Tag Archives: Mexican

Taco hash – get your grain-free, dairy-free taco fix!

grain-free dairy-free taco hash

When you’re craving tacos, but you know you feel better if you skip the tortilla and/or the cheese, this Paleo-friendly way to get your taco fix is quick and simple when you’ve got prepped ingredients ready to go.

This isn’t a recipe: it’s an assemblage of several things I keep on hand, thrown together. If you have all the ingredients ready, this will cook up in about 15 minutes, maybe less. It’s super easy! I’ll walk you through it…

diced sweet potato and onion

I’ve always got cooked diced sweet potato and diced onion on hand in the fridge. (Check out my sweet potato post for tips and a how-to video.) On this happy day, I also had cooked, seasoned, crumbled hamburger in the freezer. I don’t always have it on hand, but when I’m cooking hamburger for a recipe or immediate meal, I try to cook extra. It’s cooked with onions and maybe garlic, and seasoned with a little salt and pepper (not too much, since it’s usually added to other things that may already have salt and heat). Then I divide it into single-serving baggies, and stash those in a gallon baggie in the freezer. The small baggies are quick and easy to thaw, making meals like this much quicker.

I rarely cook dishes like this by recipe anymore. But for those who aren’t so comfortable winging it, here’s my guess, per serving:

  • onion – about half a small onion, or a quarter of a large one
  • hamburger – about 4 oz. or 1/2 cup
  • sweet potato – equal to or a little less than the hamburger

On this particular day, I added some diced bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and kale, but those are quite optional. Another no-chop option would be to just stir in some salsa.

Then I add a generous sprinkling of homemade taco seasoning (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon; start small, taste, and add till it suits you), stir it in, and boom! – it’s done!

(Here’s my gluten-free, sugar-free taco seasoning mix recipe.)

Toppings are optional. If I’d had avocado or guacamole on hand, I would’ve used one of those. But I didn’t, so I topped it with dairy-free “sour cream” (coconut milk yogurt with a splash of lemon juice stirred in). You could use real sour cream, if you do dairy.

Yum! Tons of flavor. You won’t miss the taco shells or the cheese at all!

Taco Hash - Ready in 15 minutes, if you have some simple ingredient prep done. Paleo + Whole30 friendly, too!

Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out

jason-s-deli-salmon-salad
Eating Paleo/Whole30 when eating out can be a challenge. My husband is getting ready to try the Whole30 thang, and needing some Paleo-friendly lunch options, so this post is especially for him. And as such, it focuses mostly on his tastes. So there may be a lot of other options out there, but this list caters to someone who’s not crazy about chicken or salads. And its scope is also limited to restaurants on the west side of Wichita, KS. But there are a few national chains here, as well as guidelines for any Mexican restaurant, or any burger, so there should be help here, no matter your locale.

(Please note: this list may not be 100% Whole30 compliant; I was not able to track down which oil most things are fried in, for example. But it seeks to avoid grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes.)

Applebee’s

Beef: The Ribeye and NY Strip are the only two steaks that aren’t cooked in soybean oil.

Seafood: Garlic Herb Salmon

Sides: steamed vegetables; or sweet potato fries??

Burger places, or any place that serves ’em

Bunless burger topped with grilled onions and mushrooms. Or grilled onions and jalapenos. Served on spinach? Or get a side of broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet potato, if available.

Chili’s

Beef: Cajun Ribeye, Guiltless Carne Asada Steak, Flame Grilled Ribeye, or the Classic Sirloin – ask for no savory steak butter as this contains gluten. If you want a burger, the Bacon Burger or the Old time Burger (ask for no bun or onion strings) are good choices. I also like the burger that comes with guacamole and peppers; it’s quite tasty even without the bun!

Seafood: Guiltless Grilled Salmon or the Salmon with Garlic & Herbs

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Chipotle

Order two sides of steak or carnitas with guacamole, and any salsa you want, except for the one with corn and beans. Depending on how much food you want, you can order extra sides at $2.25 a pop.

Note: Occasionally you’ll get a new employee who might put the sides in a sides container. If they do this, ask them if they can put it in a bowl. If they do that, they’ll often realize it’s not actually that much meat and give you more for free.

Jason’s Deli

Pollo Mexicano, without cheese and sour cream, – add guacamole; try to eat less of the white part of the potato

Mighty Wild Salmon Salad, without beans, with Italian dressing (NOT Leo’s fat-free Italian)

McAlister’s Deli

Your best bet: the grilled chicken salad, hold the croutons (and the cheese, if you’re avoiding dairy). Here’s the nutrition info for the entree-sized grilled chicken salad, as well as the only salad dressings with less than 20 grams of carbs and less than 1000 mg of sodium.

nutrition info for mcalister's deli: salad

 

Mexican places (go local, not chain)

Ask for no chips when you’re seated. (If you order carryout, specify no chips.)

Fajitas; skip the tortilla, sour cream and cheese.

Order a tostada topped with meat of your choice, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomato, and/or onions. Eat everything but the tortilla.

Panera

The Greek dressing is the only sugar-free dressing, but you can request it on any salad.

(I need to do more research into the broth bowls. They’ve changed the menu since my original post.)

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General guidelines

Always ask for NO SEASONING SALT in restaurants. MSG is often added to this, as is sugar.

When you see the following adjectives on the menu, ask lots of questions and be prepared to take a pass on foods that don’t meet your standards:

  • Deep fried
  • Crispy
  • Battered
  • Coated
  • Breaded
  • Sauced
  • Meatballs/Meatloaf/Croquettes (probably include breadcrumbs)
  • Sausage
  • Fritter
  • Dumpling

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Sources:
http://thepaleomama.com/2013/01/the-paleo-mamas-guide-to-dining-out-paleo-style/
http://fentresscrossfit.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FAST-FOOD-OPTIONS.pdf
http://theclothesmakethegirl.com/2015/02/26/paleo-tips-eating-restaurants/
https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/menu-categories/salads.html

Quick, easy buffalo chicken quesadillas with avocado

buffalo-chicken-quesadillas_large
image and recipe inspiration from halfhourmeals.com

This is one of my go-to recipes when I realize too late in the day that I haven’t planned dinner. (AND it’s one my husband calls restaurant-worthy!) I love it because it’s a few simple things you can throw together and have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. Also, there’s very little measuring involved.

I pick up some grilled chicken from the grocery store deli, grab an avocado and some appropriate cheese if I don’t already have some at home. Tortillas and hot sauce are usually in my fridge. Butter: always!

For the chicken, you can use any already-cooked chicken you have on hand or can easily obtain. Grilled, roasted, whatever! Tear it apart with your hands; this lets you find and dispose of any parts that are overdone and chewy. It also creates a nice, uneven surface for the sauce to cling to. Or you can use already shredded chicken, if that’s what you have on hand.

Quick easy buffalo chicken quesadillas

two small chicken breasts and one thigh, already cooked
1 T. butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
3-4 T. hot sauce (I like Cholula Chipotle)
1/2 avocado
4 flour tortillas, fajita size (6 to 7″)
4-5 oz. queso fresco or Monterrey Jack, shredded

Put the 1 T. butter and the hot sauce in a small skillet over medium-low heat. While it melts, tear the chicken apart and slice the half avocado thinly. Once the butter is melted, stir it around to mix in the hot sauce, then add the chicken to the pan and toss lightly to coat. If you still need to finish your prep, turn the heat under the chicken mixture a little lower.

Put a large skillet on another burner, and turn the heat to just-under-medium. Let this heat up while you assemble the quesadilla.

Lay one tortilla on a cutting board or edgeless cookie sheet. Sprinkle about one fourth of the cheese on it; top with half of the avocado slices (1/4 of the avocado), then scatter half of the chicken on top of that. Sprinkle over this another fourth of the cheese, and top with a second tortilla. Press it down lightly, and if any chicken bits fall out, tuck them back in.

Lightly coat the large skillet with butter — just enough for the size tortilla you’re using. Carefully slide the quesadilla onto the hot skillet, and cook for a few minutes, till the color on the underside is GBD. (Golden brown and delicious!) Turn it over and heat the second side likewise.

Remove to a cutting board, and repeat the process for the other half of the ingredients.

When both quesadillas are done, slice them into sixths. (A rolling pizza cutter works nicely.) Serve with sour cream (and/or plain yogurt) and salsa on the side.

Serves 3 to 4.

Here are the nutrition facts, based on 3 servings per recipe, via myfitnesspal.com:

Nutrition Facts
Servings 3.0
Amount Per Serving
Calories 455
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 23 g 35 %
Saturated Fat 11 g 56 %
Monounsaturated Fat 4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 89 mg 30 %
Sodium 871 mg 36 %
Potassium 294 mg 8 %
Total Carbohydrate 27 g 9 %
Dietary Fiber 19 g 75 %
Sugars 0 g
Protein 36 g 71 %

Based on this recipe from HalfHourMeals.

Grilled pork tenderloin with easy al pastor glaze and mango salsa

al-pastor-pork-tenderloin
This sounds fancy-pants, but it was an easy weeknight dinner that I kinda threw together.
It started with an extra mango and some cilantro in the fridge, left over from fish tacos a couple days ago. What to do with that? A spicy and/or salty pork dish would be a nice counterpoint, so I picked up a couple pork tenderloins.
Mid-afternoon, I trimmed the pork and put both pieces in a baking dish, and slathered one of them with this impromptu glaze:
– a good bit (maybe 1/2 cup?) of some bottled “Tacos Al Pastor” sauce I had on hand (Target’s “Archer Farms” brand)
– a sprinkle or two of cayenne (if you’re not a spice wimp like me, you might want more)
– a scant 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chili
– a drizzle of honey (a teaspoon or more, maybe. want it sweet? use more!) 
(I seasoned the second tenderloin with cumin and a couple other things, to be made into Cuban sandwiches tomorrow night.)
So the tenderloins sat in the fridge for a few hours, covered and marinating in their glaze/rub. Forty minutes before dinner time, I took them out and let them sit at room temp for 20 minutes, before grilling till the interior temp was just over 140 F; then a few-minute rest. You could also cook them in the oven; find directions for that here.
While the pork was cooking, I chopped up the mango and a small handful of cilantro. Tossed that together with the juice of one lime wedge. 
Sliced the pork and topped with the mango mixture. (Roasted cauliflower for the side dish.) Verdict? The hubby said, “If I ordered this at a restaurant, I’d be very happy with it.” Wow! 

How to eat healthi(er) at Jose Pepper’s

jose-peppers-fish-taco

(Oh, and a restaurant review.)

Yes, it is possible to go to a Mexican restaurant and not blow your healthy eating, balanced-carbs plan. Here’s my strategy:

1. Count how many chips you eat. Notice I’m not telling you how many to eat. In the past, I’ve always either decided ahead of time to eat no chips whatsoever (my rare approach), or decided ahead of time to not eat “too many,” but then go ahead and do it anyway (my more common approach). Today, I decided I would just count chips as I ate them. I hadn’t made up my mind what number I was going to stop at, but the mere mindfulness of counting slowed me down considerably. You might try this and see if it helps. YMMV.

2. Skip the white flour and white rice. I love their fish taco, but it’s so packed with flavor, you really don’t need the tortilla. (And picking it up to eat it is REALLY messy!) So I just remove the little taco prop that it comes served in, lay the tortilla out flat, and eat the content off it as if the tortilla were the dish. Neater, cleaner, saved some white carbs and some fat, with no sacrifice in flavor or enjoyment!

3. Get veggies instead of rice and beans. I love this about Jose Pepper’s: that you can even get vegetables as a side is great, but these actually taste good! A mix of broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash and (tiny shreds of) carrots, they’re generously seasoned and cooked just to crisp-tender.

4. And — do I really need to say this? Skip the little ball of cornmeal and honey! That’s nothing but a sugar bomb, and if you never taste it to begin with, you can do a head-fake on yourself and just imagine that it tastes really awful!

As to a review of the restaurant itself… The one we frequent is on 13th Street near the Warren Theater in east Wichita. We go there almost every Sunday for lunch, and although they’re always busy, we rarely have to wait long for a table. The staff is always friendly and on top of things. They also have a gluten-free information sheet available on request.

Jose Pepper’s website.

Jose Peppers on Urbanspoon

Places to eat in Kansas City: Mestizo restaurant review

mestizo-fish-tacos
Mestizo restaurant review

We’ve made two visits to Mestizo in the last month. That alone should say something. The first visit was actually mixed, but there was enough good to bring us back. And I’m glad, because the second visit was more positive.

This relatively new addition to the KC restaurant scene is located in Leawood at Park Place (a collection of shops, restaurants and condos at 117th and Nall, just north of the AMC Town Center). You’d have to go looking for it. Unless you just happen to be strolling around this chi-chi mecca of high-end consumerism, you wouldn’t happen across it. And if you go in for appetizers, drinks, and a large meal, it’s going to be pretty pricey. But we just went for a light late lunch both times, and so we got out for under $15 per person.

Let’s start with the salsa. Our first visit there, we were quite underwhelmed by it. It was okay, but didn’t taste garden-fresh, which is what you’d expect from the expectations set by the menu. It tasted like the bulk of the sauce came from canned tomatoes. But that was April, and maybe they were short on good local tomatoes so they resorted to canned. This time, however — midway through May — the salsa lived up to our original expectations. It had both a sweetness and a pleasant kick (mind you, this comment from me, the spice-wimp), and the sweetness tasted like it came from homegrown t’maters, not from Heinz, or added sugar. A salsa-dipped chip did benefit from a little extra salt added at the table, as the chips are served pretty much saltless. (But I’d much rather have a dish lack salt than be overly salty.)

Other than lacking salt, the chips are great. They somehow manage to be both thick and light — perfectly crispy.

On our first visit, we ordered guacamole, but none of us (and there were four that time) were impressed. We didn’t even finish it, even though it was fairly small. It had a strange note in it; almost tasted mustardy to me. ($9. Sheesh!)

On my first visit, I ordered the “chipotle chicken” — a simple salad topped with glazed, grilled chicken breast and a tamarind vinaigrette. The chicken was a little over cooked but still enjoyable, and the salad dressing was unique, with a bright, citrusy flavor. ($10.)

On our first visit, the two guys ordered two different kinds of tacos: one ordered grilled mahi-mahi, and the other, crispy pork belly. On our second visit, my husband, having tasted both the first time, ordered a mixed serving of both. (Two tacos, $9.)

The fish tacos, served with avocado slices and mango salsa on top:

Pork belly may sound weird, but these were bite-sized chunks of tender pork with a pleasantly crispy exterior. They weren’t strongly smoked, but there was a hint of bacon-y flavor to them.

My husband’s assessment of the two: He likes them both, but prefers the pork belly. (“I like El Patron’s fish tacos better by a long shot,” he says.)

Both kinds of tacos were served with a side of “drunken beans.” No one liked the beans. My sister’s fiance thought there was an “off” taste to them; I thought they just tasted bland.

The star dish, in my opinion, was the pepita-crusted scallops. My sister ordered it on our first visit, and I ordered on our second. (Her serving had three scallops, mine, only two. Perhaps measured by weight?) The scallops were perfectly done, sweet and tender, and served atop a creamy corn picadillo. Dictionary.com says that picadillo is “a traditional Latin American and Spanish dish of ground meat, onions, tomatoes, raisins, olives, and spices,” but this one had grilled corn, small pear tomatoes and bits of jalapeno in a creamy, sauce that tasted of ancho chile to me. The slightly spicy, slightly smoky sauce was a great counterpoint to the sweet scallops, was contrasted nicely with the salty, crispy crust of finely chopped pepitas on top. Nothing to criticize! ($12.)

Our one main complaint about Mestizo: the atmosphere is just a little too slick, a little too chic. (It should be noted that both of our visits were mid-afternoon. Perhaps the decor feels more right after dark.) My husband also was a bit put off by the sterile, styled-ness of the plating.

In a “Welcome” note at the top of the menu, owner Aaron Sanchez says that the menu was inspired, in part, by family meals “freshly prepared by my mother, Zarela.” And that kind of love for the flavors and the food came through in the dishes we tried, but I wish it would have also come through in the decor. The restaurant shouts STYLE, and feels like a corporate concept, not a homespun gathering place.

Mestizo website.

Mestizo on Urbanspoon

Quick chipotle pork tacos

pork-taco-oh-480
quick pork tacos
This is slightly adapted from Chipotle Pork Tacos by Our Best Bites. It’s a great dish to prep earlier in the day — or the night before — then throw together just before dinner. Even the prep is pretty easy, but once everything’s ready to go in the skillet, it cooks in minutes.
The original recipe calls for lime zest, lime juice and brown sugar. But to eliminate the sugar and still keep things tangy and sweet, I substituted orange for the lime. I think it tastes great, and it even got an enthusiastic thumbs up from the hubs, who usually isn’t too fond of citrus in meat dishes.
Recipe: Quick Chipotle Pork Tacos
Serves 4.
3 boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 to 1″ thick (about 1 lb.)
1 ½ tsp grated orange zest
1 T. fresh orange juice
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1 – 2 tsp chopped chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp kosher salt
2 T. olive oil, divided
1 c. thinly sliced onions
4 large whole wheat tortillas (or alternate of your choice)
sour cream for topping (optional)
chopped red or green onion and chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
Zest the orange with a fine grater, so that you get just the orange zest, not the white pith.
Combine orange zest and juice, oregano, chipotles, garlic, and salt. Set aside.
Trim the excess fat from the pork chops, then slice into strips about 1/2″ wide. Cut the longer strips in half.
Toss the pork strips with the orange juice mixture. At this point you can cover the pork and the onions with plastic wrap, and stick them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1 T olive oil. Add onions and sauté for four minutes or until tender.  Remove from pan and set aside. Add 1 T of olive oil to pan and add pork strips. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until no longer pink. I like to just leave them on one side until you see white creeping around the edges…
 
…and the first side is nicely browned, them flip them over. Be careful, though; you really don’t want to cook them a total of more than about four minutes, or they get too tough and chewy. It might help to take the pan off the heat while you turn them over, then return to heat for a minute or two to finish the second side.
Add pork to onions if you’ll serve from the table. At our house, everything goes back into the skillet, and we serve ourselves from there.
Warm tortillas up with the method of your choice, and fill with pork mixture. Top with sour cream and the garnish of your choice. A great side dish or topper: slightly spicy slaw.
quick pork tacos