Sunday, September 11, 2011

Secrets for a Fast and Easy Tex-Mex Dinner

Tonight's dinner was fabulous. It might have tasted as if I cooked for hours, but I used several shortcuts to get it on the table pronto.

The #1 criterion I use to decide whether to make a Tex-Mex-like meal is whether I have ripe avocados. Those babies have a short window of yummy edibility! Tonight I had 2 perfect avocados and only an hour to cook, so I got busy.

I made several different things, each with its own shortcut.

I had bell peppers and onions, as usual, which are the base for a perfect veggie fajita. I also had sliced portabellos and a big eggplant, so I figured why not. I decided to marinate and oven-roast the mushrooms and eggplant, since they soak up liquid flavors, and quick-saute the onoins and peppers.

My shortcut here? I put the sliced mushrooms and eggplant in a pre-made marinade (I used Goya's Mojo, but any will do) while I sliced up the onions and peppers and got other stuff ready. Later on, I threw the mushrooms and eggplant in the oven and sauteed the onions and peppers in a bit of the same marinade plus a couple of teaspoons of powdered fajita seasoning.

This is super-easy. I always start with a chopped up onion (optional; I just love onions), which I cook up in a bit of canola oil or veggie broth. Then I add soy-based ground "beef" and the secret ingredient -- tomato salsa -- as well as a sprinkle of taco seasoning. The salsa gives it that perfect kick and tomato flavor, and the seasoning keeps it real.

So quick it's almost embarrassing to admit. I just pour canned seasoned black beans into a pot and turn on the stove. I used Trader Joes Cuban Black Beans. I also often use 365 Spicy Black Beans.

The great thing about guacamole is that you can make it without cutting any corners, and it's still quick and easy. My recipe is 2 mashed avocados, juice of 1 fresh lime, and a sprinkle of sea salt. What could be easier, or tastier?

I rounded out the meal with a few add-ins: shredded lettuce (with some finely chopped broccoli hidden in there too for some added nutrition), chopped tomatoes, Daiya pepper jack cheese, Tofutti sour cream, tortillas (whole wheat and brown rice), and chips (baked organic white is a healthful option).

The kids didn't adore everything, but they liked enough of the choices to have a really healthy (and fun!) meal. And we have plenty leftover for tomorrow.

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