Ultimate Taco Bar

I’m pretty sure I have said this before, but I LOVE MEXICAN FOOD!  Last night we had a couple awesome young men join our family for dinner, and one of them also has a love for Mexican food.  So I had to make my favorite dinner.  When it comes to Tacos I like to go all out.  My ultimate taco bar is easy and so nice because each person can create their own masterpiece.  It is like have 3 dinners in one!

So here is the basics of what I do!  Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the whole fiesta spread, we wanted to get to eating. 🙂

What I serve…

  • Taco meat (chicken, beef, etc.)
  • Refried beans
  • Mexican Rice
  • Salsa con Queso (recipe below)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • taco shells (crunchy and flour)
  • tortilla chips
  • toppings platter (pictured below)
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Tomatoes, Lettuce, Shredded cheese, onions, olives, and fresh jalapeños

 

At some point Nachos always end up on everyone’s plate.  They are definitely a favorite with the kids.

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Another favorite is copying the layered taco from a certain fast food chain…. Put queso on a flour tortilla, add your crunchy shell, then fill it up!

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And last but not least I want to share my original queso recipe.  This is where the vegan queso I shared originally stemmed from.  This is always a hit at our house!  Enjoy!

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Ingredients

16 oz. jar of salsa (Tostitos mild salsa works the best)

1/2 Cup milk

1 Tablespoon chopped cilantro

1 Tablespoon Cumin

2 teaspoons parsley

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

24 American Cheese Slices (I prefer Kirkland brand)

Directions

  1. Heat milk and salsa in a pan.  Add cilantro, cumin, parsley, black pepper, and chili powder.  Heat to a simmer.
  2. Slowly add the cheese slices a couple at a time until all are fully melted.
  3. Let cool slightly to thicken and enjoy!  You can reheat it at anytime if it gets too thick.
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Homemade Mac N’ Cheese

This is what I call comfort food.  I will seriously never eat the boxed or frozen stuff again.  Soooo Good!!!  Enjoy!

Homemade Mac N’ Cheese

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Ingredients

2 Cups Water

1 Cup Heavy Cream

2 Cups uncooked elbow macaroni noodles

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 Cups milk

5-6 slices of American cheese, optional

2 Cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. In a large pot heat water and cream until simmering.  Do NOT boil, this will burn the cream.
  2. Add Elbow Macaroni and salt.  Cover and keep at a slow simmer until macaroni is almost tender.  Stir occasionally so noodles do not stick.
  3. In a 4 cup glass measuring cup, or a bowl, measure out your milk.  Add flour, mustard, and pepper.  Whisk until combined.  Add this to the pan and simmer until thickened, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add in American cheese slices. This step is optional but will provide you with an ultra creamy outcome.
  5. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted.  Serve and enjoy!

Sneaky Peanut Butter

As I have mentioned before, my kids are super stubborn and picky eaters.  So I always am trying to sneak at least one thing into their food.  Today I was sneaky with their peanut butter and honey sandwiches!  Yes… you can totally sneak something into this simple dish.

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My kids got an extra dose of fiber and omega-3 vitamins today!  All it takes is a little sprinkle of ground flaxseed as you are spreading the peanut butter.  It mixes right in and they don’t even notice a thing!

flax seed peanut butter and fruit

Next to that I served up some XOXO and heart apples with some sliced grapes!  It is very frustrating trying to feel like a good mom and getting your kids any possible nutrients you can, but today I felt like I got a little bit of a mom win!  Do what you can and know you are an awesome mom!

 

Ultimate Tuna Sandwich

There are a lot of different foods we try to get into our body that are just plain boring.  For me that is fish.  I’m not a huge fan of fish in general, but for some strange reason I love tuna!  When I took the month long adventure a while back to become a temporary vegetarian I was able to learn that the sky is the limit when it comes to veggies.  I put them on EVERYTHING now! Especially my sandwiches.  I love the crunch they bring in dishes and how good they make me feel after I eat them.  They are just plain awesome!

So here is the Ultimate Tuna Sandwich I had today!  And as I said before… I feel awesome!

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The nice thing about tuna or chicken sandwiches is you can create an endless variety of mixtures for them.  This one included carrots, onion, Dijon, slivered almonds, fat free mayo, and black pepper.  So much texture and flavor!

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Then I topped it with my favorite large sliced veggies.  It is a beautiful rainbow of delicious!  Get creative and colorful with your meals.  It makes them way more fun, even better for you, and bonus… you are less likely to get bored!

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Tuna mixture:

1 can of tuna (you could also use chicken)

2 Tablespoons fat free mayo

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

A handful of match stick carrots

A small handful of diced red onion

A small handful of slivered almonds

 

Remember to like my Facebook page, Melissa’s Kitchen, to keep updated on awesome recipes and tips. 

Oatmeal Chocolate Raisin Cookies

Every once in a while you need a treat!!  It is snowy outside here, so some hot Oatmeal cookies sounded perfect!  I couldn’t decide on raisins or chocolate so we did both!  Yum!

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Note:  One thing about my cookies is they are usually flat.  This is on purpose!  You can make yours how ever you want.  My family prefers them this way so they can really taste all the vanilla and sugary goodness!  So to accomplish this I use less flour.  Yes, we are crazy and notice a huge taste difference!  If you prefer a thicker cookie, use the amount in the recipe or until dough is not sticking to your finger when you touch it.

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Ingredients:

1 Cup softened butter

1 Cup white sugar

1 Cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 Cups All Purpose Flour

1 1/2 Cups Oatmeal

1 Cup Raisins

1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and line cookie sheets with parchment.
  2. Cream the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until very smooth.
  3. Add in eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  4. Add salt, baking powder, baking soda, and flour.  Mix well.
  5. Add Oatmeal, chocolate chips, and raisins.
  6. Place 1-2 inch balls of dough onto prepared cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until slightly browned.

Balsamic Chicken with Vegetables

I recently was in the discussion that if you eat clean you lose out of flavor.  Of course this is not true!  In my experience you get even more flavor.  There are so many possibilities out there.  It is just a matter of getting experience with the ingredients.

The more recipes you try the more you will gain confidence with the healthy ingredients.  Whole clean foods offer so much flavor just on their own, but to really take it up a notch there are so many healthy additions to try.  It just takes practice, research, and experimentation.  It’s a whole new world of food you are learning, so of course it is bound to take some getting used to.

Here is one of our favorite clean recipes.  We have recently became addicted to Balsamic!  It is so good!  Here is a little info on the wonderful goodness of Balsamic Vinegar can give you.

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This recipe is made in one pan!  So easy, fast, and delicious!

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Ingredients

¼ Cup Light Italian Dressing

3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons honey

A pinch of cayenne pepper

4 Cups raw chicken breast, sliced

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

4 Cups of vegetables of your choice

Directions

  1. In a bowl whisk together Italian Dressing, balsamic vinegar, honey, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat Olive oil in a large skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook in the skillet 6 minutes per side or until juices run clear. Add some of the balsamic vinaigrette and sauté to cover the chicken. Remove chicken from the pan.
  3. Keep the remaining vinaigrette in the pan to sauté your choice of vegetables.
  4. Serve chicken and vegetables with more of the vinaigrette drizzled on top.

 

 

Orange Peel Sugar Scrub

My kitchen isn’t all about food.  In fact I pretty much do everything in my kitchen from crafts, to beauty, to work.  Today’s kitchen adventure is “What to do with my left over Orange Peels?!”  We love oranges in this house.  My husband could take down a whole bag on his own, as long as I peel them for him. 😉  So naturally we have a ton of peels left over.

Did you know that oranges are not only good to eat, but the rind has awesome properties too!  This is where our wonderful essential oils come from!  Oranges can lift your mood, invigorate you, and give you emotional balance.  That sounds like a good way to start off the day to me!

So in comes Sugar Scrub!  Scrubs are awesome!  I use them everyday.  I just love how my skin feels afterwards.  They are especially good for those of us struggling with Keratosis pilaris.  Not only do they exfoliate and get rid of all the nasty dead skin that weighs us down, but giving yourself a good scrub helps your blood flow!  And best of all it feels so dang good and relaxing!

So here it is… Orange Peel Sugar Scrub!

 

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4 Mandarin Orange Peels

1/8 Cup Safflower or Fractionated Coconut oil

1 1/4 Cup sugar

1/2 Cup safflower or Fractionated Coconut oil

6-10 drops Essential Oil of choice (Wild Orange is great for that extra boost of orangey goodness!)

 

  1. In a food processor grind the orange peels.  Slowly add 1/8 C Oil as you process to help it become more fine.
  2. With a spoon, stir in Sugar and 1/2 Cup Oil. If your scrub feels too dry, add a little more oil.
  3. Then stir in 6-10 drops of essential oil.
  4. Use in the shower taking care not to get water into the jar.  Enjoy all the uplifting orange bliss!

Keep your scrubs in a dry place.  If water gets into your scrub it will dissolve the sugar and ruin it for future use. ALWAYS USE SUNSCREEN AFTER USING A CITRUS PRODUCT.  Although it is very healing, citrus can also make you more susceptible to sun damage.

If you don’t have essential oil and want to try some, please let me know!  I’d be glad to help you out!

Baked Sweet Potato and Black Bean Flautas

Here is an amazing recipe that is both healthy, and full of flavor!  This is coming from someone who does not like sweet potatoes at all.  I have recently been trying to train my taste buds to like new things, so a sweet potato ended up in my shopping cart.  I’m am pleasantly surprised at what I came up with!

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Ingredients:

8 Corn Tortillas (or approximately 5 flour tortillas)

1 Cup Black Beans

1 Cup Corn

1 small sweet potato

1/2 C white onion, diced

1/2 of a green bell pepper, diced

3 Tablespoons Salsa

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 Cup Shredded cheese (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°.
  2. Poke a few holes in your sweet potato and microwave in a bowl with a few Tablespoons of water about 8 minutes or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile in a bowl combine:  Black beans, Corn, Diced Onion, Diced Bell Pepper, salsa, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, and cheese.
  4. Once the potato is done peel the skin off and mix the flesh in the bowl with other ingredients.  Mix well to incorporate.
  5. Soften corn tortillas in the microwave covered with a damp paper towel to prevent cracking.  Fill each tortilla with your mixture and lay on an aluminum covered cookie sheet.  Spray each tortilla with olive oil so they will crisp.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes then enjoy!

 

Cantina Style Salsa

I love salsa on everything!  Especially when it is homemade.  Here is a super easy recipe.  Try making it the day before you need it to give the flavors time to meld together in the refrigerator.

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Ingredients:

1 (14oz) can petite diced tomatoes

3 Tablespoons canned sliced jalapenos

1 Tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 Cup sliced green onions

 

Directions:

  1. Throw ALL ingredients into your food processor and process until smooth.  Refrigerate left overs.

Stuffed Peppers

This week has been a huge week of veggies in this house!  I somehow stocked up more than I could chew.  Pun intended.  😉  So here’s another delicious veggie dinner for you!  It is full of protein, nutrients, and a little spice!

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Ingredients

3 Bell peppers halved and seeded

1 Cup cooked rice (Try ‘Seeds of Change’ Brown Rice with Quinoa)

1 Cup Black Beans

1 Cup Diced white Onion

1 Cup Broccoli florets chopped

1 teaspoon Chili Powder

1 teaspoon Parsley

1 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 Cup skim milk

1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, divided (add more if desired)

1-2 Tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 375° and place Bell Pepper Halves in a lightly greased baking pan.
  2.  Cook the rice as directed.
  3. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions until tender.  Add Broccoli florets and cook another 2 minutes.
  4. Remove onions and broccoli from the heat and put them into a bowl with rice, beans, chili powder, parsley, black pepper, cayenne, milk, and 1/2 Cup of cheese.
  5. Stuff your mixture into each pepper halve.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, top with the remaining cheese, then bake an extra 5 minutes for the cheese to melt.
  7. Serve plain, or with a dollop of sour cream!  Enjoy!

 

Be Your Happy Self, and find your own Sweet Spot!

And for a little happy talk!  Recently someone very close to me told me they wanted to eat healthier and asked me for some recipes and a little advice!  That made me feel so happy.  None of us like to watch our family and friends head down an unhealthy path and become so unhappy.  But you also shouldn’t try to force them the right direction.  The only way we can truly help someone is by being a good example, showing them all the love we have for them, and encourage them when they want to make the right decisions.

One of my biggest faults is I tend to be very blunt.  I give an opinion without thinking about it, and I am working on that!  I swear!  So many times we want to tell our loved ones what to do.  We think we have all the answers.  But one thing is for sure.  We are all so very very different, and that is beautiful!  What works for me won’t work for someone else.  All we can do is do the best in our lives, and hope to encourage others without sounding bossy or egotistical.  I have learned to listen for inspiration, to pray for answers on how to help those I love, and to observe more.

When it comes to health I am definitely not an expert.  I am far from it.  I am constantly learning and trying new things.  I am just an average mom trying to find the best way for my family.  A lot of people think that they have to reach their end goal to be happy.  But that is simply not true.  I am far from my end goal, but I am very happy.  I am happy because I am trying each day to get better.  I find my inspiration from many sources, and combine ideas to find my “sweet spot”.  Because there are so many different ways to do something!  No one way is right!  That is the beauty of life.  We have so many different ideas and ways to reach a healthy place.  So if you are happy, but do not yet see that perfect image of yourself in the mirror.  That is ok!   You are doing the right thing.  Do not get discouraged.

My kitchen is a roller coaster.  We are not 100% clean eating junkies (that seriously stresses me out.  I have no clue how they do it without freaking out every single day), and we aren’t 100%  junk food junkies. We do not follow any certain ratio of each.  That all depends on the day.  I’m sure there are many out there that would never agree with how my house works.  But that is fine!  I have found a happy place for us.  Cooking makes me happy, my family makes me happy, and feeling good makes me happy.  My “sweet spot” is not where yours is going to be or anyone else’s.  So as you follow along with me as I share my recipes and life feel free to be yourself.  And I will continue to be myself.  Do what makes you happy.  Don’t be someone else.  Have fun!  Because your true unique happiness is what makes you more than beautiful.

xoxo – Melissa