Taco Salad with Homemade Spicy Ranch

Guys, I am so bad at this whole “food blog” thing. Here’s my usual cooking routine:

1. “OH GOD I’M SO HUNGRY AND I KNOW I CAN’T HAVE POPCORN FOR SUPPER AGAIN.”
2. Throw something together.
3. Hover over it anxiously waiting to be done cooking. Slap myself on the wrist when I try to take it off the stove before it’s cooked all the way.
4. Gorge myself.
5. Remember as I’m clearing the dishes that I should have taken pictures and documented the cooking process.

Sorry peeps. I’ve failed you. And today is no exception!

A couple days ago, I dug in the back of my cupboard and saw I still had some Tostitos. It was mostly crumbs; big enough to be tangible food, but not big enough to enjoy as a snack. I did some digging, and found an awesome taco salad recipe from Budget Bytes. I had a few things here and there from the recipe, and figured it would be easy enough to improvise. IT WAS.

I already ate half the salad before remembering to post a picture of it.
I had already eaten half the salad before remembering to post a picture of it.

The dressing was beyond easy to make, and it’s what really ties the recipe together. Add what you want, but don’t skip this if you know what’s good. And for once I got everything right! The only difference was I used homemade buttermilk using this recipe from Emeril Lagasse. I only used 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of milk since I was shrinking down the original dressing recipe. It saved me the trouble of buying a whole thing of buttermilk when I knew I’d never use it again before the expiration date.

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When possible, always use a substitution or make a recipe ingredient yourself! Pantry staples saved the day for me – if you stock up on the basics, you’ll be golden in a pinch.

The rest of the salad was just tossing stuff in: Lettuce. Beans. Corn. Bell peppers. Tomatoes. Red onion. Tortilla chips. Beyond lazy. Beyond awesome.

I brought it into work with me Sunday, toting the tortilla chips and dressing in separate baggies so nothing would get soggy. My boss was SHOCKED I wasn’t eating something with garlic in it for once (due to the nature of my job dealing with people frequently and the nature of my palate eating garlic frequently, I keep looooots of Listerine strips handy).

Budget Bytes’ original recipe shows how to make your own tortilla strips to go with this recipe. I’m sure they’re wonderful, but like I always say about great cooking…

Taco Salad with Homemade Spicy Ranch
See the original recipe by Budget Bytes

Total prep and cook time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2-3
Dishes rating: *

Ingredients:
Dressing:
2 tbsp Plain yogurt
1/4 cup Buttermilk
1/8 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Garlic powder
1/2 tsp Chili powder
1/2 tsp Red pepper flakes

Salad:
1 cup Lettuce
1/2 can Black beans
3/4 cups Corn
1/2 large Tomato (or 1/2 can rinsed diced tomatoes)
1/8 cups Red onion
1/4 cups Bell pepper
1/2 cups Medium-sized crumbled tortilla chips

1. Mix together the yogurt, buttermilk, mayonnaise, salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. Makes about 1/2 cup.
2. Cut the lettuce into small pieces. Rinse the lettuce and drain well (or use a salad spinner). Also dice the red onions, bell pepper, and tomato. Rinse the black beans in a colander to remove the starchy canning liquid.
3. Add all the ingredients into a bowl, including the corn and tortilla chips.

Taco Salad with Homemade Spicy Ranch

Spicy Lime Corn & Diced Tomatoes

I had a hell of a day at work. It was great though, I have a summer gig showing apartments on the Upper West Side and today I showed for six people. I barely even had time for lunch! My hectic day coupled with a 1.5 hour E train ride home meant I was starving… NOW!!

Tonight was not going to be a night where I’d spend 30 minutes on a meal. Sometimes the effort is worth it, but I was practically running home to get cooking. In moments of weakness, I used to grab the nearest bag of chips and plop myself in front of Netflix. It’s easy to fall into those habits when you don’t have anything easy to fall back on. Know what will get you through those tough times? Leftovers and frozen foods.

I used an extra chicken quarter from my oven roasted chicken meal the other day to make a toasted sandwich, using store-bought hummus spread that was on sale. Sometimes a sandwich is all the effort you need to put into supper, and there is no shame in that. Two pieces of bread in the toaster, a slathering of roasted garlic and red pepper hummus, and leftover cold cuts. Boom. Easy. Side note, I think I would have liked it a lot more had I used chicken breast. This was my first time buying dark chicken meat, and I find I don’t like it. That’s just personal preference though. I’ll have to figure at some point what to do with the other two legs in my freezer.

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Equal (minimal) effort was spent on the corn. I have this amazing spicy lime mayo recipe I love to add to sweet vegetables… I won’t lie, half the reason it’s amazing is because everything can be done in one pot.

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As a bonus, I threw in some leftover canned diced tomatoes I used in a different recipe this week. It came out deelish. Only problem? It came out much more watery than I’d intended. I blame the tomato juice; I should have better drained and rinsed the tomatoes and corn after letting them simmer. Sadly, it wound up looking like the puke-worthy remains of Tubby Custard. However, you couldn’t judge a book by its cover in this case. It still came out awesome.

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Seriously, who in their right mind thought this was appetizing?!

Spicy Lime Corn & Diced Tomatoes
By: Me

Total prep + cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1
Dishes used: 1 pot

Ingredients:
1/2 Can diced tomatoes with juices (15oz)
2/3 Cups frozen corn
1 Tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 Juice of one medium lime
1 Pinch salt
1/4 Cup mayonnaise

1. In a small pot, cook corn and diced tomatoes on medium heat until thawed, or about 3 minutes.
2. Drain the tomato juice using a lid over the pot.
3. Add red pepper flakes, lime juice, salt and mayonnaise. Combine well.

Spicy Lime Corn & Diced Tomatoes