SOFT CHICKEN TACOS

Tacos! That one word brings my guys to the table–and quick. The chicken’s brown sugar-cumin rub and made-from-scratch salsa sets this recipe apart from others. So tasty and so many thumbs up.

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SALSA

1/2 red onion, diced

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

6 Campari tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

TACOS

1 tbsp brown sugar

1-1/2 tsp chili powder

1-1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied

spray olive oil

4 large flour tortillas

2 cups shredded lettuce

3/4 cups grated Colby-Monterey Jack blend

1) SALSA: In medium-sized bowl, mix onion, jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and black pepper; set aside

2) TACOS: In small bowl, mix brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, sea salt, and black pepper; rub mixture over both sides of butterflied chicken breasts

3) Spray olive oil spray over large skillet (I used a grill pan); cook chicken breasts over medium-high, 4-5 minutes each side until just cooked through; remove from heat, let cool a few minutes, and slice thinly

4) Spray olive oil spray over same skillet and heat tortillas both sides until warmed through; place one tortilla on each of four plates and divide chicken between them; top with lettuce, salsa, and cheese and serve immediately; eat ’em up!

Servings: 4

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BLACK BEAN-FETA SOFT BREAKFAST TACO

Don’t let the name fool you. This is dinner–in a big way. Not only is this breakfast taco fabulously easy and quick to prepare, but it’s incredibly tasty.

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Olive oil spray

4 large flour tortillas

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

8 eggs

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

3 green onions, sliced thin

1 cup diced red bell pepper

1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

1) Spray olive oil over large skillet and heat over medium-high; warm tortillas, both sides, until lightly golden; set aside

2) In medium-sized bowl, lightly beat eggs with salt, pepper, and green onions

3) Add 1 tbsp olive oil (reserving 1 tbsp) to same skillet and heat over medium; pour in egg mixture and, stirring occasionally, cook until scrambled and just done; remove from heat, cover, and set aside

4) Add reserved 1 tbsp olive oil to small skillet and heat over medium-high; add red bell pepper and black beans and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes; stir in salsa and, when warmed through, remove from heat

5) Assemble breakfast tacos as follows: divide egg mixture between flour tortillas, top with black bean mixture, feta cheese, and cilantro; serve

Servings: 4

CHICKEN-CREAM CHEESE-BLACK BEAN PASTA SHELL TACOS

Spring break and Junior is happily home and hungry. Though the refrigerator and pantry is stocked with the ingredients to make one of several planned meals, I opted for a cross between Mexican and Italian fare. Chicken-Cream Cheese-Black Bean Pasta Shell Tacos resulted and was quickly devoured. Need I say “all thumbs up”?

Chicken-Cream Cheese-Black Bean Pasta Shell Tacos

2-1/2 cups salsa, divided

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cups shredded and chopped deli-roasted chicken (or 2 cans chicken breasts, drained)

1-15 oz can black beans, drained

1-4 oz can diced green chiles

1-8 oz package reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 cup scallions, sliced thin (divided)

2 tbsp taco seasoning

20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked al dente according to package directions

1-1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2) Spread 1-1/2 cups salsa (reserving 1 cup) in bottom of 11×9″ casserole dish; set aside

3) In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat; add chicken, black beans, green chiles, and cream cheese; stirring often, cook 8 minutes; stir in scallions (reserving 1 tbsp for topping) and taco seasoning and cook 2 minutes; remove from heat

4) Spoon chicken-cream cheese mixture into cooked pasta shells, about 2 tbsp each; place filled shells atop salsa in baking dish and pour 1 cup reserved salsa over the top; bake 25 minutes; scatter cheese and reserved 1 tbsp scallions over shells and cook additional 5 minutes; remove from oven, scatter avocados and tomatoes over top, and serve

Servings: 4-5

CORNMEAL-CRUSTED SALMON WONTON TACOS

I do not like salmon. I do not like salmon. Well, maybe I do–at least, when it’s wearing a lovely cornmeal crust and accessorized with a variety of mouth-watering toppings. For last spring’s graduation celebration with family, this meal went over extremely well. All that remained that was worth saving were a few pieces of salmon I made into a sandwich for Senior the following day. Highly recommended!

Cornmeal-Crusted Salmon Wonton Tacos 2

olive oil

18 corn tortillas

6-6 oz salmon fillets, cut into 3/4″ strips

2 limes, juiced

1-1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

3 tbsp parsley, minced

2 tbsp paprika

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp lemon zest

2 cups coleslaw mix

2 cups tomatoes, diced

1-1/2 cups salsa

1 avocado, peeled and diced

1 cup wonton strips (salad toppers)

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 175 degrees

2) To skillet over medium-high heat, add swirl of olive oil (you will have to replenish oil a couple times); heat tortillas both sides until warm and soft; stack on plate; place tortillas in oven to keep warm

3) Place salmon in large pan and pour lime juice over fish; turn to coat both sides

4) To large zip top bag, add cornmeal, parsley, paprika, black pepper, sea salt, and lemon zest; shake to combine

5) Give salmon strips a light shake as you remove them from pan to drain excess lime juice; place strips in zip top bag and shake to coat

6) To large skillet over medium-high heat, add a generous swirl of olive oil; add salmon strips to skillet and cook both sides until cooked through (about 3 minutes per side)

7) Meanwhile, place the following toppings in bowls; coleslaw mix, tomatoes, salsa, avocado, wonton strips, and cilantro

8) Plate salmon fillets and serve with warm tortillas and yummy toppings

Serves: 6-8

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 05/23/12.

SHRIMP AND FISH TACO FREE-FOR-ALL

Since we were having friends over for dinner and a respite from cold-weather casseroles seemed in order, I decided to make a free-for-all (buffet style) meal of tacos. Don’t be intimidated by the number of garnishes listed. Choose the ones you like and have at it. I will say, though, the pineapple was a very pleasant addition to the array and definitely ratchets tacos up a notch. Enjoy!

Shrimp and Fish Taco Free For All1

Shrimp and Fish Taco Free For All2

2 tbsp ground cumin, divided

2 tbsp ground coriander, divided

2 tbsp ground paprika, divided

2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tsp sea salt, divided

1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

1 lb jumbo shrimp (peeled, deveined, and tails removed), cut into 3 pieces each

12 oz fish (I chose cod), cut into 3/4″ square pieces

1 cup grated monterey jack cheese

1 cup shredded lettuce (I used iceberg for the crunch)

1 firm but ripe avocado, diced

1 large tomato, diced

1 cup diced fresh pineapple

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup light sour cream

1 cup store-bought salsa

2-3 scallions, sliced thin

1-4 oz can sliced jalapenos, drained

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1 lime, sliced into 8 wedges

olive oil cooking spray

18 corn tortillas

2 tbsp olive oil

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees

2) Divide first 6 ingredients between 2 large zip top plastic bags; shake to mix; add shrimp to one bag and fish to other; shake again to coat shrimp and fish; refrigerate

3) Put cheese, lettuce, avocado, tomato, pineapple, corn, sour cream, salsa, scallions, jalapenos, cilantro, and limes in small individual serving dishes; arrange dishes on side table or counter for serving

4) Lightly spray skillet over medium heat with olive oil spray; warm both sides of each tortilla in skillet, 20-30 seconds, until soft and lightly golden (spray more olive oil every few tortillas); transfer tortillas to paper-towel-lined plate; when all tortillas are warmed, stack on serving dish, cover with aluminum foil, and place in oven to keep warm

5) To large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil; add fish and, stirring gently and often, cook 4-5 minutes until done; transfer fish to medium-sized bowl, cover with aluminum foil, and place in oven to keep warm

6) To large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil; add shrimp and, stirring often, cook 3-4 minutes until done; transfer shrimp to medium-sized bowl

7) Set out dishes of fish, shrimp, and tortillas alongside garnishes and serve free-for-all style

Servings: 6-8