at Willams-Sonoma, so my son, who was only 1 at the time, and I went to the mall to meet her. 

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She is teeny tiny. Like, pocket size. But she is just as beautiful as you would imagine she would be and she was very sweet. The more I read interviews with her, the more I like her. 

Over the past 5 years that I’ve had this book, I’ve made many of the recipes in it. The Mexican Lasagna is probably my husband’s favorite of the bunch. He requests it often and since it is so delicious, I have no problem adding it to my menu plan. 

There are many great things about this recipe: 1. it freezes really well, so make two and freeze one; 2. it passes the leftovers test; 3. it is completely adjustable to your preferences. Sometimes when I make it, I follow the recipe to the “T”. Other times, I wing it and change things up a bit. You can change the meat, you can change the cheeses, you can change the veggies. Do it how you want to and it will most likely be just as delicious as Eva intended. I would suggest doing it the way the book says first and then make your adjustments. 

Here’s my simplified take on Eva Longoria’s Mexican Lasagna: 

2 pounds ground beef (well, 2 packages. You know they aren’t always exactly 1 pound. I just got 2 packages so it’s probably somewhere between 1.5 & 2 pounds)

1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own: 2t garlic salt, 3t cumin,1.5T chile powder, 1.5t onion powder)

1/4 cup water

4oz cream cheese

1 can low-fat refried beans (or you can make a batch of my healthier slow-cooker beans)

1 jar of salsa (whatever you like, just not pico de gallo or similar style. It should be more of a picante style salsa)

2 cups of cheddar cheese (which is really an arbitrary number. Use a lot, use a little. I usually err on the side of more cheese)

2 tortillas

In a skillet, brown your beef. Add your taco seasoning and stir to combine. Add your water and bring to a boil, then to a simmer until the water evaporates. Add the cream cheese and stir until the cream cheese is melted into the beef and all combined. Adding the cream cheese just really takes this filling over the top. I sort of “stole” the idea from these Mexican Stuffed Shells that are another family favorite over here. The cream cheese makes this meat mixture dreamy.

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Now you can assemble:

Spray a round baking dish or pan with cooking spray. Start the first layer with one tortilla. Spread with a layer of the beans, then a layer of the meat mixture, then top with salsa and cheese. Top that with a second tortilla and repeat the layers ending with cheese. 

You could probably do less fillings per layer and do more layers, but I liked it this way. img_7986img_7987

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until all the cheese is melted and gooey.

  
  

This is a very easy dish, perfect for busy weeknights. You can make it ahead of time and even freeze it.

 

Not Quite Refried Beans

There is this little hole-in-the-wall Mexican food place (“place” because it’s not quite a restaurant, not quite a taco stand) here in Culver City called Cinco de Mayo that my hubby and frequented quite a bit in our younger, more metabolism-friendly days. It’s right next door to another, much more famous Mexican food place called Tito’s Tacos. The line at Tito’s is always a mile long. The line at Cinco doesn’t get that long until Tito’s closes (Cinco is 24 hours). They are both very, very delicious (isn’t that usually the case with hole-in-the-wall places? As long as there’s a A in the window, I’m good).

So anyway, we still will go every so often, but these days, I try to make my Mexican food at home since it isn’t exactly the healthiest choice going to one of these restaurants.  It’s sometimes a challenge to “lighten” up Mexican dishes, but I think I’ve done a good job for the most part. Everything in moderation, right? These beans are perfectly lightened up. They are just as good as the “real thing” but there is no added fat. Its just beans and seasoning. A great, healthy carb source chock full of protein.
I don’t know how long I’ve been making these beans, but I make them a lot. Refried beans, traditionally, are not very good for you and are full of lard (the good ones anyway!). These have no added fat at all. They are not really refried, but they taste just like them and the texture is almost spot on.  They are perfect for bowls and burritos, nachos and tacos, I’ve even put them in enchiladas.  And the best part? They are made in the slow cooker! Set it and forget it, my friend. Couldn’t be easier.
The recipe amounts tend to change each time I make these, so I tried to write this down exactly as I did it this time. Hopefully that helps. I have posted these before and the amounts may be a little different, but the process and the end result are the same, so don’t call me out on it. Please?
2-1/2 cups of dried pinto beans
1/2 a diced onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt, to start
1 tsp pepper, to start
1 tsp cumin, to start
8 cups of water (started with 6, added a couple more later in the cooking)
In a slow cooker, add your beans, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Top with water. It will look like a lot, but trust me, you need it.  The beans will soak it all up and it is better to have too much, that you can drain out, than not enough, which will cause the beans to become dry and burn.
Set the slow cooker to high and cook for 8-10 hours. Mine went 10-1/2 because that’s when I got home and they were perfect.

  When the beans are ready, turn off the slow cooker and drain most of the water out. Save this in case you need to add more for texture.
 

Mash the beans. You can use a potato masher, which works well. If you have an immersion blender, use that. If you don’t have one, get one because they are amazing kitchen tools. I love mine!

If your beans seem dry, add a bit more of the cooking water. Make them the texture you like.
At this point, I also do a tasting. They may be pretty bland still, because I don’t add too much seasoning at the beginning. Taste them and see what you need to add. I almost always add more salt and cumin, sometimes a little garlic powder. You do what you like. Be careful not to make them too salty though. You will ruin the whole batch. Don’t ask me how I know that. That’s why I just add a little at a time.
We put these in a sealed bowl in the fridge and eat them throughout the week.