Cinco de Mayo is around the corner. The holiday may commemorate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867) but it is really all about a celebration of heritage, tradition and, of course, food. The challenge is to make it fun, full of celebration but not undermine our healthy eating habits. It is totally possible; it just takes practice.
Our family loves tacos. As part of our changing habits, I have morphed our tacos into taco salads. The aroma, flavors and textures can’t be beat. There is nothing better than fresh made Pico de Gallo as a key ingredient. It is flavorful, spicy and visually beautiful. Combining it with spiced ground meat like beef, turkey or vegetarian “ground beef” and it adds to the complex flavors and texture of this traditional Mexican dish. Instead of using taco shells, we use a variety of hearty lettuces like spinach, kale and arugula. Then we top off the taco salad with a dollop of Greek yogurt infused with cilantro and fresh garlic. It is plentiful, filling, visually appealing, smells heavenly and embodies the flare and fun of a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Here are the recipes to assemble a Healthy Taco Salad:
Simple Homemade Pico de Gallo (adapted from State of Slim)
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon diced jalapeño (store bought)
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. The flavors are better if let to stand for at least 30 minutes.
2. Place leftovers in an airtight storage container to use as a garnish for snacks and other dishes. Stores well for a week.
Makes 3-4 cups. Serving Size: 1 cup.
1 pound lean ground beef (93% lean)
1 tablespoon low-salt/reduced sodium taco seasoning (Old El Paso)
Cooking Spray, olive oil flavored
1. Combine ingredients in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. Brown the meat until it is thoroughly cooked. Stir and turn so the meat cooks evenly and does not stick to the skillet.
Greek Yogurt Sauce for Taco Salad
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
½ teaspoon garlic, minced
1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well.
2. Store leftovers in an airtight storage container. Stores well for a week.
Makes 8 servings. Serving size: 2 tablespoons.
To assemble the Healthy Taco Salad:
1. Place 2 cups of healthy greens on each plate
2. Add a ¼ of the taco meat mixture spread out across the greens.
3. Next add 1 cup of the Pico de Gallo.
4. Top off the salad with 2 tablespoons of the Greek yogurt sauce
To make the celebration complete, put on some lively Mariachi music, fill up a glass with ice, 8 ounces of sparkling water, and 2 tablespoons of guava juice for a festive drink. Then set the table with the colors of Mexico: green, red and white. If you have time ahead, stop by the grocery store and pick up some red and white flowers. Now you are ready to have a happy and healthy Cinco de Mayo celebration. ¡Salud!