The first time John and I went on a cruise we fell victim to one of those “let us tell you about the next port” talks and the cruise information lady told us about a restaurant that has “guacamole to die for.” I’m certainly not one to turn down “guacamole to die for” so when we departed our cruise ship that day the “guacamole restaurant” was on our agenda. What we learned is that “guacamole to die for” is actually cruise industry code for “if you go there and tell them you’re traveling with us, we’ll get a nice little kick back.”
Well, I have a Taco Salad recipe that I absolutely love and have served to several friends. It always gets rave reviews – even the time I forgot to put the meat in – so you might say it’s “Taco Salad to Die For.” While I don’t suggest that you die for it, I do think you might want to add it to your summer salad repertoire. And let me assure you, my taco salad is way better than the aforementioned guacamole. I also guarantee that nobody gets a kick back if you use this recipe, unless of course, you are so grateful that you decide to send me a check. One more thing; I use the word “my” (as in “my taco salad”) very loosely as it’s not my recipe at all. I got it from my daughter-in-law, Heidi, who loves to cook and actually searches cook books and websites for new ideas. (I don’t understand this behavior, but I love her for it!) So really, this recipe isn’t mine, and it isn’t Heidi’s but, as my friend told me, “Recipes are meant to be shared.” Not only is this a great summer meal option, it’s also pretty easy to adjust for people with food allergies and intolerances.
You’ll want to start by preparing the dressing. Heidi found it on the Taste of Home website, and it is SO yummy you’ll want to find other reasons to use it. I make it with just a couple of revisions. The Taste of Home recipe calls for a ½ cup of sugar and I only use three tablespoons. If you want to make it even healthier you can use honey, but to be honest, I tried that and well, frankly, I didn’t care for it. I guess you could say that it tasted just a little bit healthier than I was hoping for.
I also don’t include the celery seed. The first time I made this dressing I didn’t have any celery seed in the house and since it tasted fine without it, I never bothered to get any.
ZESTY FRENCH DRESSING
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2/3 cup oil
- 1/3 cup vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons ketchup (If you, or your guest, has a weird corn allergy, choose your ketchup carefully. I use Heinz Organic Ketchup.)
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon celery seed (As a reminder – I omit this.)
In a blender or food processor, process all ingredients until smooth and thickened.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Shake well before serving.
While the salad dressing sets you can prepare the seasoning for the Taco meat. If you’d rather, you can do this in advance as it lasts for several months in an airtight container.
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 ½ Tablespoon paprika
- 2 Tablespoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ Tablespoon onion flakes
Brown 1 pound ground beef or turkey. Mix with 2 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon dry mix and 3/4 cup water. You’ll have leftover seasoning for another day. Let meat mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.
Prepare the rest of the salad while the meat is simmering. You decide what you put in depending on your preferences and food limitations. Here are some suggestions:
- Romaine or Leaf lettuce
- Grape Tomatoes
- Onions (although there are onions in the dressing so you might not want to add more.)
- Black Olives
- Corn Chips (I replace corn chips with pumpkin seeds so I still get the crunch factor.)
- Black Beans (I’m told some people actually like black beans.)
- Grated Cheese (Being lactose intolerant I leave the cheese out and don’t miss it at all.)
Add taco meat right before serving. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been known to leave this out and even though my friend graciously ate it and said she loved it, I think it’s much tastier with the meat. But hey, if you’re having a vegetarian to dinner, leave out the meat, add the beans and bam, dinner is served!
All that’s left to do now is toss everything together and enjoy.