Tag Archives: Mexican

Seven-layer dip as salad


I love seven-layer dip — sometimes called taco dip — and the dip itself is a pretty low carb treat. Plus, it’s got some decidedly healthy ingredients: avocado (15 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and only 2 grams saturated fat, plus potassium and vitamins C and K); tomatoes (lycopene, vitamins A and C); and the beans are a good source of iron and fiber — though they’re often made with trans fats. But the chips for dipping are not healthy in any way!

So I thought this would be another great dish to make into a salad on a romaine spear. (Which I’ve done before. More than once.)

This isn’t so much a recipe as it is a guideline. The base is a heart-of-romaine leaf, and you’ll probably want two to four for each person. This makes a great “assemble yourself” meal, letting everyone customize their own.

Just lay the leaf on the serving plate and smear it with your choice of one or more items from this list:
– refried beans (or just used canned beans for a later layer)
– ready-made guacamole
– sour cream or Greek yogurt, plain or mixed with taco seasoning

Then top that with your choices of:
– canned beans, rinsed and drained; pinto and/or black
– shredded cheese: monterrey jack, cheddar, queso fresca, or a mix
– chopped tomatoes
– diced bell pepper
– sliced green onion or diced red onion
– sliced black olives
– minced cilantro

As you can see, this can end up being more than seven layers — or less — depending on your taste and/or what you have on hand.

Here’s mine:

Seven-layer dip as a hand-held salad

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Make-ahead Tex-Mex salad
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Make-ahead salad: Tex-Mex or taco salad


On days when I know I’m going to be busy the last few hours before dinner — or on days when I’m not sure exactly when the hubs will get home, but I want to have dinner ready to go at a moment’s notice — I have several recipes that I can get all prepped earlier in the day, then throw together in a matter of minutes. A make-ahead salad is a great option.

This is one of them: call it taco salad, or Tex-Mex salad, or easy ensalada… it’s yummy in any language!

The first step is to chop the romaine. I use about 3/4 to one whole heart-of-romaine head for each person. And since I’m just prepping for two people, I go ahead and put the chopped romaine right into the bowls we’ll be eating out of. (I’m just showing one bowl here, but I make two. Cross your eyes if you want to see two.)

Next I whip up the salad dressing. This is easy-peasy!

I put a big plop of sour cream or Greek yogurt in a small mixing bowl, then add an approximately equal amount of salsa. I don’t measure it, I just eyeball it, but I’m guessing I probably use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of each. Then I add in a teaspoon or two of taco seasoning. (Try my recipe for sugar-free, gluten-free taco seasoning.) Stir it all together; you’re done!

Then all that’s left is to rinse and drain a can of black beans, slice some red onion nice and thin, and set out a small bowl of pepitas (de-hulled pumpkin seeds that have been roasted and salted). If you’re not watching carbs, you could use some tortilla chips, but I think the pepitas give a nice little crunch and saltiness while being a little healthier option.

I also take a couple of cooked chicken breasts and slice them up. Some days (if I’ve planned ahead), I’ll use chicken that I’ve roasted or grilled. Some days (if I don’t feel like so much cooking), I’ll pick up a couple roasted chicken breasts at the deli counter at the grocery store.

Then I cover the perishables with cling wrap and stick them in the fridge.

And when it’s time for dinner, pull everything out, pour some shredded cheddar-jack cheese in a bowl — or if you’re lazy like me, just set the package out — and each person can assemble their salad as they like.

Make-ahead salad: Tex-Mex fixin's

(The chicken was not present for picture day.)

Since this dressing is so thick, I like to put it on the greens first then turn it over a few times to coat all the leaves, just like you would a Caesar dressing.

Sorry; no pic of the finished salad. We were too hungry! Mmm-mm!

Places to eat in Kansas City: El Patron

How to spot El Patron.

El Patron Cocina and Bar is a locally-owned Mexican restaurant, but it’s not your standard mexi-gringo fare. My sister is a local and she first clued us in to this gem; we’ve been back multiple times and are never disappointed.

It’s definitely off the beaten track, as far as restaurants go. It’s in a somewhat industrial area, and I would never have picked it out, just driving by. It’s even a little hard to find when you are looking for it. (The gray arrow in the photo at left points to the El Patron awning.) But it’s worth the hunt!

The interior is a refreshing break from the ubiquitous chunky-wood-painted-neon-colors you find in so many local cocinas. It feels more like a bistro, with exposed brick walls displaying original art.

My favorite — and what I almost always order — is the fish tacos. As you can see in the photo below, they have a much more generous serving of fish than Seasons 52. You can get them on corn or flour tortillas, topped with cabbage, avocado, and pico, and they come with a side of mango salsa. What I love about them is that the balance of all the flavors is just exactly right: you can taste the fish but it’s not overwhelming, and you get just a small hit of the pico, without it dominating the dish.

But on this visit, my husband wanted the fish tacos, so I decided to order something different, and went with the tacos al pastor: tender chunks of pork, marinated in a “secret recipe.” It’s a very, very red sauce — prepare to get messy! — and though it contains pineapple and orange, don’t expect anything like a teriyaki. It’s a slightly sweet sauce with cinnamon being the most dominant note. It was nicely flavored; if I were a fan of cinnamon with meat, these would be fantastic. But I’m not, so I wasn’t wild about them. Understand, though, that it is just this matter of personal taste that is my only complaint. They were still delicious!
My husband and son have also ordered steak and shrimp — Arrachera con Camarones. It’s a marinated skirt steak, served with sauteed shrimp and caramelized onions. Garnished with charred jalapeno, beans, rice and guacamole on the side, served with flour tortillas. They’ve both ordered it more than once, which tells you that it’s good! (This photo is from the El Patron website; I didn’t get a good shot of it.)
So if you’re willing to venture beyond the Plaza and Westport, check this place out!
Located at: 2905 Southwest Blvd. (which is not the same as Southwest Trafficway)
Hours: open for lunch and dinner, M – Sat.; dinner only on Sun.

El Patron website.

El Patron on Urbanspoon

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Super easy shredded chicken tacos

easy shredded chicken tacos

You gotta love a recipe that calls for throwing three ingredients in a crock pot and walking away for six hours!

The original recipe is sized for a family household plus leftovers. (The recipe on Tasty Kitchen also includes an easy recipe for Tortilla Soup.) I’ve sized it down for two. We had yummy tacos for dinner tonight, and plenty leftover for a couple more meals worth. We’ll probably be having Chicken Taco Salad for lunch tomorrow!  🙂

Crockpot Chicken Tacos

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c. your favorite salsa (preferably sugar-free)
1 package taco seasoning;
better yet, 5-6 t. homemade mix

Pour a bit of the salsa into a 2.5 qt. crock pot; just enough to thinly coat the bottom. Trim the fat off the chicken breasts and add them to the pot. Stir the taco seasoning into the remaining salsa, and pour that over the chicken. Cover and cook on high for four hours or low for six hours. Shred the chicken using two forks.

Serve in your choice of crispy or soft shells, top with your favorite taco toppings.

Oh, and here’s a great side dish: Slightly spicy slaw.

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Salsa Verde Chicken

Mmm… Made this for dinner tonight! The original recipe from simplyrecipes.com is super simple, but I wanted to get some vegetables and fiber in the meal without making a second dish, so I put one 10-oz. can of Rotel with Lime and Cilantro and part of a can of black beans in the pan before putting the chicken breasts in. It worked great! I placed the hot, cheesy chicken on the dinner plate first, then scooped out some of the saucy beans and tomatoes as a side dish. And all from one pan!

Oh, and I only used one 7 oz. can of salsa verde. Yeah, I’m a spice wimp!