Smoky Beef Taco Salad

I recently adapted one of my favorite old Everyday Food recipes so I could make it in the slow cooker. Basically, put everything in the Smoky Beef Taco recipe in the slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours and you’re done! Check the beef for tenderness and shred-ability at 5 hours and you’ll know how much longer you have to go. I like tacos as much as the next person, but I also love taco salad on crisp shredded romaine with lots of chopped fresh vegetables and a flavorful sour-cream based dressing. After a taco dinner night, for lunch, I heat up some leftover beef and make myself a big plate of delicious. 

 Creamy Taco Salad Dressing

  1. 1/4 cup sour cream
  2. Juice of one lemon
  3. 1/2 tsp garlic salt(or one clove crushed garlic plus 1/2 tsp salt)
  4. 1 tsp dried cumin
  5. 1 tsp agave or honey 
  6. 1/8 tsp smoked paprika
  7. 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Stir ingredients together until smooth. Taste to check flavor balance, adding additional lemon juice or agave if too sour or too sweet. Thin with lemon juice or cider vinegar if you like a more pourable dressing. I find the beef spices things up nicely, but if you like it really hot, add 1/4-1/2 tsp dried chipotle chile powder. Makes enough for two generously dressed main-course salads. 

 

Poached Salmon with Creamy Cucumber-Dill Salsa

  
This is another of my mom’s recipes that she claims I now make better than she does. I just think everything tastes better when someone else makes it for you. It is delicious when the salmon is warm, and also when chilled on top of a bed of greens with the salsa as dressing.

Poached Salmon 

 

  1. 2 filets salmon- I’m conflicted about fish and where it comes from. I don’t eat it often, and get overwhelmed by figuring out what options are the most healthful/sustainable. Buy fish that goes with your conscience on farmed/wild caught etc.
  2. Small sweet onion, roughly chopped.
  3. 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped(leafy bits are fine)
  4. 1/4 cup mirin or white wine
  5. Water to cover salmon in a large shallow pot.

Place all ingredients in a large, shallow pot. Being to a simmer and allow to simmer 15 minutes. Remove salmon to a plate, discard water and veggies.

Creamy Cucumber Dill Salsa 

 

  1. 2-3 Persian cucumbers, diced
  2. Juice of one small lemon (2T ish)
  3. 1/2 cup sour cream (you can use yogurt if you really want to, but sour cream is better)
  4. 1  1/2 tsp dried dill
  5. 1/2 tsp garlic salt (you can use a large clove of fresh garlic, crushed, but keep in mind the garlic taste will grow stronger and sharper with time so your salsa will not taste the same after a night in the fridge)
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. Several generous grinds of pepper

Mix sour cream with lemon juice and all following ingredients. When well mixed, stir in cucumber. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Stir again before serving.

    Chicken To The Rescue 3: Chicken With Dumplings

    Remember the leftover meat from that chicken you roasted? Here’s where you get another delicious, healthy, from-scratch meal out of it that is easy but different enough to please anyone in your house who doesn’t like to eat the same thing twice in a row. I started with Martha’s recipe, but adapted to use roasted chicken instead of raw chicken.  

     Follow Martha’s recipe until she adds the chicken to the sauce. Just simmer 5 minutes until the chill is off your chicken, as it is already fully cooked. You can head straight to the dumplings and make yourself a quicker dinner.

     Drop your blobs of dumpling dough on the simmering chicken and vegetables and cover: 
    Cook for 20 minutes covered until your dumplings are plump and cooked through 

      Yum! Serve in bowls with a salad or some steamed green vegetables on the side. Comforting and warm, plus any leftovers heat nicely in the microwave for lunch tomorrow.

    Chicken to the Rescue 2: Rich Stock

    Remember your carrot peelings and fennel fronds and cores? Those celery leaves and chicken bones? You get to use them to make something that is truly more than the sum of its parts and will make you feel good about yourself for using every last scrap of your food!  

      Rich Chicken Stock

    1. Chicken carcass & bones, plus any veggies inside cavity
    2. Raw onion roughly chopped
    3. 2 ribs celery, celery leaves etc chopped
    4. 2 carrots, roughly chopped
    5. Fennel fronds, cores, any other veggie tops or clean peelings or leftover bits 
    6. 3 bay leaves
    7. 3 quarts water

    Chuck it all into your slow cooker and set to low for 20 hours. If you think of it, you can cruise by after 8-10 hours and use a potato masher to smush the bones and release extra gelatinous goodness, then cover and keep cooking. When you are done it will be all gorgeous and a golden caramel color 

     Strain through a fine mesh sieve to get out bones and veggie bits, store in jars in the fridge. You can skim off the fat when it cools if you like(I don’t mind it). It is truly a cut above any broth I’ve had. I’ll drink it plain when feeling under the weather, and it is a fabulous base for vegetable, chicken or any other soup you can name! 

      Chicken to the Rescue Part 1:Roast

        
      I love to cook and eat healthy, homemade food. But with four kids and lots of other interests, I often fall back on frozen Trader Joe’s options or way-too-easy and less balanced choices (baguette with butter and salami for dinner, anyone?). Lately I’ve been working on strategies to make eating nourishing, delicious, from-scratch food a little easier and less time consuming. 

      The first step is our weekly roasted chicken dinner. I buy a good sized free range organic chicken (they really do have a better flavor, not to mention being healthier and more humane), plus whatever root vegetables look good- I like fennel, turnips, parsnips etc. and of course carrots! 

      Roasted Chicken & Veg

      1. A good whole chicken(4-6 lbs)
      2. Root vegetables
      3. Two onions
      4. Celery
      5. Olive oil
      6. Salt & pepper

      Heat oven to 425. Line a small roasting pan with heavy weight aluminum foil. Chop one onion and root veggies into similar sized chunks, reserving any tops, fronds etc(you’ll see why later). Place chopped veg in lined pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Remove chicken from wrapping and discard any giblets(you can cook them later if you like, but I don’t care for them!). Pat very dry(skin won’t crisp up if it is damp). Salt and pepper chicken cavity, halve your second onion and place inside cavity with a few chopped stalks of celery. Nestle chicken among veg in roasting pan and salt and pepper generously.  

       Leave in oven for 2 hours. 

      After 2 hours, remove from oven and place chicken on a cutting board with a well, or a rimmed platter(to catch juices), and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, reserve accumulated juices in roasting pan and put veggies back in oven to brown further while your chicken rests(if they look brown enough you can just cover with foil to keep warm).

      Carve up your chicken, and serve with veggies, and a green salad or rice. Pick the carcass clean of meat and set meat aside for a future meal(part 3 of this chicken series!). Separately save all the bones, and cleaned carcass with vegetables inside- tune in to part 2 for what’s next with those!

      Mindful Meals Veggie Prep

        
      The first step of eating mindfully for me is preparing elements of meals in advance so they can just be thrown together easily(I had a hard boiled egg over microwaved broccolini for breakfast today). This week I cooked a gigantic spaghetti squash, as it is a great non-grain base for bowls of protein, sautéed greens, and healthy sauces. 

      Spaghetti Squash

      1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise

       Place on a rimmed baking sheet, cut side down, in 1/2″ water. Place in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes depending on how big your squash is. Over-cooked spaghetti squash is icky, so test your squash after 20-25 minutes. If it shreds easily into spaghetti, it is ready! I shred it all and put it into containers in the fridge.

       I roasted a pan of turnips, and steamed and sautéed a few bunches of broccolini with oil and garlic. In addition, I used the tops of radishes from the farmer’s market to make radish & pistachio pesto, which makes a great dip, sauce, or spread.  

          
       Because I try to avoid excessive grains when doing a reset, I also make a loaf of this bread.   

         
          
       It is dense, chewy, and tasty, a great side for soup or base for avocado toast. I still limit myself to 1-2 pieces of this a day to keep with my commitment to variety, so it lasts a nice long time, sliced in the freezer and ready to toast.

      I also hard boiled a few eggs for quick protein, and cold-brewed a pitcher of hibiscus herbal tea for sweet-drink cravings. So far my first day is going to plan- time to drink some water!

      A Week of Mindful Meals

        
      I understand why ideas like “detoxing” and “eating clean” have gotten a bad rap. I’m not a big fan of vilifying any particular food, even processed or fast food- moderation in all things works best for me, personally. That said, after the holidays, vacation, or birthday indulgence(I’m looking at you, cheese cake and fudge!) I feel and look a lot better when I practice a week or two of concentrated, mindful eating. For me that means taking it easy on grains, dairy, coffee(my best friend!), and sweets. But I prefer to think about what I can eat more of rather than what is “forbidden,” so I also challenge myself to get as many vegetables in each meal as I can, and make a special effort to drink enough water. That way it is a fun challenge to come up with delicious, satisfying menus that put an emphasis on nutrient dense, fresh foods. This week, as I work on hitting the reset button for myself,  I’ll share a few of my favorite mindful eating meals and strategies for making good food easy when you have lots of other stuff that needs doing!

      For me, success eating mindfully comes from focusing on a few things

      1. Protein at every meal- helps me feel full and happy. Beans and soy don’t agree with me, so in my world that means lean animal protein and nuts/protein rich veggies
      2. Healthy fats at each meal- olive oil, nuts, and avocados are a go.
      3. Real food only- no artificial sweeteners, shakes, protein powders etc, just stuff that is made of actual food.
      4. Variety- no eating the same thing more than one meal a day, eggs once, nuts once, animal protein once. My gut and brain are both happier without too much repetition.
      5. Eat every 2-3 hours to keep level blood sugar and avoid craving quick, sugary food.
      6. Planned water breaks before and between meals.
      7. Preparation- lots of seasonal vegetables cooked and ready to eat or warm up in the microwave, so even when my kids are distracting me or I’m in a rush, I have no excuse to down buttery toast crusts and leftover brown sugar oatmeal for breakfast.
      8. Eat with the sun- breakfast first thing and last meal before sunset to let my digestive system rest overnight and avoid sleepy-time snacking.

      This is not the advice of a health expert or registered dietician, just a busy mother’s way of eating mindfully for increased health and energy (not to mention glowier skin and less jiggle around the middle, though those aren’t the main objectives). Let’s go!

        Super Yummy Slow Cooker Pork

        I love my slow cooker for one thing: golden bone broth or stock made with a chicken carcass and veggie scraps. I keep wanting to find other things that are equally good, but the slow cooker chili and bean soup recipes don’t appeal at all. When I saw this Momofuku Pork recipe, I realized right away it could be adapted to the slow cooker. The result was, according to my eldest daughter, “the best pork I’ve ever had!” We had it plain with sides of asparagus and green beans, but it would be great on a chopped salad, in a wrap, tossed into soup…the only mistake I made was not getting a big enough piece of meat!

        Slow Cooker Pork

        1. 1 pork shoulder roast, 3-5 lbs
        2. 1T salt per pound
        3. 1T sugar per pound

        Rub pork with salt and pepper, wrap with plastic and let rest in fridge at least 8 hours 

         After rest, place roast and accumulated juices in slow cooker, cover and place on low for 7 hours  
         While still in slow cooker, use two forks to gently shred meat.  

         Cover and reset to high for an additional hour to cook down juices and carmelize the meat a bit(you can also spread out on a pan and broil for 15 minutes for color). Devour!