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Fresh Take Taco Salad

Over the years we have been making gradual changes toward a healthier diet. We steer away from most prepackaged convenience foods. It’s a commitment of time and effort, but I enjoy my time in the kitchen and like to try new recipes and figure out ways to update prep methods. That doesn’t mean when holidays of any kind roll around that we don’t indulge in old favorites like Cheesy Potatoes and decadent brunch casseroles. But, on a daily basis we honestly try to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veggies – a simple task this time year when local, fresh produce is available in abundance in gardens, at the farmers market and in stores.

Our way of making taco salad now is without heavy dressing, loads of sour cream, artificially flavored nacho chips or massive amounts of cheese. Recently we have begun to switch out half our salad greens with fresh kale, simply done with a salad spinner. Instead of using packaged taco seasoning, I just pull out a few herbs and spices that are already in the spice cupboard. For added protein and fiber, toss a can of garbanzo beans into the meat mixture, along with either fresh or canned diced tomatoes. Depending on your tastes, black beans and corn could be added, too. We build our own salads. I skimp on the cheese and nacho chips, but am generous with the salsa, while Tim adds sour cream. This recipe still has a lot of salt in it; maybe we’ll tackle that next.

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground chuck
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 large red, yellow, orange or green bell pepper
1 large fresh tomato, diced or 1 15.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, do not drain
1 15.5-oz. can beans, your choice, drained
2 teaspoons (or more) chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Generous dash dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 or 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped, rinsed and drained
1 or 2 generous handfuls of fresh kale, chopped, rinsed and drained
Salsa of your choice
Unflavored nacho chips (our favorite brand is South of the Border)
Shredded Mexican blend cheese - without added flavor

Directions:

Brown ground chuck in a large frying pan. Drain off grease and add onion and bell pepper to pan. Cook until tender. Add beans, tomatoes and spices. Cook until liquid is reduced.

Put individual salads together:

Heap greens in a large soup bowl. Top with warm meat mixture, chopped fresh tomatoes,  3 or 4 crumbled nacho chips and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of cheese. Finish with salsa.

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