Friday, February 4, 2011

Salad as Comfort Food?

To me, comfort food is something you grow up on, is scrumptiously delicious, and may not be a shining example of healthy eating. Tuna noodle casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken... not things I myself grew up eating, but without a doubt popular among the masses.

One of my favorite meals from my childhood, that has become one of my own family's frequent requests, is Taco Salad. It meets all the criteria of being a comfort food, BUT when you make some smart substitutions and use moderation with the "bad" stuff, it actually is healthy and ridiculously delicious.

Here is what WE love in it:
  • mixed greens (something crisp like Romain with cabbage and carrots)
  • ground turkey
  • sliced black olives
  • diced tomatoes
  • chopped scallions
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas)
  • 1 can black beans
  • finely shredded reduced fat natural cheese (cheddar, Mexican blend, colby jack all work)
  • Doritos Nacho flavored chips*
  • Wishbone brand Western dressing*
  • taco seasoning mix (or chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt)
*These are ingredients essential for the deliciousness and require the use of self-restraint and moderation. Don't bother trying to substitute something else.

Brown the turkey and season with the taco packet, or add salt, pepper, chili powder and any other spices you like. I use a little bit of olive oil in the pan, since it's such a lean meat, to help with flavor, moistness, and browning.

Drain and rinse all beans and the olives. I buy low or reduced sodium if it's on sale. Assemble your salads in individual bowls beginning with the lettuce (I tear it up into small, bite sized pieces even if it's been pre-cut and washed). Top with 1-2 TBSP of Western dressing. Don't go overboard on this. It does have fat, and high fructose corn syrup. But a little goes a long way and it's just so darn tasty in this dish!

Now go crazy with the beans, tomatoes, scallions, and olives. As much as you like. Top with a serving of the ground turkey, a little shredded cheese and about 5 Doritos crumbled on top. Mix and enjoy!!! If you like it spicy, dice up a few jalapenos to top it all off.

If you keep it under control with the dressing and chips, you have a high protein, high fiber meal that is as rich in nutrients as it is in flavor. And you don't feel like you're depriving yourself.

We eat it year round, but it's especially awesome in the summer since it requires little cooking, and lots of garden fresh ingredients.

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