Try a taco salad

Have you looked at a calendar as I did and discovered that 2019 is two-thirds over? It doesn’t seem possible, but the time has really flown by so far this year. What made me notice it was someone sent a facebook post telling how many days it was until, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I really did not need to know that, and since I hadn’t thought about it, it caught me by surprise!
Last weekend in the Devine/Castroville area was absolutely wonderful. Not only did I get to see my granddaughter and great-granddaughters that I hadn’t seen since Christmas, I also was able to participate in the Baptism of another great-granddaughter. It was a beautiful ceremony, and the priest involved all of her cousins, as well as the adults who were present, so it was truly a very impressive family affair that I thoroughly enjoyed. After the service, with lots of pictures being taken, we all went to her grandfather’s home for a delicious meal of barbecued chicken with all the trimmings. Believe me, there are some great cooks amongst that little girls’ family!
The ensuing week was pretty busy as my brother and his wife were in from north Texas and we got quite a bit of visiting done, as well as eating out together and his wife, my sister and I getting to do a little shopping. We did not leave Yoakum, and surprisingly, my sister-in-law found quite a few things she “needed”! It was a fun time, but as usual, all good things must come to an end and this weekend was our annual church picnic, with me spending Saturday morning helping make cream cheese and poppy seed rolls for an auction item. We made approximately 100 of the rolls that are roughly 12 to 14 inches long by three or four inches wide. They are displayed on shelves that form a ‘pyramid’, with the bottom shelf being about as large as a card table top and the others much smaller, they are then auctioned off at the picnic as a whole. This year, they brought in $32K. (This is not a purchase by an individual, but as a group of people and businesses who all pitch in.) The rolls are then donated back and are sold for $15 each and believe me they sell like hot cakes! This is the largest or second largest thing we make money on, with the raffle being the other moneymaker.
In the morning, before the meal begins, a group of us cut the donated cakes or brownies into individual portions place them on plates and wrap them. Also many of the parishioners make kolaches and bring them, and all this is served as dessert with the meal. It was great to work with some of these ladies since I go to a different Mass than they do, this is almost the only time I get to interact with them, other than at meetings. It was tiring, but also fun.
Parts of this article are from a couple of other columns, and both have similar recipes for Taco Salads. Each contains slightly different ingredients and while two are vegetarian, using no meat, the third is one of mine that has long been a favorite. One of my aunts served it at bunco at her home, and it was a real hit. It took me a while to find it when I was ready to use it at one time, but I made sure it made it to my files. It uses taco meat where the other two don’t.
According to an article from the United States Department of Agriculture, a family of four spends over $100 more a month on groceries than it did two years ago. The fact that a gallon of milk is about the same price as a gallon of gas gives new meaning to the phrase “food is fuel”. The challenge we now face is still providing our family with healthy meal options but at a price we can afford.
Some simple tips like not shopping hungry and using a list will help keep unneeded items out of your cart. Here are some tips: Use the weekly food ads to create a weekly dinner menu. You can create a five-day menu that uses the meat that’s on sale along with fresh and frozen produce. Remember, fewer store visits equals fewer dollars spent.
Herbs and spices are expensive. To add flavor and moisture to your cooking try using healthy salad dressings. For example, you can sauté chicken breasts in a tablespoon of Italian dressing and add veggies and rice for a flavorful but low-cost dinner. You can also marinate chicken or shrimp in Italian dressing for a delicious flavor and cook them on a grill or under the broiler.
It is important to know how to shop the produce department. If you buy apples, oranges, grapefruit, potatoes and onions by the bag – not by the piece, it’s cheaper and will fill more lunch bags and cover more meals. If you live alone, it is probably cheaper to buy these things individually as you won’t waste as much from it spoiling because you bought too much.
Two or three nights a week, save money by trying meatless alternatives. Canned beans provide a good source of protein, fiber and nutrients without the added fat. Add beans to salads, casseroles and soups.
Use private-label brands, this means the store brand, and save 15 to 25 percent compared to name brand labels.
Tex-Mex Dinner Salad
(A perfect meatless meal for a hot summer night for less than $15. Serves 4).
1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1½ cups shredded cheddar and Monterey cheese blend
1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
Catalina Free salad dressing
2 cups corn chips (optional)
Drain and rinse the beans. In a large bowl, combine the pinto beans, black beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. Add three-fourths bottle of the dressing and mix well. Add corn chips before serving.
Taco Salad With Homemade Pita Wedges
1 cup canola oil
¼ cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons ketchup
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, washed and torn (I use leaf lettuce, it is not as expensive)
1 (15-oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup low-fat cheddar cheese
¼ cup red onion, sliced
1 tomato, diced
2 small whole wheat pitas, split in half and quartered
In bowl, whisk together canola oil, vinegar, lime juice, garlic, mustard, relish, ketchup, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use. Dressing will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
Heat oven to 350ºF. Brush each pita quarter with ½ teaspoon dressing. Place on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until crisp.
In a large bowl, combine lettuce, beans, cheese, onion and tomato. Divide salad into 8 servings. Add 2 tablespoons dressing to each serving and toss. Serve with baked pita wedges. Serves 6 to 8.
The following is my Aunt’s recipe for taco salad.
Texas Taco Salad
1 pound ground beef (Watching calories? Use lean ground white meat turkey)
1 can (15-oz) Ranch Style beans, drained and rinsed
2 quarts shredded lettuce (for this, you can use leaf lettuce or Iceberg, if desired)
2 tomatoes, chopped
3 avocados, peeled, diced, and dipped in lemon juice to prevent darkening*
1 package shredded Cheddar cheese (1 to 1½ cups)
1 bunch green onions, sliced, including tops
1 bottle Catalina style dressing
1 bag (8-oz) size broken tortilla chips or corn chips (corn chips taste best)
Brown meat, drain well on paper towels, cool slightly. Drain and rinse beans. Combine meat, beans lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, cheese and onions. Toss with dressing. Just before serving add chips, or serve salad on bed of chips. Top with a dollop of sour cream before serving if desired. *My sister and I have discovered that you can keep avocados from darkening if you slice them into some 7-up or Sprite. It works on avocados, the same way it works on apple slices, and no, it doesn’t really leave a sweet taste on the avocado.