Loaded Veggie Tacos

IMG_2813Being from Texas, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t crave a good taco on at least a weekly basis.  Tex-Mex or some variation of it always finds its way into my weekly menus all-year round.  Instead of heading out to the local restaurant and consuming an entire of basket of chips in the first five minutes of sitting down (it happens to the best of us) before even digging in to your queso-sopped entree, stay in and  enjoy some fresh, healthy, and filling tacos.  These are a vegetarian meal, but I promise you won’t even remember that meat is normally the principle ingredient in a taco because there’s so much good going on  in every bite.  I always prefer soft corn tortillas over flour because I can usually have two for the nutritional equivalent of one, but feel free to switch things up.  Another winning point of these little envelopes of flavor is how gorgeous they look on that white plate overflowing with every color and texture of food you could imagine.  Did I mention there’s goat cheese? I know some people aren’t a huge fan, but I am a firm believer that God created goats for the sole purpose of making goat cheese.  Oh, and you can have dinner on the table in literally fifteen minutes. What’s not to love?

Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

Ingredients

8 soft and thin corn tortillas

1 can black beans, reduced sodium (drained and rinsed)

1 T olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, sliced

1/2 small head red cabbage, sliced into long strips

1/2 c plain fat free Greek yogurt

Fresh lime juice

salt/pepper to taste

2 t ground cumin

1 t ground chipotle chili powder (or regular chili powder)

large handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Chipotle chunky salsa

Directions

Saute the onion in the olive oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over low-medium heat until very soft and lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes), adding the spices and half of the garlic the last few minutes.  This would also be a good time to add any other veggies you had on hand such as bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms.  Add the beans and continue to cook until everything is heated.  For the yogurt (sour-cream fake out) sauce, combine yogurt, fresh lime juice to taste, the reserved garlic, and salt/pepper to taste.  That’s it! Now load up your tacos with the onion and bean mixture, red cabbage, avocado slices, crumbled goat cheese, a generous dusting of cilantro, dollop of garlic lime yogurt and a drizzle of chipotle salsa.

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Snacks for Success

I’m a big fan of snacking.  I was always that girl in school with the lunch box or backpack full of countless Ziplocs of healthy snacks to fuel those never-ending days of volleyball away games or night band practices.  You would not find me spending money at the concession stand or vending machine (since when are nachos a good pre-game fuel anyway?) buying an after-school “snack” that had more than enough calories to count as a meal but lacked any kind of balanced nutrition. To this day, I usually throw something quick together in the morning before I head out, so I’m never without a healthy nosh for in between cycling class, chemistry lab, or long hours at the library. Snacking the right way is so important to keep your metabolism humming throughout the day instead of overloading your system only two or three times a day to feel bloated and full then sluggish and hungry.  Eating smaller amounts every 3-4 hours will keep energy levels up, your brain happier and functioning at its peak with fresh glucose, and you won’t have to endure the desperate stomach growls nagging with unhealthy cravings.  If you are into counting calories, I’ve found it’s best to try to keep your snacks around 150-250 calories (keep in mind your level of workouts and if additional protein or carbs are important to you).  This will keep you satisfied and give you energy to last until a meal a couple hours later.  It’s also good to think about a balance of protein, carbs, and fats in your snacks just like you would for meals.  Whenever you can, focus your snack around a fruit or vegetable to amp up your daily count.  I thought I’d give you some snacking inspiration and make a list of some of my go-to foods.

Sweet 

Apple or banana with 1 T nut butter

Smoothie with milk (I use unsweetened almond) and frozen fruit (plus any other healthy add-ins you want)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag kettle corn with cinnamon and 1 T dark chocolate chips

1/2 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a few chopped walnuts

1 orange with 1/2 serving cocoa roast almonds (Emerald brand)

Salty

Carrots and broccoli and any flavored hummus

1 piece of toast with mashed avocado and dash of Siracha or salsa (if you need more calories top with a fried egg or egg whites- SO good)

6 Triscuits (recently obsessed with the new sweet potato/onion flavor) and light string cheese or Laughing Cow cheese

1 serving Blue Diamond Habenero BBQ almonds (another new obsession)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag butter flavor with a sprinkle of parmesan and italian herbs

1 small corn or wheat flour tortilla filled with avocado, sharp cheddar, and salsa

Balsamic Strawberry, Avocado, and Goat Cheese Sandwich

 

 

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The beauty of this quick and simple lunch is that it tastes like you should’ve paid at least $10 for it at a specialty cafe, and the flavor and texture combination is spot-on: mellow avocado, creamy and tangy goat cheese, and warm, sweet strawberries. If you have fresh mint or basil on hand, that would take it over the top.  Seriously, your taste buds will thank you for the welcome change from the mundane PB&J or turkey and mustard.  I served mine with a spinach salad topped with fresh blueberries, rosemary and black pepper flavored almonds (Blue Diamond brand), and a light raspberry vinaigrette.

Ingredients

2 slices lower calorie whole wheat bread (Sara Lee Delightful or Nature’s Own are my picks)

3-4 strawberries, thinly sliced

2 t balsamic vinegar

1/2 of a small avocado, sliced/mashed (or 1/3 of a large)

1 oz. goat cheese (plain or garlic herb seasoned)

salt, pepper, additional herbs/seasonings

Directions

Spread the goat cheese on one slice of the bread, season, and toast both pieces for a few minutes until nice and crunchy (the fillings are all soft, so you need a good contrast).  Saute the strawberries in a pan sprayed with cooking spray over low/medium heat.  Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan, and cook just until the berries are a little soft and warm.  Spread the avocado on the other slice of bread, top with balsamic strawberries, add any fresh herbs you have on hand, and take that first creamy-cruncy-tangy-sweet bite!