“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

11 August 2011

Southwestern BLT Taco Salad

I haven’t been blogging for a couple of days.  I wasn't feeling all that well, plus there was the stress of getting 3 kidlets ready for school and a furious wrestling match with a batch of bread dough – I lost that battle, I’m afraid, but live and learn.  (Havent decided if I really want to post that story... Maybe I'll save it for after I win a bread battle.) 

Anyway, I’ve discovered something about myself since beginning this blog: most of the time I don’t follow the recipe.  (Any of you find that surprising?  I feel like I should have figured that out sooner.  Maybe I'm more like my husband than I thought...)  More often than not I catch myself using my new recipes to remind me of other stuff we’ve eaten before that we liked.  Or as a jumping off point to using items I have on hand or things that I think sound more tasty.  That said, here’s today’s recipe.  (The somewhat similar take I made of it follows.)

Southwestern BLT Taco Salad
serves 4
1 pound lean ground beef
1 package taco seasoning mix
2/3 cup water
½ cup southwest ranch sour cream dip*
½ cup salsa
½ cup chopped precooked bacon
1 can (2¼ oz) sliced ripe olives, drained
4 Roma tomatoes, each cut into 8 pieces
10 ounces romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz)
1 cup chili cheese-flavored corn chips

In 10-inch skillet, cook beef over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked; drain.  Stir in taco seasoning mix and water.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook uncovered 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed.

In large bowl, mix sour cream dip and salsa.  Stir in beef mixture, bacon and olives.  Gently fold in tomatoes and lettuce.

Divide salad among 4 individual plates.  Sprinkle with cheese and chips.  Serve immediately.

*In place of the southwest ranch sour cream dip, use ½ cup of sour cream mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix.

When I reread this recipe prior to making it, I realized that adding bacon and ground beef to a salad just didn’t sound all that great to me.  And southwestern bacon just sounded ick.  Now I don’t mind taco salad (quite like it actually, unless it's at Taco Bell they’re just too spicy for my delicate palate) but bacon tacos just didn’t seem right.  (Can’t get myself to try a fish taco either, despite having been told by several people how good they are.)  Anyway, I thought this salad sounded like a great jumping off point for our favorite taco salad. 

I first experienced the deliciousness and ease of taco salad at a college party thrown by my friend Dawn.  Basically they (Dawn and her roommate) took a giant bowl and filled it with all of their favorite taco ingredients, emphasis on the lettuce.  The fancy dressing was nothing more than sour cream, which mixes nicely with the taco seasoning and balances out those spicier elements.  They topped it with crunched up tortilla chips.  It was awesome and I make it from time to time when I have lettuce that needs to be used up or tortilla chip crumbs that no one wants to eat.  I did switch it up a bit though.  Usually I use ground beef, but I had some left over chicken so I shredded that and added taco seasoning and a can of tomato sauce.  (My husband likes his food saucy and has insisted that all tacos made in our house are made using a can of tomato sauce instead of water.  Works for me and it’s one of the only ways I can get tomatoes into my middlest.) 

So here’s my recipe.
(I'll add a picture as soon as I remember where I put my camera...)

M’s Chicken Taco Salad
serves a family of 5 voracious eaters
1 pound cooked chicken, shredded (easy way to do this is pulling the meat apart with 2 forks) and cooled
1 package (¼ cup) taco seasoning mix
one 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
12 ounces romaine or other dark green leaf lettuce
shredded cheese and other favorite taco toppings (tomatoes, onions, black olives, avocados, etc.), to taste
½-1 cup sour cream (again to taste)
2 cups crushed tortilla chips

In a large serving bowl, mix taco seasoning with tomato sauce.  Stir in chicken and mix well.  Add lettuce, cheese and taco toppings; toss.  Gently mix in sour cream.  Top with tortilla chips just before serving.  Serve cold.

Can I just say, yum!  Big hit with all the fam, and each member has the option of leaving out the ingredients they like or don’t like.  (No onions for me, no tomatoes for middlest, happy happy family.)  It’s great for days you just don’t feel like cooking, as there’s nothing to cook but the chicken, which can be done ahead or reused from leftovers.  And as my friend Dawn showed me, this can be easily adapted to feed a crowd.

Hope you take the opportunity to give this one a try, whether using the original recipe or my version.  And with any of these recipes you try, I'd love to know what you think!

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