Write Lightning is a blog from writer Deb Thompson.
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Mon, Feb 05 2007

Taco Salad for busy people

I have a tip for those of you who are long on work hours and short on cooking hours. Rely heavily on a few dishes that you know come together well. One of my reliable favorites is Taco Salad. This one-dish meal has so many possibilities that you can make it for just about anyone, including picky eaters and people with food allergies. You put in what people can eat and like. You leave out what they can't or won't eat.

We happen to prefer it meatless. Sometimes we add Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Grillers Recipe Crumbles. If you want meat you can include chopped chicken or beef, or you brown ground beef or turkey sausage to toss into the mix. If you don't have any of those you can even use a little leftover or canned chili to give the salad some heartiness. We like kidney beans in the salad but we've also used pinto beans or the canned beans that have chili flavoring.

The salad is usually made with iceberg lettuce, but we use whatever lettuce we happen to have on hand. Crushed corn chips go into the bowl. Sometimes we use Fritos corn chips, but you can toss in any kind you like. You can even cut corn tortillas into strips and crisp them in the microwave if you want a low-fat chip. If someone has a tough time with corn you can substitute flour tortilla strips or even mildly-flavored wheat crackers for crunch. Note that a lot of products contain corn, so if corn is a no-no, read labels carefully before you toss in anything else I've mentioned here.

I like chopped onion, but my spouse's constitution won't always tolerate raw onion in the evening, so I usually substitute sliced green onions. You can also add diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, sliced celery or almost any tossed-salad-friendly raw vegetable you like. Add your favorite shredded or chopped cheeses. Cheddar and Monterey Jack work well, plus you can add olives, pimientos, canned diced chiles or even peppers if you want the salad to bite back.

Most recipes I've seen for Taco Salad advise using French dressing, but I shudder when I think of that. We usually keep a mild salsa from the store's deli section on hand in the refrigerator. We use the with sour cream or sometimes with Ranch dressing. Toss in cumin, garlic salt, onion salt, oregano or other Tex-Mex seasoning.

If you have dairy intolerance you should leave out any cheeses and forget the sour cream dressing in favor of a tomato or salsa-based dressing. There are also tofu-based products you might be able to have success with for a creamier dressing.

One recipe for Taco Salad suggests putting all the ingredients into a big plastic bag and mixing them that way. If you're on the road you can even eat the salad right out of a corn chip bag. We usually make it in a bowl, but you do need to know that this is a salad that doesn't keep well. Leftovers placed in the refrigerator will be a soggy mess when you take it out the next day. Just looking at it will make you ill, particularly if you make it with that orange-hued French dressing. Trust me and don't try it. Make enough for one meal at a time and make it just before you serve it.

A main-dish salad might sound like an odd thing to serve in the winter for those of you just sitting down to a steaming, comfortable bowl of soup. But California is having a stretch of warm weather after our big freeze last month. Taco Salad will taste great tonight.

posted at: 13:50 | category: /Food | link to this entry

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