Taco Tuesday - Step Outside the Taco Shell

Theme nights are a really good way to organize your weekly meals and make meal planning easier. We joined the #TacoTuesday bandwagon a couple of years ago. The kids love tacos and I have a wide interpretation of "taco." It is really more like #TexMexTuesday. Some nights it is nachos, literally just tortilla chips with melted cheese in the microwave, on a paper plate, with a salad or fruit on the side. Other nights if we have more time, it is enchiladas with homemade tomatillo sauce or stuffed peppers. I often use whatever protein we had over the weekend, like leftover grilled chicken or steak and whatever vegetables we grilled and throw them into a quesadilla.


Tortillas (Our new favorite is Joseph's soft gluten-free tortillas which I find at Target or Market Basket locally) - 1 to 2 tortillas per person depending on their appetite
Shredded Cheese (I used Cabot blocks and shred myself or task a child/spouse) - 1/4 cup per person
Canned black beans (I use Wegmans or Goya) - 1 12 oz can is more than enough for a family a five

Optional: sour cream or plain yogurt, fresh cilantro, salsa, sliced avocado with fresh lime juice.

Preheat oven to 400 or use your toaster oven. Assemble and cook for 4 - 6 minutes on each side on a cookie sheet.

TIP: If you don't have tortillas, use taco shells, tortilla chips or butter lettuce. If you are making it GF, remember to check the labels on the shells and chips.

A recent favorite in our house was a spin on a traditional quesadilla: Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadillas. Invented by one of my 6 year olds. All we did was add leftover grilled chicken and some cooked bacon to the cheddar. Cook according to recipe above and serve with ranch dressing and sliced peppers.

I often keep a bag of already cooked frozen shrimp in the freezer. All you need to do is defrost in cold water and then dry in between paper towels

Shrimp Tacos

1 pound of medium/large cooked shrimp
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1 Tablespoon of sugar or teaspoon of agave
1 clove minced garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and marinade the shrimp for 15-30 minutes while you prepare the taco accompaniments. Saute shrimp for a couple of minutes to heat through, if you want to or just use cold. Use for favorite taco shells and toppings then you are ready to serve! I love using feta and avocado.

TIP: If using fresh uncooked shrimp, marinade as above and then add 1 Tablespoon of butter and cook on a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

The options are endless. You can take this shrimp taco recipe and make it into a burrito bowl with rice and beans. You can also top the rice and beans with whatever other leftover veggies and or meat you have in the fridge. I'll let you in on a secret. I lost the ability to cook rice when I went to law school. I cannot cook rice on the stove to save my life. I have only tried it once in the last 13 years after burning a few pots. I LOVE my rice cooker. My $15 rice cooker from Target. The rice always comes out perfectly and I don't have to watch it. Instead I can battle through homework with the kids.

I have been making red salsa for almost 2 decades, since I worked at a Tex Mex restaurant in DC. It disappears quickly from the table at any gathering and is very simple to make. I passed the torch last year to my 8 year old daughter, who can easily make it on her own now. Since then, I have been experimenting with a green salsa made with tomatillos. It is tart and delicious and makes a great salsa, enchilada sauce or chilaquile sauce or sauce for grilled steak, chicken, fish or veggies.

Tomatillo salsa

2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 to 3 pounds of tomatillos, husked
1/2 of a large while onion, chopped
1/4 cup of chopped poblano pepper (use jalepeno if you want more spice)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Handful of cilantro
1 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 to 2 1/2 cups of water

Combine all of the ingredients, except the water, in a large pot on the stove. Turn the heat on to medium-high. Stir until fragrant. Should only take a couple of minutes. Add the water, stir occasionally and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the tomatillos are soft. Either blend with an immersion blender in the pot or wait for it to cool and transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and allow to fully cool. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Our #TacoTuesday turned #TexMexTuesday means I always have a plan for Tuesday nights and can adapt it to what our schedule is for that day, whether I have 15 minutes to prep dinner or an hour. You are only limited by what it is in your fridge or cupboard, but all it really takes is cheese :) Send me your questions or share your ideas for #TexMexTuesday! Remember you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, on Twitter @mammascooking and now I'm also figuring out how to use Google + (if anyone wants to give me a tutorial, I will cook for you!).

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